By Deena Winter | Nebraska Watchdog
LINCOLN — When is an out-of-state company really a Nebraska company? When they’re working on Lincoln’s new $346-million area, according to board members overseeing the construction.
The West Haymarket Joint Public Agency was responding to a Nebraska Watchdog report that about one in four of the companies the board calls “Nebraska firms” are headquartered out of state.
The board claims 77 percent of the arena contracts — $148 million out of $200 million in contracts — have gone to Nebraska companies. But some of those so-called “Nebraska firms” are huge, multinational companies with billions of dollars in revenue and headquarters in states like Pennsylvania, Texas and Connecticut.
The project program manager, Paula Yancey of PC Sports, told the JPA board that if a company has a significant, established presence in Nebraska with employees living and working here, it’s counted as a Nebraska company.
“We’re doing business with that branch office,” she said.
Mayor Chris Beutler, chairman of the three-member JPA board, asked whether Yancey has used the same standard on other projects in other states, and she said she has.
Bob Caldwell, president and CEO of Hampton Enterprises, which partnered with a Minneapolis company that is building the arena, said some of the companies have had local branches in Nebraska for decades.
“These are very local companies,” he said. “I would never even think of saying that these were not local companies. These are the heart of our local economy and employ hundreds and hundreds of local people.”
JPA board member Tim Clare said he doesn’t look at whether a company is incorporated in another state, he looks at whether they have a local presence, with employees living in the state and paying Nebraska taxes.
“To me, that’s a local presence,” he said.
JPA member and Licoln City Councilman Gene Carroll said the money spent by the companies is being recycled in the state.
Jane Kinsey, spokeswoman Watchdog of Lincoln Government, a local group that keeps an eye on government transparency and accountability, said she will be checking to see how many of the so-called Nebraska companies pay corporate taxes in Nebraska.
“I thought they were giving it a lot of attention, so they must’ve been concerned about it,” she said of the JPA board.
Editor’s note: to subscribe to News Updates from Nebraska Watchdog at no cost, click here.
- ‘Nebraska firms’ building arena headquartered out of state
- NE: Out-of-state companies touted as in-state firms by Nebraska arena officials
- Arena board defends calling out-of-state firms ‘Nebraskan’
- Video Special: Searching for Lincoln Arena’s ‘Nebraska firms’
- Big arena backers in NE get big arena contracts
- NE arena board to consider spending another $30 million for ‘phase two’