Nebraska’s Economic StorytellerJan 25, 2023 12:26PM ● By Sara Locke
Photo by Bill Sitzmann.
Nebraska has a way of showing you the beauty in humility,” said Trevon Brooks, chief strategy officer for the Nebraska Department of Economic Development. “We have to do a better job at telling our story as a state. I think that’s why my job is so fun.
“Working for economic development, I get the ability to showcase the Nebraska story. There’s an energy, even an excitement, where people want to get real things done for Nebraska. There are a lot of cool initiatives on every front.”
Brooks may be an Omaha transplant, but he has made the city his home and the community his family, and both are showing the positive impact of his commanding presence.
“Uncle Sam brought me here,” the U.S. Air Force veteran recalled. “I had no idea where Nebraska was on the map until my tech sergeant pointed out Offutt [AFB] smack dab in the center of the United States. The community welcomed me right in, and Director [Anthony] Goins invited me to join his team to tackle some things around the North Omaha community. That eventually turned into looking at the state at-large. [This work] has been the greatest accident.”
With a master’s in business administration from Midland University and a master’s in strategic finance from Bellevue University, Brooks has a deep knowledge of economic matters. But he also has other great assets: a unique knack for developing relationships wherever he finds himself, and for identifying ways to help those connections apply their talents and resources for the greatest good of the communities they serve.
“A lot of the success I’ve had in every stage of my career came down to the friends, advocates, and mentors I’ve been able to connect with in various ways.” Brooks said. “Those relationships matter. Regardless of what you’re trying to impact or learn, there is always someone willing and excited to teach what they know.”
One of the connections Brooks is most proud to have is with his first hire, Ryan ZimmerMas.
“Tre is a very charismatic individual,” said ZimmerMas, lead Economic Recovery Program manager for the NDED. “He’s passionate and very smart, but he is also very intentional. When he initially started at the DED, his position was to be a presence in the community and identify the business needs in North Omaha. He was an incredible person in that role in a community that has been really disinvested in the last several decades. He formed important relationships with business leaders, and helped coordinate and identify the big wins for that community.”
“Now as chief strategy officer, he has the power and the funding to grow those relationships and to meet those needs,” ZimmerMas continued. “He’s shepherding through between $330 and $450 million in COVID relief dollars. COVID had a disproportionate impact on Black communities, and you can’t imagine a better person to have in charge of making sure that relief is intentionally implemented to have a sustainable impact…to give the community a self-defined big win.”
Added Brooks: “At the end of the day, everyone has to become a marketer for our state. We can all help by continuing to share stories about the good things happening in Nebraska. History is often made here. Whether that’s through what’s happening with legislation, with our corporate leaders and their growth, or our ability to have a stable economic condition, even through the toughest times in our country. The best way to help our community grow is to share our stories.”