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Veta Jefferrey, President and CEO of the Greater Omaha Chamber, gave a presentation to the Douglas County Board of Commissioners on economic development in the area Tuesday. 

Jefferrey said the Omaha metro saw more than $2 billion in capital investment in the past year, the first time they’ve eclipsed that mark. The area also added 1,653 new full-time employees and retained more than 5,000 in the same time frame.

“We want to make certain that we’re doing a good job retaining [jobs] that are here,” Jefferrey said. “So the jobs that are currently in Omaha stay in Omaha.”

Agribusiness and military defense were among the sectors most impacted by growth, Jeffrey said. Growth in manufacturing, health care, and financial services in the metro area also outpaced the country as a whole.

The Chamber’s business retention team surveyed employers in the metro area and found that most respondents were able to maintain or increase their employment numbers in the third quarter of 2022. 

Respondents across all industries identified labor availability as a pain point, especially for the trades, Jefferrey said. She said the Chamber is working with schools in the area to “create a pipeline” to the trades. Respondents also identified supply chain issues, workforce housing shortages and lack of public transportation to job sites as barriers to growth.

Employment numbers have kept pace with the nationwide rate over the past decade, but Jefferrey said Omaha’s pace has been more steady. The labor force participation rate is 70.6%, which is higher than the national average of 63.3%. The cost of living in Omaha is also 4.1% lower than the national average, Jefferrey said.

The County Board also received a monthly update from Douglas County Corrections Director Mike Myers. Despite a large increase in overtime costs in October, Myers said the new pretrial release program will alleviate stress on the department.

Myers said the $1 million spent on overtime costs was the highest number in recent memory. He attributed it to the installation of a new security system, as well as ongoing staffing issues.

The new pretrial release program allows the department to reduce the number of individuals detained in prison before their trial. Rehabilitative Services Administrator Justine Wall said the program uses several factors to determine what level of supervision is necessary for each individual and the conditions for pretrial release. Conditions include check-ins, regular sobriety tests, and GPS monitoring.

Wall said the revised program opens the opportunity for release to more individuals. The decision to place an individual on pretrial release is up to the courts, and Wall said judges have supported the programs.

Three full-time specialists evaluate individuals for the appropriate level of supervision. Wall said the department has started the hiring process to bring on more specialists as caseloads have increased. She said each specialist had more than 100 people on their caseload Tuesday morning.

Full integration of the program is still ongoing, Myers said. The next steps are to bring on new staff and improve communication between the corrections department and court systems.

Although the total population in the jail increased in October, Myers said the program has kept out more than 50 people who would’ve likely been detained otherwise. He said numbers should continue to improve in the near future.

“While it doesn’t divert people from the front door, it gets them out much more rapidly and hopefully with much more of their stability intact,” Myers said.


Subscribe to The Reader Newsletter

Our awesome email newsletter briefing tells you everything you need to know about what’s going on in Omaha. Delivered to your inbox every day at 11:00am.

Become a Supporting Member

Subscribe to thereader.com and become a supporting member to keep locally owned news alive. We need to pay writers, so you can read even more. We won’t waste your time, our news will focus, as it always has, on the stories other media miss and a cultural community — from arts to foods to local independent business — that defines us. Please support your locally-owned news media by becoming a member today.

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