Omaha: Economy

Major Industries and Commercial Activity

There are more than 20,400 businesses located in the metropolitan statistical area, with total employment approaching 375,000. The city is home to five Fortune 500 companies: ConAgra, Peter Kiewit Sons, Berkshire Hathaway, Union Pacific, and Mutual of Omaha. More than 30 other Fortune 500 companies have manufacturing plants in the metropolitan area.

The headquarters of about 30 insurance companies call Omaha home. More than half of the two dozen telemarketing/direct response/reservation centers operating in Omaha also have their corporate headquarters located in the metropolitan area. Many other large firms have their headquarters in Omaha, including Lozier Corporation, First Data Corp, ITI Marketing Services, Omaha Steaks International, Pamida, Oriental Trading Company, Valmont Industries, Inc., and Godfather's Pizza, Inc.

The Omaha economy is well diversified, with no industry sector accounting for more than a third of total employment. Omaha's highest concentration of employment is in trade, transportation, and utilities with strong showings in education and health services as well as professional and business services. This is offset by a relatively smaller share of total employment in the manufacturing, construction and mining, and information sectors.

Items and goods produced: a variety of food items from raw products like meat and flour to finished consumer goods like frozen dinners and cereal; irrigation equipment; phone apparatus; store fixtures; hydraulic motors and pumps; paper boxes and packaging materials; furniture; computer components

Incentive Programs—New and Existing Companies

Local programs

Assisting in the expansion of new and existing business at the local level are the Small Business Council, the Omaha Small Business Network, Inc., and the Omaha Regional Minority Purchasing Council. Among other finance programs are community development block grants, improvement financing, industrial development revenue bonds, and a range of local and state tax credits.

State programs

In addition to receiving conventional financing from banks and other lending institutions, qualified Omaha businesses can take advantage of state and local programs. Among them are the Nebraska Business and Development Center and the Procurement Technical Assistance Center, which provide technical and research assistance. Invest Nebraska partners with the state of Nebraska along with other donations to introduce entrepreneurs to individual investors and venture capital firms. Federal and state programs include the Minority Enterprise Small Business Investment Corporation, the Nebraska Investment Finance Authority (NIFA), various Small Business Administration loans, the Nebraska Research and Development Authority, the Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR), and the Urban Development Action Grant.

The state of Nebraska has emphasized its commitment to revitalized economic growth in all parts of the state with a series of laws designed to make the state an even better place to do business. Firms can earn a series of tax credits and refunds for investment and new job creation through the provisions of the Employment and Investment Growth Act (LB 775), as well as the Employment Expansion and Investment Incentive Act (LB 270), the Enterprise Zone Act (LB 725), Quality Jobs Act (LB 829), Incentive Electric Rates (LB 828), and Nebraska Redevelopment Act (LB 830).

Development Projects

During the past decade, many development projects were successfully completed in Omaha. Work began in 1999 on a 33-block redevelopment area in downtown with a total investment of $2 billion. In 2003 the $291 million Qwest Center Omaha was constructed on the northeast edge of downtown Omaha that includes a 17,000-seat arena and a convention center highlighted by 194,000 square feet of exhibition space. In 2003 the Gallup Organization opened a $75 million campus for executive and management training. The spring of 2004 saw the debut of the $66 million, 450-room Hilton Hotel that is attached to the Qwest Center Omaha by an elevated walkway.

Economic Development Information: Economic Development Council, Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, 1301 Harney St., Omaha, NE 68102; telephone (402)346-5905; toll-free (800)852-2622

Commercial Shipping

More than 144 million pounds of cargo passed through Eppley Airfield in 2004. An international point of entry with access to a Foreign Trade Zone, it is served by eight air freight carriers. The Union Pacific and several other major railroads provide freight service that is coordinated with many of the trucking companies serving the metropolitan area.

Labor Force and Employment Outlook

The Omaha labor force is described as highly productive, possessing an old-fashioned work ethic, and lacking a regional accent, so workers are considered excellent for the phone operations and high-technology jobs proliferating there. While unemployment has increased since 2000, there has been consistent growth in the overall labor force. However, the workforce does suffer from wage rates that are approximately 14 percent below the national average.

The following is a summary of data regarding the Omaha, Nebraska-Council Bluffs, Iowa metropolitan area labor force, 2004 annual averages.

Size of non-agricultural labor force: 446,500

Number of workers employed in . . .

construction and mining: 25,500

manufacturing: 32,900

trade, transportation, and utilities: 98,100

information: 13,500

financial activities: 37,200

professional and business services: 60,800

educational and health services: 62,300

leisure and hospitality: 40,500

other services: 16,300

government: 58,900

Average hourly earnings of production workers employed in manufacturing: $17.93

Unemployment rate: 5.0% (February 2005)

Omaha: Economy

Largest employers Number of employees
Offutt Air Force Base 10,500
Alegent Health 7,500
Omaha Public Schools 7,040
First Data Corp. 7,000
Methodist Health System 6,200
Nebraska Medical Center 5,300
Mutual of Omaha Insurance 4,600
Union Pacific Corporation 4,500
First National Bank 4,300
West Corporation 4,000

Cost of Living

The following is a summary of data regarding several key cost of living factors in the Omaha area.

2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Average House Price: $224,312

2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Cost of Living Index: 92.0 (U.S. average = 100.0)

State income tax rate: Graduated from 2.56% to 6.84% (2004; rate set yearly by state legislature)

State sales tax rate: 5.5%

Local income tax rate: None

Local sales tax rate: 1.5%

Property tax rate: $1.85460 to $2.39067 per $100 of assessed valuation (2004)

Economic Information: Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, 1301 Harney St., Omaha, NE 68102; telephone (402)346-5000; fax (402)346-7050; email