Tech workers are leaving Omaha because of high property taxes

And other fake news I’ve heard about Nebraska’s “tech workforce crisis”

Rebecca Stavick
Apr 1 · 3 min read
This is how the internet works

#1: It’s okay to pay tech workers less because it’s cheap to live in Omaha.

In the past, Omaha’s employers have been able to justify offering lower salaries because of the notoriously low cost of living in our City.

Unfortunately, it’s increasingly expensive to live in Omaha, so the lower salaries offered to tech workers are not competitive with what companies are offering across the country. Unless your business offers a nationally competitive salary and benefits package, you’re basically asking people to move away (or work remotely, see below).

#2: Tech workers who have left Omaha are a bunch of traitors!

Perhaps we failed in “retaining talent” when technologists move away, but it is so bizarre when people take that personally as if they turned their back on us.

Former Omahans are often our greatest advocates. For example, check out this old project one of my friends built, to unite former Omahans so they “don’t forget where they came from.”

Former Omahans — many of whom are tech workers all across the country — are rooting for us and want Omaha to be successful. How can we better mobilize and empower them to advocate on our behalf?

#3: Software workers are the same as IT workers.

Business leaders have told me that Omaha has over 20,000 tech workers. This is true, but the majority of those folks work in IT, and only about 7,000 work as computer programmers, software developers, and web developers (NE Dept of Labor and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).

But, leaders love throwing this statistic around because it sounds like we have 20,000 people in Omaha writing code. We don’t.

Also, lumping this diverse group of workers into one statistic creates two problems: 1) It masks the reality that we have far fewer people working in web and software than we thought, and 2) A lack of awareness of how these professions differ leads to a lack of appreciation of how technologists keep our businesses, organizations, and communities running.

#4: Traditional workforce strategies make sense for the tech industry.

Traditional workforce development is centered around a physical place. How can we attract people to Omaha? How can we keep people in Omaha?

In the context of the tech industry, these questions are increasingly irrelevant, since remote work is challenging the notion that you have to be physically present in an office in order to effectively build technology.

If there are “literally not enough bodies” to fill jobs in Nebraska, then we must start taking remote work seriously, with two goals in mind: 1) Preparing our companies to hire tech workers remotely, and 2) Attracting remote workers to live in this area, even if they don’t work here.

Tulsa is already kicking our ass on this. What are we going to do about it?

Rebecca Stavick

Written by

executive director. techie. librarian. metalhead. hacker. humanist. ENTJ. personal account. views are my own.

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