Editorial, 2/28: Innovation, investment fueling progress

If the role of a newspaper (and a website and an app) is to tell the community’s story, the Journal Star’s annual Directions section — published Sunday in print, with fresh stories going online all week — tells an especially happy one.

The section is filled with ways that businesses and nonprofits are fueling the economic and physical growth of the Lincoln area, through innovation, investment and infrastructure.

More than 20 new restaurants and coffee shops are enhancing the flavor of the city. New fitness centers offer places to work off those extra calories. And efforts to designate a Music District downtown are enriching the diverse cultural offerings at venues of different sizes.

Bryan Health’s new April Sampson Cancer Center brings a new dimension of health care to a new part of town, far south Lincoln. And it adds to a long list of state-of-the-art medical facilities that make the city a health care hub for a large chunk of the state.

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If innovation drives business growth, it also necessitates employment growth. Business is really driven by people, so innovation must be brought to bear on hiring and retention. Sabbaticals for attorneys in high-stress jobs and amenities like on-site child care and professional development plans help employers set themselves apart in a crowded labor market.

Before businesses blossom enough to offer such amenities and are big enough to have a national impact — like Olsson, which has engineering projects in 40 states — they have to take root with entrepreneurial encouragement, like that exemplified by ECHO Collective and Creative Collabs Collective, both aimed at giving small businesses bigger presences.

It’s easy to miss all this progress — unless you have the good fortune to benefit from it firsthand or read about it — until it bursts on the scene in a way no one can miss — like Open Harvest bringing a grocery presence to the high-profile Telegraph District or rows of apartments sprouting around town in response to the demands of a growing population.

All these stories and more — manufacturers trying to improve the environment, nonprofits trying to improve quality of life, targeted efforts to improve parts of town — are driving positive change in Lincoln and Lancaster County.

The good news of all this innovation and growth is the same good news that offers hope as we face Lincoln’s next set of challenges and opportunities.

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