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If opportunity – in the form of the Department of Defense — knocks, we hope Nebraska is ready to answer the door.
The University of Nebraska Medical Center hopes to embark on a $2.6 billion public-private partnership called NExT, or the Nebraska Transformational Project.
NExT would build from the ground up a state-of-the-art academic medical facility and an all-hazard disaster response facility operated as a military and civilian partnership.
The Department of Defense will look at several possible sites before selecting where it wants to put the program. But one factor in their decision will be the local commitment of financial resources to the project.
To that end, we endorse LB1084, introduced by Sen. Mark Kolterman, which sets in motion a $300 million state investment over six years if funding from the federal government and the private sector gets kicked in.
The benefits of NExT are enormous and, as the name implies, “transformational.” Between construction and permanent medical staff, nearly 42,000 jobs could be created. For the state’s $300 million investment – spent only if the other money comes through – it could add $1.3 billion to the state’s economy annually by the time the facility is fully operational in 2030.
NexT would build one or two towers in the northwest corner of the current medical center campus in midtown Omaha, towers being optimal for potential quarantine situations and for maximizing land use.
Sweetening the deal for the state and potential contributors and investors are the commercial opportunities quite literally surrounding the project – hotels, restaurants, other office space. A center for training and treatment draws far more than patients, and they need places to eat and stay.
The project would be designed to treat military and civilian victims – lots of them – affected by trauma or biologic, chemical or natural disasters.
With the coronavirus making headlines and a plane of evacuees arriving Friday for 14 days of quarantine at Camp Ashland, the need for this capability is obvious. Less obvious is the minimal risk to the population at large posed by such a facility. UNMC Chancellor Jeff Gold cited their successful treatment of Ebola virus patients in 2014 and 2015. With top-notch facilities and training as well as experienced personnel, a more robust treatment and research center makes us safer than were it not here.
LB1084 deserves approval. The state’s share, $50 million annually for six years of construction, would mark an investment in our state’s economy, worldwide health and our future.