Published Monday, October 14, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 1:47 pm
state’s steel sector
World-Herald editorial: Yes, Nebraska is ready to compete

The opening of the impressive $17 million Omaha Steel Castings plant in Wahoo sends an important message: Nebraska can compete.

At a time when our country is focusing on raising workforce skill levels and taking advantage of new opportunities in manufacturing, Omaha Steel Castings shows the importance of embracing nimble, efficient business practices that meet the requirements of an intensely competitive global economy.

As Phil Teggart, the company’s owner, explained in a World-Herald news article, the new 130,000-square-foot plant can produce finished steel castings in one-half to one-third the time of most competitors.

“We can outperform everyone,” he said.

High performance in the manufacturing sector doesn’t just happen. More than ever, it requires skilled, hardworking employees, a forward-looking business culture and top-flight equipment.

Nebraska can buttress such economic performance with supports that include sensible tax and regulatory policies, strong worker training programs, properly prepared industrial tracts and competitive electrical prices.

Omaha Steel Castings soon will shift all of its 175 employees to the new Wahoo plant, with a goal of doubling production and increasing employment to at least 250. This will be a terrific economic boost to Wahoo and Saunders County, with an overall estimated economic effect of some $32 million annually.

As The World-Herald’s Steve Jordon noted, steel manufacturing these days is a far cry from the dingy, old-style stereotypes from a century ago. Computers and other high-tech equipment are as essential to good-quality steel production as heavy equipment.

Nebraska’s largest steel-producing facility, the Nucor Steel complex in Norfolk, has exemplified that innovative spirit. Last month, the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry saluted Nucor’s business acumen by designating it Nebraska’s large-scale manufacturer of the year for business innovation.

Primary metals manufacturing is the 10th-largest manufacturing sector in Nebraska, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. In 2009, the sector’s output in Nebraska totaled $199 million.

Exports from Nebraska’s primary metal manufacturing industry totaled $46 million in 2008. By 2012, exports increased to $86 million.

The U.S. steel industry has faced strong competitive pressures for decades, and some communities across the country have been hit hard. It’s a tribute to the vision and skill of Nebraska’s steel sector that it continues to stand tall.

Indeed, it exemplifies the forward-thinking mind-set that’s crucial for competing in the 21st century.

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