Center honors state senator for his work for small businesses

Small Towns
Farm and Food

Myron Dorn never expected he’d end up at the Nebraska State Capitol representing his family, friends, and community as a senator.

“If you would have asked me when I was 20-something or 30-something, it would have been the farthest thing from my mind,” he said.

That changed in 2018, when Dorn was serving on the Gage County Board of Supervisors. Friends and others who were pleased with his work encouraged him to run for the Nebraska Legislature. Although not sure of his prospects at first, he threw his hat into the ring after incumbent Sen. Roy Baker decided not to run for another term.

Now in his second term, Dorn serves District 30, which includes Gage County and parts of southern Lancaster County.

Dorn lives in Adams and has spent his life in agriculture, farming in the Adams/Firth area, and has experienced the challenges facing the industry. He knows a successful ag economy is one of the keys to making sure the overall economy is strong and vibrant. But he hasn’t overlooked the importance of the other sectors, including small businesses.

“We need a strong economy in Nebraska, not only in agriculture but big businesses and small businesses,” he said. “The best way to make sure we have a strong economy statewide is to have success for all these different segments.”

In 2022, Dorn became a champion for Nebraska small businesses when he worked with the Center for Rural Affairs to pass Legislative Bills (LB) 759 and 1090. The legislation ensures community lenders, such as the Center, can continue to provide needed loans and no-cost technical assistance to entrepreneurs to start or grow their businesses.

LB 759 increased the maximum microloan amount under the Microenterprise Assistance Program, a Business Innovation Act initiative focused on the state’s small businesses, from $100,000 to $150,000. As part of LB 1090, the program’s funding allocation increased from $2 million to $3 million.

For his work, the Center recently awarded Dorn its 2022 George Norris Policymaker Award, given to someone who employs bipartisanship, compromise, and consensus to improve policy outcomes for family farms and rural communities.

“Sen. Dorn understands that small business entrepreneurship helps small towns thrive,” Center Policy Director Johnathan Hladik said. “His work to advance this package of legislation helps ensure our main street business owners have the tools they need to succeed.”

Dorn said he enjoyed working with the Center to get the bills passed and signed into law by the governor, an action that brought him both a sense of relief and gratitude. He was especially thankful to the small business owners who traveled to Lincoln to testify in support of the bills and share their stories.

“It’s very exciting to see people that have passion, or people that really have an understanding of what’s going on in our state’s economy, or people that have their own experiences or their own challenges come down and testify,” Dorn said. “That generally makes that bill that much more important. I’m just so thankful that we have those people that want to come down and give a perspective of what’s really going on out there.”

Dorn said he learned of the Center’s work in the 1980s when he read about a hotline for farmers. Over the years, he continued to read more about the organization through articles in local newspapers and interactions with staff.

With some quick to point to a so-called rural-urban divide, Dorn said working with an organization like the Center is not only helpful to rural senators but also urban ones.

“I often times will have urban senators come talk to me about what is happening or why is [something] happening,” Dorn said. “The Center for Rural Affairs and others are able to really bring out that message to those senators.”

At the end of the day, Dorn said, most of the decisions he and his fellow senators make affect the entire state, so he’s thankful to have the Center as a resource for everyone.

Dorn was surprised to learn he was chosen to receive the policymaker award.

“I’m very much honored and very thankful,” he said. “To me, it says we help people that we need to help and I’m so thankful for that.”

Feature photos: Top, State Sen. Myron Dorn accepts the 2022 George Norris Policymaker Award from Center Policy Director Johnathan Hladik. Bottom: Sen. Dorn is joined by niece, Anna Dorn Wolken, and daughter, Erin Dorn, and Hladik.