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Luring ex-Nebraskans home

Two Web sites add to toolbox for convincing former residents to give state another look.

Many good ideas are arising to persuade former residents that Nebraska is worth returning to.

Previous editorials here have highlighted small-town "homestead acts" that offer free home sites and a Norfolk-based effort to re-sell and even presell its region.

Now the Associated Press has highlighted two recent additions that make use of the brain-drainequalizing power of the Internet. One of them, MoveBacktoNebraska.com, seeks to match departed Nebraska professionals and entrepreneurs with jobs that are open and businesses that are for sale.

Site founder Mitch Arnold of Omaha says he was lured from his native Loup City by the faster pace of the East Coast. After several years on Capitol Hill and in North Carolina, though, he was tired of it.

"I found the same sentiment in nearly every former Nebraskan I encountered while living out of the state," Arnold wrote on his Web site. "Their lives and priorities had changed since they left, and now Nebraska life looked pretty good to them. Unfortunately, it's often more difficult to return to a state than it is to leave a state," because families have to be uprooted.

A similar Web site, Business Beyond the Farm (type as one word and add ".com" to access the site), offers similar services focused more specifically on rural areas.

Founders Betty Sayers and Nancy Herhahn wrote on their site that "we were told by our parents and teachers that if we wanted to 'make something of ourselves,' we had to leave rural Nebraska."

Herhahn wound up in San Diego and Sayers in Minnesota, but both moved to southwest Nebraska in recent years. Their site offers features on "liveable small towns," lists of "things to do in rural Nebraska" and testimonies from other natives who have come home.

"If you miss the safe, quiet streets, the wide-open sky, the sense of knowing - and caring about - your neighbors, we urge you to register and be a part of our community," the two women wrote. "And perhaps after you join us in spirit, you'll join us in fact."

Omaha and Lincoln are not bereft of such qualities, of course (perhaps in part because so many of their residents are from small Nebraska towns, too). But the more that ex-Nebraskans can be reminded of "The Good Life" they left behind, the more they just might realize that the greenest pastures are back from whence they came.



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