(The Center Square) – The economy is doing well in the agricultural belt, including Nebraska, according to a recent survey.
Low interest rates, growing agricultural exports and high grain prices are all contributing to growth in rural areas of 10 Plains and Western states, according to a new monthly survey of bankers by the Creighton University, The Associated Press reported.
The region’s economic index rose in October to 66.1 from 62.5 in September, the AP reported. Anything above 50 indicates an expanding economy, according to the AP.
“It’s been appealing to be in rural areas during the COVID pandemic,” Rex Nelson, an extension educator at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, told The Center Square. “Generally it’s been less severe. Rural states have handled it pretty well. I feel good about how it’s been handled in Nebraska. It’s a nice, safe place.”
Rural economies have been “virtually untouched” by the pandemic, according to Nelson.
“Nebraska’s economy barely dipped,” he said.
At the start of the pandemic, the meat processing industry faced pandemic-related challenges.
“But for the most part they got the job done,” Nelson said. “The stoppage was brief. They recovered in a hurry. They didn’t have the luxury of going into confinement.”
Challenges remain in rural areas, including a shortage of workers and affordable housing, Nelson said.
“The cost to build is higher, it’s more expensive to source supplies, and if you don’t have 50 houses to build, you don’t have economies of scale,” Nelson said. “The price of the product is higher and the average income is lower. There is a disconnect there that makes it very difficult to build affordable housing.”
The Creighton University survey found demand for workers is high and businesses are struggling to find people to hire, the AP reported. Creighton interviewed bankers in Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming, according to the article.