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Panda Express opened two stores in Omaha, its first in the area, in the middle of the recession. They plan to eventually have six or eight in the market.

Trader Joe’s is coming here, too.

That kind of success indicates how well Greater Omaha’s diverse economy insulated it during the economic downturn.

Economic diversity has kept Omaha’s unemployment rate one of the lowest among the nation’s 100 biggest metropolitan areas, resulting in a still-strong shopping sector—total retail spending for Greater Omaha is about $14 billion a year. Dennis Nelson, CEO and president of Buckle, said, “Buckle has invested in the Omaha market for more than 20 years. The community has an impressive cultural scene, extensive dining and accommodation options, a world-class zoo, museums catering to a variety of interests, as well as sporting and concert events that attract visitors to the city.“

The area’s low cost of living (the metro tops Forbes’s best-bang-for-the-buck ratings) results in a high level of disposable income. Forbes also credits Omaha with being the American city recovering fastest from the recession.

As a regional service and trade center, Greater Omaha attracts workers and shoppers from an area far larger than the metro area. More than 1.2 million people live within a 60-minute drive.

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