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.

Norfolk and Columbus are known for having a healthy rivalry on the athletic fields.

It extends into other areas of life, including competition for shopping, restaurants, employers and workers.

But when it comes to Nebraska regions, Norfolk and Columbus are part of the same team with the Rural Futures Institute.

In the institute’s first Nebraska Thriving Index, the North 81 region was identified as Madison, Pierce, Platte and Stanton counties.

Dr. Eric Thompson is the Karl H. Nelson associate professor of economics and the director of the Bureau of Business Research at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He and other researchers determined the regions after considering several factors.

“We ultimately decided to stick with the micropolitan area definitions. Columbus is by itself in the micropolitan area and Norfolk has the three counties. That was the tiebreaker as we considered the regions,” Thompson said.

A micropolitan area has a core community or cluster of 10,000 to 49,999 people, with a high degree of social and economic integration, such as commuters from neighboring counties.

The Norfolk micropolitan area is the second biggest in the state behind the Kearney area. It has a population of 48,271, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. The Columbus micropolitan area has a population of 32,237, according to that census.

The North 81 region did well compared with other similar-sized regions. The team identified eight Nebraska regions and compared them with 85 regions in Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, South Dakota and Wyoming.

“I kind of call it the Plains Midwest,” Thompson said, “as opposed to the Industrial Midwest with Michigan and Indiana and what not.”

Thompson said the regions were compared on fundamental aspects that affect the economy, such as the aggregate population, distance to a metropolitan area, the urban orientation of the area and such things as if it is a farming or ranching region. Is there manufacturing and, if so, how is it mixed with the other sectors?

The data was used to determine the regions, with other regions with similar characteristics lumped together.

The Northeast region includes Antelope, Burt, Colfax, Cuming, Dodge, Knox, Nance, Thurston and Wayne counties.

The Sandhills includes Blaine, Boyd, Brown, Cherry, Custer, Garfield, Grant, Greeley, Holt, Hooker, Keya Paha, Loup, Rock, Thomas, Valley and Wheeler counties.

The Siouxland region included Dakota and Dixon counties.

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