You may have seen recent press about Nebraska Extension and The Big 3. This is our new strategic direction which can be boiled down to three ambitions, which we are calling, “The Big 3”. The Big 3 are: Strengthen Nebraska Agriculture and Food Systems, Inspire Nebraskans and Their Communities, and Enhance the Health and Wellbeing of All Nebraskans. You can watch videos explaining our strategic direction here.
In my Rural Prosperity Nebraska work, I mainly work in the Inspire Nebraskans and Their Communities realm, but community work touches all of The Big 3. Speaking of being inspired, I recently attended the Amplify conference hosted by Nebraska Extension. This conference was held at the Nebraska Innovation Campus. If you haven’t been there, you might want to check it out. The campus is located on the former State Fair Grounds in Lincoln. There is a new hotel, The Scarlet, and a conference center, as well as the Food Innovation Campus, the Greenhouse Innovation Center, the Innovation Advancement Suites, and the Nebraska Innovation Studio.
During the Amplify Conference, I was able to do a tour of the Nebraska Innovation Campus. We didn’t get to see the whole thing because we decided to stay indoors due to the extremely cold weather. We toured the Innovation Advancement Suites, which is a business incubator space that can be rented by those with or without a connection to the University of Nebraska (although they do have specific spaces available to those with a connection). They have a lot of business support services if you have a business that is looking to expand. The building is built with moveable walls in some areas so you can start out with one employee and a desk, and as your company grows, they can just move a wall to give you more space.
I was more excited about the Nebraska Innovation Studio. It is a giant maker space. If you’re unfamiliar with that terminology, just imagine a giant garage with all the tools you’ve ever dreamed about available to use. Not only does the space contain specialized tools like 3D printers, laser cutters for wood and metal, welding training tools, etc., but it also has a wide selection of hand tools, clamps, drill presses, lathes and even a room for quilting and sewing, and screen printing. Why is this so exciting? One, the cost, it is less than $100 per month to have a membership to the studio. If you’ve ever had to buy a new tool for a project . . . that you’ve used only that one time . . . then you realize the value. If you have an idea that you need to prototype for your business, the Nebraska Innovation Studio has the tools to build it, and they will also train you to use the equipment safely and properly. The membership includes the tools, but you’ll have to purchase your own materials. In just a few days or hours you could get your money’s worth out of that studio. Using their tools to build a jig or a hard-to-find machinery part could save you many hours and dollars.
Yes, you would have to go to Lincoln to benefit from Nebraska Innovation Studio, but if you could spend a week there and get several months’ worth of work done at a fraction of the cost, it would be worth it. Part of the job of Nebraska Extension is to extend the work of the University out to the rest of the state of Nebraska. I think in this case, the Nebraska Innovation Campus is something that may be very valuable, even if you have to go to Lincoln to experience it.
If your community could benefit from any of the Rural Prosperity Nebraska ideas that I’ve discussed in this column, please reach out to me. I’d love to speak to your community about these topics. You can reach me at email@example.com or at the Thayer County office at 402-768-7212.