Nebraska Passport creating opportunities for local Lincoln businesses

Updated: May. 13, 2021 at 7:58 AM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Every summer Nebraska Passport helps people discover the entire state and that tradition continued during the pandemic..

The Nebraska Passport began in 2010 as an opportunity to visit unique places around the state. It has since evolved into a service that not only brings people together, but supports local businesses when they need it most.

In 2019, the program generated nearly $2-million in state and local tax revenue. The passport has become what’s described as a “monster” that includes 70 different locations across the entire state.

Not only is Nebraska known to be the only state with a program like this, but experts said more than 50,000 books are printed each year. Last year, more than 1,000 people completed the program and visited every stop on the passport.

“Right now the thing that we really love about it is that Nebraska isn’t traditionally known as a wide tourism destination. At Nebraska Tourism, we are trying to change that. It’s a great program for people who live in Nebraska to get familiar with their own state,” said program coordinator, Madison Johnson.

Everyone’s book can look a little different based on where they visited, and best of all, it’s free.

While this is a great opportunity for Nebraskans to become more familiar with their own state, it is also a great way to support local businesses.

Smoking Gun Jerky is one of the businesses that partnered in the 2021 passport program. Founded in 2009, Smoking Gun Jerky was formed to develop, manufacture and market a unique liquid marinade.

Fast forward to today, their store holds 14 different kinds of jerky. Not only has the passport helped the store retain business they lost during the pandemic, but it’s given them a way reach customers from all over the state.

“You’d be surprised at how many of them never knew we existed. The people come and talk about the places they were at last year, or three years ago and they always return to those places even if they aren’t on the passport. I think it helps businesses in the long run, not just the year they’re on the passport,” said store manager, Rian Hall.

In the first four days the program began, Smoking Gun Jerky said they had more than 100 customers come in the store just for the passport.

Smoking Gun Jerky is just one of the 70 different stops in the Cornhusker state. More information on the Nebraska Passport Service can be found here.

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