Rural Futures Institute Thriving Index
The Thriving Index represents the aggregation of the other eight indices measured: The Demographic Growth and Renewal Index, the Economic Opportunity and Diversity Index, the Growth Index, the Infrastructure and Cost of Doing Business Index, the Other Human Capital (Education and Skill) Index, the Other Prosperity Index, the Quality of Life Index, and the Social Capital Index.
Note: The value 100 represents the mean among the comparison groups. Values above 100 indicate that a region is above the mean. Values below 100 indicate that a region is below the mean on that indicator.

It isn’t just manufacturing and high-tech fields that keep coming up with new tools that makes life better.

By now, readers of newspapers across the state, including this one, have probably read about the Nebraska Thriving Index that was released last month. The index provides an economic prosperity and conditions tool for rural areas of the state.

Reporters with the Norfolk Daily News and others outside of the state’s metro areas often struggle to find economic data to compare their cities and rural areas with similar-sized regions. It generally didn’t exist, except in limited criteria like net taxable sales and unemployment rates.

This new economic prosperity and conditions benchmarking tool for rural regions was put together by University of Nebraska Bureau of Research Business director Eric Thompson and other researchers and students. It was funded by the Rural Futures Institute with plans to update it every year.

Their work is impressive and will prove extremely helpful — and not just because all the regions of Northeast and North Central Nebraska did well.

The findings suggested that growth has been relatively strong in most of Nebraska’s micropolitan and small metropolitan regions, with three of the state’s eight regions ranked first among their peers. That includes the four counties consisting of the North 81 region, including Norfolk and Columbus.

These regions were compared with similar economic regions in the Midwest that are more dependent on agriculture than eastern Midwestern states.

“I didn’t go into this with any sort of expectations one way or another,” Thompson said. “I just knew I wanted to compare the Nebraska regions (with similar-sized regions in the Midwest) instead of always comparing them to Omaha.”

The information will undoubtedly prove useful to elected officials, economic development leaders, community planners, businesses and industries. We welcome it.

And now that the North 81 region and most of the Northeast and North Central Nebraska region has done so well in the inaugural analysis, it will be interesting in future years to see if that kind of impressive outcome can be maintained.

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