Veta Jeffery: Diversifying and Strategizing to Bring Greater Things to OmahaAug 01, 2022 11:52AM ● By Daisy Hutzell-Rodman
Photo by Bill Sitzmann
Veta Jeffery has taken a big job in Omaha as the president of its chamber of commerce, but she’s ready for the challenge.
“I am not the kind of person who has wanted to go to bed Sunday evening and dread get up Monday,” she said. “Economic development, community development are things that I thrive off of.”
She has spent her first 90 days getting to know this city, and the people in the city. That’s a big part of what attracted her to the search committee, according to Leslie Andersen, committee chair and CEO of i3 Bank in Bennington.
Andersen said, “Veta has an incredible ability to digest highly complex information and turn it into strategy with actionable outcomes.”
That means she is going to be a big asset when thinking strategically about workforce development, attracting folks to Omaha, and keeping people here. Andersen said that will be a key part of being the president of the Greater Omaha Chamber
“I think that the chamber business has changed,” Andersen said. “I think it’s gone from spending most of your time recruiting companies to spending most of your time recruiting people to work for those companies. Really, before, you would think—if you have a company to come to your state and want to be part of your state and have, say, 500 jobs, that would have been considered a big win. That was before 1% unemployment. Now, you’ve got to have people here who can go to work for them. We’ve got a lot of nice, big employers here who have facilities in other states. We don’t have the people here to fill the jobs.”
A big part of that is going to be working on public and private partnerships. Jeffery’s previous job as manager of Community Economic Development for the State of Missouri will be an asset. She helped rebuild the business community in and around Ferguson, Missouri. This included helping to establish workforce development programs to assist underserved communities.
She’s also conscious that a big part of Omaha’s growth will be working on diversity and equity.
“Real change takes time—it takes time, effort, and it takes accountability,” Jeffery said. “If we look at the work that the Greater Omaha Chamber is doing right now, our CODE program is something we can turn to. CODE stands for Commitment to Opportunity, Diversity and Equity. It starts with that commitment...Our employer coalition is another piece...We have a conference on opportunity and diversity and equity. And ongoing initiatives that would create more opportunity and access for day-to-day with a year-over-year focus that we can work through. We had 120 employers who signed the CODE pledge to make DEI their priority in their workplaces. To create an inclusive work environment for their employees. We continue to offer our education series…provide development training for
That ability to see a big picture is one of her strengths.
Jeffery said, “The Greater Omaha Chamber has a phenomenal board, but I also understand these are the key stakeholders who make the city of Omaha work. I think it’s necessary to understand these entities so I can get the bigger picture...The only way I can be an asset is if I understand the individuals making it all work.”
As she looks around the city, Jeffery sees three things that will help build Greater Omaha.
Jeffery said, “I’m going to choose people, place, and prosperity as a focus of our strategic plan because I think focusing on our people, focusing on what’s happening in this space that we’re in, and what programs we have that we’re standing up to make the people stronger, the places better and our prosperity greater is something that I’d like to make certain I am keeping watch of and using my past experience to help guide.”
Andersen said there is another key to Jeffery’s strength as a leader.
“A big part of it is going to be strategy, but it’s also her ability to communicate,” Andersen said. “I’ve watched her communicate and get to know people. She’s quite good at it. I think she’s going to be able to help us craft these solutions.”
Jeffery is especially excited about all the things that are happening in the area as outlined by the new Urban Core Redevelopment plan.
Jeffery said, “From what I’ve seen, the people here are serious about making the city of Omaha the next up-and-coming place to be, and I’m impressed by the fortitude and the passion that I see, and the collaborative efforts I see being executed.”
Andersen said, “I can’t wait to see once she gets her feet under her—get past the first 180 days, I think it’s going to be a pleasure to watch.”
Visit omahachamber.org for more information.
This article originally appeared in the August/September 2022 issue of B2B Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.