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Published:  Friday, March 25, 2022

After extensive and spirited debate, Nebraska state senators advanced the North Omaha Recovery Act to the next phase on Tuesday, March 22, 2022.

With a 28-0 vote and 19 non-votes, the $475 million package was moved to select file and will now go through some adjustments based on the discussions heard on the floor of the Nebraska Unicameral.  It will need to advance through two more rounds of debate in order to make it to Governor Pete Rickett’s desk.

The plan calls for investments in entrepreneurship, employment, job creation, workforce training, housing, and tourism.   It is a business centric approach to help address the disproportionate impact of  COVID-19 and the underlying economic conditions that have hindered North Omaha for decades.

Senators Justin Wayne and Terrell McKinney presented a compelling case for the much needed funds to help accelerate improvements and developments in North and South Omaha and other communities with qualified census tracts around the state.

“North Omaha has been neglected for decades,” said Wayne.  “This is exactly what the ARPA funds were designed for.  But, it doesn’t matter to me where the funds come from.  ARPA.  Cash reserve.  General funds.  I am open.”

Some senators questioned the level of investment and wanted to know more about the process for implementation.

McKinney had an answer.  “One area we can find funds is the $175 million currently budgeted for a prison,” he said.  “Let’s invest in people, not prisons.  That is the responsible and conservative thing to do.”

Other senators voiced support, but said they would want more details about the amount and the sources of the funds before they vote on the next round.

Wayne responded.  “It’s interesting that some senators had absolutely no questions with how we allocated $4 billion dollars with the overall state budget, but now want to question every detail when it comes to North Omaha.”

The bill was initially introduced by Wayne and McKinney based on their review of other plans for North Omaha.  Over fifty testifiers traveled to Lincoln to speak with the Urban Affairs and Appropriations Committees during public hearings.

Later, Senator Tony Vargas of South Omaha and a group of business leaders developed a separate $50 million proposal for South Omaha. Thirty additional speakers attended the hearing for the South Omaha bill.

Eventually, the senators from North and South Omaha decided to join forces and created the East Omaha Recovery Plan.  That plan was voted out of the Urban Affairs Committee on a 6-1 vote leading to this first round discussion with the full senate.

It will come back to the floor for the next round after some additional discussions and negotiations between the senators.

“We will come back with more details and we are willing to talk to anyone about the best way to move things forward,” said Wayne.

“To make it plain, this is our attempt to put a boot factory in North Omaha to provide our community with the proverbial boots that they have yet to receive in our lifetime in order to give them the tools and empower them to pull themselves up,” added McKinney.

The debate on the floor of the Nebraska Legislature the entire week has primarily focused on the state budget, use of the federal ARPA funds, the needs of North Omaha, whether to build a new prison or invest in reforms and other important issues facing the state.  Negotiations between senators are ongoing to finalize the amount that will be allocated to North and South Omaha and for projects across the state.

Learn more about the plan.

Community Features

2024 Revive Omaha Black Business Guide

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Community Features

New cohorts prepare to launch…Leadership, Fund Development, Wealth Building & Career Advancement


Great News!  After announcing four cohorts late last year, the Empowerment Network decided to delay the launch of the initiatives as they ran into the holiday season, received formal notice of their award of $10 million through the North and South Omaha Recovery Plan and continued the national collaboration with their partner cities introduced at last year’s African-American Leadership Summit.

The Network is now prepared to move forward with the four capacity-building cohort opportunities and their national strategic partners and advisors will be in Omaha for the Rebuilding the Village Conference.

Keys to Fund Development to Make Your Vision a Reality & Intro to Cohort

Anna Barber, fundraising expert that has helped to raise hundreds of millions of dollars including for the Smithsonian’s National Black History Museum in Washington D.C., will lead a six-month cohort on Fund Development:  building a donor base to make your vision a reality.

Barber will share insights gained through her work with major universities, the Museum, Obama Foundation and other national clients.  Participants will develop a comprehensive step by step plan to build and maintain a strong, diversified donor base.  In this session, Barber will provide an overview of key elements to fundraising success and share an overview of the upcoming fund development cohort.


Collaborative, Transformation Leadership and Powerful Storytelling & Intro to Cohort

Suzan Hart, one of world’s top storytellers and presenters, will launch a Collaborative Leadership and Storytelling cohort:  Maximize Opportunities with the Power of Your Story.

Participants will learn more about the transformational power of collaboration and enhance their presentation skills by defining purpose, understanding their value, and releasing the power of their story.  In this session, Hart will share key concepts to help you develop a mindset to maximize your leadership opportunities and provide an overview of the new cohort.


Advancing Your Career with Key Principles from Redefine the Game & Intro to Cohort

Dr. Jefferey Robinson of BCT Partners will return to Omaha to help launch the 5th Cohort of the Redefine the Game Institute, an innovative career advancement and leadership development program. Over 150 have participated with most receiving promotions and increased compensation, expanded career opportunities or leadership positions within new organizations.

In this session, Dr. Robinson will guide you towards growing and making the most of your network and provide an overview of the next RTG cohort. You will also hear from RTG Alumni regarding their own path career paths and stepping into impactful leadership roles.


Understanding Your Wealth Building Code and Developing Your Plan & Intro to Cohort

Dr. Pamela Jolly a nationally recognized wealth-building strategist returns to launch the third cohort of the Legacy Wealth Initiative.  Graduates of Legacy Wealth have developed wealth plans, saved thousands of dollars, become homeowners, launched and purchased businesses, invested individually and collectively and made contributions to their community.  Dr. Jolly will review the key elements to develop and implement your own wealth building plan and provide an overview of the upcoming Legacy Wealth Cohort.

Register for the 17th Annual Rebuilding the Village Conference and come join us for the introduction of the new cohorts.  Learn More and Register here

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Community Features

Dream Big! Eric Thomas coming to Omaha June 7th

OMAHA, Neb. –  On June 7, the Empowerment Network will take over CHI Health Center Omaha & Hilton Omaha Downtown for the 17th Annual Rebuilding the Village Conference and Luncheon. This year’s event also features the highly anticipated Revive Omaha Black Business Expo, highlighting the importance of supporting and empowering black-owned businesses in the community. The conference kicks off at 8:00 am.

Big Dreams and Collective Visions!  The luncheon will feature an energizing session from keynote speaker from New York Times best-selling author, educator, motivational guru and international business phenomenon, Eric Thomas, Ph.D.

As an inspirational speaker, Thomas has made a successful career working with and coaching Fortune 500 companies, top athletes, students and audiences around the world. A visionary, Thomas helps others walk in their purpose. Through a thorough examination and application of these same principles, his conference attendees continue to maximize their successes both in the workplace and at home. As a husband, father and philanthropist, Thomas aims to improve the lives of others through self-empowerment, self-assessment and consistent execution.

The Rebuilding the Village Conference and Luncheon has long been recognized as a premier gathering for community leaders, activists, entrepreneurs and stakeholders to come together to address key issues facing underserved communities. With a focus on career advancement, leadership development, DEI, wealth building, entrepreneurship, community building and more, the conference aims to foster collaboration and drive positive change in Omaha and beyond.

“The Rebuild the Village Conference and Revive Omaha Black Business Expo continues to evolve,” said Willie Barney, CEO and founder of the Empowerment Network. “Through this year’s event, we are focusing on the best ways to build economic strength and equity, support business owners, encourage homeownership, and invest in economic development and revitalization. Our community wants to be a part of the development of our city. Our Conference and Black Business Expo will equip attendees with the tools needed to thrive.”

Dream Big video from Eric Thomas

Central to this year’s event is the Revive Omaha Black Business Expo, a dynamic showcase of black-owned businesses from across the region. Attendees will have the chance to network with entrepreneurs, learn about innovative products and services, and support the local economy.

Backed by the Obama Foundation’s My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, the Empowerment Network works to build a safer environment for all residents by increasing educational and career success and reducing violent crime. The My Brother’s Keeper Alliance leads a cross-sector national call-to-action focused on building safe and supportive communities for boys and young men of color where they feel valued and have clear pathways to opportunity.

In 2023, the Rebuild the Village Conference attracted more than 1,100 attendees. Of those attendees, nearly 40 percent were students. With the help of last year’s keynote speaker, businessman, NBA legend and philanthropist Erving “Magic” Johnson, Rebuild the Village was able to raise $90,000 during an unexpected auction at the end of Johnson’s speech. Last year’s event also drew in leaders from across the nation, including key cities like Atlanta, Ga., Chicago, Ill., Denver, Co., Kansas City,  Mo., New Orleans, La. and Tulsa, Okla.

In addition to the Black Business Expo, the conference will feature keynote speeches, panel discussions, workshops, and interactive sessions led by industry experts and community leaders. To learn more about the event, including ticket prices and sponsorship opportunities, please visit Registration closes Monday, June 3.


About the Empowerment Network

The Empowerment Network is a nonprofit organization committed to advancing economic, social and civic progress within Omaha’s African American community, North Omaha and the region. Through collaborative efforts and innovative initiatives, the Empowerment Network strives to create opportunities for empowerment and transformation in every zip code and neighborhood in the City of Omaha and other national communities.

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