BUSINESS & ECONOMY
Although agriculture is important to Nebraska's economy, more of the state's income has come from other industries in recent years. Nebraska manufacturing jobs have been growing in number, though the number for the nation has declined. In May 1997, Nebraska manufacturing jobs had increased 1.3 percent over a year earlier, reaching an estimated 114,200.
Manufacturing is the state's second-ranked industry, behind agriculture. Most manufacturing sites are located in the state's most urban areas. The counties that employ the most workers in manufacturing are Douglas, Lancaster, Dakota and Platte. Food processing is the leading type of manufacturing, while durable goods manufacturing is a growing industry.
The state's third-ranked industry is tourism, which employs 36,000 workers.
Omaha is a center for food processing, as well as health care, insurance, trade and transportation. Livestock and grain exchanges are also located in this city.
Early explorers once described Nebraska and the surrounding area as "The Great American Desert." They did not know that the state would later become an important region for agriculture and manufacturing. The people who settled Nebraska in the late 1800s played a role in developing the economy of an area once considered "almost wholly unfit for cultivation." Promised free land by the federal government under the 1862 Homestead Act, farmers faced economic hardships, droughts and insects.
In later years, scientific farming methods and new industries helped improve the state's economy. Today, Nebraska ranks among the leading states in many agricultural production categories.