This week, I was pleased to host business and government leaders from our region for the fourth and final national summit on entrepreneurship and innovation in Omaha. As Chair of the National Governors Association, my initiative, Growing State Economies, has focused on ways states can encourage job creation and improve state economies through encouraging and fostering entrepreneurship and business innovation.
More than 40 states participated in discussions to help small businesses grow and employ more Americans. When listening to other states, one thing was evident -- Nebraska is in an enviable economic position. We didn't get here by luck, though. It has taken a lot of hard work and holding true to some basic Nebraska principles. We invest in our most important priorities, education and jobs creation, and we don't spend money we don't have.
We are fortunate to have one of the strongest economies in the country. Our unemployment rate is 4.0% while the national average is more than double at 8.2%. Nebraska is recognized nationally as a top ten state in which to do business.
Our strong position is the result of years of planning and implementing business-friendly policies. Six years ago, a new package of economic incentives known as the Nebraska Advantage went into effect that has helped attract outstanding new business opportunities to Nebraska while helping existing businesses expand.
We worked closely with the Legislature to develop the Nebraska Advantage, which was the first comprehensive update to Nebraska's economic incentives since the mid 1980s. Our goal was to stimulate statewide economic development and job creation.
Last year, we passed the Nebraska Internship Program that is an important component of Nebraska's strategic economic plan. It is designed to enhance technology and innovation. With this initiative, Nebraska has one of the strongest public policy strategies in place to advance business recruitment and development.
Intern Nebraska is a win-win for students seeking valuable business experience to further shape their future careers and to keep our youth in Nebraska. Students have hands-on opportunities that help them fully experience the true operations and inner workings of their chosen career paths.
Additionally, it is an opportunity for business owners who are focused on developing a quality workforce to meet the demands of our vastly changing global economy. We're excited about providing young Nebraskans with career opportunities.
The National Association of Colleges and Employers' 2011 Internship & Co-op Survey recorded that businesses hired 58 percent of interns as full-time employees.
Since Intern Nebraska began, 141 companies and 403 internships have been approved for program participation. The internships are in both rural and urban Nebraska.
I encourage Nebraska businesses to start planning now for summer internships, because research supports that businesses which plan internship programs and recruitment efforts early are more likely to describe the overall internship program experience in more successful terms.
Many businesses are currently gearing up to hire summer interns and posting available internships online at: http://internne.com. Applications from interested businesses are currently being taken at this same online address where there also are guidelines posted.