SYRACUSE - Nebraska’s next Governor, Republican Jim Pillen, continues  getting himself acquainted with things happening around the state before taking office.

On Thursday, that took the governor-elect to Syracuse, where the Colorado-based company of NioCorp provided a briefing update on their project of harvesting rare earths from southeast Nebraska.

“I knew they [NioCorp] were really really serious because they invested millions of dollars,” Pillen said. “From where I come from, our community is a lot like here and my dad always said to treat nickels like man-hole covers, so when there’s investment of millions of dollars, and they’re paying for the land around the mine, it’s really exciting.”

The southeast Nebraska project is located in Elk Creek, about 10 miles south of Tecumseh. NioCorp’s main goal is to process NioBium, an element not found in the US. Pillen and NioCorp CEO Mark Smith NioBIum’s discussed importance on the large scale, and to Nebraska. 

“When you add just a little NioBium to one ton of steel, you can double the yield strength of that steel,” Smith said. “That makes it much more valuable in construction, the oil/gas industry, and the automotive industry.”

“It’s important we don’t have to rely on China. This project is bigger than this community. It’s a big deal for our country,” Pillen said.

Pillen also notes that the project is one that will aid the area, bringing in both opportunity and revenue.

“There’s gonna be 400-plus jobs here, there’s going to be 1,000 jobs here during construction for a number of years… The lifetime payroll of this is going to be over a billion dollars, and I think the property taxes will total over a billion dollars in the time of this project,” Pillen said. “When you have projects that can grow your economy and lower taxes it’s a big deal.”

When Pillen does take office, he says he has a plan to make sure the NioCorp Elk Creek project stays on track for success.

“We’ll minimize any kind of intervention and have it be really really business friendly,” Pillen said. “Anything we can do to help our economy grow and help our state grow that’s what our job is.”

On Tuesday night, former President Donald Trump announced his plans to run for president again in 2024. The former president did not side with Pillen, a pig farmer and UNL regent, instead endorsing with Charles W. Herbster, the Falls City Angus farmer. Pillen provided his thoughts on the former presidents announcement.

“Democracy is a beautiful thing,” Pillen said. “I expect a many great deal of republicans will decide to run for the President of the United States.”