Battle Over $90 Million Public Funds for Nebraska Business Park Heats Up

25 December 2023

State Senator Justin Wayne criticizes top contender for funds, proposes alternative route

A heated battle is underway in Nebraska over the control of nearly $90 million in public funds that were intended to launch a job-producing business park near the state’s largest airport. State Senator Justin Wayne of North Omaha, who played a key role in shepherding the idea through the Legislature, has voiced concerns about the proposal believed to be the top contender for the funds. Wayne is seeking the help of his fellow lawmakers to explore a different approach, arguing that the current plan may not deliver the desired economic benefits.

Controversy Surrounding the Proposed Business Park

Wayne has raised questions about the estimated cost of preparing the ground for the business park. He expressed concern that the funds may be used for extensive site preparation without any guarantee of vertical construction, which is crucial for job creation. The team behind the proposed “master plan” for the business park, which includes the Greater Omaha Chamber, Burlington Capital, and the Omaha Economic Development Corp., defends their projections, stating that Wayne and other legislators were aware of the expenses involved in preparing the area for construction.

Lake View Business Park: A Phased Approach

The proposed business park, called Lake View Business Park, aims to create buildable space for new businesses near Eppley Airfield. The plan envisions a phased approach, starting with approximately 160 acres north of Carter Lake. This site, bounded by the Storz Expressway and Ninth Street, is the preferred location to begin the project. A second site, about 67 acres west of Carter Lake, is also identified but has lower priority due to potentially higher cleanup costs. The initial phase of the project is estimated to cost around $71 million and aims to generate 600 permanent jobs. Revenue from the sale or lease of the first wave of lots would fund future phases.

The Cost of Establishing the Business Park

The master plan for the business park projects a total cost of nearly $200 million. The $90 million in state funds would contribute to this broader project, which, when fully built out, could attract businesses capable of creating up to 1,600 jobs. Other potential funding sources are listed but not yet secured. The Omaha Economic Development Corp. and the Greater Omaha Chamber received $400,000 from the Department of Economic Development to develop the planning document.

Concerns Over Lack of Input and Accountability

Senator Wayne’s main concerns revolve around the lack of input from North Omaha neighbors in the planning process for the business park. He argues that this project, funded by public dollars, represents a unique opportunity to bring economic growth and jobs to a historically neglected area. Wayne proposes redirecting the $90 million in state funds to an inland port authority that the City of Omaha wants to create. This new entity would be responsible for managing a designated district near the airport and would have economic development powers.

Conclusion:

The battle over the control of $90 million in public funds for the Nebraska business park continues to intensify. State Senator Justin Wayne’s concerns about the current proposal have led him to seek an alternative route. Wayne proposes redirecting the funds to an inland port authority, which he believes would provide greater accountability and ensure that the public dollars spent produce the intended economic growth and job opportunities. As the debate unfolds, it remains to be seen how the funds will ultimately be allocated and whether the business park will fulfill its promise of revitalizing the North Omaha area.

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