There are plenty of reasons that I personally love Nebraska. Everything from the Wildcat Hills by Gering to the bluffs in Dawes County to the great Niobrara in Valentine to the world’s largest railyard in North Platte. Not to mention Runza, the Omaha Zoo and sitting with 90,000 of my closest friends at football games.
However whenever I travel one question always pops up and that is ‘Oh you are from Nebraska? Why Nebraska?’. That statement is stockpiled with prejudgement but that is OK. It gives me an opportunity to state why.
First, we didn’t have a National Forest so we hand planted our own damn one. We are the only ones in the world to have done that.
We don’t have the mountains, but we have the clearest skies in the world. Don’t believe me? Ask the projected 30,000 travelers coming to Nebraska next summer for the solar eclipse. They are dropping $10,000’s to experience what we take for granted.
We don’t have oceans but we have more shorelines than any other state in the Union. You know what we did with all of that shoreline? We invented tanking. Now, literally 1,000’s of people are coming to Nebraska from Colorado to experience that. Yep, all of those ‘too cool for even skinny jeans’ are coming to our great state to experience this wonder.
We don’t have any pro sports teams, which is why we have love for our University like no other. This is the driving reason we have sold out every home game since Kennedy was President. The next longest streak would take until 2035 years to catch us if ours were to end today.
The underlying reasoning of all of this? Resourcefulness. It is something that you see throughout all of Nebraska on a daily basis. At times it seems to be more apparent out in Western Nebraska were they simply have less amenities than Eastern communities. They have no choice but to be resourceful.
Take Jo Caskey, Tourism Director for Kimball County, for example. Kimball County has less than 3,800 people, but it is right along I-80 so it makes for a great pit stop. Tourism is funded though by more than pit stops and they require people to spend the night in order to collect lodging tax and fund their operations. If I-80 gets shut down because of weather or Shia LaBeouf decides to hitchhike through town, great. However if neither happens it can have a huge impact on her budget, which is already one of the lowest in the state.
What does Jo think about this? Well she has more spunk than 20 year-olds and more wisdom than most 80 year-olds so she doesn’t have time to dwell on what she ‘doesn’t’ have.
Instead she negotiates for the friendliest terms and payment schedules. She heads up the volunteer project to take their old movie theatre and develop it into a community owned and operated theatre to keep more people in the community. She knows that tens of thousands of people stop at her visitors center each year so she has set up a gift shop to collect additional revenues.
The key example of her resourcefulness? She even looks at the visitors center’s windows as a potential revenue generator. With 1,000’s and 1,000’s of eyeballs pulling up in front of the windows each year, she saw that as a great place to sell advertising space. Unused space that will bring her in an additional $14,000 in revenue this year. To put it in perspective, $14,000 is almost a third of her annual budget.
And you think you don’t have the resources to do anything? It is not a lack of resources that might be holding you back, it is a lack of resourcefulness.
In a time of great unknown from our next President to even who is going to head up Nebraska’s Tourism Department, I know that us as Nebraskans will make it through. Why? Because we are resourceful sons of bitches and we always do.