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Extraordinary Opportunities

Businesses Make A Connection With Cox. When it comes to choosing a communications partner it’s valuable to listen to others. Patient information is key and being connected is crucial for the best care. Cox embodies that same care to us with value and connectivity 24/7. - Roger Hertz CPHIMS

In the financial world, how we get data to our customers makes all the difference. Cox supports our business with the same responsiveness our customers expect from us. - Doreen Griffith

Speed and accuracy is the name of the game in a world that expects instantaneous response. With Cox, I know we have the reliability of a proven secured network. - Wm. Tate Fitzgerald

Businesses all around the greater metro area make a connection with Cox. | 402.934.3139



Visit for more information on how we can help your child. For a pediatrician, family physician or pediatric specialist, call 1.800.833.3100.


I-80 Fuel • 5318 L Street

We’re Your Midwest Connection The Midwest now has 6 new & existing Public Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) Fill Stations available to service your fleet vehicles from Omaha, Des Moines, Lincoln and Kansas City.

For Fleet Information Contact 402-504-7185 •

No matter what direction we’re going, we’re always heading home. With the stroke of a pen, President Lincoln signed the Pacific Railway Act of 1862, charging us with an extraordinary task – connecting the nation. It all started right here in the Heartland, and now we have grown to 32,000 miles of track and 45,000 employees across the country, helping us haul America’s goods. As we celebrate our anniversary, we thank all of our employees, customers and shareholders. You’re vital to our success, moving us forward with progress always on the horizon. Join the celebration at

“Omaha: Extraordinary Opportunities” is a publication of the Greater Omaha Chamber, created and produced by the Omaha World-Herald. Greater Omaha Chamber 1301 Harney St., Omaha, NE 68102 13206 Grover St., Omaha, NE 68144 Phone 402-346-5000 Fax 402-346-7050


Greater Omaha Chamber President and CEO DAVID G. BROWN


WORLD-HERALD PROJECT TEAM Project Editor/Creative Director CHRIS CHRISTEN Designer & Graphic Artist QUENTIN LUENINGHOENER Copy Editor AMY LaMAR Contributors/Content JEFF BARNES, JUDY HORAN, BILL HORD, KURT A. KEELER, MICHAEL KELLY, RUTHANN MANLEY, SHERRY FLETCHER, DAN McCANN, MONICA McFARLAND, OMAHA WORLD-HERALD STAFF, TIM STUART, PAT WATERS Contributors/Photography ROGER D. BARNES, JEFFREY BEBEE, ROBERT ERVIN, ERIC FRANCIS, KURT A. KEELER, SHERI KIMMEY, MALONE & COMPANY, NORTH SEA FILMS, OMAHA WORLD-HERALD PHOTO STAFF, JOSH PLUEGER, LINDA SHEPARD, BILL SITZMANN, KEN SMITH, BRAD WILLIAMS Imaging Specialist PATRICIA “MURPHY” BENOIT Print Manager WAYNE HARTY Project Sales Managers CARRIE KENTCH TAM WEBB On the Cover: 150th anniversary photo illustration courtesy of Union Pacific Railroad. View this publication at Copyright 2012 Omaha World-Herald, 1314 Douglas St., Suite 600, Omaha, NE 68102 402-444-1094; Every effort has been made to assure the accuracy of the information in this publication. The Greater Omaha Chamber and Omaha World-Herald assume no responsibility for misinformation. Reproduction in whole or in part without joint permission of the Greater Omaha Chamber and The World-Herald is prohibited. Printed by Omaha Print Company, Omaha, Nebraska


On the Move!

How fortunate we are to live in a city that has benefited from leaders who have vision, determination and the means to make things happen. Take for example one of our leading businesses, Union Pacific Corp., a Fortune 500 company that celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2012. The decision to headquarter that company in Omaha literally got the wheels of the city rolling. Throughout history, decisions like that – and our belief that we can do anything – have kept our city moving. More than 60 years ago, we embraced a little baseball tournament that today is the College World Series, a major college sporting event. Our can-do attitude helped us forge a 2009 deal with the NCAA to keep the series in Omaha through at least 2035. In 2008 and 2012, Olympians swam their way onto the U.S. Olympic team by competing in Omaha. That same spirit was seen at the Midwest’s first International Omaha 2012 (an equestrian show-jumping competition). Next year will bring the U.S. Figure Skating Championships and the U.S. Senior Open to Omaha. Our region is economically strong and diverse, and we have kept moving, even during challenging economic times. Probusiness city and state governments make the area welcoming to businesses. Our quality of life, combined with the amenities of a much larger city, make Greater Omaha a desirable place to live. The momentum these days shows that our businesses are moving from surviving to THRIVING! We are experiencing increased visibility on the national radar as a city known to be a haven for entrepreneurs and innovators. The pages of this publication piece together the collage of our positive trajectory. See for yourself the impact of our 365 economic development successes


David Brown, left, and Nate Dodge with an autographed British telephone booth given to Omaha to commemorate the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials — Swimming. totaling more than $3.7 billion in new investments and 21,461 new or retained jobs since 2004 (through second-quarter 2012). We’re sure that you’ll also discover what so many others already have: Greater Omaha is extraordinary! If you are thinking about expanding your business, moving your family or coming on your own, we welcome you. In fact, we’ll show you around! Nate Dodge 2012 Chairman, Chamber

Board of Directors; Executive Vice President, NP Dodge Company

David G. Brown President and CEO, Greater Omaha Chamber





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Getting Acquainted

Flyover country? Hardly.


The Right Choice


Nebraska is a place to land and to stay grounded.

On the Move


Sleepy city? Nope.

Momentum for Growth


Building the Talent Pool

Omaha is on the move.


Cow town? Part of our history.

The Suburban Landscape


Innovation & Creativity


But you should see us now.

Right Place for Business


Want a tour?

Living Here: Neighborhoods


Caring Communities


Learning Here: Education

No shortage of extraordinary opportunities here.


Eat, Play, Shop


Arts & Entertainment

Feel the energy. Build on the excitement. Join our 3,200 member businesses. Together we can keep all Greater Omaha businesses strong and growing. For membership details, visit For business information and more, visit


OUR SERVICES Banking & Finance Business & Corporate Creditors’ Rights Emerging Business Employee Benefits Employment Law & Labor Relations Environmental & Natural Resources Estate & Business Succession Planning Health Care Intellectual Property International Business Litigation Mergers & Acquisitions


Real Estate Securities Tax

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4,400 Square miles of the eight-county Greater Omaha metropolitan area.


Population of the eight-county metropolitan area.


Population of Omaha.


Adjusted median household income compared to $53,658 for the U.S.


Percent below the national average for cost of living.


Percent below the national average for housing costs.


Median price of an existing home compared to the U.S. median home price of $181,500.


Percentage of residents with bachelor’s degrees or higher compared to 28.6 percent for the U.S.


Median age (36 percent of the population is younger than 25). The U.S. median age is 36.9 years. Sources: 2011 U.S. Census, American Community Survey, Metropolitan Area Planning Agency, Scarborough Research

Greater Omaha by the Numbers 8


Financial Literacy leads to

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We’re a City on the Move



ome quip that Omaha has become “Echo City.” That’s because when people from elsewhere hear all that’s going on in Omaha, they immediately repeat in surprise, “Omaha?” Yes, Omaha. Named for an American Indian tribe that came west and went upstream, the word is often translated as “the upstream people.” Yes, the up-and-coming metro area is clearly moving ahead. This is our time.

Numerous national rankings place Omaha high. Kiplinger’s — the financial magazine and website — last year rated Omaha the No. 1 overall “best value city,” based on economic vitality, low cost of living and cultural offerings. Kiplinger’s this year ranked Omaha as the No. 1 place to raise a family. Two areas in which we are below average are good ones. The unemployment rate is about half the national rate, and the cost of living is 10.5 percent lower than the U.S. norm. The city’s name is carried far and wide by such iconic companies as Mutual of Omaha and Omaha Steaks, and by the “Oracle of Omaha,” investor Warren Buffett. His annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting becomes a hot spot for 35,000 or more people from around the world each May. Union Pacific — which truly built this town after President Abraham Lincoln designated the company as part of the first transcontinental railroad — recently celebrated its sesquicentennial, its 150th birthday. In 2004, the Great Big Rollin’ Railroad opened its gleaming, glass-exterior headquarters downtown. Omahans represent a mixture of longtime families and newcomers. Molly Skold arrived a decade ago from Chicago and soon led a successful image P H O T O : A L Y S S A S C H U K A R / O MAHA W O R L D - H E R A L D

campaign for the Greater Omaha Chamber. Today she is marketing director of a mixeduse urban hot spot, Midtown Crossing. “I think Omahans try harder,” Skold said. “That was my impression when I first got here. It’s why Omaha works and why this city is so special. We work hard to do bold things, and we’re not going to sit back and be complacent. That’s the city I want to live in.” The Omaha metro area is fiscally conservative but progressive. The active Greater Omaha Young Professionals under the Greater Omaha Chamber strives to keep the metro area moving forward. The Omaha City Council this year joined other cities that have adopted ordinances prohibiting discrimination against gay and transgender people. To most in the metro area, spirituality matters. One example of that is the Tri-Faith Initiative, which has united Jews, Muslims and Christians in a plan unique in the nation to build a synagogue, a mosque and a church — plus an Interfaith Center — on a plot of land southeast of 132nd and Pacific Streets. Not all of the metro’s hot spots are in Omaha. Ashland, Blair, Bellevue, Bennington, Gretna, La Vista, Louisville, Papillion, Plattsmouth, Ralston, Valley, Waterloo, Yutan and other neighboring

area communities are moving forward, too. The Millard and Elkhorn areas, former towns annexed by Omaha, continue to maintain their own school districts and distinctiveness. The entire metro enjoys strong neighborhood traditions, including those in the updated business districts of North Downtown, Dundee, South Omaha and Benson, with its growing restaurant and music scene. North Omaha enjoys, among other things, the biannual Native Omaha Days, which brings many former residents of the neighborhood back to town for reunions, and the annual Juneteenth parade. Offutt Air Force Base, planning a new headquarters for the United States Strategic Command, maintains a crucial presence in the metro area. Many military retirees make their homes here. The Omaha area has a strong theatrical bent. The Omaha Community Playhouse is the largest community theater in the country, and the Bellevue Little Theater, the Shelterbelt, the Brigit Saint Brigit, the Blue Barn, the John Beasley Theater, Sumtur Amphitheater and others also provide an array of fine performances. Creighton University, the University of Nebraska Medical Center and the University of Nebraska at Omaha are all growing apace, each a hot spot of its own. The 16-year-old Peter Kiewit Institute in Aksarben Village houses academic programs for the University of NebraskaLincoln’s College of Engineering and the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s College of Information Science and Technology. Hot trends, hot rankings, hot ideas, hot people, hot spots. In a growing area, they add up to hot momentum that keeps Omaha moving ahead. -– World-Herald columnist Michael Kelly 11



We consistently land in prestigious national rankings. Here are a few reasons why.


• It’s possible to have a high quality of life without a high price tag. Our cost of living is lower than the national average. • We enjoy a relaxed lifestyle. We have clean air and water, and a crime rate that’s lower than the national average for a metro area of our size (865,350 people in eight counties in two states).

Blair Omaha Bellevue Plattsmouth


• Our average city commute is 20 minutes by car. We have bus routes and a growing network of bike lanes, and we rarely see a major traffic jam. • We have a lively and varied arts and entertainment scene, Broadway touring shows and state-of-the-art performance venues.

• We have a well-educated community. More than 91 percent of adults ages 25 and older are high school graduates (the national average is 85 percent). Greater Omaha outperforms the national average for college graduates, with about one in three achieving a bachelor’s degree or higher.

• We’re strong in the areas of recreation and leisure, too. We have an extensive network of bike trails, challenging golf courses, scenic parks and lakes and busy ball diamonds and soccer fields.

• We have easy access to world-class health care facilities and health care costs that are below the national average. Our health care professionals consistently receive national attention for their work.

LOCAL ROOTS WITH A GLOBAL REACH Werner Enterprises, a premier transportation and logistics company, provides coverage across the globe, including North America, Asia, Europe, South America, Africa and Australia ‌ but we will always proudly call Omaha home. And while we have global offices worldwide the company maintains its global headquarters locally, where our roots grow deep. Werner also is dedicated to reducing our carbon footprint to create a greener environment for future generations. So no matter how far and wide we deliver, our team of committed transportation experts will get it home safely.



1 2 3 4 5 I love is 6 7

10 Great Cities to Raise Your Kids Kiplinger – May 2012

H O WA R D K . MA R C U S / O MAHA W O R L D - H E R A L D

Cities With the Biggest Bang For Your Buck The Fiscal Times – June 2012 Best Midwestern Markets for Small Businesses On Numbers – April 2012 Top 10 Cities with the Best Economies for Families Parenting – July 2012

In some places it’s

easy to lose perspective. But I think it’s

very easy

to keep perspective

in a place like

Numbers Economic Index The Business Journals – September 2012 Best Cities for Successful Aging – Large Metros Milken Institute – July 2012

Best Cost of Living Men’s Health – November 2011

Omaha … If you can’t think clearly

America’s Happiest Cities Men’s Health – November 2011

think clearly

Top Cities Friendly To Small Business – May 2012

in Omaha, you’re not going to


There ARE plenty of other

places I like, but the one

Omaha. – Warren Buffett, August 2012 interview with the Associated Press

Best Cities to Find a Job US News – January 2012

Top 10 Cities for Keeping New Year’s Resolutions – December 2011 Most Business-Friendly Cities CNNMoney – June 2012 Best Cities for Jobs Forbes – February 2012 Best Cities for Raising a Family Forbes – April 2012


Nebraska Stands Tall, Too


Lowest Tax Costs For New Firms Tax Foundation and KPMG – February 2012


Biofuels Leaders – Ethanol Business Facilities – July/August 2012


Best States To Live In Gallup – August 2012


Workforce Training Leaders Business Facilities – July/August 2012


Top 10 Pro-Business States Pollina Corporate Real Estate – August 2012


America’s Top States for Business CNBC – July 2012


Best Business Climate Business Facilities – July/August 2012

How Greater Omaha Measures Up


Papillion, America’s Top Small Town 2012 – September 2012


Arlington, America’s Best Places to Raise Kids Bloomberg Businessweek – November 2011


Bellevue, Where Homes Are Affordable Money – August 2012


Sarpy County, Where the Jobs Are Money – August 2012

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Considering the industries they serve, the customers they attract and the histories they’ve compiled, these leading businesses couldn’t be more different. One thing these Fortune 500 companies do share is that they call Omaha home.

Omaha’s Fortune 500s going strong n u m b er


n u m b er


n u m b er


n u m b er

255 n u m b er



B erks h ire H athaway Inc .

Known as much for its leader’s personality as it is for a solid, long-term performance for its shareholders, Berkshire Hathaway continues to enjoy a top 10 position among the world’s companies. The Omaha-based holding company owns businesses in a diverse range of industries, from insurance, railroads and energy companies, to manufacturers, retailers, fast food and even a chemicals maker.


U nion Pa cific Tracing its history to Abraham Lincoln’s start of the transcontinental railroad, Union Pacific is celebrating its 150th anniversary as the nation’s premier railroad – and one of America’s iconic companies. While its headquarters are in Omaha, Union Pacific’s operations link 23 states to serve more than 25,000 businesses. Among its largest customers are steamship lines, vehicle manufacturers, agricultural companies, utilities, intermodal companies and chemical manufacturers.


C onAgr a F oods From Banquet and Chef Boyardee, to Egg Beaters and Healthy Choice, plus Hunt’s, Manwich, Libby’s and Van Camp’s, to name a few, ConAgra Foods’ consumer brands are found in 97 percent of American households. Its commercial brands make it one of the top suppliers to food service chains and distributors worldwide. ConAgra Foods remains relevant in an industry where it’s imperative to stay up-to-date on changing tastes and preferences.


P eter K iewit S ons ’, I nc . Peter Kiewit Sons’ tagline, “Jobs done well,” may seem like a simplistic principle for this Fortune 500 company that calls Omaha home. In its more than 125-year history, Kiewit has evolved into one of the largest and most well-respected construction and mining organizations in the world. It is one of the largest employeeowned firms in the nation, with both U.S. and Canadian employee shareholders.


Mutu a l of Omaha With a history that spans from 1909, Mutual of Omaha remains a leading provider of insurance and financial services products for individuals, businesses and groups throughout the United States. Set in the heart of Omaha’s vibrant Midtown Crossing, Mutual continues to make its mark with popular endeavors, including its sponsorship of the U.S. Olympic Trials — Swimming and the iconic TV show, “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.”


© ConAgra Foods, Inc. All rights reserved.

Of all the homes we’re found in, we’re especially proud of this one. At ConAgra Foods, we’re proud to be found in 97 percent of America’s households and at the world’s most popular restaurants. Our brands are in just about every aisle of the grocery store and on just about every shopping list. But we’re especially proud to be on your shopping list. We’re grateful for the support you’ve given us right here in the Omaha area. At ConAgra Foods, we love to make the food you love. And we love to make it here.





Fortune Companies

ombine abundant power, a state-of-theart communications infrastructure, a centralized transportation hub and leading agricultural production with a highly educated workforce, and you have a diverse economy that is ideal to fuel 21st century success. The results can be seen in Omaha’s Fortune 1000 headquarters.

G reen P l ains R enewable Energy (No. 621) Located in the heart of the nation’s corn country, Green Plains Renewable Energy is well-situated to take advantage of the ethanol industry’s growth. The Omaha company is a vertically integrated ethanol producer, operating nine ethanol plants in Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Indiana and Tennessee. In addition to ethanol production, the company operates an agribusiness segment. Its in-house marketing business is responsible for the sale, marketing and distribution of ethanol, as well as the company’s production of distillers’ grains.

TD Am eritr a de (N o. 736) From pioneering the online brokerage industry, to its introduction of touch-tone phone trading and today’s mobile apps, TD Ameritrade is a leader in the development of software, tools and technology that keep pace with the industry. The company is also very peoplefocused, counting millions of investors and independent registered investment advisors among its customers in what the company calls “Bringing Wall Street to Main Street since 1975.” 18

Val mont Industries (No. 762) A worldwide leader in mechanized irrigation, Valmont Industries continues to spur growth in the industries it serves through the continued expansion of its products. Today, Valmont manufactures pole structures for lighting and utility and access systems and engineered grating products. It also designs, manufactures and installs communication structures, systems and components for wireless communication. Valmont’s operations include 95 facilities in 17 countries and more than 8,000 employees.

W est C orpor ation (No . 795) With employees throughout North America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia Pacific and Latin America, West Corporation continues to be the language of business – regardless of the language spoken. The world’s leading provider of voice-related services, West processes billions of minutes in voice-related transactions every year for clients in communications, consumer industries, financial services, government, health care, insurance, mortgage services, pharmaceuticals, retail, transportation, travel, hospitality and more.

W erner E nterprises (N o. 924)

A global leader in transportation and logistics, Werner Enterprises’ history is as American as apple pie … and baseball, including Werner Park, home to Omaha’s Triple A baseball club, the Omaha Storm Chasers. Starting with a single truck in 1956, C.L. Werner launched a family business that today includes a diversified portfolio of transportation services. The company provides freight management, truck brokerage, intermodal and international services through domestic and global subsidiaries. Werner recently was named one of Fortune Magazine’s most admired and trusted companies.


… at Gallup, we help our clients understand why that is important to their business, customers, employees, and to the world.

Gallup is constantly cracking the code to human behavior, and we are not shy about our intent to use that knowledge to create positive change throughout the world. We help the leaders of companies, organizations, communities, and nations solve their most pressing problems with advanced research, analysis, and consulting. Through large-scale initiatives, Gallup helps clients from the public and private sector create sustainable GDP growth and improve organizational performance by applying insights from the cutting-edge field of behavioral economics. While Gallup maintains more than 30 offices around the world, we are proud that our largest location is right here in Omaha.

Combining quality people, a unique culture and a passion for innovation and growth: West Corporation and Omaha share many traits that create a successful partnership. West Corporation is a leading provider of technology-driven communication services, offering its clients a broad range of communications and network infrastructure solutions that help them manage or support critical communications. West’s customer contact solutions and conferencing services are designed to improve its clients’ cost structures and provide reliable, high-quality services. West also provides mission-critical services, such as public safety and emergency communications. Founded in 1986 and headquartered in Omaha, Neb., West serves Fortune 1000 companies and other clients in a variety of industries, including telecommunications, retail, financial services, public safety, technology and healthcare. West has sales and operations in the United States, Canada, Europe, the Middle East, Asia Pacific and Latin America. For more information about West Corporation, please call 800-841-9000 or visit us at

West Corporation 11808 Miracle Hills Drive Omaha, Nebraska 68154 Copyright © 2012 West Corporation. All rights reserved. EOE/AA Employer

the right choice

‘Complete Package’ Chris Kircher, president, ConAgra Foods Foundation; vice president, ConAgra corporate affairs

Fam ily “We moved here from the New York metro area 10 years ago, and we love it. Omaha is the complete package. You have a vibrant business community, a thriving arts community, great schools, whether you’re looking for public, private or parochial, and a world-class health care community with two teaching hospitals. It’s a great place to live, work and raise a family. Once you’re here, you don’t want to leave.”

Ph il a nt h ropy “Giving back is not just alive and well in Omaha, it’s exceptionally strong when compared to other cities. And you see it across the board. Omaha is a great community in terms of supporting ConAgra’s fight against hunger. Other philanthropic initiatives, whether they’re in support of the arts, education or the community in general, find a lot of support as well. People get behind initiatives that they know can make the community a better place.”

L eisure “I joke with friends on the East Coast that I’ve seen more plays, symphonies,

concerts and cultural events here than I did in the 14 years I lived in New York. Accessibility and the quality are the same. Two of my kids are teenagers now. One is interested in being a film director and has done a lot of acting. For him, having a world-class children’s theater, the Rose, has been wonderful. He has taken classes and now is leveraging what he has learned at the high school level. My daughter is very interested in the independent music scene. The options here may surprise folks who come from bigger cities. It’s wonderful to have so many of your family’s needs and interests satisfied.”

E duc ation “We had a choice of private, public or parochial schools, and we have made good choices. Our youngest child has special needs, and we’ve been able to take advantage of services and expertise on both the educational and medical fronts. We may not have had those options in other cities, and if we did, gaining access to them could have been a challenge. For us, it’s been hugely gratifying to know that all of our daughter’s needs are capable of being met right here. “


An Extraordinary Community – On So Many Levels Karen Bricklemyer, president and CEO of the United Way of the Midlands and a mother of two, jokingly calls herself a “poster child” for promoting Greater Omaha. “People are so warm and welcoming,” she said. “The diversity of activities is extraordinary. Omaha was nowhere on my radar screen, but I’m so glad I looked at the opportunity with the United Way. My family just loves it here.” For so many people – from parents to young professionals, business owners to active seniors – Greater Omaha is more than a place to be; it’s where they want to be – not too small, not too big, a just-right fit on so many levels. 21

T HI NGS TO L O V E “I love the parks; I love the Omaha Children’s Museum; I love Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium. I love to be around other parents. That’s what I really love about Omaha. There’s so much for young people to do.”

Arlan Peak

Owner, Arlan’s Barbershop, Midtown Crossing; father of five; former Mr. Teenage Nebraska

Business/Economic Development “I think Omaha is doing a great job. I’ve lived in a lot of places, but Omaha is a trendsetter. We kind of do our own thing, but we’re moving forward. There are great opportunities for any young person who wants to open up a business.”

Leisure/Entertainment “We are a strong, strong nine. We’re getting ready to be a 10. We’ve got entertainment like New York, like St. Louis, like Chicago. We get the plays; we get the concerts. There are things going on in Omaha. You just have to go out and do it.”



Eric & Coni Almquist Parents of triplets Mackenzie, Madison and Matthew

L i f est y le : The Almquist triplets enjoy “going to museums and playing outside.”




“No matter what the season, you can find a variety of things to do in Omaha. Not only are there great places to go on adventures with your family, but there is also an abundance of amazing local restaurants.”

“Omaha and its suburbs have outstanding education programs. Teachers take pride in every student and make sure all their needs are met. The teams of physical, occupational and speech therapists really make a difference for us.”

Business/Economic Development “Omaha offers big and small business opportunities, and is proactive when it comes to building long-term relationships. Negotiating to keep the NCAA Men’s College World Series in Omaha is a great example.” 23

Alberto Cervantes

Community outreach coordinator, Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska; board president, South Omaha Community Care Council; vice president, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Nebraska

L eis u r e / E nte rta in ment “The events in Omaha – from the College World Series to the Olympic swim trials – are just amazing. There is great opportunity here.”


Business/Economic Development


“Local business owners are pursuing their dreams. You see it the moment you step into South Omaha, especially at 24th and L Streets. You can feel the energy. The area’s progress is amazing in terms of the Greater Omaha Chamber’s efforts, input and guidance.”

“My family moved to Omaha in 1975 when I was 8 years old, and I have been here ever since. It’s a great community.”


Aksarben Village is...

Aksarben Village is an experience! Whether you go to the restaurants, retailers, theater, lounge, cinema or an event in Stinson Park, you will feel welcome. With activities planned year round, you will be entertained the moment you step out of your residence or your vehicle. Stay tuned! There is more development and growth to come. Visit Aksarben Village today and enjoy the experience! experience!



justine petsch Art sales manager, Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts; board member, Greater Omaha Young Professionals

Young professionals “I think it’s really cool that Omaha values young professionals’ input, and we’re starting to see that more on the city level. For example, they’re open to giving young professionals a seat at the table on planning boards. That’s what makes Omaha really special. We appreciate our young professionals; we let them have a voice.”

Leisure “People used to say that there was nothing to do in Omaha, but today that is absolutely as far from the truth as you can get. Hot Shops Art Center is probably my favorite place in Omaha. It still amazes me how many people haven’t been there or haven’t heard of it. It’s a cultural gem.” B I L L S I T Z MA N N

Lifestyle “I love that Omaha is such a wonderfully inclusive community where you have all of these opportunities to get engaged. It’s large enough that it feels very urban, but it’s small enough that it’s very friendly. I can’t imagine moving or living anywhere else.” 26

J o b o pp o rt u nities “We have an unusually high number of Fortune 500 companies; there are endless opportunities if you’re looking for a corporate career path. And we also have an insane amount of nonprofit organizations. There is such a variety here.”

Trusted Service. Sound Advice. Fast Decisions. That’s Why Omaha Business Banks On Us. For more than a century, Great Western Bank has helped to build the businesses that grow Omaha. We’re just as proud of the relationships we’ve built along the way. When they need solutions to the challenges they face, Omaha businesses turn to Great Western Bank, because we’ve taken the time to know them, we’ve helped them grow, and they trust our financial advice. From simple business checking accounts to flexible lines of credit, cash management, security and convenience-enhancing technologies and so much more, you can always count on the people of Great Western Bank. Come in and visit with your business banker. After all, we enjoy Making Life Great for businesses, too.



susan ogborn

President and CEO, Food Bank for the Heartland

E du cation “My niece lives in Baltimore. She’s looking at colleges with engineering and IT combinations. She was very surprised to find that the Peter Kiewit Institute at UNO ranks high in every comparison.”


Business/economic growth


“The business leaders in the community do an amazing job of identifying a problem and putting together initiatives to address the problem. Shortage of engineers? Develop the Peter Kiewit Institute. Inadequate venture capital? Start a local and statewide consortium to address that. Need to build a convention center and ballpark in the middle of a recession? Create a public/private partnership and make it happen.”

“Omaha is truly blessed to have a strong history of vibrant philanthropy – corporate, family and individual. The variety of interests among our donors is extraordinary: faith-based, education, health, well-being and the arts are all strongly represented. But the thing that stands out for me is the intelligence of our donor community. There is a commitment to truly making a difference rather than simply funding ‘feel good’ projects that represent the fad of the week.”


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on the move

No Whiplash Here Steady growth is in our DNA


hile much of the nation suffers from whiplash due to wild economic turns, Omaha is the picture of stability. “It starts with the unemployment rate,” said Scott Strain, economist-in-residence for the Greater Omaha Chamber. Omaha’s unemployment rate for May 2012 was 4.3 percent, while the nation’s rate was north of 8 percent. Even better, from 1990 to 2011, Omaha added 105,000 jobs.

omaha world - herald


B r a d W illi a m s

“We are not really a boom-bust economy,” said Strain. “We are characterized by steady growth.” Largely due to this stability, Omaha and Nebraska continue to gain national recognition as great places to live, work and play. Some of the laurels last year and this year: • No.1, Kiplinger’s “10 Best Value Cities for 2011.” • The Brookings Institution, “20 Strongest-Performing Metro Areas.” • No. 3, Yahoo! Finance’s “5 Places With Good Jobs and Cheap Housing.”


Researcher David Drozd puts Omaha second among large metro areas in cost-ofliving-adjusted median household income at $61,670. Drozd, a research coordinator for the Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, adjusts data on median incomes to reflect local purchasing power. Omaha also is second for adjusted family median income – excluding one-person households – at about $78,000. Diversity is a key component, said Strain. “We are not really tied to any one industry.” By mid-2012, growth in available jobs was occurring across many sectors of the economy. Surprising to some people, Strain

said, is that the construction sector began to add jobs in late 2011. Among the industry leaders is health care, where various players – including two research university medical centers – have invested more than $2 billion since 2004. Stability and steady growth seem to be in Omaha’s DNA. Our population is projected to grow 7.3 percent between 2011 and 2016. “We’ve had growth and good economic performance recently, and most projections look at solid growth over the next five years,” Strain said.

The Shared History of Omaha and Union Pacific

150 Years on the Move When Abraham Lincoln signed the Pacific Railway Act on July 1, 1862, creating the original Union Pacific, his vision for the transcontinental railroad was to connect a nation from east to west. Although Lincoln did not live to see the transcontinental railroad’s completion, his vision was fulfilled. Along the way, more than 7,000 cities and towns began as Union Pacific depots and water stops. Union Pacific’s 150th anniversary in 2012 marks a continuation of Lincoln’s vision of connecting America with the global marketplace. Union Pacific helps U.S. businesses compete by providing cost-effective, efficient, safe and on-time transportation for manufactured goods and commodities. Nearly 40 percent of Union Pacific’s freight originates or terminates outside of the United States. *** Every city has a story: characters, conflicts, joys and heartaches. Omaha’s narrative begins years before the chartering of Union Pacific with the laying of the first rail near Seventh and Chicago Streets. It was a bold event that took Omaha in an exciting, new direction. In this case, forward. A fledgling city on the Missouri River, 1857. The City of Omaha, just three years after its founding, is in need of a stimulus. The economic Panic of 1857 rocks local banks and businesses, triggering a rash of failures.


A ndrew J . R u ssell (1 8 3 0 - 1 9 0 2 )

Since 1863, the histories of both Omaha and UP have been intertwined – a span of almost 150 years of concurrent growth and symbiosis. “Our shared heritage with Omaha is a source of pride as we remember our past while serving and connecting our nation for years to come,” said Bob Turner, senior vice president of corporate relations for Union Pacific. The White House, July 1, 1862. President Abraham Lincoln, a former railroad attorney, signs the Pacific Railway Act, authorizing the creation of

a transcontinental railroad and a railroad company called Union Pacific. The Act empowers Union Pacific to build west from the Missouri River, and the Central Pacific Railroad of California, chartered in 1861, to build east from Sacramento. The Civil War, at this point, has been raging for more than a year.

Historic context gives UP’s current strength and success even more heft. Though the railroad has encountered times of turbulence, it has, nonetheless, powered through history – the Civil War, World War I, the Great Depression, World War II … And Omaha has been on the move right alongside. “Early on, the arrival of a railroad meant the difference between a growing, thriving community and a place that would be off the beaten path,” said Patricia LaBounty, outreach and collections manager for the Union Pacific Railroad Museum in neighboring Council Bluffs. To think, Omaha’s starring role in the UP story wasn’t even supposed to be … Just two days before President Lincoln

spoke at Gettysburg, he issued an executive order setting the railroad’s eastern terminus not in Omaha but in Council Bluffs. From there, the railroad would follow the flat Platte River Valley westward. Enter into this narrative a pivotal character named Thomas “Doctor” Durant, “One of the smartest men of the 19th century” by some accounts; “a born manipulator” and “greedy entrepreneur” by others. The financier joined Union Pacific in 1863 as the railroad’s first vice president and general manager. As a first order of business, he disregarded Lincoln’s directive, exerted his influence and sent surveyors to Omaha (where he owned land). The city’s stimulus had arrived. Once it was decided that the railroad was going to start in Omaha and go west, Omaha’s fate was settled. Up to that point, Omaha was only a territorial capital. Durant’s decision ensured that the fledgling city would become a major transportation center – and UP’s operational headquarters – for decades to come. “The establishment of the eastern terminus along the Missouri River in the metro was instrumental in the development of this area. It resulted in a huge influx of immigration and settlement, industry and agriculture,” said LaBounty. Seventh and Chicago Streets (or Seventh and Davenport, according to some sources), Omaha, Neb., July 10, 1865. Three years after the Pacific Railroad Act took effect — a year-and-a-half after the actual gala groundbreaking — and three months after the assassination of President Lincoln — Union Pacific lays its first rails in Omaha. (The initial construction of the railroad goes over land owned by Durant.) Along with the railroad, wholesale houses emerged in Omaha for the distribution of goods to the west. Before that, Union Pacific needed to erect shops for its locomotives and train cars. As railroad construction grew, the foundry and the shop in Omaha grew bigger and hired more help. It became obvious that UP was going to get bigger and bigger in Omaha as the railroad got bigger. As soon as Union Pacific finished a 100mile section of track, land grants became available. “UP land agents would advertise, even in Europe, to try to get immigrants to come and purchase land along the route. Omaha became ground zero for immigrants coming from the East Coast,” said LaBounty.

Lured by those grants and the promise of railroad and railroad-related work, immigrants and Civil War veterans poured into the city. By World War II, Union Pacific was Omaha’s largest employer. The railroad also played a pivotal role in the growth of the Union Stockyards Company of Omaha, which, by 1955, was the world’s largest in terms of cattle movement. Promontory Summit, Utah, May 10, 1869. The driving of the golden spike marks the completion of the first transcontinental railroad. Telegraph operators transmit the blows of the hammer and announce the completion of the monumental project with one simple word – “Done.” There were four ceremonial spikes given that day; one is on display in Council Bluffs at the Union Pacific Railroad Museum. Some argue that the true completion of the transcontinental railroad came in 1872 when Union Pacific opened that first bridge across the Missouri River between Omaha and Council Bluffs. One of the most impressive bridges of its day, it cost nearly $2.9 million. Union Pacific Railroad headquarters, Ninth and Farnam Streets, Omaha, October 13,1893. Over-expansion, over-speculation, an international financial panic and growing debt prove too much for Union Pacific Railway. Expansion comes to a halt, and UP goes into receivership in 1893. Into this narrative enters protagonist E.H. Harriman, former president of the Illinois Central Railroad and chairman of Union Pacific (1898-1909). Harriman spent the next decade reorganizing the company and reacquiring other major portions of the railroad. He invested more than $240 million in modern locomotives, freight and passenger cars and a host of other improvements. Ultimately, Harriman’s rehabilitation of the company returned UP to prosperity. “E.H. Harriman’s presidency at the turn of the century played a huge role in the direction and character of the company,” said LaBounty. “He was president of the railroad during the San Francisco earthquake, and was one of the first people to make sure that needed supplies for the victims of that earthquake were received … I think that characterized his holistic view of Union Pacific not just as a company, but also as a part of the communities that it serviced.” In 1996, Union Pacific merged with

Southern Pacific, forming a new system that covered 31,000 miles through 24 states and ran 2,000 trains a day. With the merger, Union Pacific became the largest rail company in the United States — and saw its history come full circle as it became the owner of both halves of the first transcontinental railroad. Union Pacific Center, Omaha, July 2004-present. Union Pacific ushers in a new era when it opens Union Pacific Center, its Omaha headquarters. More than 4,000 employees, who previously were spread out in St. Louis and seven Omaha locations, are now working in a central location. The 1.3 million-squarefoot, 19-story glass-and-steel structure is the largest LEED-certified building in Nebraska. It includes a dining facility, fitness center, health clinic and a host of other amenities. Union Pacific Center is the largest single-corporation office building in Nebraska. “Lincoln’s vision for the transcontinental railroad was to connect a nation from east to west. Today, UP connects American businesses with the global economy by providing safe, reliable and environmentally responsible freight transportation,” said Tom Lange, UP’s director of corporate communications. Today, Union Pacific is North America’s largest freight railroad by revenue. It serves key West Coast and Gulf Coast ports, and is the only North American railroad with access to all six Mexican rail gateways. Nearly 40 percent of UP’s volume is international in either origin or destination. “Omaha is fortunate to have five wellknown, thriving Fortune 500 companies, and Union Pacific is one of them,” said Lange. “We have about 4,000 employees in the area (8,000 in Nebraska) who contribute economically. Our employees are part of the social landscape, with families growing up here. A lot of the employee base in Omaha is from Omaha. “Our chairman, Jim Young, went to the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and our president and CEO, Jack Koraleski, is an Omaha native. There is a talent pool in Omaha that Union Pacific continues to tap. “We’re thrilled to be a part of Omaha, to call it our home, our headquarters. We look forward to a continued, long-standing relationship.” Learn more about Union Pacific’s history. 35



In the dog days of summer, individual customers can relax and stay courtesy of creig h ton uni v ersity

Even in extreme conditions, such as the Missouri River flood of 2011 or the prolonged 100-degree heat of summer 2012, consumers of electric power can rest easy. The Omaha Public Power District has the situation covered with multiple sources of energy. When it comes to power costs, capacity and reliability, Greater Omaha scores high with business prospects. Power rates for industrial customers are about 26 percent below the national average and 17 percent below the regional average. That gives us a huge advantage in talking with businesses that consume a lot of energy, said Rod Moseman, vice president of economic development for the Greater Omaha Chamber. As a customer-owned power company, OPPD is under no pressure to increase profits in a fight for shareholders’ investment dollars. Because it is tax-exempt, it can borrow for capital investment at lower rates than investor-owned utilities. In the dog days of summer, individual customers can relax and stay cool while industrial customers can remain confident in OPPD’s capacity. The public utility draws on natural gas, turbines, nuclear power, landfill methane, coal, fuel oil, wind – you name it – to get the job done. OPPD keeps enough coal on-hand to power its two coal-powered plants for two or three months. In addition, the utility recently added a 300-megawatt generating plant to the OPPD system, and will draw 10 percent of its power from renewable sources — primarily wind— by 2020. For the past five years, its service availability index, a measure of how few interruptions it has, is a solid 99.987 percent. Add to that the utility’s 12-year string of J.D. Power and Associates’ awards for customer satisfaction. “We have had adversity,” OPPD President and CEO Gary Gates said upon accepting the award in July. “We have won the award in good times, and we have won it in challenging times. We are a championship team.” The power factor almost always favors Omaha when companies consider where to make their home. Data centers, for example, are big power users. Omaha developers have a simple but compelling pitch: OPPD can handle it and do it at a lower rate. “We certainly vie for their business,” said Jon Hansen, vice president of energy production and marketing at OPPD. “Rates are a big factor,” said Mike Jones,

cool while industrial customers can remain confident in OPPD’s capacity. The public utility draws on natural gas, turbines, nuclear power, landfill methane, coal, fuel oil, wind – you name it – to get the job done.

senior media specialist. “It is one of our stated goals to keep rates below the average.” Succeeding at that goal, as well as being superbly reliable, appealed to Cargill Inc. in 1995 when it built a massive ethanol plant just north of Omaha in Blair in Washington County. It was a key factor again in 2012 when Novozymes, a global company headquartered in Denmark, decided to build on the same biofuel campus in Blair instead of building in China. “We work closely with the Greater Omaha Chamber and economic development groups in Omaha and surrounding areas to provide a package that is beneficial to new industry,” Hansen said. The Chamber has similar partnerships with Greater Omaha’s gas utilities. The supplier in the city is Metropolitan Utilities District, a customerowned utility like OPPD. Cox and CenturyLink are two communications companies providing phone, Internet and data services. Omaha has for years enjoyed leadingedge communications lines connecting it to the world, thanks in part to the Cold War-born needs of an Omaha-area headquarters for the Strategic Air Command and its successor, the United States Strategic Command. When the technology boom called for more speed and capacity, Omaha lit up as a crossroads of fiber-optic networks.

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The First National Tower, headquarters of the largest privately owned banking company in the country, stands vigilant over Pioneer Courage Park. Dedicated to the city by First National Bank, this sculpture collection weaves one of the world’s largest bronze and stainless steel works of art across seven city blocks. The oversized wagon train honors the bravery, courage and entrepreneurial spirit that led settlers west from Omaha.

AT A G LA NCE Utilities Nebraska is the only public power state in the nation. All electrical utilities are nonprofit and customer-owned. Abundance and reliability of electricity, water and natural gas contribute to rates that are significantly lower than those found elsewhere in the country.


B u siness D rivers More than 76,000 businesses are located in Greater Omaha, including five Fortune 500 headquarters and an additional five Fortune 1000 headquarters. Omaha is a hotbed for market-driven opportunities, including strong startups in new media, insurance, payment systems, built landscape technology and digital security and storage. The Greater Omaha Economic Development Partnership is your one-

stop resource for business opportunities in Douglas, Sarpy, Cass and Washington Counties. Technology Greater Omaha is at the hub of the nation’s fiber connectivity. We’re located at the convergence of major north, south, east and west U.S. fiber-optic telecommunications networks, including a carrier-neutral peering point designed for Internet IXP capabilities of 100 Gbps.

Ta x Climate Nebraska has a probusiness tax climate. Through Nebraska Advantage business incentives, qualifying businesses can substantially reduce – and even eliminate – corporate income, sales and payroll withholding taxes for up to 15 years. More information at

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T H E La bor F orce : A C L OS ER L OOK Arou nd H ere , We W ork Nebraska employs people at a higher rate than most anywhere in the country. The labor force within a 50-mile radius of central Omaha totals approximately 700,000 people. O MAHA W O R L D - H E R A L D

• More than 92 percent of adults ages 25 and older are high school graduates; one in three has a bachelor’s degree or higher. Both percentages beat the national average.

• Of people ages 16 to 64 in 2010, 81.3 percent of Nebraskans were in the labor force or Armed Forces. That put Nebraska in second place with the U.S. average of 74 percent.

• Nebraska’s 4 percent unemployment rate in July 2012 was dwarfed by the nation’s 8.3 percent, and was secondlowest only to North Dakota’s 3.0 percent. Iowa ranked sixth-lowest at 5.3 percent. More stats can be found at

• Nebraska was first in 2010 in the share of married-couple families with both husband and wife in the labor force. That’s 63.9 percent for Nebraska, and 53.9 percent for the nation.

• Nebraska has a top 10 ranking for its share of wage-earning households.

• The average commute in Nebraska clocks in at 18.4 minutes — the fourth-lowest time, behind North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.

Source: Census expert David Drozd’s analysis of labor trends for the Omaha World-Herald; published September 3, 2012.

• The highest wage earners, by occupation, in the Omaha-Council Bluffs metro area are medical specialists, chief executives, financial managers, marketing managers, physicists, architectural and engineering managers, aerospace engineers, sales managers, computer and information systems managers and lawyers. • Of civilian employees in the OmahaCouncil Bluffs area, 37 percent work in management, business, science or the arts; 27 percent have sales and office jobs; and nearly 17 percent work in service occupations. An additional 11 percent are in production, transportation and material-moving positions; and 8 percent are in natural resources, construction and maintenance.

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momentum for growth

Gavilon commits to Omaha with gleaming headquarters

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Fast-growing Gavilon didn’t have to look far to find the ideal site for its new world headquarters. The agriculture and energy commodity trading firm announced in September 2012 that its roots not only would remain in Omaha – its home city – but also in the heart of downtown. Gavilon employs about 2,000 people worldwide, about 400 of them locally. Because of an expanding global trading network, the company has outgrown its leased quarters at the downtown ConAgra Foods campus. Gavilon broke ground at 14th and Dodge Streets at the end of September and hopes to have its five-story, 127,000-square-foot office building move-in ready by December 2013. Featuring a state-of-the-art trading floor and glass exterior, the price tag is $44 million. “It’s fitting that a growing company like ours is building in downtown Omaha, where other major companies have invested and thrived,” said Greg Heckman,

Gavilon’s president and CEO. Gavilon’s headquarters will be across the street from Union Pacific and The Omaha World-Herald Co., which previously owned the site. The newspaper company’s headquarters stood on the city block from 1948 to 2006. “We normally think of commodity trading being in places like Chicago, Hong Kong, San Francisco and London,” said Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle. “This is the kind of international connectivity that Omaha needs, and it will benefit us tremendously with spinoffs.” “It’s a big deal for downtown Omaha to have another corporate headquarters and to have a vacant property filled,” said David G. Brown, president and CEO of the Greater Omaha Chamber. “Once construction starts, I wouldn’t be surprised to see other lots around it develop, too.” Chamber and city officials worked together on enticements for Gavilon, including $3.94 million in tax-increment funds generated by the increase in property taxes resulting from the improvements. 43

SAC Federal Credit Union, a Sarpy County leader since 1948, is “strong and growing.” In August 2012, the county’s largest locally owned financial institution broke ground on a new corporate headquarters. “Now that we’ll have a location that’s very visible, I think that message will resonate in the community,” said Gail DeBoer, president and CEO. SAC Federal is building its $20 million, fourstory headquarters on land just east of Shadow Lake Towne Center in Papillion. “Our roots are in Sarpy County. Offutt Air Force Base is in Sarpy County,” said DeBoer. “It was important for us, as we looked at possible sites, to stay where we’ve been for the last 60 years. It’s a commitment to Sarpy County.” The credit union, which has been headquartered in Bellevue since 1948, is constructing a 90,000-square-foot building with a first floor branch office, community meeting room and space for the firm’s 150 employees who currently are spread among three locations. “We’re very protective of our corporate culture,” DeBoer said. “Bringing everyone 44

together in one location will help us maintain that culture.” The new home office, DeBoer predicts, “is going to DeBoer help the Sarpy County community develop its corporate image.” Completion is expected in spring 2014. “I think we are really going to be a catalyst for growing this entire area as a corporate business park, which is the vision of Papillion.” SAC Federal has more than 70,000 members worldwide and more than $600 million in assets. Core values of trust, honesty and integrity contribute to the credit union’s success. “A solid bottom line will follow if you’re running a solid corporate entity,’’ said DeBoer. “That’s proven true. We’ve doubled in assets in five years, which is just phenomenal.” What’s next? “The next challenge is to use our momentum to take us to the next level. It’s always fun to sit in our strategic planning sessions and say, ‘That was great, but now what?’”

It is a wonderful bit of symbiosis. Financial services companies, banks and insurance operations stay in or move to Greater Omaha because of our low cost of doing business. In return, those institutions – from First National Bank and Mutual of Omaha to PayFlex and FirstComp – help keep Omaha on a solid footing. Development dreams really do move forward here.


SAC Federal Credit Union: Strong and Growing

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Wells Fargo: Corporate Citizen of Year GIVES BACK


number of Greater Omaha corporations have long histories of supporting Omaha through volunteerism and charitable giving. In 2012, the Greater Omaha Chamber saluted Wells Fargo as its Big O! Excellence Corporate Citizen of the Year for its long-standing philanthropy toward community health and well-being. The Wells Fargo culture includes reinvesting its earnings to support organizations and activities that are important to Omaha. A local charitable giving committee and a volunteer advisory committee decide where the money will go each year. In 2011, Wells Fargo invested $1.5 million in grants to nonprofits and educational institutions in Nebraska. Additionally, team members contributed more than 16,000 volunteer hours. A seasonal favorite in Greater Omaha is the Wells Fargo Family Festival in conjunction with Christmas at Union Station at The Durham Museum. Thanks to Wells Fargo, local families enjoy a day of free admission and special activities at The Durham, Omaha Children’s Museum, Joslyn Art Museum and W. Dale Clark Library.



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TPG Getting Bigger Share of Conversation


‘This call may be monitored’


e’ve all heard it – that familiar recording when calling an 800 number: “This call may be monitored for training purposes.” Chances are, the person analyzing that conversation is at a growing Omaha-based company called TPG TeleManagement Inc. “We’re those people,” said spokesman Michael Thompson. TPG moved into a larger global headquarters in northwest Omaha in September 2012 after nearly tripling its employee count in recent years. Nearly 200 employees – who collectively speak 12 languages – now are housed with room to grow in a 45,000-square-foot

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office area that’s double the size of TPG’s former Old Mill location. The 15-year-old company has been based in Omaha for the past 12 years. It relocated its East Coast corporate office because of the Omaha area’s reputation as a call center mecca and plentiful supply of industry professionals. While TPG itself is not a call center, it analyzes exchanges between call center agents and customers, with the goal to improve sales and customer satisfaction for TPG’s Fortune 500 clients. “We are headquartered in Omaha, Neb., for one reason: the people,” said Scott Keller, co-owner of TPG with Orlando-based Lisa DeFalco. Keller, who lives in Atlanta, said TPG expects to hire 150 more people locally in the next few years. According to Rod Moseman, the Greater Omaha Chamber’s vice president of economic development, the Omaha area’s reputation as a telecommunications hub began in the early 1970s, and is rooted in the superior and vast cable network infrastructure required to support USSTRATCOM at Offutt Air Force Base. Northwestern Bell later invested in additional switching and other technology, which added further value to Omaha’s central time zone and neutral accent advantages. Soon, worldwide hotel reservation and other customer call center-type operations, as well as related equipment suppliers, made their homes in the metro area. Today, about 40,000 people work in local telecommunications-based companies. Some are stand-alone centers, such as West Corporation, and others, like Omaha Steaks, have embedded customer service centers in their overall operations. “It’s continued to build in sophistication,” Moseman said. “Today we have some of the more technologically advanced data centers, like Yahoo.” As the first and only tenant in the three-story office building it now leases, TPG was able to design infrastructure to support growth in the United States and internationally. TPG’s reach extends into Spain, Mexico, Italy, Singapore and Japan. The company serves clients specializing in financial services, insurance, health care, telecommunications and consumer products, reviewing customer service exchanges that take place in those countries. Last year, TPG was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of 5000 fastest-growing private companies in the United States – joining the likes of Nebraska companies such as DocuLynx, Complete Nutrition and CSSS.NET.

‘Fully Deployed,’ OWH Takes Spot As Industry Leader


erkshire Hathway’s acquisition of Omaha’s daily newspaper in December 2011 put more than a new boss on the doorstep of Publisher Terry Kroeger. It brought new business opportunities for the Omaha World-Herald Co. and greater leadership responsibilities for Kroeger, its president and CEO. Less than six months into ownership of The World-Herald, Berkshire CEO Warren Buffett announced purchases of other daily and weekly newspapers that would lead to the formation of BH Media Group. “We’re fully deployed,” Kroeger said of the summer acquisitions that propelled BH Media Group (which Kroeger now heads), to the nation’s ninth-largest newspaper group with more than 4,000 employees and over $450 million in revenue. Berkshire’s purchase of The WorldHerald, Buffett has said, got the ball rolling for acquisition of 63 Media General newspapers in Virginia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama, Florida and Texas. “We wouldn’t have bought them without knowing we had the management to put in there,” Buffett said. “The World-Herald (acquisition) led to this, in effect.” We caught up with Kroeger at summer’s end for a short Q & A.



How did you learn that you’d be heading up BH Media Group? “Warren called and asked, ‘How’d you like to run it?’ And I said, ‘You mean all of it?’ The World-Herald had been looking at part of Media General before Berkshire bought us. Only we were looking through our size of lens. Berkshire taught us how to look through a bigger lens.”

What’s the secret to getting big things done for the benefit of the community? “Teamwork between the public and private sectors ... Commodities trading company Gavilon is the latest example. Also, the mix of business leadership is unique in Omaha and Nebraska. They (key leaders) don’t tend to compete in the same industries, so they can work together more easily to get things done.”

The OWH became an industry leader almost overnight in terms of the number of daily newspapers it owns. Did anything prepare you for this? “The economic slowdown of 2008 made us better managers … and that put us in a good position to be attractive to Warren and Berkshire Hathaway. We have plenty to do, but we have an awfully good team here. Everybody pulls their weight. I’m able to sleep at night.”

What impression does Omaha make on outsiders? “Omaha’s generosity is shocking to people who haven’t grown up here ... We have a lot of wealth and brain power in our city. Just look at the Holland Center for Performing Arts, The Durham Museum, CenturyLink Center Omaha and TD Ameritrade Park Omaha. They were all aided by government, but driven by private citizens.”

You’re chairman-elect of the Greater Omaha Chamber board of directors. What should a community expect from its newspaper and its chamber? “Common sense leadership ... wise investment of their money ... good jobs ... and good business growth.”

Favorite family outing? “Creighton basketball.” What would be fun to see in the city’s future? “A major league sports franchise. How it occurs is a tough formula. But that would be really cool for the city. And, as a swim dad, a 50-meter natatorium.”


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Last spring, the Greater Omaha Chamber’s agriculture council called a reverse, to use a football analogy. Instead of sending metro area leaders to Nebraska’s agricultural country for two days for its annual tour, the council invited Nebraska agriculture leaders to the city. As a result, about 30 people from rural Nebraska communities toured Omaha-area businesses that have some connection to agriculture. They saw traditional agricultural businesses, as well as some innovative and sophisticated enterprises that rely on agricultural customers and products. “People don’t understand the density of agricultural businesses right here in Omaha,” Russ Green, agriculture council chairman, told the Omaha World-Herald. “You might see a building, but you don’t see what’s going on inside.” Omaha has long been known for the

meatpacking industry and its importance to agriculture. But participants also saw enterprises related to financial services, transportation, recreation and manufacturing. “We visited Lucky Bucket Brewing Co., where they are doing distilling,” said Tim Stuart, the Chamber’s staff representative on the agriculture council. “They’re buying Nebraska grains and turning them into vodka, single malt liquors and beer.” In addition to the brewery, other Omaha businesses that hosted the tour and showed how they connect to agriculture were CLAAS America; ConAgra Foods; Union Pacific; Farm Credit Services of America; Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium; Midwest Laboratories; the Omaha Police Mounted Patrol; Scoular Company; and Werner Park and the Omaha Storm Chasers baseball team.


During the whirlwind two days, the group heard presentations about the ties that bind agriculture and the metro together. Speakers included Greg Ibach, director of the state’s Agriculture Department, Ronnie Green, vice chancellor of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Ernie Goss, a Creighton University economist. “Each encounter added connections to agriculture that people wouldn’t normally think about,” Stuart said. “Rural people may feel that Omaha doesn’t care about the rest of the state – that Omaha is just about Omaha. But Omaha does not consider itself set apart. People in Omaha know that agriculture creates one in three jobs in this state ... and Omaha is nothing without the rest of the state. That’s a misconception the tour overcomes.”

M y t h busters • We have farmland and that’s about it. Omaha is, among many things, the headquarters of five Fortune 500 companies, two major research medical centers, a world-class performing arts center and one of the top zoos in America. And, of course, home to the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffett. • We kick up a lot of dust. “The greatest show on dirt” is not watching a field being plowed. It’s seeing a grounder being fielded in the NCAA Men’s College World Series held annually in Omaha. • Everybody wears overalls and plaid shirts. We’re the fashion capital of the Midwest – or at least we’re building that reputation with Omaha Fashion Week. 52

Since 2008, Fashion Week has given local and regional designers two weeks a year (in the spring and fall) to showcase their work. Organizers hope to evolve to the next step by offering designers a chance to produce and sell their collections on a larger scale. • There’s nothing to do. Enjoy art and history museums, a lively performing arts scene, nightlife, a large and diverse offering of restaurants, landmark architecture, college and semi-pro sports, a people-friendly riverfront and a welldeveloped trails system. There’s so much to do. • We’re poor folks. Thanks partly to Berkshire Hathaway, Omaha has an

extensive network of millionaires with a strong history of philanthropy. • The population is declining. Shifting: yes. Declining: no. Only in the 1930s did Nebraska’s population decline. Today, more than half of the state’s population lives in the three largest counties: Douglas and Sarpy (Greater Omaha) and Lancaster (Lincoln). The state’s population is projected to grow 7.3 percent by 2016. • Farmers are behind the times. Today’s farmer operates in a world of GPSguided, high-dollar efficient machinery, and has resources and expertise in biotechnology, animal nutrition, fuel efficiency and commodity markets.

Close Working Relationship With Legislature Continues To Improve Business Climate

In 2012, the Greater Omaha Chamber worked closely with the Nebraska Unicameral and Gov. Dave Heineman to continue enhancing Nebraska’s reputation as a business-friendly state. It began with LB 970, which is legislation that provides income tax rate reductions and builds on the 2007 tax cut package, often referred to as the largest in state history. Another major tax policy development came with the enactment of LB 872. This legislation represents a significant modernization of Nebraska’s tax system by aligning treatment of the sale of intangibles with that of tangible goods. In essence, services and other intangibles are taxed at the point-of-service rather than the point-oforigin. On the economic development front, senators approved two bills designed to foster development of data centers. LB 1118 updates the Nebraska Advantage Act to provide a positive economic climate for very large data centers – those requiring at least a $200 million investment.

LB 1080 updates the tax law to allow data centers to open unique lines of work where data center equipment is assembled in Nebraska (by a Nebraska workforce), but used at facilities in other states. LB 1043 updates Nebraska’s program for attracting businesses that have high energy demands. LB 1043 provides stable, long-term and affordable electricity rates for these projects. From a perennially balanced state budget, to ongoing tax rate reductions to regular updates to programs such as the Nebraska Advantage Act, the Nebraska Legislature continues to demonstrate its commitment to working with the business community to make Nebraska the place to do business.



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Maximizing Relationships With China The Greater Omaha Chamber’s carefully cultured outreach to China is showing progress. In August 2012, Chinese agribusiness firm Shanghai Liuhe Qinqiang Food Co. announced its opening of an Omaha office to export meat products to Asia. Company officials say that they are also considering building a Nebraska meatpacking plant to supply the exporter. Marisa Ring, manager of international business development for the Chamber, said additional firms showed interest in Nebraska during an August trade mission to China. Another agribusiness company will visit Omaha next year, and is developing a plan to come into the market. “In May, we had about 10 company executives here from China for the Berkshire Hathaway meeting,” she said. “They were invited to come and learn more about

business opportunities here in Omaha, and to set up meetings with a variety of industries, whether they were customers, suppliers or partners. They also met with bankers, attorneys and government officials. Shanghai Liuhe Qinqiang Food executives were among those visitors.” Marketing Omaha – or any city, for that matter – takes considerable patience. “Building a relationship is extremely important to the Chinese,” Ring said. “I’ve known the company that is looking at visiting here next year since 2008. Sometimes the relationship is for the medium term, sometimes the long term. But a lot of time is spent on recruiting them to come to Omaha. Other times it’s spent on those needing specific products.” Ring is the first and only person in her position with the Chamber. She has made the China trip five times. She frequently

is accompanied by Jennifer Zhang, an independent consultant in Omaha who sets up meetings, offers interpreting services and does follow-up work with prospective partners. Their last trip was on the August 2012 trade mission headed by Gov. Dave Heineman, which revolved around opening a Nebraska trade office in Shanghai and announcing the Shanghai Liuhe Qinqiang Food expansion. Ring explained that when a governor leads officials in a group overseas, it’s called a “trade mission,” otherwise her trips are called “recruitment trips.” She said, “There are differences, but both are beneficial. And we never want to miss an opportunity.” What does China want? As it happens, Ring said, they want a lot of what they find in Omaha. “They want a lower-cost business environment, which we certainly have


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here. They want a central location with logistics and distribution capability. They’re struck and impressed by our friendliness and willingness to help, along with the Midwest work ethic.” One thing that Omahans probably take for granted that the Chinese really enjoy is the cleanliness of the city. “We don’t have smog. They can see a blue sky here – something they don’t see that often back home.” Both Ring’s and the Chamber’s mission resulting from the trips is to increase business in the Omaha metropolitan area. When a foreign company opens a location here, that creates jobs. “If someone else is attracted to a service company – whether it’s an attorney or a distribution company – that creates work for that firm,” Ring said. Besides China, Ring also calls on companies in Western Europe and Japan. That’s not to say that there isn’t potential elsewhere in the world – it’s just about maximizing relationships. “Most of the places I go are because of relationships developed over time at the corporate and government levels,” she said. “In Europe, I’ve added Denmark because of (the Danish firm) Novozymes in Blair. Because they have operations here in Omaha, Claas arranged for us to meet at their headquarters in Germany to talk with interested companies.”

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman, China, 2012

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I-80 Corridor: Prime Location for Variety of Industries In Nebraska, the road most traveled runs between Omaha and Lincoln. It carries commuters, truckers, vacationers, RVs, sports fans, delivery vans, motor coaches, emergency vehicles, students and shoppers. This 50-mile stretch of Interstate 80 was recently widened in each direction from two lanes to three in order to increase transportation by 50 percent. The corridor’s potential for commercial development has been gnawing at Nebraska leaders for years. Thanks to a study commission created by the Nebraska Legislature in 2007, the groundwork now has been laid to do something about it. “Our biggest limitation right now is the relative dearth of sites that have the infrastructure the potential developers need,” said David G. Brown, president and CEO of the Greater Omaha Chamber. Brown served on the Legislature’s study

commission, which dissolved in 2010. He is now involved with the I-80 Corridor Council, which was created by the commission. “This is a regional approach,” Brown said. Leaders in communities and counties along the corridor are very interested in the council. The communities represented include Waverly, Greenwood, Ashland, Gretna, La Vista and Papillion. The counties represented include Lancaster, Saunders, Cass, Sarpy, Douglas and Washington. Other partners include the University of Nebraska, Metropolitan Community College and Southeast Community College. Various state and community departments – including the Nebraska Department of Economic Development and the Metropolitan Area Planning Agency – have ex-officio positions. “This doesn’t work if we’re not in it together,” Brown said.

The Lincoln and Omaha chambers have begun to include language in all of their marketing materials addressing the merits of locating along the corridor. Actual development will take place, Brown said, as key interchanges are hooked up to sewer, electric, gas and water. Currently, the council is exploring where to extend infrastructure and how to pay for it. “It’s a matter of choosing the right interchange,” Brown said. The corridor is designed to be attractive for industrial, research, retail and warehousing enterprises. There is potential for manufacturing, too, with the benefit of drawing a labor force from both metropolitan areas. “If you want to service both communities,” Brown said, “the cheapest way is to locate between Omaha and Lincoln.”



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‘Excellent’ Workforce Propels Merck More than 250 workers at a facility in the Elkhorn area on Omaha’s western edge are contributing to the health of animals worldwide by developing vaccines. The quality of the workforce is one of the reasons Merck Animal Health is growing its Nebraska operation, making it a key player in a business that operates on five continents. “One of the real opportunities of being located in this part of the U.S. is our ability to attract a very educated workforce with a great work ethic,” said Ernest Kontor, associate vice president for technology development. More than 40 percent of Merck’s employees have college degrees. Major universities in Nebraska, Kansas, South Dakota, Iowa and other nearby states have “given us the ability to draw from an excellent pool of talented and educated individuals,” Kontor said. “They are highly motivated and have solid Midwest attitudes that demonstrate the ability to perform very well.” Midwesterners hired by Merck are known for their teamwork.

“One is able to have a highly successful business operation in this area because of the type of individuals who are available. They lead our company to a spirit of cooperation, and that drives excellence.” In addition, Merck is transferring scientists from the East Coast in order to enhance the research capabilities in Nebraska. Kontor said Omaha is attractive to people who work in science thanks to the presence of two major medical research centers. “The availability of people with a science background has allowed us to develop a strong organization. There are growth opportunities for individuals with these types of qualifications.” Quality employees are important to achieving Merck’s goals for excellence. The Elkhorn facility produces about 60 of Merck’s nearly 350 licensed vaccines for dogs, cats, horses, cattle, swine, poultry and farmed fish. Customers include veterinarians, farmers, pet owners and governments. Merck Animal Health, formerly Intervet/ Schering-Plough Animal Health, is a division of Merck & Co. Inc., a multinational

company headquartered in Whitehouse Station, N.J. With $48 billion in sales in 2011, the company has a rich history of developing and producing health care products for humans and, more recently, animals. The Elkhorn facility deals with nearly every phase of the animal health business, from planning and procurement to research, manufacturing and working with regulatory authorities. “The processes we use are on the cuttingedge of the industry,” Kontor said. For example, antigens are grown in different types of fermenters and bioreactors. One of the jewels of the Elkhorn operation is its high-speed fill line, which finalizes and finishes products at the end of the manufacturing process. “We have one of the most sophisticated fill lines in the entire world,” Kontor said. Omaha has also become the centralized distribution location for Merck Animal Health products, which are manufactured throughout the world. The Omaha distribution center releases products throughout North America and 40 other countries. In addition, this facility houses the U.S. sales and customer service staff. “This operation is on the forefront of animal health and the production of vaccines for many, many types of animals,” Kontor said. “It is a complete composite of all the elements of the animal health business. We are truly dedicated to the science of healthier animals.”



Vision Holds Strong Intersystems Growing at Home, Abroad


o understand Intersystems Inc.’s business growth requires telling the story of taking a bold risk during an economic downturn. In 2008 and 2009, Intersystems’ Omaha executives ignored slow economic conditions and launched a $20 million expansion of the engineered material handling solutions company. Three years later, the company is enjoying the fruits of the seeds it planted. The workforce has doubled, and a $10 million, 60,000-square-foot addition was completed in 2012, giving the facility a total of 208,000 square feet. “When they opened their facility on the edge of Omaha in 2008, the national economy was in the dumpster,” recalled Phil Phillips, senior director of special projects for the Greater Omaha Chamber. “They had faith in our country, and their faith was justified.” Intersystems executives considered the situation and their vision for the future. “When the wheels were falling off the economy in general, we saw that as more of a blip in a long-term story of growth opportunities,” explained Tom Schroeder, president and chief operating officer of Intersystems. “We avoided being too


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shortsighted, and it paid us dividends coming out of a recession.” The products manufactured at Intersystems in northwest Omaha serve industries such as agriculture, cement, biofuels, food, animal feed, mining, pharmaceuticals, pulp, paper and wood products. Intersystems provides conveyors, elevators and various samplers and probes for moving and testing bulk material. Its most popular product is a conveyor belt. Sales for the privately held company have grown by more than 25 percent for the last several years, and more than 20 percent for the last eight to nine years, Schroeder said. Forty percent of the products made in Omaha are shipped overseas as the company takes advantage of the world’s increasing need for American agricultural technology. International business has grown even more quickly than the domestic business. Intersystems’ biggest foreign markets are in the former Soviet Union countries and some parts of Southeast Asia. In 2011, the company opened a three-person sales office in the Ukraine. Opportunities also have been identified in South America and Central America, as well as in Australia. The manufacturer’s central location in

Nebraska has worked well for sales to these overseas markets. Initially, the location was beneficial because it was in the heart of the grain belt. Now the transportation options are a plus. “The rail access here is good,” Schroeder said. “In some regards, being out in the middle of the country is as good as any location because we ship to the West Coast, the East Coast and Houston.” In 2008, when other cities tried to recruit Intersystems away from Omaha, company executives said that the workforce here is the best they have seen anywhere. “Our workforce provides us with a competitive advantage in markets all over the world,” Schroeder said.

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Only in Omaha “World-class events. Quality of life. Creative opportunities.” The Greater Omaha Chamber wants to get that message across to creative and talented people who might not realize all that the city has to offer. A new “Only in Omaha” campaign spotlights young talent like Matt Stoffel, an HDR architect who worked on TD Ameritrade Park Omaha, the home of the NCAA Men’s College World Series. Powering the “Only in Omaha” campaign are print ads and videos highlighting the creative talent and possibilities here, as well as the world-class events. “All these things come together, which make it a cool city,” said Andrew Rainbolt, workforce development consultant for the Chamber. “They attract talented people and make people want to live here.” A print ad featuring Stoffel was placed in Southwest Airlines’ Spirit magazine, and was seen by an estimated 4.7 million passengers in June 2012. The Chamber ran a similar ad in the



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U.S. Olympic Swim Trials program. It featured 25-year-old Mike Bowman, a project engineer at Kiewit Building Group, who helped construct the foundation of the temporary pools used at CenturyLink Center Omaha. The ads, linked to videos of Stoffel and Bowman, stem from focus groups with business leaders. Executives said they are able to convince job candidates of their companies’ value, but asked for ideas in “selling Omaha.” This is not the Chamber’s first outreach to that population. But with “Only in Omaha,” the hope is to develop jobs and a thriving city. “Businesses want to locate where creative talent exists, and talent wants to be near talent,” said Kim Sellmeyer, the Chamber’s creative director. Rainbolt said the campaign gives businesses tools to help recruit and retain high-end talent by showcasing the city’s opportunities. “Future ads will feature entrepreneurs and innovators. The creativity and energy

Tu Nguyen and other dynamic young professionals talk about opportunities found “Only in Omaha.” generated by people outside traditional jobs – such as artists and musicians – help develop a synergy that makes Omaha a more exciting and attractive city,” said Karla Ewert, Chamber vice president for brand and image management. Developing and retaining high-end talent already living in the Omaha area also is a priority for the Chamber. Another initiative, Intern Omaha, targets college students who come from around the country to work in Omaha businesses during the summer. The program helps them connect to each other and the city. “We want them to consider career opportunities in Omaha and to return after college,” said Rainbolt. 59

Omaha Executive Institute Higher Learning for High-Level Leaders

It has attracted nothing but star students since 1988, and it is endorsed as a “must” by some of Greater Omaha’s most prominent business and community leaders. The Greater Omaha Chamber’s Omaha Executive Institute is offered exclusively for senior-level executives – and their spouses – who are new to their positions or to the area. Over the course of eight monthly sessions, participants gain a meaningful understanding of Omaha by exploring the community’s issues, challenges and opportunities. We chat with five alums. J oa n Sq uires President, Omaha Performing Arts “I’ve told others who move to Omaha that they absolutely should participate in this extraordinary learning opportunity,” Squires said. “Not only is it perfectly tailored to a busy CEO’s schedule, but it provides a crash course in Omaha that isn’t replicated anywhere else. It accelerates the community learning curve for newcomers, and it provides introductions to critical areas and people.” Squires attended in 2002-2003 after moving to Omaha from Phoenix. She said she still vividly remembers how impressed she was by the shared enthusiasm and commitment to Omaha among every presenter and organization. “It was a wonderful reflection on Omaha, and a shared passion not apparent in other communities.” C O U R T E S Y O F O MAHA P E R F O R M I N G A R T S

J o h n F r a ser President and CEO, Methodist Health System Fraser attended in 1991-1992 when the program was in its infancy. New to the area from Houston as Methodist Hospital’s executive vice president and COO at the time, Fraser’s participation in OEI was “time very well-spent. ’’It was a very effective, efficiently done, general orientation to the business, residential and networking communities in the metropolitan area. As I was learning the internal culture, people and processes within my own organization, this gave me a very good orientation to those same dynamics within the larger metropolitan area. It literally jump-started my connectedness to the city, and it established a base of knowledge about Omaha and how Omaha works.” 60


J. Ch ris B r adberry Dean, Creighton University School of Pharmacy and Health Professions Bradberry moved to Omaha from Memphis in 2003, and attended OEI the following year. Eight years later, he said he hasn’t forgotten what he learned about Omaha’s history and culture. He also hasn’t forgotten “how the business community in Omaha provides such great support to the growth and culture of the city.” Bradberry hasn’t kept what he learned to himself. He said he has shared with others “how understated a city Omaha is, and how it really is a very good place to live and work. It’s good to see that we are tooting our own horn these days since we have much to offer as a vibrant city.” The OEI curriculum, which is offered each COURTESY OF CREIGHTON UNIVERSITY fall, covers a wide range of topics including education, business and development, health and human services, government, media and quality of life. Each session begins with a reception and a presentation and concludes with a dinner. “Meeting others in my group was a real plus since many of these individuals are prominent in the city,” said Bradberry. “It certainly enhanced personal connections early on before I knew many folks.”


I van Gilreath


M arya nne Stevens President, College of Saint Mary Stevens was new to her leadership post – but not new to Omaha – when she enrolled in the Omaha Executive Institute. She participated in 1996 after assuming the presidency of the College of Saint Mary. “I wanted the opportunity to meet other executives coming into the city, and to explore the city from the vantage point of a new executive given that my previous experience was as a faculty member at Creighton University.” She said she learned about the significance of the city’s diversified economy and is now “better able to network across various companies in Omaha.” Like many other alums, she is quick to recommend the program to others. “I have consistently invited our newly hired vice presidents to participate in the Omaha Executive Institute.”

President and CEO, Boys & Girls Clubs of the Midlands Gilreath is a lifelong Omaha resident. He even commuted to and from Omaha for five years while working in Minneapolis for insurance giant, ING. Still, he said that OEI was a valuable – and eye-opening – experience. “It was important for me to reestablish old relationships, but also to develop new relationships with leaders of corporations around town,” said Gilreath, who became president and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs in 2011. “I was amazed by things that I didn’t know about Omaha. We visited places that were brand-new to me, like the United States Strategic Command and Hot Shops Art Center.” The recent OEI graduate recommends the program as a “must” for any new corporate executive. “Being able to build my network and my friend base through the people I’ve met there is going to be invaluable.” 61

Brigitte McQueen: ‘We all want the same thing for Omaha’ Brigitte McQueen wasn’t sure she belonged in the 2011 Leadership Omaha class. The Greater Omaha Chamber program is designed to develop effective leaders who will strengthen and transform the community. “I felt I was so different from everyone being a person of color and on the verge of being an extremely liberal hippie,” said McQueen, executive director of The Union for Contemporary Art. But the personable leader found support and friendship among her classmates, who work in banking, insurance, real estate, law and other fields. In fact, McQueen’s classmates named her “Most Likely to Change the World” at the close of the 10-month program. Her group 62

still gets together, and some of her former classmates attended her recent wedding. Local business benefits from the program, said Lynda Shafer, manager of leadership development at the Chamber. “Since 1976, Leadership Omaha has been bringing together vibrant leaders from all areas and giving them opportunities to learn not just about Omaha, but about and from each other.” McQueen applied for Leadership Omaha because her board president, Watie White, took the class and found it to be an amazing experience. “It was an opportunity for me to spread the word about The Union for Contemporary Art,” she said. The organization’s mission is to strengthen

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Omaha’s creative culture by providing support to artists and advancing the understanding of contemporary art forms through education. “We unite artists and the community,” McQueen explained. “I’m from Detroit, and I’ve lived in Seattle and New York City. The arts community in Omaha is one of the most amazing that I’ve had a chance to be part of.” Through Leadership Omaha, she learned what it takes to make the city work. “I can’t think of a better way to create a great employee. It was overwhelming to be in a room of corporate professionals and realize that I belonged there. We all want the same thing for Omaha. We all want the same thing for our families.”


Where Young Professionals Have a Voice

The Greater Omaha Young Professionals, a Greater Omaha Chamber program, acts as a catalyst to retain and attract young professionals to the Greater Omaha area through engagement, opportunity and advocacy. Events educate young professionals about our community, and challenge them to get involved. A few highlights of 2012:

L e a de r s h ip B r ea k fa st Ser ies


Young professionals were given the chance to discuss the economy with top business leaders at one breakfast; corporate giving strategies at another; and international business, including economic trends from top industry experts, at a third. These young professionals had opportunities to network with a wide variety of business leaders, including:

• The Greater Omaha Young Professionals and Mutual of Omaha Emerging Leaders Network sponsored a behind-the-scenes look in advance of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials – Swimming.

• Kim Armstrong, program coordinator, Mutual of Omaha Foundation • Charles Dalluge, executive vice president, LEO A DALY • Andre Hawaux, president of consumer foods, ConAgra Foods • Catherine D. Lang, Nebraska commissioner of labor, and director of the Nebraska Department of Economic Development • Craig Moody, principal, Verdis Group • Hillary Nather-Detisch, director of donor accounts, Omaha Community Foundation • Robert W. Turner, senior vice president of corporate relations, Union Pacific

• Partnering with Project Interfaith, Greater Omaha Young Professionals visited the Omaha Hindu Temple. They engaged with the head of the project in a speed dialogue event to facilitate a conversation on respect and relationships among people of all faiths, beliefs and cultures. • Greater Omaha Young Professionals toured North Downtown Omaha, hearing from a few original dreamers and co-creators whose ideas turned into businesses and buildings in the now bustling neighborhood.

If you’re a young professional, you belong with the Greater Omaha Young Professionals.



YP Summit: THE Ultimate Program for Greater Omaha Young Professionals Greater Omaha Young Professionals: Bringing together next-generation leaders who impact Omaha’s future through creative collaboration with community partners.

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Q. What do you get when you mix nearly 1,500 young professionals and community and business leaders with daylong networking, nonprofit outreach, breakout sessions and speakers? a) New ideas to better our community b) Energized individuals c) New BFFs d) $5,500 in donations collected for nonprofits e) All of the above

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The Other “Big O”:

O ffutt A i r F o r ce B ase

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You may know that Offutt Air Force Base is the other “Big O” south of Omaha near Bellevue. But do you know the impact of the installation – both in terms of economics and personnel – on Greater Omaha? Lynda Shafer, manager of leadership development for the Greater Omaha Chamber, conducts seminars for new senior-level business leaders and their spouses to introduce them to the community. Among the topics are history, education, geography and health services. She concludes the seminar with a look at Offutt and the mission of the United States Strategic Command, known as USSTRATCOM. Most civilians hear about the base during its annual air show, but what should we know otherwise? “First of all, the economic impact,” Shafer said. “It’s not in the thousands or millions of dollars. It’s in the

billions of dollars with payroll and ancillary services, contractors and defense industries. It’s astonishing.” Offutt’s 2011 Economic Impact Analysis reports its military and civilian payrolls at

more than $607 million, with construction, service contracts and other federal expenditures generating another $981 million. When adding indirect jobs valued at $186 million, the total economic impact averages more than $2 billion annually. This past year has seen $35.5 million in new construction, including a new building for the U.S. Navy Reserve, upgrades to the base clinic and a new gate at the south entrance of Offutt. That work pales in comparison, however, to the new S t rat C om headquarters, an estimated $524.4 million project that will update and replace the current 55-year-old structure. One of Omaha’s Fortune 500 Continues on page 66 65

So Near, So Fun

Fontenelle Forest Nature Center Put on your walking shoes; you have scenic paths to discover! Specifically, 1,400 acres of woods, wetlands and waterways along 19 miles of trails, including two allaccess boardwalks. Allow time inside the lodge, too. Indoor displays will give you an even greater appreciation of the

Missouri River Valley’s wildlife and natural habitat. 1111 N. Bellevue Blvd., Bellevue

Holy Family Shrine Rest, relax and reflect at this architecturally intriguing glass chapel and visitors center at I-80 Exit 432. Inside the chapel, two streams cut through the limestone floor, following the length of the pews to the altar,

Continued from page 65 companies, Kiewit was named general contractor in August 2012, with construction expected to be in full swing by spring 2013. S t rat C om ’s facilities employ 1,700 military personnel and civilians, a number expected to increase once the new facility is operational. Col. John Rauch was installed as commander of the 55th Wing at Offutt in June 2012, the most recent of several stays here since 1989. “I have lived on the East and West Coasts, in the South and 66

where the water pools. Above, an image of the Holy Family appears suspended in the heavens. 23132 Pflug Road, Gretna

Sumtur Amphitheater There’s something really fun and fresh about watching a live performance under the stars. Summer musicals are the best! But this stage also hosts exercise

Midwest,” said Rauch. “When the time came to come back, I looked forward to it. I can truthfully say I’ve never been in a community more friendly, supportive and welcoming.” Rauch said that the metropolitan area is not only popular with active-duty military personnel, but retirees as well. “Officially, there are around 10,500 retirees in the area, but if you talk to the medics, they will probably tell you there are twice that number in the area using their services.” The retirees often bring acquired talents to the market, Shafer said. “Many officers have spouses and other family members


Ballparks. Vineyards. Nature trails. Genuine fun. Soaring Wings Vineyard Jim and Sharon Shaw have been growing grapes and making award-winning wine for 10 years now at their Soaring Wings Vineyard overlooking the Platte River Valley. In August 2012, the Shaws released their first batch of beer for commercial distribution in area bars and pubs. The winery’s summer concert series and harvest festivals are popular draws. 17111 S. 138th St., Springfield

classes and starlight movies. 11691 S. 108th St., Papillion Werner Park The ballpark, home to the Triple-A Omaha Storm Chasers, holds up to 9,023 people, yet feels intimate. Play all day in the Family Fun Zone, concession area and open concourses. 12356 Ballpark Way, Papillion

who bring in skill sets in volunteering and mentoring. These are folks who are welleducated and well-traveled – many have seen the world – and they bring in fresh ideas and methods that keep the groups they join invigorated.” What should civilians know about command missions at Offutt? Rauch said, “There are 47 organizations on base that are part of this community – that interact on a daily basis with the community. I’d like that they think we’re all part of the mosaic that makes the metropolitan area the jewel that it is.”

Talent Pool: Game-Changer The area’s workforce was a major reason for Sergeant’s Pet Care to stay in the Greater Omaha area and reestablish itself in Sarpy County. With a strong, reliable talent pool virtually assured and financial incentives promised from Gov. Dave Heineman, Sergeant’s corporate headquarters and a new production facility recently joined the surburban landscape at 132nd Street and Highway 370. “Our business is stronger and growing faster than anticipated,” CEO Bob Scharf said in conjunction with the company’s grand opening. “Our challenge is finding people,” from box packers to supervisors, mechanics and chemists. He hasn’t been disappointed. “We’ve got a good, educated workforce. They show up on time. They work hard. They value having a job.” The Chamber’s Greater Omaha Economic Development Partnership identified a number of expansion site possibilities.

“We worked with Sergeant’s all the way, pointing out the advantages of doing business here,” said Rod Moseman of the Greater Omaha Chamber. “I never take existing businesses for granted.” While companies wooed from other states often attract more public attention, about half of the 346 projects the Chamber has “landed” since 2004 have involved expansion of existing businesses. Collectively, those projects represent more than 20,000 jobs and $3.5 billion in capital investment. Local officials helped assemble training and tax abatement programs to defray some of the $7.7 million cost of the building and necessary renovations. Today, Sergeant’s Nebraska facility is one of the premier pesticide manufacturing plants in the country. Sergeant’s also has a distribution center in Memphis, and a pet treats manufacturing facility in the Kansas City area. Founded in 1868 in Richmond, Va.,


Sergeant’s roots go back to Polk Miller, a pharmacist and pet lover who formulated health care products for his dogs in 1868. When Miller began to sell the products from his drugstore, he named them after one of his favorite dogs, Sergeant. Its headquarters operation was set up in Omaha in 1989 when the company was part of ConAgra Foods. Sergeant’s has since become an independent company, with products ranging from flea and tick remedies, to pet grooming and health care products and toys and treats. On a given day, you can find chemists whipping up a new pup odor control product, a mechanic blending a vat of Fur So Fresh shampoo and assembly line workers packaging collars to keep felines flea-free. Scharf has called Sergeant’s “kind of like a big family” that hinges on reliable workers. “People take their work very seriously, and they don’t leave each other hanging.” 67

Ramping Up Production

C O U R T E S Y O F N ovo z y m es N ort h A m eric a I nc .

Blair Hands-Down Choice for Danish Firm


t first, China and its fastemerging economy looked pretty good as a location for a Novozymes plant to produce industrial enzymes. It was No. 1 on the Danish company’s list. But then there was Blair in Washington County just north of Omaha. It was hard to say no to what Blair had to offer – transportation connections; raw materials galore; workers with good attitudes; customers nearby and in all directions; low electrical costs; and a refreshing, welcoming spirit. “When it got down to cost and location and all the economics of it, the Midwest became very attractive,” said Fred Reikowsky, general manager of the Blair operation, which opened in 2009. Blair won out over other Midwest sites. “A lot of it had to do with the Greater Omaha Economic Development Partnership. It was evident that they wanted Novozymes.” The $200 million enzyme plant in Blair 68

was inaugurated May 30, 2012. In other locations, Novozymes produces enzymes that are important to food and nutrient processing, cleaning products, alcohol production, baking, cheese and yogurt production, wastewater treatment and pharmaceuticals. The Nebraska plant, however, is used to support the first generation of the ethanol industry, as well as to prepare for the next generation. Enzymes – made from microorganisms fed with glucose – speed up biological processes, such as the fermentation of corn into ethanol. Novozymes has 65 percent of the enzyme market for the biofuels industry. “From Blair, we deliver to all of North America,” Reikowsky said. “Our goal is to continue to grow market share.” The next generation of ethanol requires even stronger enzymes to break down field stubble and other cellulosic biomass as a way of reducing the demand for corn to make biofuels. “Those enzymes are

different,” Reikowsky said. “They work on material more difficult to break down.” The company continues to research ways to improve enzymes. At present, Novozymes has the only commercially viable enzymes that work for biomass ethanol production. The company has been ramping up production at the Blair plant, and was expected to be at full capacity by October 2012. Reikowsky said that some of Novozymes’ clients are planning to open cellulosic plants in 2013. “As the cellulosic market expands, which it will, our plan is to make that product here. We’ve laid this plant out for expansions up to five times the capacity that we have installed to date.” The Novozymes plant is located on a biorefinery campus anchored by Cargill since 1995. The biggest plus for the Novozymes plant, said Reikowsky, is the quality of the employees.

Arlington: A Gem of a Town for Raising Kids

A quick drive around town gives you a pretty good picture of the priorities for people in Arlington. In the center of town, there’s a freshly refurbished swimming pool and splash playground. From there, a new walking trail curves down to a new ball field complex — built entirely with donations and maintained with volunteer sweat. A few blocks to the northwest, 600 children study on an Arlington Public Schools campus recently expanded and renovated with a $7.9 million bond issue. Talk to a few people, and they back up this through-the-car-window conclusion: Arlington is investing in its young people, in itself and in the future. Residents were surprised, but not shocked, when recently rated their hometown, population 1,243, the second-best place in the United States to raise children. Blacksburg, Va., home of Virginia Tech University, was first. The publication stressed low crime rates, high test scores in schools, strong family income and access to recreation centers, museums and green space.

School children consistently score well on state assessment exams, including 100 percent writing proficiency in both eighth and 11th grades on the most recent tests. There are a few local employers, such as Gnuse Manufacturing, which makes loader buckets and other farm equipment. A growing number of people run independent businesses on their acreages outside town. You could call it a bedroom community, but Arlington isn’t a sleepy village. Community organizations donate a lot of time and effort, including the Arlington Youth Foundation and the Lions Club. A ladies’ coffee klatch even got into the act and raised money to help air-condition the City Auditorium and put up Christmas lights downtown. The town has a veterinary clinic, a heating and cooling business, an auto body shop and an equipment dealer, but limited retail business. The businesses work with volunteers to support community projects and the school. The swimming pool, built in the 1960s, was deteriorating badly so citizens formed a committee to raise money and support

for the renovations. They rallied support for a $400,000 bond issue last year to not only repair but improve the pool. The Twin Rivers Youth Sports Complex of baseball and softball fields may be an even better example. Individuals, corporations and donors put together the money to install the four fields and a two-story building with a concession stand and other facilities. Each field has its own electric scoreboard and concrete-block dugouts with steel roofs. “That’s a great example of what makes this community what it is,” said Brent Cudly, middle school principal. “People saw a need and did something special for the kids, for the community. They didn’t really expect anybody to do anything for them. They just went out and did it.” “People from other towns can’t believe how many volunteers we have doing everything from coaching to chalking the fields,” said Bruce Scheer, a member of the Arlington Youth Foundation and other local organizations. “Arlington is a very closeknit community, where volunteers will step in and do just about everything.”


“The people we hire have amazing attitudes. They are responsive to our needs and are well-educated. It’s hard to have the words for how dedicated they are,” he said. Even though Nebraska’s unemployment rate is the second-lowest in the nation (4 percent in July 2012), hiring has gone smoothly. “That was one of my big worries coming here, with the unemployment rate

below 5 percent. Would we get the quality people we need? We’ve had no issues whatsoever,” Reikowsky said. “Blair really supports industry and technology.” It couldn’t have worked out better, said Paula Hazlewood, executive director of the Gateway Development Corporation, a member of the Greater Omaha Economic Development Partnership. “Not only are they a great addition to the ag cluster that currently exists on the

biocampus, but they have also already proven to be great corporate citizens.” Novozymes’ employees are joining every service organization in town, Hazlewood said. “They are trying to infuse themselves into the community because that is one of Novozymes’ values – giving back to the communities in which they are located.”


Cashing In on


ordered on the north and east by the Platte and Missouri Rivers, Cass County is one of the oldest permanently settled areas of Nebraska, going back to the 1850s. In many ways, however, it’s generating some new excitement for itself. Cass County is growing in popularity as a bedroom county for its relative closeness to both the Omaha and Lincoln metro areas, said John Yochum, executive director for the Cass County Nebraska Economic Development Council, a member of the Greater Omaha Economic Development Partnership. “There are people who like living in a small community for their families, yet live only 20 to 25 miles away from their employment and activities in the big cities.

“But the whole county is growing, and all parts have something going. It’s still an agricultural county, but it also has mining and light manufacturing, retail and entertainment.” For tourists, the county abounds with attractions. Mahoney and Platte River State Parks and Louisville State Recreation Area keep people going to the river. And I-80’s Exit 426 is a created recreation mecca, with the Strategic Air and Space Museum, Iron


Horse Golf Club, Quarry Oaks Golf Course and the Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park and Wildlife Safari. Further down the interstate off Exit 420, auto racing enthusiasts have the NASCAR-sanctioned Nebraska Raceway Park; in the southern part of the county on Highway 34 is Eagle Raceway. Residents are also creating their own tourism destinations with quaint cafes and boutiques in the county’s towns and villages. Out in the countryside, Slattery Vintage Estates & Tasting Room was started six

years ago between Nehawka and Weeping Water as a vineyard and tasting room for Nebraska wines and beers. Owners Barb and Mike Slattery then started hosting weddings, class reunions and concerts in the scenic Weeping Water valley setting. “Now we’ve added ‘glamour camping,’ with bungalow tents with antique furnishings, electricity, coffeepots – even a gourmet breakfast if you want it in the morning,” said Barb. “Our daughter, Sarah, is a trained chef, and many people enjoy her wood-fired pizzas, too.” Start-ups in manufacturing have prospered in Cass County as well. New Age Manufacturing in Plattsmouth was founded in 1999 by Dave Wood to create computer numerical control, known as CNC, products. Wood soon needed to expand, so he got his father, Eric, involved. Today, New Age is in its second facility, with 12 CNC machines

Country Quiet

I R O N Horse G o l f C l ub C O U R T E S Y PH O T O ; ALL O T H E R S , k urt A . Kee l er

producing some “out of this world” parts. “We’ve got parts that are now on the space station and others in astronaut suits,” said Eric. “We ship around the country and overseas, some to California universities for their research projects, but mostly here in Nebraska.” When the company completed its most recent expansion, which took it to a 9,500-square-foot shop with 24 employees, the Woods found the city and the county to be very supportive in putting together the financing for New Age’s growth. “These were folks who were very easy to work with,” Eric said. “We couldn’t have done this here without them.” The county seat at Plattsmouth has experienced increased activity in recent years, with a $6 million Main Street redevelopment; widening of U.S. Highway 75; and the coming additions of a Hy-Vee supermarket and Shopko Hometown.

The highway expansion is of great interest to Ash Grove Cement Company in Louisville, which ships products to Cozad, Sioux City and Des Moines. “We basically ship everything in trucks and on rail,” said Rafael Weddle, plant accountant. “And we try to work closely with local government, keeping up-to-date with what’s happening.” Toward that end, plant officials have been regular attendees of quarterly meetings held by the Cass County Nebraska Economic Development Council. “That is a very open, very easy organization to work with,” Weddle said. “That’s important for us since we plan to be here for the long haul. We’ve been here since 1929 and have 137 full-time employees. You either work here or know someone or are related to someone who works here.” Of course, agriculture is still the primary business in Cass County. You’ll find not

only corn and soybeans, but apples, like at Union Orchard in the southeast part of the county, or pumpkins, such as in the patch found at Bloom Where You’re Planted Farm near Avoca. Teresa and Terry Lorensen started the Avoca business in 2005. “We were living on my grandparents’ farm,” she said, “and with all of the outbuildings we had we decided to open a pumpkin patch.” They’ve since added hayrack rides and a play area and farm animals for children. The barn is now a gift shop, with birthday parties taking place in the loft. There is also a one-room schoolhouse that serves as a cafe. “We’re a little different from the pumpkin patches closer to the city,” Teresa said. “We charge a lower admission, and we’re smaller, more intimate. You’re at a farm. People say they’re relaxed when they leave.”


o m a h a wor l d - h er a l d


Oxbow Finds Booming Niche in Animal Health

very day, dozens of people living in Nebraska’s two largest cities go to work in a 110-year-old barn near Murdock. They leave their homes in Greater Omaha and Lincoln and drive on rural highways as the cities’ skylines fade in the rearview mirror. At about 40 minutes, it is a reasonable commute to the headquarters of Oxbow Animal Health, which has sales in 32 countries. Here they join employees from Murdock and other surrounding communities to prepare nutritional foods and supplements for rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas, hamsters and other small animals. The 1901-era pig barn has been remodeled into a modern administration building. The other buildings on the property house manufacturing and distribution operations. The company has found a booming niche, and it is a testament to the diversity of industry in the Greater Omaha area. “It is inspiring to see the sort of ag products they come up with,” said John Yochum, executive director of the Cass County Nebraska Economic Development Council, a partner with the Greater Omaha Economic Development Council on business initiatives. “The owner – John Miller – leads that innovation with his own creative thinking.” Oxbow was founded by Miller, a Murdock farmer, on the premise that highquality hay is essential to animal health. For five generations, his family has grown quality alfalfa for its own animals, gaining expertise over the decades on what works



best for animal nutrition. Now the nutritional products that the company sells start with high-quality Timothy hay. More than 15 years ago, Miller became convinced that by using Timothy hay and other nutritional ingredients, he could provide a better pet food product than what was being sold. “This is a company founded on innovation with a focus on quality,” said Jeremy Baker, director of sales. “That has allowed us to go to the global marketplace and have success. “By focusing on our all-natural, organic and high-quality products, we’ve carved out a targeted market.” Oxbow could write the book on how to launch a company using the Internet. In its early years, Miller took orders directly from consumers. In the last four to five years, however, the company has gone the wholesale route. It directs consumers to vendors all over the world, using a network of distributors to provide products to retail suppliers. “We continue to add on to the facility here when necessary,” Baker said. “We

have added new warehousing. We’ve gone from 25 employees to more than 75 in a short period of time.” Oxbow’s most robust growth has been in Europe and Asia. “Growth is not as quick in North America,” Baker said, “although we continue to see double-digit growth here.” Members of the Cass County Nebraska Economic Development Council marvel at the company’s clever strategies, and they honored Oxbow with the annual Cass County Nebraska Economic Development Council Business Progress Award in 2009. “Oxbow has been able to expand its ag product line and sell it internationally,” said Yochum. “To be able to do that business from Cass County is very exciting.” Oxbow targets owners of small animals, including pet owners, veterinarians, zoo nutritionists and pet suppliers. The company provides hay, fortified food, treats, supplements, accessories, litter and bedding. There is also a professional line of products for sick animals. Product line research is aided by an advisory board of veterinarians, nutritionists and others with expertise in animal care. As an example of its innovation, Oxbow sells a variety of edible accessories produced by an overseas partner. One of these products, the Bungalow, can be occupied as well as eaten by small animals. There are also edible loungers, tunnels and mats, among other items. “We are continually looking at ways to provide nutrition and enrichment and deliver it in an all-natural way,” Baker said. “A lot of people are finding it exciting and fun.”



Our first branch was in Palmer. That was in 1938. Today, we’ve expanded to towns all over the state. Ogallala. Fremont. Lincoln. O’Neill. 53 in all. And yet, our heart remains in the same place. All across Nebraska. At Pinnacle Bank, we’re proud to serve local communities, businesses and families with the latest banking innovations and genuine personal relationships. Stop in today to experience the way banking should be or visit us at









i n n o vat i o n & c r e at i v i t y


ight out of college and ready to go to work, Dusty Reynolds got a call from a buddy that ended with the decision to start a business. It would put his buddy’s design degree to work, while Reynolds would focus on the business side. Three-and-a-half years later, with a client list that included Denver’s Pepsi Center and the likes of former NFL star John Elway, Reynolds sold his share of the business to start another company. This time, the entrepreneur went to West Africa to help locals develop a communitysustaining industry – growing cotton, manufacturing fabric and creating T-shirts. In addition, technology was designed to assign alphanumeric codes to each garment that would link purchasers, via a special website, to the people involved in making the garments. It identified the purchaser, what he or she did and how each shirt would ultimately benefit them and their community. Then in October 2011, the young entrepreneur did what he never thought he would: He accepted a full-time position with an organization. Continues on page 76

At the Hub of a Budding Network Dusty Reynolds


Today, he is the director of entrepreneurship and innovation for the Greater Omaha Chamber. “I had a lot of notions about what it meant to work for someone else. What I found was that I would be working with people I wanted to be around anyway,” said Reynolds. His office is with Silicon Prairie News in the MasterCraft building in the heart of North Downtown Omaha, an area that is fast becoming the city’s entrepreneurship and innovation district. He couldn’t be happier. “I’m in a position now where I am using my strengths to help build a network that encourages and supports entrepreneurship and innovation. It’s something that happens more organically when everyone is physically closer to each other,” he said, citing the successes of communities like San Francisco, Boulder and others. “The same is true here. The entrepreneurs and innovators we talk to in Omaha most often mention the feeling of being scattered across town, losing the momentum that could happen if they were physically closer.” Omaha’s efforts to build its entrepreneurial ecosystem couldn’t come at a better time. “There is a lot of talent here,” Reynolds said. “Migration reports show that many of these 20- and 30-somethings are not transplants. They’re natives coming back from places like San Francisco, Denver and New York to join other entrepreneurs, young professionals and creatives who never left. They see Omaha as a blank canvas, and they want to put their imprint on it by developing ideas and technologies that can hopefully become high-growth businesses.” Factors like a lower cost of living, strong work ethic, a great quality of life and access to entertainment all make Omaha attractive. So does the ability to work with like-minded professionals who have a willingness to collaborate beyond Omaha to Des Moines, Kansas City and other Midwestern cities. Their ideas seem to be contagious, as they are attracting attention from some of Omaha’s more traditional businesses. They want to be involved not only from a financial perspective, but in a way that continues to benefit the city from a community perspective – to keep the spirit going. “Collaboration comes when you bring people together organically,” said Reynolds. “So we continue to promote this thinking by creating opportunities for students and other young people to come see what we’re doing. We encourage them to think that it’s possible for them to become entrepreneurs and innovators, too.” Ultimately, Reynolds hopes that this momentum will help to create a sustainable entrepreneurial ecosystem. On the following pages: Six shining examples of innovation and creativity in Greater Omaha. More entrepreneurial breakout success stories: 76



is the co-founder and chief community builder at Silicon Prairie News, a progressive digital media company and website that started as a blog.

Jeff Slobotski

What is Silicon Prairie News? “Silicon Prairie News is a grassroots approach to economic development of the entrepreneurial community, both regionally and nationally. We tell stories and set the stage for networking and idea-sharing among entrepreneurs, innovators, creatives, venture capitalists, mentors and others.’’ Silicon Prairie News is a noteworthy start-up in its own right. You have a growing staff, a syndication partnership with the Omaha World-Herald and websites serving Kansas City and Des Moines. What inspired you in this direction? “I have always been fascinated by communities – what is going on, who is getting it done and how. In high school, I became interested in politics and watched the redevelopment of Omaha’s downtown. I felt, then, that the people who were involved – from both the private and public sectors – were what made Omaha unique. After I graduated from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, I took a sales and marketing position with a New York firm and traveled to communities across the country. When I came back to Omaha, I realized that we have the entrepreneurs I saw on the coasts – maybe not the quantity, but certainly the quality. There was an opportunity to tell their stories.” What makes Omaha unique? “I think it’s the level of collaboration and support that exists within the business community. It truly surprises people from the coasts to see

M A L O N E & C O M PA N Y

that we can get a meeting with a Fortune 500 CEO within a week.” What makes Omaha a great base for what you do? “Every need can be met here. If your intentions are good and people like what you have to offer, it’s exciting and inspiring to see the community rally to you. It’s not a large city, but it is a good-sized city where you can make a difference and see your impact quickly.” Where will SPN and events like Big Omaha take us? “We are super-passionate about changing perceptions about what’s possible here. It’s still early and may take years or decades for us to realize its (entrepreneurial community’s) full potential. I’m excited to think about what the community looks like five years,10 years and even 30 years from now.” 77

Summer Camp for Like-Minded Thinkers


oma h a w orl d - h eral d

In less than three years, Big Omaha has become the nation’s most interconnected conference on innovation and entrepreneurship. Produced by Silicon Prairie News, the sellout event is all about what’s next, not what has already happened.


ocial media is great for starting the conversation, but eventually people need to come together. “Big Omaha is the platform for them to connect and see what happens when you get the right people in the room,” said Jeff Slobotski of Silicon Prairie News. Getting people in the room is definitely not a problem for Big Omaha, which is cosponsored by the Greater Omaha Chamber. Since its debut in 2009, Big Omaha has attracted the attention of national media, appearances by the tech industry’s hottest celebs and annual attendance of 650 or so creative thinkers. Tickets to the May event sell out in minutes. (Attendance is capped to retain the sense of intimacy that most people say is 78

what’s best about the gathering.) Sessions are held at KANEKO, a creative space in Omaha’s Old Market, where speakers not only take the stage, but hang out afterward with audience members. Audiences are drawn by the promise of meeting the country’s foremost creatives, entrepreneurs and innovators, who all tell their stories in a way that only they can. The 2012 lineup included Jim McKelvey, co-founder of the mobile payment company Square; Yael Cohen, president and founder of the nonprofit F Cancer; and Sahil Lavingia, who helped start the popular social sharing site Pinterest, and later founded the e-commerce site Gumroad. “There is strong value in the fact that we sell out, but we also don’t want it to be an elitist event or risk leaving some out just

because they couldn’t get a ticket or can’t afford one,” Slobotski said. “We try to compensate by having parties that allow anyone to come, and by having more events like Thinc Iowa in Des Moines, meet-ups and other events.” While Big Omaha celebrates the entrepreneurial and innovative community, the passion is not limited to the up-andcoming. “We’re seeing corporate stalwarts who not only show support by sponsoring events but get engaged. Companies like TD Ameritrade and First National Bank also use Big Omaha to create intrapreneurs who think outside the box inside their own company.” But that’s another conversation.

oma h a w orl d - h eral d

Thinking Outside the Silo

is executive director of Emerging Terrain, a nonprofit research and design collaborative that worked closely with the Chamber’s community development team to create trugs for Leavenworth Street.

Anne Trumble

Your organization made a splash by draping abandoned grain silos along I-80 in Omaha with artistic banners and then celebrating with an Elevated Dinner on a bridge. What’s Emerging Terrain all about? “We’re sort of the odd bird in town. We work with spatial design experts such as architects, landscape architects and urban planners to address the ‘built condition’ in Omaha – to see the landscape in a whole new way to further the community.” What are other signs of Emerging Terrain in Omaha? “Among our recent projects are trugs, modular planter platform seating units along Leavenworth Street, an arterial route to downtown Omaha. We worked with the Chamber’s community development team, the City of Omaha and the Park East and Columbus Park neighborhoods on the project. Leavenworth’s lack of pedestrian traffic had attracted a lot of negative elements. The trugs are a way to bring in people, to slow down the traffic and to make the street more livable. When they first went in, people asked ‘What are those?’ Now they’re saying that they’re going to miss

them because this is a temporary installation. We had a project frenzy in May, with the trugs, the banners and the community dinner. It’s exciting to see Omaha enjoying what we do.” What makes Omaha attractive for things like this? “Omaha is a perfect city. It’s still a really compact city, but with a downtown that’s struggling with an aging infrastructure. And while there aren’t a lot of public dollars, it is a very philanthropic city, with the Peter Kiewit Foundation among our supporters. The fact that we have been embraced says a lot about Omaha. If you have an idea and have it worked out, Omaha says ‘Yeah, do it! Do it!’” What or who inspired the organization? “I grew up on a farm between Papillion and Bellevue, and my dad was an agronomist and a conservationist. I have a strong ethic for the stewardship thing. I had an opportunity to help design the Desert Dome and the Garden of the Senses at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium. I loved working with (former zoo director) Dr. Lee Simmons. He taught me to think big and go for it.”


pedal to the people

B ill S I T Z M A N N

is founder and owner of Greenstreet Cycles, a bicycle sales and service shop near TD Ameritrade Park Omaha in North Downtown Omaha. Ben Swan

What prompted you to become a small business owner? “I’ve been living downtown for the last five years. About three years ago, I decided that I wanted a bike to get around, and I found that there was no downtown shop. I talked to others in the business and asked if they had ever thought about establishing a downtown location. They thought I was crazy, except for one woman who helped me get established in 2010. A lot of downtown residents use bikes for commuting, fitness and recreation. Our location next to a coffee shop is ideal. It’s a natural meeting place, and a number of Omaha and Iowa trails converge near here.” Did you do a lot of biking growing up? “I had bikes as a kid, and I did a lot of riding with my family. My dad restores motorcycles and my brother raced semi-professionally, so I grew up riding both bikes and motorcycles. And I’ve always had an interest in business. I did computer repair while I was in middle 80

school, and I coordinated the neighborhood kids for a lawn service.” Has there been a lot of interest in the shop? “Interest has been very strong. In fact, Jonathan Neve, who is now the manager of the shop, was volunteering here before it was even officially open for business. Jon is the ultimate store representative. He commutes, he races and he is into fitness. He can relate to anyone coming in. It’s a very busy shop.” Who has been your inspiration? “In my other job, I’m CFO for a group of companies operated by Joe Kizer. He hired me as an intern 10 years ago. I helped him with another business start-up, and then he let me buy into his companies. He’s a great teacher. He is known for his relationship-building and for empowering managers and employees.”

Taking It to the Streets Creatively Steve Gordon

is the founder of

RDQLUS, a creative design studio and producer of hip streetwear items. What is RDQLUS? “RDQLUS began as a nom de plume for the creative musings I would have outside of my office job. As it began to gel, it became my design and creative outlet specializing in identity design, brand development and creative direction. About two years ago, I decided to become client No. 1 and create my own streetwear brand. It truly was meant to be just an example, but RGC – RDQLUS Goods & Cloth – has shipped all over the country and now has a fan following. I’ve since had the amazing opportunity to work with companies like T-Mobile, Disney/ABC, MSN and Nike.” What enterprising things did you do as a kid? “Starting as a really young kid, I would take apart anything electronic I could get my hands on because I had to see how it all worked. I once busted a bike I got for my 13th birthday, and my mother – ever my challenger – said she’d never buy me another whole bike again. She gave me a beautiful bike frame and nothing more. I taught myself how to assemble the entire bike, adding a lot of custom features. Then all of the neighborhood kids wanted custom work on their bikes, so I started a bike repair business in our basement. I used the money to buy parts for my own bike.” How did that lead to what you do today? “It’s all still very much based on my curiosity. That innate, driving need to figure things out, resolve questions and search for answers – but in a practical, everyday sense. Da Vinci said that good design is the balance between science and art. I’m constantly trying to find that balance.” Who is your inspiration? “My mother, Juliana. When I was a kid, I asked a lot of questions about complex things that she didn’t know the answers to. She would make me write down the questions, and then she would drop me off at the downtown library to find the answers. She’s brilliant that way. That’s why to this day she’s my one main inspiration.”

bill sitzmann

Why Omaha as your business base? “Omaha is big enough to have a bit of weight on the national scene, but you can still make a good name for yourself and stand out. Music, art, fashion and design all converge very symbiotically here. That only serves to make it a stronger cross-section of creativity.” 81

‘Solving School’ and Analyzing the Future

bill sitzmann

is CEO of Contemporary Analysis, an Omaha start-up that provides business analysis services to clients large and small.

Grant Stanley

What do you do for your clients? “We focus on helping them solve their most important business questions – the things that keep them up at night or prevent them from growing their company. They may ask about almost anything; however, most of the questions that we answer revolve around marketing, retaining customers, managing employees and forecasting sales.” Some of those questions sound like they’re oriented to small businesses. “Our services are very cost-effective for small businesses. They can try it for 30 days – they can charge it to their credit card or write a check. We offer month-to-month contracts to help simplify our relationships with our clients.”


How do you generate the answers? “We use predictive analytics. We can tell a business the likelihood of an employee quitting or going to work for the competition. If they carry 100 products, we can tell them which one a customer is most likely to purchase next. It gives a company a great advantage over the competition.” Was there something in your childhood that pushed you toward your path? “My dad was a vice president with First National Bank. Vice presidents and other top executives from prominent local companies came to our house for dinner parties when I was a kid. They would tell a story or give advice or give me books to read.”

Did you do well in school? “I started a business when I was in first grade, and one day the principal called me in. He said ‘Grant, you’ve been cheating.’ I responded that I had ‘solved school.’ I figured that the math kids knew the math answers, and the English kids knew all the English answers, so I got each one the answers the other needed and I consistently got the right answers myself. I saw it as creating value that can grow into something larger and better. It was the same with a landscaping company I started at the age of 10. I sold it at age 20 to establish this company. I finished college in two-anda-half years. My business partner, Tadd Wood, went to UNO with me and got four degrees in four years.”

From Board to Boutique bill sitzmann

Former professional skateboarder Dave Nelson is founder and owner of SecretPenguin advertising agency. What’s SecretPenguin all about? “We’re a boutique ad agency. We create delightful brands and user experiences aimed at making the world a better and more fun place. We got our start working with skateboard companies that had endorsed me. The more I got injured, the more work I took on, and before I knew it I was running a company. The NFL partnership with the United Way of America was our first large client outside of the skateboard world. They liked our approach, and they hired us to design for one of their campaigns.” What has been the reception to your work? “We’re very much results-driven, and our clients have experienced great results. So that’s been fun. Business is personal to me, and I never want someone to regret working with us. I want them to be proud of the work and be excited about the outcome.” What enterprising things did you do or invent as a kid? “I once made a series of pulleys and kite string to close my door and shut off the lights while lying in bed. Skateboarding was a do-ityourself activity as well. We had no organized teams, coaches or

even skate parks. So anything we wanted to do or create, we did it ourselves. We customized our skateboards and created contests and events, which eventually led to designing skate parks and working on city-sponsored events and so on.” How did those things lead to what you do today? “I learned a lot from being an endorsed skateboarder. I was the marketing tool for those brands, and I learned that it’s all about relationships and being authentic. It’s how we approach marketing at SecretPenguin ... We work with companies and organizations that truly care about their guests, clients, buyers, donors, etc., and we help them create relationships with their clients through authentic interactions.” How is Omaha as a home base? “I toured for seven years and realized how much I missed and loved Omaha. It’s a dream come true to be able to work with the city, mayor and the Greater Omaha Chamber on projects, as well as to help design restaurants, shops, etc., to complement neighborhoods and to be a part of the community through our nonprofit clients.” 83

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Right Place For Business “People want ethics to be part of their businesses, from how they treat people and conduct business to how they shape their corporate culture.” – Beverly Kracher Business Ethics Alliance

Doing What’s Right DELIVERS


Bottom Line Benefits


hey are referred to as “core values,” “codes of conduct,” “business conduct” and “corporate values.” They shape a company’s brand, culture and reputation. They do as much to create a business environment that attracts economic development as they do to create a community that reinforces these shared values. In Omaha, there’s an organization that is devoted exclusively to these values – the Greater Omaha Business Ethics Alliance. An initiative of the Creighton University College of Business in collaboration with the Better Business Bureau, the Greater Omaha Chamber and the Omaha business community, the Alliance does not judge or arbitrate. Rather, it promotes an environment in which the discussion and practice of ethics is encouraged and expected. “Just as organizations have core values,

so do communities. That’s what makes it different doing business in Omaha versus anywhere else,” said Beverly Kracher, executive director of the Business Ethics Alliance and a professor of business ethics and society at Creighton’s College of Business. “People want ethics to be part of their businesses, from how they treat people and conduct business to how they shape their corporate culture.” The Business Ethics Alliance develops resources to educate businesses about issues and the sharing of ideas and best practices. It focuses on ethical solutions and how to enhance a company’s ability to practically apply ethics within its organization, from tool kits designed for smaller businesses, to business ethics scenarios, video interviews, training modules, links and reports. The organization fills attendance at its executive breakfasts, networking lunches,

panel-based dialogues and its Youth Ethics Initiative events. “We do not know of any other community that has collaboration like ours among the Chamber, the Better Business Bureau and businesses of all types and sizes,” said Kracher. “Our vision is to become a beacon for other business communities across the United States and the world.” The beacon seems to be an appropriate symbol since the Alliance aims to not only help light the way, but also draw economic development to the city. “Companies are very focused on ethics,” said David G. Brown, president and CEO of the Greater Omaha Chamber, noting that community ethics can be a deal-breaker among corporations and site selection firms. “If businesspeople won’t accept anything less than this type of behavior, it impacts the kind of community you have and makes it a place where others want to be.”


Franchising Formula:

Profitable, Repeatable


or franchise businesses, the key to success not only requires a great concept, but also the ability to deliver that concept repeatedly and consistently. The Maids, Godfather’s Pizza, Home Instead Senior Care and Merry Maids all got it right – with beginnings in Omaha. Others have built their success as franchisees of existing concepts. Simmonds Restaurant Management at one time owned more than 70 Burger King franchised restaurants. Greg Cutchall, president, CEO and owner of Cutchall Management Company, owns and operates nine

different concepts, with 48 locations in six states. “There are different ways to expand a business and for many, franchising makes it possible to grow more quickly, while maintaining control of their concept,” said Gary Batenhorst, partner with Cline Williams Wright Johnson & Oldfather, LLP. Batenhorst is a member of the firm’s franchising and distribution group, a leading resource for both franchisors and franchisees. “Franchisees also benefit from the relationship, gaining the ability to run their own business with a proven concept and

system backing them,” he said. From food and hospitality, to car repair, tax preparation, health and fitness, real estate, senior care, electronics, printing and more – the range of franchise opportunities offers emerging entrepreneurs many ways to better match their interests and strengths with a franchise system. This diversity of opportunities continues to drive interest in the Greater Omaha Chamber’s Midwest Franchise Seminar held every fall. “The daylong comprehensive seminar brings potential franchisees together with franchisors, brokers and other franchiserelated vendors to learn more about the opportunities, the investment required, the terms of the franchise agreement, the resources available and the potential for revenue and growth,” said Winsley Durand, senior director of recruitment for the Chamber.

OTC Boss Goes Undercover to Better Company


robably more than a few of his employees thought that Sam Taylor was having a midlife crisis. Normally clean-cut, as would befit the CEO of Oriental Trading Company, last summer Taylor suddenly began sporting a beard, mustache and longer hair. He explained it away as taking on a role as an extra in a college stage production for his daughter. In reality, he was preparing to be the subject of “Undercover Boss,” the popular CBS television show. Taylor was skeptical when first approached by the show’s producers. They wanted to disguise him in order to find out what OTC employees thought of 86


the company. His wife is a fan of the show and told her husband, “You have to do this.” When the time came to disappear for the week undercover, he told his staff that he would be on jury duty. Taylor reported for work in La Vista the next week as Dave Barton, a failed entrepreneur who was the subject of a fictional TV show pilot, in order to explain the cameras following him. Taylor worked in various departments, and discovered the sometimes painful impressions employees had of their employer. Taylor began implementing changes

almost as soon as filming wrapped up in August 2011, long before the show aired in March 2012. Since the filming, at least a dozen employee-generated (and bonus-earning) improvements have been featured at quarterly company-wide meetings. A recent Gallup survey of employees showed a 23 percent increase in the openness of communication. “This is double what they usually see in survey results,” Taylor said. “My main goal in doing the show was to improve the company and the work environment, and I believe we’ve done that.”

j effrey bebee

William King

Broadcaster Goes Micro to Talk to Masses


illiam King is using small thinking to think big. King is an early player – and the only one in Omaha – in the world of low-power broadcast radio. From the small studio of 1690 AM, “The ONE” on Military Avenue in North Omaha, he is broadcasting to the world at an astounding one-tenth of a watt. One-tenth of a watt? To the world? How is that possible when there are multiple other stations in town, including 100,000-watt KFAB? King admits that low-power radio doesn’t cover a lot of ground – his 120-foot tower has a range of two miles at best. But through a mobile app for smartphones, 1690 AM can be picked up anywhere in the world where you can get a cell phone signal.

King works full time as a facilitator for a domestic violence prevention group, and for more than a decade for Omaha’s publicaccess channel on Cox Cable. A few years ago, the inspiration to found a radio station came to him in prayer. Local contributors helped provide the seed money to get the nonprofit 501(c) (3) station going over a three-year period. “The ONE” – an abbreviation of Omaha, Nebraska – has been on full-time since October 2011. The station broadcasts and streams 24/7 with an eclectic format. “We’ve got health information, motivational and spiritual talk and we’re teaching the community to fish – it’s for community access,” King said. “We’re here for local musicians, and can do interviews on the turn of a dime.” When the broadcast isn’t live, the station streams music.

Through a mobile app for smartphones, 1690 AM can be picked up anywhere in the world where you can get a signal.


Angelina Li & AHL Consulting


ngelina Li provides business strategies, market research and statistical analysis to businesses. Her client list includes Time Warner Cable, Comcast, Metro-GoldwynMayer (MGM), Omaha Public Power District, Business Ethics Alliance and Cox Communications.

advantage because I have clients on both coasts. It makes it easier to contact clients, as far as the time zones go. People here are very good employees with a strong work ethic and great training. It’s easy to network with businesspeople in Omaha. It’s easy to get to know people with whom you can partner.”

You were born and raised in Hong Kong, and have lived in Illinois and Georgia. What brought you to Omaha? “I joke that it was either move to Omaha or get a divorce. I was working for Cox Communications in Atlanta. My husband, Dr. John Chan, is a physician and was working at Emory University. He received an offer from UNMC in Omaha.”

What are the benefits for a minority business? “A lot of large corporations have minority business requirements. And given the concentration of corporations that really look out for the interests of minority businesses and minority business owners, we can take advantage of those opportunities.”

What business advantages have you found in Omaha? “Omaha’s location in the middle of the country is an 88

How valuable is a good chamber? “The value is what people make of it. The Greater Omaha Chamber offers lots and lots of programs and committees you can join. I think most importantly, the Chamber works on behalf of its members.”

j effrey bebee

2012 Big O! Excellence Minority Business of the Year Award

living here

kurt a.keeler

Housing Market’s Strengths: Stability, Affordability, Diversity


e enjoy a pretty swell quality of life in Greater Omaha. Few cities can match the scope and caliber of our neighborhoods, schools, medical facilities, attractions and entertainment venues, to name a few of the standout amenities. We don’t merely exist. We live here fully, and with plenty of room to breathe. As a bonus: Our Midwestern sensibilities have made us somewhat recession-proof. “Omaha compares favorably against not only cities of comparable size, but also to cities of any size,” said Herb Freeman of NP Dodge Company. Thanks to low unemployment, a diversified economy and conservative lending practices, Nebraska in general – and the Greater Omaha area in particular

– weathered the nation’s most recent economic slump well compared to nearly all other parts of the country. During the worst periods of the residential real estate recession, Nebraska, at one point, had the lowest foreclosure rate in the country. In June 2011, Nebraska’s foreclosure rate was the ninth best in the United States. With fewer foreclosures and short sales, home prices in the Omaha area have held steadier than in most other cities. “Omaha never experienced the very high rates of home price appreciation, and so we avoided the big home price declines suffered by the pre-2006 ‘hot’ markets,” said Freeman. At the close of 2011, the widely followed Case-Shiller Composite-20 index of average home prices was off 33.5 percent from its peak, while average residential prices in Omaha were off only 8 percent. Prices in

Las Vegas, by comparison, were off 61.6 percent from the peak. Not only are home prices in Omaha relatively stable, but they, like the metro itself, are also affordable. (Omaha ranked No. 1 among Forbes’ 2012 America’s Most Affordable Cities and No. 1 among Kiplinger’s 2011 Best Value Cities.) “The Omaha housing market continues to trend in a positive direction,” said Nate Dodge, executive vice president of NP Dodge and 2012 chairman of the Greater Omaha Chamber’s board of directors. “We have experienced modest growth across all price points, which is exactly what we like to see when we study our housing data.” He added, “There have been several years of pent-up demand that continues to release given the favorable interest rates and large selection of quality housing options here in Omaha.”

Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge provide urban ambience with all of the conveniences of maintenance-free living.

example – boast stately homes on wellmanicured lawns along tree-lined streets just minutes from downtown.

THERE’S SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE No matter your needs or preferences, Greater Omaha offers a place to suit your taste, from newer homes (starter to spacious) in the suburbs to historic homes in the heart of the city; from downtown or riverfront condos with concierge service to apartments in all sizes and price ranges. • Condominiums, row houses and townhouse developments like jLofts, Rows at SoMA, Dunsany Flats, Ford Lofts, The Enclave at The Brandeis and Riverfront Place with views of the Bob

• In mixed-use neighborhoods like Midtown Crossing and Aksarben Village, residents shop for groceries, catch a movie, meet friends for drinks and take in special events at the park – all within steps of their front doors. • Omaha’s most established neighborhoods – the Gold Coast, Happy Hollow, Cathedral, Dundee and Fairacres, for

• For acreages, horse stables, wildlife and a taste of country living, explore Sarpy County south along the Highway 370 corridor to Bellevue, Papillion and Gretna. Or head north toward Fort Calhoun and Blair in Washington County just outside the I-680 loop. For beautifully restored turn-of-the-century properties, you’ll love Plattsmouth in Cass County. 89

North DowntowN Omaha On the Go


ne domino got rather nondescript North Downtown Omaha moving in a dynamic direction less than 10 years ago. Granted, it was a big domino – a convention center and an arena now known as CenturyLink Center Omaha. Its opening in 2003 spurred a rapid succession of building renovations, mixed-use property developments and TD Ameritrade Park Omaha. Local developer Christian Christensen saw the area’s potential before TD Ameritrade Park was even publicly discussed. “When CenturyLink Center


Omaha came on,” Christensen said, “all of a sudden there was space available downtown. It was just like when Ak-Sar-Ben (a thoroughbred racetrack) was torn down in Midtown Omaha and space became available for Aksarben Village.” Todd Heistand of NuStyle Development Corporation was a pioneer with the Tip Top building in North Downtown Omaha. Saddle Creek Records followed, “then our properties,” Christensen said. The Old Market area south of I-480 was in demand and fully developed. But the area north of the Interstate had affordable buildings and land. Christensen’s

Bluestone Development moved in with two construction projects: 22Floors, a mix of apartments and retail, and the 9ines, which combines retail, offices and apartments. “We want to develop areas where you can walk out the front door of your home, go to a restaurant, theater or club and not even have to get into a car,” Christensen said. Besides the convention center-arena and ballpark, North Downtown Omaha differs from the Old Market in having unique neighbors. To the west, the area draws from the Creighton University community, and to the north it connects with the


established artists’ community in the Hot Shops Art Center. These neighbors enforce the permanence of the revitalized area, Christensen believes, adding a sense of security for those investing in it. Christensen expects North Downtown Omaha to be developed out over the next five years, expanding east on Cuming and north of Hot Shops. “We’ll see a more ‘hard-urban,’ industrial type of product,” he said. “North Downtown Omaha people are pioneering and very vocal.” Christensen likes what he’s seeing. “It’s actually very eclectic. It tends to skew toward 22- to 28-year-olds – Generation

Y – but it’s culturally rich ... You’ll see a couple in their 60s straight from the theater enjoying a glass of wine at Blue Line Coffee next to a student with a cappuccino studying for his exams.” Rachel Jacobson, director of the Film Streams nonprofit cinema, is somewhat of an unplanned occupant of the community. Her friends Robb Nansel and Jason Kulbel – owners of Saddle Creek Records – decided to move to the area because they wanted to build a concert venue. “I had an idea for a nonprofit cinema, and they had space in their building,” said Jacobson, who originally expected the

theater to be located much farther west. Instead, Film Streams’ Ruth Sokolof Theater became an anchor in the area’s growing entertainment district. To the north is Nansel’s and Kulbel’s concert venue – Slowdown – named Esquire magazine’s 2008 Club of the Year. She’s a big fan of the area. “I love being so close to downtown and being able to go to restaurants with friends. It’s interesting to see the neighborhood grow around us, and the denser it gets, the better.”




undee in Midtown Omaha is a neighborhood that has quietly and persistently established itself as a great place to live, work and play. More than a century ago, Dundee was Omaha’s first suburb. Requirements from developers that residents spend at least $2,500 on their homes, plus the distance from downtown, discouraged growth. The developer remedied that by giving away lots and planting 2,000 maple trees to get people to move there. Soon, Georgian, Colonial and Tudor Revival homes started going up. Dundee caught on over time. More and more people moved there, including a young investor named Warren Buffett. 92

Dundee You can’t even call it a well-kept secret outside of Omaha anymore. Dundee – with the adjacent Memorial Park neighborhood – was named in 2011 by the American Planning Association as one of the nation’s 10 best neighborhoods. For those who make it their home and place of business, it’s no surprise. “Dundee has kind of defied the trend of old, deteriorating inner-city neighborhoods,” said Gary Sadlemyer, program director and morning host for Clear Channel’s KFAB radio. “It has maintained stable, sound businesses. It’s a very eclectic neighborhood with great character – a combination of Bohemian and traditional – and people tend to stay here.”

The diversity of the neighborhood can’t be underestimated, said Jeff Royal, president of Dundee Bank. “One great thing about the Dundee area is the wide range of ages and backgrounds represented. We have college students living in close proximity to families who have owned homes in the area for a couple of generations.” A relatively new occupant of “downtown” Dundee is the Alegent Creighton Clinic. Three years ago, the clinic was located to the south on Dodge Street, with much more traffic and visibility. But the decision was made to move to Dundee. “We were wondering why we should move just five blocks to renovate an


o m a h a wo r l d - h e r a l d

Defines Its differences old hardware store,” said Dr. Michael Davidian, clinic director. “Three years later, it has proven to be a very good location. “The Dundee area is a very affluent, well-educated, free-spirited community. It has low crime – you can jog or walk the dog without worry – and it has classical architecture, is well-wooded and people take care of their properties.” The location is popular with existing and new patients, who often visit popular neighborhood restaurants after clinic visits. Pitch, a pizzeria established in 2009, is a favorite. “What’s unique about being a Dundee merchant,” said Alicia Rowe, assistant manager of Pitch, “is the pace of the

neighborhood and the sense of community. It’s a business district that doesn’t feel like a business district. We’re all very much neighbors here, the kind where you can go next door and ask for a cup of sugar.” Dundee residents also invest in the culture of the community. Becky App is one of three Dundee families who own and operate the eCreamery Ice Cream & Gelato store. “We chose the location for the vibrant neighborhood atmosphere,” said App. “It offers a mix of historical interest and new urban growth, with ease of access from downtown and the walkability of the neighborhood.” The cast-iron streetlights with flower baskets and 25-foot-deep lawns accentuate

the walkability, along with the wellestablished trees and classic homes. Royal said merchants, residents and business and real estate owners are enthusiastic and committed to keeping the neighborhood thriving. Its business improvement district recently completed raising money for a $2.5 million streetscape renovation. It’s all part of making Dundee one of the most enjoyable places to live and work. KFAB, which moved from downtown to Dundee in the early 1950s, just renewed its lease. “We’ll continue to be here for a while. I’ve told them they can move, but I’m staying here,” said Sadlemyer.



New Life & New Business on Vinton Street


ead east on Vinton Street around South 20th Street and you’ll discover a thoroughfare that is an unmistakable part of Omaha’s history. The Vinton Street corridor is a mix of architectural styles and an equally eclectic blend of businesses. Thanks to a partnership that includes the Greater Omaha Chamber, the City of Omaha, Omaha by Design and the Vinton Merchants Committee, the area is welcoming new businesses, new customers and renewed excitement among business owners. The selection of the Vinton Street corridor is the result of a neighborhood business district analysis conducted on behalf of the Greater Omaha Chamber. The study revealed the current strengths of the area, and also identified opportunities for growth and development. The revitalization process began with brainstorming meetings with residents and business owners. “A lot came out of those meetings, most of all the sense that people want ownership in what happens to their own neighborhood,” said Karen Mavropoulos, manager of community development for the Chamber. They also brought about the revival of the Vinton Merchants Committee. “It’s been exciting to see everyone working toward the same goal of revitalizing the Vinton Street corridor.” Together, the Chamber and the Vinton Street merchants have helped to attract new

businesses to occupy and even purchase once-vacant buildings and commercial spaces. The Chamber has also launched the Façade Improvement Program, which provides incentives to business owners to enhance the appearance of the commercial district. Historic preservation has been an important aspect of revitalization efforts, with Omaha by Design serving as the project manager. Jensen Consulting is working with the city’s planning department and Vinton Street merchants to develop a historic Neighborhood Conservation/ Enhancement tie-in. From the types of materials that can be used, to the placement of windows and doors and even the proximity of buildings to the sidewalk, owners decide what is acceptable and unacceptable to preserve and enhance the identity of the neighborhood. These guidelines also apply to new construction. “So many ‘ah-has’ come from this process as people become aware of what makes the area they’ve been living in their whole lives so great. They start to see historic standards that are important to preserve and choose the best options moving forward,” said Connie Spellman, founding director of Omaha by Design. Vinton Street will certainly be a model for restoring other historic commercial areas in Omaha.

eric francis


THE CARE YOU NEED. CLOSE BY. CONVENIENTLY FIND WHAT YOU’R E LOOKING FOR. Whether it’s an emergency depar tment, urgent care, pharmacy or physician, Alegent Creighton Health’s mobile site makes it easy to find the right care near you. Just visit on your smar t device and you’re there.


Bergan Mercy Creighton University Medical Center Immanuel Lakeside Mercy/Council Bluffs Midlands/Papillion Community Memorial/Missouri Valley Memorial/Schuyler Mercy/Corning Plainview Alegent Creighton Clinic

caring communities

Taking Care of Miss Ella

j e ff r e y b e b e e


lla is 4 years old. Yet she has seen the inside of more hospital rooms than someone 10 times her age. The chubby-cheeked darling has a rare autoimmune disease that takes her to Children’s Hospital & Medical Center every month for treatment. Out of a million children, only three are diagnosed with juvenile dermatomyositis. The cause is unknown and there is no cure. The disease is characterized by muscle weakness, inflammation and oftentimes a skin rash. Ella’s mother, Gail Graeve, said the family feels fortunate that the care their daughter needs is available here

in Omaha. “We go to the hospital for monthly overnight stays,” said the public relations and marketing executive with Cox Communications. “If we had to travel to the Mayo Clinic or elsewhere, that would present a hardship for our family. But because we’re nearby, our young son can come along. And my husband, Shane, and I don’t have to take time off from work.” While Children’s Hospital is nationally recognized for providing top-notch treatment, exceptional medicine is practiced throughout the metro area. “There’s a hospital and specialist for just about everyone,” said Graeve.

When she talks to other moms through a juvenile dermatomyositis Facebook site, she feels fortunate. “Not everyone has the exceptional experiences at their hospitals like we do.” She recalled being on an elevator at the hospital when a nurse from another floor said, “Miss Ella is back. We love her!” Graeve was touched that the nurse remembered her daughter’s name. “It’s comforting to know that we have a local children’s hospital that takes a personal approach to health care and views each patient as a very special case, wrapping their arms around the entire family.” 97

c o u r t e s y of ALEGE N T CREIGHT O N HEALTH

Quick Work Saves Councilman


erry Tilson is living proof that timing can be a matter of life or death. The Plattsmouth city councilman arrived home from a meeting at City Hall on the night of his 53rd birthday with a burning sensation in his chest. His wife called 911. The emergency squad quickly arrived, hooked him up to an EKG machine and sped to the nearest accredited chest pain center, Alegent Creighton Health Midlands Hospital in Papillion. Tilson was in the cardiac cath lab within 32 minutes – well under the national 90-minute “door-to-balloon” average for heart attack patients. The attending physician told Tilson’s wife, Carol, that her husband didn’t have the luxury of time. His heart was affected in three areas and an artery had an 80 percent blockage. Had he not been treated quickly, he would have died. Several months earlier, the city councilman had voted in favor of new EKG machines for emergency vehicles. Tilson’s decision to help others ended up saving his life. c o u r t e s y of ALEGE N T CREIGHT O N HEALTH


Methodist makes Omaha healthier.

Dr. Dittrick and Jeff, RN Surgery

Methodist’s impact on the health and well-being of families reaches far and wide. Regionally, we perform more surgeries and offer the only medical campus dedicated to women. But our impact goes beyond medical expertise. Because Methodist is where innovation meets compassion, working together to advance health and save lives. That’s the meaning of care.

©2012 Methodist Health System

Greater Omaha hospitals are expanding, evolving serve the community. Patients come from thousands of miles away for the exceptional health care available in Omaha.

When Your Health Is On the Line,


Alegent Creighton Health With a commitment to providing high-quality care and an exceptional patient experience, Alegent Creighton Health physicians and employees are focused on caring for the body, mind and spirit of every person. Patients find a continuum of care at Alegent Creighton Health, from primary care through geriatrics. It is the largest not-for-profit, faith-based health care provider in Nebraska and southwest Iowa, with 11 acute care hospitals, a specialty spine hospital, freestanding inpatient psychiatric and skilled nursing facilities and more than 100 Alegent Creighton Clinic locations. Alegent Creighton Health is the primary teaching partner for Creighton University Medical Center.


Founded in 1910, Bergan Mercy offers a full range of medical services. The medical center has 400 licensed beds, including a Level III neonatal intensive care unit with 36 private beds. It is certified as a Primary Stroke Center and an accredited Chest Pain Center and is home to the Alegent Creighton Health Heart & Vascular Institute.


This academic medical center, which is affiliated with Creighton University, is one of the largest health care providers in Nebraska. The medical center specializes in cardiovascular care, cancer treatment, trauma, minimally invasive and specialized surgery and high-risk pregnancies. The hospital offers a full complement of neurological services including epilepsy and stroke care in addition to orthopedic specialties such as joint, hip and knee replacement.



This medical center has served the community’s health care needs for 125 years. The 356-licensed bed hospital offers a full continuum of medical services. It is also certified as a Primary Stroke Center and accredited Chest Pain Center. The medical center is home to the Nebraska Spine Hospital, which is part of the Alegent Creighton Health Back & Spine Institute. The outpatient rehabilitation center will be joined by a new inpatient rehabilitation facility in 2013.


16901 Lakeside Hills Court

Lakeside, which opened in 2004, has 157 licensed beds and is the only fullservice hospital in west Omaha. It is also certified as a Primary Stroke Center and accredited Chest Pain Center. The most recent additions include a 20-bed cancer unit and a Level II neonatal intensive care unit with private rooms. Lakeside also features a 68,000-square-foot wellness center and two medical office buildings.


800 Mercy Drive, Council Bluffs, Iowa

This hospital has served the community’s health care needs for 125 years. Mercy offers heart and vascular care, surgery, maternity care, cancer care, orthopedics, mental health, 24/7 emergency care and diagnostic imaging. The hospital has 278 licensed beds, and is certified as a Primary Stroke Center and an accredited Chest Pain Center.


11111 S. 84th St., Papillion

Built in 1976, Midlands joined Alegent Creighton Health in 1997. This hospital offers some of the highest quality scores in the country in heart and vascular, emergency and surgical care. It is certified as a Primary Stroke Center and accredited Chest Pain Center. This 121-licensed bed hospital has all private rooms.

c o u r t e s y of CHIL D RE N ” S H O S P ITAL & ME D ICAL CE N TER

and partnering to

Nationally Ranked Specialties in


We are honored to be nationally ranked by U.S. News & World Report in five medical specialties.

In addition, we have been recognized regionally in these seven medical specialties.



Methodist Health System Founded in 1982, Methodist Health System is the oldest not-forprofit health care system in the area, employing approximately 5,000 people. The Health System is a regionally recognized leader in the delivery of consumer-preferred, high-quality services in cardiology, neurosurgery, women’s services, cancer care, gastroenterology, orthopedics and comprehensive diagnostic services.


933 E. Pierce St., Council Bluffs, Iowa

This hospital is a regional leader in wound care, emergency angioplasty procedures, cancer care, obstetrics and newborn care, sports medicine and occupational and behavioral health. It is southwest Iowa’s only accredited cancer center.


Founded in 1891, Methodist Hospital is a 430-bed acute-care hospital with nearly 2,500 employees. The staff treats more than 30,000 patients each year, and performs more surgeries than any other hospital in the region. The hospital is a regular recipient of the Consumer’s Choice Award by National Research Consultants, and is ranked in the top 2 percent nationally for saving lives following a heart attack.


University of Nebraska Medical Center 600 S. 42nd St. UNMC is Nebraska’s only public academic health sciences center. Its six colleges and two institutes serve more than 3,400 students in more than two dozen programs. UNMC is committed to embracing the richness of diversity, and is a major economic engine for Nebraska. Its primary care program was recently ranked sixth in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, and its rural health medicine program ranked 12th.


The Nebraska Medical Center is Nebraska’s largest health care facility, with more than 5,700 employees and 1,350 physicians on staff. Patients from all 50 states and six continents come here for treatment. The hospital is world-renowned in the major service lines of oncology, solid organ transplantation, cardiology, neurology and trauma. It is also an international pioneer in the treatment of lymphoma and leukemia. It has been named a U.S. News & World Report 2012-2013 Best Hospital for cancer, gastroenterology, nephrology, neurology and neurosurgery and orthopedics. The publication also ranks The Nebraska Medical Center as the No. 1 hospital in Nebraska.


2500 Bellevue Medical Center Drive, Bellevue

707 N. 190th Plaza

Opening in 2010 as the region’s only hospital dedicated to women’s health care, Methodist Women’s Hospital is a world-class facility that delivers more babies than any other hospital in the state. Its Neonatal Intensive Care Unit takes care of more babies than any other NICU in the region.

The $135 million medical center, which opened in 2010, is a joint venture of The Nebraska Medical Center, a group of more than 100 local physician-investors and UNMC Physicians, the practice group for UNMC faculty. The 100-bed hospital is accredited as a Chest Pain Center and is consistently ranked among the top 10 hospitals in the nation by the University Health care Consortium for outstanding quality measures.

Other Major Health Care Providers Veterans Health Care System

The mission of the VA NebraskaWestern Iowa Health Care System is to honor America’s veterans by providing exceptional care that improves their health and well-being. More than 161,000 veterans in Nebraska, western Iowa and portions of Kansas and Missouri benefit from the care provided by this metro area health care system.


This inpatient facility also has a large outpatient clinic for primary and specialty care, and a comprehensive VA Research Service program. The medical center provides generalized and specialized veterans’ health care, mental health services, homeless veteran outreach and housing assistance.



555 N. 30th St.; 14000 Boys Town Hospital Road, Boys Town

Boys Town Hospital is internationally recognized as a leader in clinical and research programs focusing on childhood deafness, visual impairment and related communication disorders. It annually serves more than 40,000 children and families from across the United States at two locations.


Ranked among U.S. News & World Report’s 2012 Best Children’s Hospitals, Children’s is home to a regional pediatric heart center, a Level IIIC Newborn Intensive Care Unit and comprehensive pediatric services. A multidisciplinary Fetal Care Center provides immediate access to board certified pediatric

surgeons and specialists, as well as care coordination for babies diagnosed with complex congenital defects before birth.


Memorial Community was recently recognized as a top 100 rural hospital by the National Rural Health Association. As a Critical Access Hospital, the system plays a vital role in the health care of Washington County in Greater Omaha. Memorial Community offers a state-of-the-art diagnostic imaging center, labor and delivery suites, an emergency department, walk-in clinic and a specialty clinic featuring more than 35 specialty physicians.


Midwest Surgical Hospital specializes in orthopedics, neurosurgery, ear, nose and throat, pain management and physical therapy. The hospital offers surgical suites designed to the specifications of physicians so that they can operate in the safest, most efficient setting possible. Midwest Surgical Hospital strives to provide advanced surgical, recovery care and pain clinic services that are economical and convenient.


144th Street and West Center Road

This hospital specializes in orthopedic medicine. It offers outpatient surgical suites, a 24-hour emergency room, an MRI center, an infusion clinic, a rheumatology clinic, physical and occupational therapy, a patient education resource center and private recovery rooms.

The future of primary care begins here.

At the University of Nebraska Medical Center we’re No. 6 in primary care education, and we’re climbing. Our novel approaches in this increasingly vital area of medicine have us on the rise, up a spot from a year ago, in U.S.News & World Report’s annual rankings. At UNMC, we educate students and residents to work as teams — with physicians, physician assistants, nurses, pharmacists, public health workers and others. And more than 60 percent of our medical students choose to specialize in primary care. UNMC. Breakthroughs for life.®

c o u r t e s y of Un i v e r s i t y of N e b r a s k a M e d i c a l C e n t e r

Doing Our Part to Solve the Nursing Shortage


reater Omaha’s brag sheet is particularly healthy when it comes to teaching hospitals and colleges for nursing and other health-related careers. Only a handful of cities our size boast two major medical schools, and we have the University of Nebraska Medical Center and Creighton University School of Medicine. U.S. News & World Report ranks UNMC’s primary care, research and rural medicine among the very best in the nation, while Creighton University Medical Center enjoys a national reputation for cardiovascular research and treatment, among other programs. Clarkson College, the College of Saint


Mary, Metropolitan Community College and Nebraska Methodist College in Omaha and Iowa Western Community College in neighboring Council Bluffs all have strong curriculums in health professions. Iowa Western opened the Center for Advanced Nursing and Allied Health Education in February 2011, and has a waiting list of more than 400 in nursing. Metropolitan Community College’s largest and fastest-growing degree program is Health Information Management Systems, which opened in 2010 at a state-of-the-art laboratory at the Fremont Area Center. The paperless office works with the Nebraska Health Information Initiative to train and prepare workers for statewide

implementation of an electronic health information exchange, which is part of the federal goal of providing electronic health records for every person by 2014. Metropolitan Community College also has a newly added dental assistant program in response to dentists wanting dental assistant graduates to be available for hiring twice a year instead of just once. The academic programs offered by these and other local campuses prepare doctors, nurses and other health care professionals well for today’s high-tech world. Almost standard now are simulated outpatient clinics and sophisticated patient simulator mannequins that exhibit symptoms and respond to the treatment given.

Real-World Simulations Kyoko McFadden dreamed of being a nurse when she was a child growing up in Japan. She met her future husband, Greg McFadden, when she was an exchange student in Omaha. They started a family right away and, “Suddenly one day I realized I didn’t have a career.” She enrolled at the UNMC College of Nursing. Her education was enhanced by the school’s Dedicated Education Unit (DEU), in which students shadow nurses in realworld shifts. “We follow them 12 hours a day and experience what nurses do,” said McFadden. “Staff nurses say, ‘I wish I had this kind of experience when I was a student,’” said Louise LaFramboise, Ph.D., director of the UNMC College of Nursing baccalaureate program. “We are proactive about where health care is going, and we’re staying abreast of that to make sure our students are ready for the health care environment.” The hands-on experience also gives students exposure to technology used in patient care.


In high-tech simulation rooms dedicated to different specialty areas of nursing, McFadden simulated care for heart failure and spinal cord injury patients, and learned how to respond when a stable patient’s condition started failing. Time also was spent nurturing the patientnurse relationship. Today’s monitoring systems allow nurses to spend more time with patients and their families. “We have

high-tech. We want high-touch to go with it,” said LaFramboise. “If a patient is struggling with a new diagnosis, you don’t have to say, ‘Will you hold that thought?’ while you monitor another patient.” McFadden’s hands-on experience with technology built the foundation for a career that is much in demand. She graduated in May 2012, and is now a nurse for UNMC’s Solid Organ Transplant Unit.

“I feel I am prepared to be the best health care provider that I can possibly be.” ANGELA, M.S.N, R.N. ‘06 ALUMNA

See what our graduates have to say at



There’s NO PLACE like Omaha … K IDS AND R U B Y SLIPPE RS


ike a hammer and nails, kids and summer camp, even the wizard and the Emerald City, some things really are a perfect fit. In Omaha, it’s at the heart of how businesses and nonprofits are working hand-in-glove. Or in the case of Borsheims and the Omaha Children’s Museum, it’s like a foot in a ruby slipper. As the presenting sponsor of the Emerald City in the museum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” exhibit in spring 2012, Borsheims found ways to create fun and educational opportunities, while connecting favorite aspects of the story with the jewelry store. “We’ve always supported the Omaha Children’s Museum, but when they approached us with the idea of creating a customized experience we could see the potential to create a lasting memory,” said Adrienne Fay, Borsheims’ director of marketing and advertising. “The Children’s Museum staff was amazing to work with, especially during our idea exchanges.” Together, they created an Emerald City gem sandbox where kids could discover colorful gemstones with QR codes that linked to the “Jewelry 101” section of Borsheims’ website. They made gemstone jewelry; viewed gemstones and minerals through a large microscope; and uploaded photos to Facebook for a chance to win prizes. The museum’s community-engaged exhibit program has received recognition from the Association of Science-Technology Centers, and is supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. It has several of these types of exhibits on the horizon, as well as many successful ones under its belt, including “Construction Zone.” This exhibit involved Omaha-based Kiewit, Metropolitan Utilities District, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and even a few retired crane operators.

There are plenty of other great examples of Omaha businesses connecting with nonprofits in ways that tie into the work that they do. ConAgra Foods sponsors “Shine the Light on Hunger,” a community-wide effort to fight hunger through food and cash donations to Food Bank for the Heartland. As a fraternal benefit society, Woodmen of the World Life Insurance Society’s nationwide lodge system connects its members as much by philanthropy and volunteerism as it does by its insurance and investment products. While each lodge has its own members and officers, the spirit of caring shown by the company’s founder and early members is a common thread throughout the organization. There are U.S. flag and patriotic projects, summer camp programs for Woodmen Youth, characterbuilding activities, community gardens and more. “For years, Woodmen of the World has been at the heart of Omaha’s downtown, with the Woodmen Tower providing a key landmark,” said Larry R. King, president and CEO. “We live here. We work here. We employ people here. We feel a very strong sense of pride that is genuine from the top down.”





Habitat for Humanity of Omaha continues to welcome local companies to its real-life construction sites. In 2012, the organization built or renovated 33 homes in Omaha with more than 7,000 volunteers. Many of the volunteers were from corporations that realize the benefits of philanthropy for their own organizations, as well as to Habitat Omaha and its family partners (homeowners). “Companies have discovered what a great team-building experience a Habitat build can be,” said Kathy Katt, senior director of development and marketing for Habitat Omaha. “You break down communication barriers and instill a sense of camaraderie by putting CEOs next to associates. It’s like the old ropes course, only better.” It’s even better because it’s a philanthropic effort through an empowering organization that provides a “hand up, not a hand out,” she said. Low-income families partner with Habitat Omaha by providing 350 hours of “sweat equity,” in addition to purchasing the home at its full appraised value through a Habitat Omaha no-interest loan. Themed builds where multiple houses are completed in a single week add to the spirit of teamwork and connectedness. Companies such as First National Bank, CSG International, CBSHOME and TD Ameritrade are committed partners. Wells Fargo has reached the $1.4 million mark in its support of Habitat Omaha.

THE OUTCOMES SPEAK VOLUMES More than 1,000 kids participate in the Hope Center throughout the year. • 95 percent of Hope Center seniors graduate from high school. • 69 percent of the Hope Center’s high school graduates go on to college. • 78 percent of youth report increased motivation to use their strengths to pursue a career.

j e ff r e y b e b e e

Hope Transforms Futures


maha pastor Ty Schenzel wields a powerful tool, an implement he uses tirelessly to elevate inner city youth and help them build better lives. This tool is solid, steely and unbreakable. “The problem in our inner cities, at the core, is hopelessness,” said Schenzel. His tool is hope – and it is transforming the future for children in North Omaha. A man of vibrant faith with “a father’s heart,” Schenzel said his call to reach out to inner city youth came in the early 1990s. The Lord planted the seed, he said, and it just kept growing. He started modestly, taking up temporary residence in an embattled apartment complex where he engaged kids in games and Vacation Bible School. The entire climate of the complex changed, he said. He was onto something. He was on a mission. Fourteen years ago, his passion – his calling – really took root. “Two very wealthy businessmen basically said to me, ‘We don’t have a lot of time, but we have a lot of money,’ and I said, ‘Well, I’ve got a lot of time, but I don’t have any money.’” A vacant Boys & Girls Clubs building was purchased, and the Hope Center

for Kids was born. Since 1998, this “Christ-centered refuge” on North 20th Street has been providing urban youth and children with opportunities to grow spiritually, physically, emotionally, socially and intellectually. It is a place to belong, a haven that is bringing about positive change through faith, education, employment and collaboration – the Center’s four pillars of hope. “We tell the kids that if you join the Hope Center and you commit to the plan, whether or not you give your heart to the Lord, you’re going to know that God loves you in a great way. Secondly, you will graduate from high school and thirdly, you will become employable. Those three things remove the glass ceiling for anybody,” said Schenzel, who now serves as the Hope Center’s executive director. After-school tutoring is mandatory – an hour per day Monday through Friday. “Our staff networks between the schools, the parents and the students. Our staff helps with ACT prep once students get to the high school level. We also take kids on college visits,” said Schenzel. Just last June, in conjunction with a $1.2 million renovation, the Hope Center launched its Employment Academy. The

gleaming addition enhances the Hope Center’s previous employability efforts. “North Omaha’s greatest need isn’t job creation; it’s employability creation,” said Schenzel. Employment Academy youth learn, among other things, their financial IQ, basic keyboarding skills and how to write a resume. They earn a weekly stipend, and doors are opened for jobs. “We’ve created a job bank of local businesses that have said, ‘Once your kids become certified employable we will hire them.’” Collaboration with volunteers and other nonprofits is key to its success. One such partnership is with ConAgra Foods. The Hope Center is one of the company’s Kids Café sites, providing 18,000 to 20,000 dinners a year. Looking ahead, Schenzel said he wants to replicate the Hope Center model in other cities. For now, this dedicated husband and father of four, pastor, author and humanitarian is eager to continue wielding hope in North Omaha – solid, steely and unbreakable hope. It is his passion – and his joy. “I feel like George Bailey from ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ I feel like the richest man in Omaha.” 107

Tri-Faith Initiative Brings Together Three Faiths at Same Site


or years, Omaha’s Temple Israel enjoyed a positive relationship with its neighbor First United Methodist Church, which often opened its parking lot to accommodate the synagogue’s growing membership. As Temple Israel considered construction of a new synagogue in West Omaha, it was natural to ask, “What if we could choose our neighbors?” They weren’t alone. It just so happened that the American Institute of Islamic Studies and Culture was planning a new mosque and study center. The Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska also wanted to construct a church. So began the Tri-Faith Initiative, which will bring together these three Abrahamic faiths on the same site at 132nd and Pacific Streets in the new Sterling Ridge mixed-used development. There will also be a Tri-Faith Center for interfaith collaboration, with social, educational and conference facilities


that will enable global study and communication. “Only after we all came together did we find a parcel of land that would accommodate an initiative this ambitious,” said Vic Gutman, spokesperson for the group. “We are not aware of any other intentional co-location that will promote the relationships and educational opportunities that the Tri-Faith Initiative will.” Neither is Sterling Ridge developer Chip James, president of Lockwood Development. The development will include homes, office buildings, condominiums, restaurants, shops and an assisted-living facility. It is fitting that the Tri-Faith Initiative finds itself welcome here, James said. “Our preliminary drawings did not include a religious component to the development, however, when the Tri-Faith Initiative approached us after our purchase we were delighted to incorporate their vision into our plan. We truly believe that we have one of the most exciting real estate developments

in Omaha. Having the Tri-Faith Initiative just confirms that belief,” he said. Each of the faith institutions is able to accommodate its traditions regarding its building’s positioning, with the synagogue facing east, the church situated to allow the altar table to face east and the mosque facing east toward Mecca at a slightly different orientation. The topography around the buildings will be retained to eliminate a sea of parking lots, while a bridge will be the physical link. Fundraising and construction are at various stages of completion for each of the buildings, with Temple Israel expecting to occupy its new synagogue by the end of summer 2013. “We are extremely pleased with the moral and financial support we’ve received. It is truly amazing,” Gutman said. “There has been a lot of interest from the national media and people everywhere. Many say they are not surprised that something like this would happen in Omaha.”

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Greater Omaha has a strong system of public and private schools, with more than 300 facilities spanning eight counties. Magnet schools, college prep curriculums, test scores, teacher recognition programs, academic honors and achievements in sports and other extra-curricular activities are examples of the community’s wide-ranging commitment to nurturing young minds. Learn more at

Nurturing Our Greatest Natural Resource 111

State Initiative Is One of Collaboration

The Learning Community of Douglas and Sarpy Counties is a cooperative of 11 school districts created by the Nebraska Legislature in 2009 to enhance the education of disadvantaged children in the metro area. Based on socioeconomic status (not race or ethnicity), the Learning Community focuses on themed schools, similar to magnet schools, throughout the community. The state has committed more than $25 million to this initiative concentrated on improving student accomplishments and achieving socioeconomic integration across all participating districts. In addition, the Learning Community benefits from collaboration with private sector and nonprofit partners that bring additional resources and expertise to addressing educational needs.

Top Marks for Metro School Districts

Like the weather in Nebraska, schools in Greater Omaha are quick to change in exciting ways. Urban, suburban and rural school districts continually improve and upgrade with new and enthusiastic leadership, improved and enlarged facilities, innovative curriculums and advanced technologies that put learning on a fast track. Here’s a sampling of happenings in the 20122013 school year.

P U B LIC SCH OO LS Bellevue Public Schools The district’s 20 elementary, middle and high schools switched from Terra Nova standardized testing to the adaptive Measures of Academic Progress testing. Response to Intervention (RTI) is in place too. Bennington Go, team! Bennington Junior-Senior High is cheering a 650-seat auditorium, expanded seating at the football stadium and new lights at the softball field. French and American history found their way onto the Advanced Placement list.

Blair Community Schools iPads for students in seven schools! And staff development for teachers using iPads in their classrooms. Concordia Junior/Senior High School What do you get for $6.9 million? A new gym, six new classrooms, an expanded commons/cafeteria area and a parking area – all by July 2013. Douglas County West Community Schools In Valley, iPads for seniors and new computers for the elementary computer lab created a buzz. At the high school? A new business curriculum.



Elkhorn Public Schools AP Spanish, statistics and world history have been added, plus reorganized natural science courses for freshmen. Elkhorn also started a young adult program to betterprepare special education students for adulthood. Gretna Public Schools Principal Ellen Ridolfi welcomed students and staff to Whitetail Creek, the district’s fourth elementary school. Under construction at the high school: A two-story addition and a new front entrance. Louisville Public Schools By year’s end, this single-building district will have a new multipurpose room, vocal music/band room, weight room, multimedia broadcast lab and technology room. Add to that a new football field and track. A new writing program is in place for elementary grades, along with iPads for in-school use. Middle school and high school class times add instructional minutes to core classes. Electives now include culinary arts,

broadcasting, industrial technology, earth science and astronomy. Millard Public Schools Strike up the band! Millard was named a “Top 10 Community for Music Education in America” by the American Music Conference. Millard students also set the bar for high achievement, scoring as well or better than three-fourths of their peers nationwide on the Terra Nova achievement test. The district is proud of its 22 Advanced Placement courses, K-12 International Baccalaureate Program, Core and Montessori programs. Omaha Public Schools In 2013, Nebraska’s largest school district with nearly 50,000 students will have a new elementary school at 42nd and U Streets and a new middle school at 132nd and State Streets. While the Leadership Through Technology and Communications Focus Program takes root at Burke High School, Central High School and Lewis and Clark Middle School are basking in their

designation as International Baccalaureate World Schools. The district has the state’s largest special education program for students with disabilities. Magnet schools offer special instruction in a wide range of subjects at the elementary, middle and high school levels. OPS is one of the few major urban school districts in the nation to maintain state AA accreditation. Papillion-La Vista School District A new K-5 science curriculum is being implemented throughout the district. This plan introduces a more inquiry-based, hands-on approach to teaching science. Incoming ninth-graders can gain a jumpstart on future careers by enrolling in the new STEM academy. This four-year pathway prepares students to pursue a post-secondary education and career in a science, technology, engineering or math-related field. The district is rolling out a new automated calling system and communication vehicle that includes a district app for parents and community members.


Plattsmouth Public Schools Through the Providing Opportunities for Plattsmouth Schools (POPS) Foundation, the district will begin a major fundraiser for a Plattsmouth Activities Complex for Kids. Money raised will be used to add synthetic turf to both the baseball and football fields. The turf will provide increased outdoor opportunities for the marching band, physical education classes, soccer, softball, football and baseball. Ralston Public Schools Homeroom teachers for kindergarten through freshmen classes visited students’ homes before the school year began under a new policy. New, too, are Superintendent Mark Adler and the new assistant superintendent for business, Brad Dahl. A suburb of the Greater Omaha area, Ralston serves 3,164 students in preschool through 12th grade. All six of the elementary buildings have a preschool. The WAVE is an alternative school for children who are less successful in traditional settings. All eight of the Ralston schools offer an online grading site to encourage communication with parents and students. Springfield Platteview Community Schools The name is new. South Sarpy School District 46 became Springfield Platteview Community Schools in June 2012. Also new is Superintendent Brett Richards, who oversees 1,010 prekindergarten through 12th-grade students in the four schools in this district. The 2012-2013 school year brought the addition of the iPad Learning Initiative. Every student in grades seven through 12 now has an iPad. Westside Community Schools Blane McCann is the new superintendent of this nationally acclaimed public school district located in the heart of Omaha. Innovation is the hallmark of the district, including elementary foreign languages, modular scheduling at the high school and a “one-to-one” laptop program for students in grades eight through 12. The school district of 6,000 is traditionally a state leader in the number of its graduates recognized as National Merit Scholars. Westside’s SAT and ACT scores are consistently above metro, state and national averages.

in 2012. The consortium governs five parish schools in the areas of operational efficiency, programs and curriculum. Brownell-Talbot School Brownell-Talbot is the state’s only private co-ed college preparatory school. It also offers a pre-kindergarten through high school curriculum. Concordia Lutheran Schools Concordia Lutheran offers a college-preparatory co-ed junior/ senior high school and an elementary school. From kindergarten through their senior year of high school, students are being equipped to excel to the next level of education and beyond. Omaha Christian Academy This interdenominational school serves children from prekindergarten through high school. Boys Town The more than 500 boys and girls in this community founded by Father Flanagan for at-risk youth live and attend school on the campus. Students experience and learn from speakers from around the world through distance learning, added to the curriculum in 2012. The Reading Center has developed a nationally recognized curriculum that improves students’ reading proficiency. For a more complete list of Greater Omaha area schools, go to



P RIVATE SCH OO LS Archdiocese of Omaha Catholic Schools The Omaha Archdiocese serves more than 20,000 Catholic school students. There are 31 parish or private schools within the metro area serving grades kindergarten through eight, four archdiocesan high schools and five private high schools. These include Mount Michael Benedictine, a boys residential and day college prep school in Elkhorn, and Creighton Preparatory for boys, and Mercy, Marian and Duchesne high schools for girls. The Madonna School and Workshop provides special needs education for individuals of all ages with cognitive and developmental challenges. In 2012, five high schools and six grade schools within the archdiocese were named National Blue Ribbon Schools by the U.S. Department of Education. Superintendent of Schools Monsignor James E. Gilg is executive director of the Omaha Catholic Schools Consortium established 114

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LaVonne Plambeck Montessori, Where Kids LUV2LRN


aVonne Plambeck’s philosophy of childhood education is well summed up on her vanity license plate: “LUV2LRN.” The director and owner of seven private Montessori schools for children ages 6 weeks through sixth grade believes that children love to learn. And parents love to watch them learn. “Parents are pleasantly surprised to find a Montessori school of our caliber, size and scope and one as established as we are in the metro area,” she said. Plambeck, a finalist in the Greater Omaha Chamber’s 2012 Big O! Excellence Business Woman of the Year Award, often receives feedback from parents like Anita Norman. Norman’s son attended Montessori Educational Centers in Omaha before the family moved to Atlanta. Norman couldn’t get over the affordability of private school tuition, and also commented on the “good quality of the public schools.” She encouraged Plambeck to “tell prospective parents to just be glad they’re living in Omaha.” Plambeck, who has a Ph.D. and 46 years’ experience with the Montessori learning system, founded the Mid-America Montessori Teacher Training Institute in 1972. Teachers from around the world come to Omaha for the instruction.

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hether it’s a baccalaureate degree, medical degree, master’s degree, training for a high-demand job or continuing your education for a promotion, you can have it at one of our public or private universities or at a host of smaller institutions. We have two highly regarded medical schools that not only lure top students and professors, but also attract substantial research dollars that fund jobs and advance medicine. Since 1878, Creighton University has been dedicated to educating the whole person. U.S. News & World Report has consistently recognized Creighton as a top Midwestern university, as well as a “best value” university. In the last 10 years, more than $250 million has been invested in new construction and improvements on the 130-acre urban campus. More than 7,000 students are enrolled in a broad range of undergraduate, graduate and professional academic programs. The University’s academic medical center became part of the Alegent Creighton Health system in 2012. The University of Nebraska at Omaha sits in the heart of Omaha. Its six colleges serve 15,000 students, and stretch from the main campus at 60th and Dodge Streets to the south campus in the vicinity of 67th and Pacific Streets. This includes the high-tech Peter Kiewit Institute and Mammel Hall, two-year-old home of the College of Business Administration. UNO offers 130 bachelor’s degree programs, 45 master’s degree programs and five doctoral degree programs, plus two dozen certificate programs. Metropolitan Community College has provided educational opportunities and training for more than 35 years. MCC partners with local businesses to develop curriculums that not only meet today’s industry needs, but prepare students for their future needs as well. Collaborations are at work at the Fremont Area Center in Dodge County, the Washington County Technology Center in Blair and the Bellevue School District in Sarpy County. Nebraska’s second-largest Continues on page 118

“ W o m a n Wa l k i n g ” by W i l l i a m Co r b i n , Co l l E g e of S a i n t M a r y S c u l p t u r e G a r d e n / p h o t o by J E F F RE Y B E B EE

Preparing for a Competitive & Dynamic World



Continued from page 117 higher education institution continues to grow, serving 30 percent more students than five years ago. Nebraska Christian College sits on 80 acres in suburban Papillion in Sarpy County. The college is dedicated to developing new preachers, missionaries and youth ministers. The two primary areas of focus – preaching and worship arts – include a Bible major and a vocational major. Students thrive at the College of Saint Mary, an all-female Catholic school with 1,000 students. The college is noted for its four-year paralegal program and its practical nursing program, which produces 118

bilingual Spanish- and English-speaking nurses. The college is in the vicinity of Aksarben Village. Clarkson College prepares students for careers in nursing, physical therapy, radiologic technology, medical imaging, imaging informatics and health care management. The college enrolls nearly 1,000 students on campus and online, and it maintains first-time licensing rates above the national average. Biblically integrated education is the primary emphasis at Grace University, where bachelor’s degree candidates pursue a double major in biblical studies and a second area such as education, music, nursing or business. The College of Graduate Studies offers masters’ degrees in

biblical studies and counseling. Iowa Western Community College in neighboring Council Bluffs offers 84 vocational/technical programs, as well as arts and sciences transfer majors. Annual enrollment is about 5,500. Students prepare for work in the aviation, automotive and sustainable energy industries, among others. A student-centered experience is the key component to campus life at Midland University in Fremont, where enrollment hit an all-time high of 1,100 for the 20122013 academic year. It is home to 50 majors and preprofessional programs, plus three master’s programs. A new MBA program will offer a combination of live, online course work with traditional, inperson classes in Omaha.

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Creighton’s president bikes across campus and cheers his Bluejays every chance he gets.


he Rev. Timothy R. Lannon is Creighton University’s No.1 fan. But then, he does have a few things to brag about. Lannon heads the urban Jesuit school, which has been the top-ranking Midwestern university in U.S. News & World Report’s edition of “America’s Best Colleges” for eight consecutive years now. And this year, four teams from Creighton advanced to NCAA tournaments. “I love Creighton sports,” said Lannon. While wins count, he’s most proud of the student athletes’ average GPA of 3.37. What do you think of Omaha’s college sports fans? “Last season, Creighton ranked sixth in the nation for men’s basketball attendance. I think Nebraska is blessed to have such strong programs, with football at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, hockey at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and


soccer and basketball at Creighton.” What niche does Creighton fill? “We have the strongest academic profile in the state in terms of incoming freshmen. We have students from 50 states and 40 countries, including 250 students from Hawaii. When the first snowfall hits, the Hawaiian students gather in front of St. John’s Church, build a human pyramid and send a photo back home. In the College of Business, 81 percent of students are from outside of Nebraska, and 50 percent of those students are expected to stay in Omaha upon graduation.” What’s your impression of Omaha? “Omaha is a can-do community. Business leaders are committed to making Omaha better, and they have the influence and financial backing to bring about great changes. We have someone new at Creighton from the Washington, D.C., area.

He and his wife are excited about raising their daughter here. They’re amazed by our strong family values and ... opportunities for the arts, athletics, education and health care. For bike riders like me, the city is providing more and more bicycle paths.” How would you describe Omaha’s support of Creighton? “Civic leaders value Creighton University’s importance to the community, and they show it through philanthropy. One great accomplishment is the new affiliation with Alegent Health. Alegent’s five hospitals provide more clinical opportunities for our health sciences students.” What do you hope to accomplish for Creighton? “We are seeking philanthropic support for academic excellence and for growth in our graduate school and nursing college.”


The Rev. Timothy R. Lannon

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Boot Camp for Entrepreneurs

Bellevue University opens center to help entrepreneurs Let’s say that you are an entrepreneur with a great idea that could make a lot of money. But are you “investor-ready?” A solid business plan will tell a prospective lender that you at least have a good understanding of the marketplace, said Skip Quint, director of a new program at Bellevue University that helps entrepreneurs refine ideas and connect with other entrepreneurs, business leaders and venture capitalists. The six-week program, offered through the newly established Center for

Entrepreneurship and Market Capitalism, teaches enrollees how to speak the language of investors and the Small Business Administration. They also learn market research, pricing and basic accounting, as well as management functions. Students meet two times a week in a virtual classroom. The first session — Entrepreneurship Boot Camp — is a “crash course in creating connections within a network of entrepreneurs, agencies and financiers,” said Quint. Immersion in the business side includes interaction with a business advisory group and mentors in a business area similar to that of the entrepreneur. “Put mentors and advisory group members with students who want to accomplish something and you have a powerful combination,” said Jim Maxwell, a

spokesman for the University. The contacts made with investors is a valuable aspect of the program, said Quint. Matches typically are made with entrepreneurs in the same field, as investors generally like to invest in products that they understand. Bellevue University isn’t new to online course work. Nebraska’s largest private university garnered the top spot in U.S. News’ “2012 Top Online Education Programs.” The Center is a natural fit. “Our University was founded in 1966 by entrepreneurs. There’s a strong entrepreneurial spirit that’s part of our culture,” Quint said. “Omaha is really getting on the map as a place for entrepreneurship,” he added. “You don’t have to go to San Francisco or New York to run a successful business.”


e at, p l ay, s h o p


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BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY SHAREHOLDER MEETING There is always plenty to do, plenty to see and plenty of shopping deals to be found during Berkshire Hathaway’s shareholders weekend in early May. More than 35,000 people make the annual pilgrimage to CenturyLink Center Omaha to hear what Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger have to say about business, investing and the global economy. The “Woodstock of Capitalism” begins before dawn as people line up outside the CenturyLink Center waiting for the doors to open and the annual meeting — and the fun — to begin. 124

St. Cecilia’s CATHEDRAL Flower Festival A burst of spring in the middle of winter, St. Cecilia Cathedral’s Flower Festival has grown into a perennial favorite in Omaha. The Festival features a different theme each year and vibrant creations by dozens of the area's top floral designers – all housed in the magnificent “mother church” of the Omaha archdiocese.

OMAHA FASHION WEEK Two weeks a year (in spring and fall), Omaha Fashion Week gives local and regional designers a chance to showcase their work at runway shows and special events. The 2012 fall show featured six nights of fashion at KANEKO, and drew 4,000 fans for the red-carpet finale. In just five years of existence, OFW is making headlines as the Midwest’s largest fashion event. Art Fairs & Festivals For art lovers, there’s no cooler way to pass a hot summer day. Art fairs are a staple in Omaha from June to September, conveniently located throughout the city: Downtown Omaha (Summer Arts Festival), Central Omaha (ARTsarben at Aksarben Village, Countryside Village Art Fair) and West Omaha (Rockbrook Village Art Fair). o m aha w orl d - heral d

TD AMERITRADE COLLEGE HOME RUN DERBY It wouldn’t be the Fourth of July without baseball and fireworks. Eight of the nation’s top home run hitters go bat to bat in a new college baseball tradition at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha. Capping the eliminationstyle tournament (held close to the Fourth of July) is the Omaha WorldHerald Fireworks Show. The patriotic display, a near 30-year tradition for the newspaper company, is one of the largest in the region. DEFENDERS OF FREEDOM OPEN HOUSE & AIR SHOW In an amazing feat, about 1,300 U.S. Air Force members turn a secure military installation — Offutt Air Force Base — into a public park and playground each August for a weekend open house and air show that draws families by the thousands. It’s not uncommon for 75,000 people to swarm through the gates over the two-day period to eat, snap photos and witness displays of air power and fancy flying from the tarmac. NATIONAL SPORTS CHAMPIONSHIPS The hits keep coming: Omaha will host three national sports championships in 2013. In January, the Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships will be held at CenturyLink Center Omaha.

In June, the NCAA Men’s College World Series will again take place at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha. And in July, the United States Golf Association will bring the U.S. Senior Open to the Omaha Country Club. The Cox Classic Some of the best golfers in the world compete in Omaha each summer as they work toward qualifying for the PGA Tour. The Cox Classic Presented by Lexus of Omaha is the premiere event on the Tour, the PGA’s developmental tour. The event draws thousands of fans to Champions Run for a week of great golf -- and good causes. Since the tournament’s start in 1995, the Classic has donated more than $1.9 million to its charity partners. HOLIDAY LIGHTS FESTIVAL Gene Leahy Mall in Downtown Omaha is a twinkling wonderland during the annual Holiday Lights Festival. The celebration begins Thanksgiving night with a lighting ceremony and continues through the first week in January. Special activities include ice skating, ConAgra’s Shine the Light on Hunger food drive, strolling musicians, free concerts, a family festival with Downtown Omaha arts attractions and New Year’s Eve fireworks.

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THE INTERNATIONAL OMAHA Omaha’s reputation as a great sports town expanded in 2012 with RFD-TV’s sponsorship of an indoor equestrian jumping event at CenturyLink Center Omaha. The International returns in April 2013 (with some promise of leaving Omaha in a good position to bid for a World Cup indoor championship). The International is presented by RFD-TV, an Omaha-based network focused on the rural lifestyle, and is run by the Omaha Equestrian Foundation. 125

NATIONAL Events Turn Visitors Into Omaha’s Biggest Fans


ven on his first trip to Omaha, Danny Rodgers knew right away that there was something different about the city. When the operations director for the 2013 U.S. Senior Open mentioned the event at the car rental counter, the associate not only knew all about it, but was already planning to attend with his family. That was 2010, three years before the event. “My first impression of Omaha was the people. There’s a real pride of ownership in these events. People embrace them,” said Rodgers, who noted that more than 90 percent of the U.S. Senior Open’s vendors and supporters are local companies – from large national corporations to businesses of all sizes. “They want to support the community where they’ve had success. It’s refreshing to work on something that people are so excited about.” The enthusiasm has been so great that the event broke a record for volunteer recruitment, filling up faster than any other U.S. Senior Open. “People told us this would happen here,” said Brianne Miller, championship manager of volunteers and player services. “When it did, we were amazed. The outpouring of support we’ve seen is unique to Omaha.” When it comes to major sporting events, Omahans have a lot to cheer for. So far we have attracted the 2013 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, the U.S. Senior Open, the U.S. Olympic Trials Swimming in 2008 and 2012 and The International equestrian contest in 2012 and 2013, among others. And of course, Omaha has also hosted the NCAA Men’s College World Series since 1950, now at home at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha. “There are high standards for cities wanting to attract these sporting events. We’ve been successful as a result of the Omaha Sports Commission and its ability to highlight all that our community has to offer,” said David G. Brown, president and CEO of the Greater Omaha Chamber. These events not only attract attention, but they’re instrumental in promoting economic development. “While the thought of attending a world-class sporting event may initially attract these key decision-makers to Omaha, they leave with a new understanding of what Omaha is all about,” Brown said. “When there’s a project ready we’ll be under consideration.” Business is probably not the first thing on people’s minds as thousands of athletes, organizations, the national media and visitors from every state – and just as many countries – pour into Omaha to cheer on world-class performances. But bloggers share just as many details about the city as they do about the athletic events that they cover. Entries to the Omaha Convention & Visitors Bureau guest book include comments like: “Great city;” “People are so friendly;” “Love the city, love the food;” and “Love the Old Market.” When you’re able to share the excitement with someone you know, it’s even better. Just ask Terri Ware. “It was a thrill to be at the Olympic swim trials with our 15-year-old nephew, Sam, who came from Colorado to cheer on a teammate from his swim club – Missy Franklin. Then to be part of the crowd when she qualified to go to London was electric. To know it happened right here in Omaha is pretty special.”


C entur y L in k C enter O Maha / B R a d Willia m s ; Miss y F ran k lin an d M I C H A E L P H E L P S , O M A H A W O R L D - H E R A L D ; U . S . O L y m pic T R I A L S — S W I MM I N G / R O G E R D . B A R N E S


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Harold Cliff Sports Wizard

hen the 2005 World Aquatics Championships was veering off-course in Montreal, Harold Cliff stepped in at the request of the host city’s mayor and did more than save the day. The Canadian Olympic Committee hailed him for producing one of the most successful World Championships ever. Two years later, Cliff was running the World Championships in Melbourne, Australia, followed by the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials – Swimming in Omaha. After 2008, Cliff was hired as president of the Omaha Sports Commission, and led the charge in getting back the trials for 2012. In January, he’ll oversee the 2013 U.S. Figure Skating Championships at CenturyLink Center Omaha. “Harold under-promises and over-delivers,” said Harley Schrager, co-chairman of the 2012 Olympic swim trials. The Canadian-born Cliff takes pride in it all running without a hitch. And keeping the hiccups not only to a minimum, but unnoticed by the untrained eye. Cliff said the Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority, which runs CenturyLink Center Omaha, has a can-do attitude, starting with President and CEO Roger Dixon. That can’t be underestimated when you’re putting an Olympic-sized pool in the arena and convention center, and letting the building be overrun by more than 1,800 swimmers and nightly crowds of 12,000-plus. “You don’t get the ‘no’ with them. You get, ‘Hmm, let’s see how we can do it,’” Cliff said. “And some of these can be pretty darn unreasonable requests. They don’t complain.”


U.S. Senior Open: SCENIC COURSE 3,000 Volunteers – WILL TEST, THRILL Just Like That! Omaha Stuns USGA

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embers and staff at the Omaha Country Club are counting the days to a rendezvous with history when the 2013 U.S. Senior Open comes to town. It will be the first professional event the U.S. Golf Association has brought to the private club in its 114-year history. The USGA has had its eye on Nebraska for years, said Patrick Duffy, general chairman for the July 8-14 event. “After renovating its course in 2005, the Omaha Country Club became a viable site,” he said. “The membership wanted to showcase it for the community and for the national marketplace.” Duffy said the most important factor for the USGA was the likelihood of support from the local community, which was proven easily enough last year through attendance and sponsorship of the College World Series and U.S. Olympic Trials - Swimming. “Their decision has been validated, as we’ll likely break all records for corporate hospitality and overall sales.” Duffy and Eric McPherson, director of the green and grounds, are sure participants and television viewers alike will fall in love with the course, designed in 1925. “It’s a neat piece of property,” McPherson said of the 190 acres. “The players are excited to come here. It’s a park-like setting with its mature trees and rolling hills.” They may find both beauty and a beast. “The USGA believes the Omaha Country Club will provide a scenic and stern test of golf,” Duffy said.


How great is an event that if you want to volunteer you have to pay – and there’s a waiting list of volunteers? It’s pretty great. In July, Omaha will host the 2013 U.S. Senior Open for the U.S. Golf Association. In order to put on the weeklong event at the Omaha Country Club, organizers needed volunteers by the thousands – and did the city ever turn out. “It typically takes a year, a year-and-a-half to line up the needed volunteers,” said Brianne Miller, championship manager for the Open. “Omaha broke the record by several months.” That says something special about the community, officials say. The USGA only holds its events where it expects to find substantial fan, corporate and volunteer support. Omaha has demonstrated such support with the success of the NCAA Men’s College World Series and the U.S. Olympic Trials - Swimming. There is probably also some pent-up demand, added Danny Rodgers, operations director for the event. “There hasn’t been a USGA event here since the 1940s or ’50s, and the last time there was one in the region was in Des Moines in 1999.” Three-thousand people seems like a phenomenal number to cover one event, but at least 150,000 people are expected to attend. “This is a testament to Omahans. Without their support this doesn’t happen,” Miller said.

a r t s & e n t e r ta i n m e n t


A Coupling of Bold Vision, Extraordinary Creativity They are two of Greater Omaha’s most vibrant “works of art”: a figurative swirl of strokes and colors – violet to celebrate their creativity; red, their boldness; and yellow, their energy. Husband and wife, Jun and Ree Kaneko, were inducted into the Greater Omaha Chamber-sponsored Omaha Business Hall of Fame in April. Their induction is a tribute to the profound impact they’ve had on the local arts community. “Without Ree, I believe the Omaha arts scene might be very different,” said Jun, an internationally celebrated ceramic artist and painter. “She planted many seeds for the art activities in Omaha, and it naturally grew into what we have now.” Jun and Ree were pivotal in launching the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, now one of the nation’s top artist-inresidence programs. Ree was the Bemis’ director before leaving in 2000 to focus on directing the Jun Kaneko Studio.

In 2000 they founded KANEKO, an evolving cultural institute that occupies three-quarters-of-a-block in the Old Market. Conceived as a gift to the community, this “open space for your mind” offers creative experiences in the arts, science and philosophy. “Jun and Ree have been at the forefront of developing the Old Market area into a thriving artists’ neighborhood,” said David G. Brown, president and CEO of the Greater Omaha Chamber. “Having artists of worldwide acclaim who are active members of our city certainly helps put Omaha on the cultural map.” Jun, who emigrated from Japan in 1963, is celebrated for his colossal ceramic sculptures, and increasingly, for his opera sets and costume designs. He was lauded for his work in Opera Omaha’s “Madama Butterfly” in 2006; the Opera Company of Philadelphia’s “Fidelio” in 2008; and the San Francisco Opera’s “The Magic

courtes y of k ane k o

Flute” in 2012. “I still consider my main interests to be the studio and being a studio artist,” said Jun. “But with the operas, the opportunity is great and the challenge is great.” So were the reviews – most recently for “The Magic Flute,” which will premiere in Omaha in February 2013. “Kaneko fits out the production with a wealth of design elements that situated the work in a perfectly rendered fairy-tale world,” wrote the San Francisco Chronicle’s Joshua Kosman. It has become a familiar pattern: a Kaneko creation followed by praise. Still, this artist known for sculpting big heads has very little ego. Of his and his wife’s wide acclaim, Jun laughed. “It’s like watering your own tree. You don’t know how big it’s going to be, you just keep watering it.” Violet for creativity, red for boldness, yellow for energy – and white for humility.


‘ T he Magic F lute ’

The Art of Opera


R O G E R W E I T Z / P hoto b y J E F F R E Y B E B E E

hen Opera Omaha asked Jun Kaneko to design sets and costumes for Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly,” his reaction was, “Why me?” The world-famous artist and 2012 Omaha Business Hall of Fame inductee knew nothing about opera. Sure, Kaneko has received rave reviews for his work on display in 75 museums around the world. And art aficionados line up at the door of his Omaha studio to commission his ceramic sculptures. But opera? You may already know the ending to this story. Since the night in March 2006 when “Madama Butterfly” stunned audiences in Omaha, the production has toured 11 opera companies in North America. The director of the San Francisco Opera was so impressed that he formed a consortium of five opera companies, including Opera Omaha, to commission Kaneko to design costumes and sets for a production of “The Magic Flute.” The production debuted in San Francisco

in June 2012, and comes to Omaha in February 2013. “Jun listens to the opera on CD up to 300 times before starting visual work,” said Roger Weitz, general director of Opera Omaha. “The fact that he gives it laser-like focus and immerses himself means his work is rooted in the music. That’s why the unique production connects with people who have gone to traditional opera all their lives.” “The Magic Flute” is a “living, breathing Kaneko” with almost all digital scenes created and produced in Omaha. For a city to be great it needs great art, Weitz said. “We have amazing artists living here.’’ And a community that appreciates them. “In Chicago, where I worked, the arts seemed cut off from each other and everyone was interested in pursuing their own agenda. That’s not the way it is in Omaha. People get behind a good idea no matter whose idea it is. Collaboration opens doors and is key to growing opera.”

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JewelS The Holland

The Orpheum Omaha Symphony Embraced by hundreds of thousands of fans (and the finely engineered acoustics of Omaha’s Holland Performing Arts Center), the renowned Omaha Symphony revels in the power and beauty of the live orchestral experience. Under the musical direction of Thomas Wilkins, the Symphony conducts more than 200 live performances every season, and reaches more than 40,000 children each year through its education outreach, Adventures in Music. FROM TOP: T H E h O L L A N D center F O R P E R F O R M I N G A R T S / L in d a S hepA R D , O M A H A P E R F O R M I N G A R T S T H E o R P H E U M T heater / COURTESY OF OMAHA PERFORMING ARTS O M A H A S YM P H O N Y M U S I C D I R E C T O R A N D CONDUCTOR THOMAS WILKINS/JEFFREY BEBEE


Among Jewels Omaha is rich in performing arts venues, which range from the 18,300-seat CenturyLink Center Omaha in North Downtown Omaha, to the nationally recognized Omaha Community Playhouse, and the 86-seat Blue Barn Theatre in the Old Market. But the jewels among jewels are undoubtedly the Orpheum Theater, which opened as a vaudeville theater in 1927, and the state-of-the-art Holland Performing Arts Center, which is in its sixth season. Both are professionally managed by Omaha Performing Arts. The Orpheum was No. 1 in the Midwest for ticket sales in 2011, outperforming cities such as Chicago and Kansas City, Mo. The Holland Center also ranked in the top 10 of venues its size last year, according to trade publication Venues Today. On a worldwide level, trade publication Pollstar placed the elegant Orpheum 16th among the world’s top 100 theater venues for ticket sales in 2011. “These are two of the best venues in the country,” said Joan Squires, president of Omaha Performing Arts, which oversees the Holland and the Orpheum. “Performers want to return. “Tony Bennett thought the Holland’s acoustics were so amazing that he put down his microphone and sang without amplification ... the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, James Taylor, Yo-Yo Ma, the Joffrey Ballet and others have performed at the Holland or Orpheum. Broadway blockbusters like Disney’s ‘The Lion King’ and ‘Wicked’ broke records at the Orpheum.” All of that speaks to the extraordinary support of the community. “This is one of the things that drew me to Omaha from Phoenix. We have a wonderful symphony, opera, large community playhouse and other venues with terrific local artists. The arts make living here very special.” Staff that she recruits “can’t believe what’s happening with the arts in Omaha,” Squires said. Film Streams, Joslyn Art Museum, the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, Hot Shops Art Center and KANEKO, coupled with attractions such as Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium, The Durham Museum and Lauritzen Gardens “add to the quality of life that is part of the fabric of what makes a vibrant community.” The Orpheum was first renovated in 1975. In 2002, Omaha Performing Arts invested $10 million in the theater to accommodate large Broadway touring productions. “The Orpheum has a special place in people’s hearts,” Squires said.

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Come explore Omaha’s history, discover something new in the world-class temporary exhibits and remember the past through special collections and programs. The Durham Museum is proud to be an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution and partner with the Library of Congress, the National Archives, and the Field Museum.


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Alexander Payne: Loyal to His Roots


maha takes a lot of pride in its connection to Oscar-winning filmmaker Alexander Payne. It isn’t simply due to his worldwide recognition, but because of how the Omaha native has done it – with great care, skill and loyalty to both his crew and his roots. One of Hollywood’s most respected directors and screenwriters, Payne began filming his latest movie, “Nebraska,” in October 2012. That required an intense focus on pre-production over the summer, from casting to location-scouting in Lincoln and rural communities. “Nebraska” will be the fourth Payne feature filmed in Nebraska. It chronicles the travels of an ill-tempered father and his estranged son as they journey from Montana to Lincoln to claim a sweepstakes prize. “Citizen Ruth,” “Election” and “About Schmidt” were filmed here as well. (Payne’s most recent two films, “Sideways” and “The Descendants,” were filmed in California Wine Country and Hawaii, respectively.) A graduate of Omaha’s Creighton Preparatory High School, Payne maintains a home in Omaha and serves on the board of directors for Film Streams, an art house theater in North Downtown Omaha. In July, he


headlined a wildly successful fundraiser for Film Streams with actress and activist Jane Fonda. The two spoke about acting and moviemaking to more than 1,300 people at the Holland Performing Arts Center. The fundraiser grossed $227,000 for the theater. Rachel Jacobson, Film Streams founder and executive director, said she can’t imagine the nonprofit theater existing without Payne. “He has been a devoted board member since before the theater was built, lending his name, talent, time and treasure to establish and better the organization. His involvement was instrumental in the creation of a thriving nonprofit cinema for our city.” She added, “He’s like a big brother to me. I can count on him, both personally and professionally.” Fonda showered the filmmaker with similarly glowing praise in a July blog post titled, “Alexander Payne, Laura Dern and an Amazing Weekend in Omaha.” Beyond being “a deeply compassionate man,” Fonda said Payne is “prompt, creative, empathetic and original, and he has been with pretty much the same crew since the beginning. In other words, he is loyal and a team-builder. He also loves to cook and is gorgeous.”

o m aha w orl d - heral d

Go for amazing performances in Omaha's finest venues. Whether you want to laugh out loud at Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience or be inspired by the award-winning Broadway musical Disney's THE LION KING, Omaha Performing Arts' season offers a variety of world-class shows-many starting as low as $19.



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Due to the nature of live entertainment, all productions, performers, prices, dates and times are subject to change.




Theater Scene Vibrant,Growing


eason after season, Greater Omaha’s performing arts community wins accolades from audiences and critics alike for enriching our community through great theater. Following the legacy of the late Charles Jones, the Omaha Community Playhouse continues to thrive under artistic director Carl Beck and associate artistic director Susan Baer Collins. The two have devoted more than 30 years each to what has become the largest community theater in the nation. While “Lend Me a Tenor,” “Hairspray,” “Legally Blonde” and other ambitious productions are strong box office draws, the community’s perennial Playhouse favorite remains an adaptation of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” In addition to the Omaha production, the Playhouse sends a touring version across the country during the holiday season. Omaha’s Rose Theater came onto the performing arts scene more than 60 years ago. It is home to the Omaha Theater Company, featuring a well-seasoned, professional staff dedicated to enriching the lives of children and their families through live theater and arts education. OTC, one of the largest and most-respected theaters for children in the nation, also includes a national touring wing. The critically-acclaimed Blue Barn Theatre in Omaha’s Old Market, is one of the metro’s more intimate theaters. The theater was started in 1988 when five theater graduates from New York decided to relocate to Omaha. Doing well with its contemporary and progressive offerings, the theater announced it will put down deeper roots by building a 125-seat performance space at 10th and Pacific Streets. In addition to the Blue Barn, the Midtown Omaha and Downtown Omaha areas offer several other intimate theatres. Classic fare is presented by the Brigit Saint Brigit Theatre Company, original works at Shelterbelt Theatre and popular shows promoting diversity at SNAP! Productions. Actor and director John Beasley built a resume in theater here and gave back to his community with the John Beasley Theater & Workshop. A cultural and educational anchor in South Omaha, it “seeks to build cultural bridges” and make the theater arts come alive for a wide range of audiences. Home-grown talent can also be found at suburban theaters. The Bellevue Little Theater stages five shows annually in its longtime home in Olde Towne Bellevue. The Ralston and Papillion-La Vista Community Theatres each present a summer musical that draws top-notch actors and musicians from throughout the metro area and enthusiastic sold-out audiences. The Lofte Community Theater near Manley, Neb., draws performers and audiences from both the Omaha and Lincoln areas.

“ C hicago , ” C O U R T E S Y O F T H E O M A H A C O MM U N I T Y P L AY H O U S E

MUSIC MAHA MUSIC FESTIVAL This homegrown music festival (pictured), held on an outdoor stage in Stinson Park at Aksarben Village, spotlights national, regional and local indie bands. More than 4,300 people danced and moshed (even in rain) to Garbage and Desaparecidos during the 2012 fest. It was the largest audience in the August event’s four years of existence.

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JAZZ ON THE GREEN The city’s most popular summer concert series is held at Midtown Crossing in Turner Park near 31st and Dodge Streets. Concerts, co-sponsored by Omaha Performing Arts, are held every Thursday from mid-July through mid-August. PLAYING WITH FIRE This event features red-hot blues music stars in a summerlong music series at Lewis & Clark Landing along Omaha’s riverfront. The concerts, presented from June through August, are free, but a freewill donation is suggested, with a portion going to the Food Bank for the Heartland. The concert series, which will celebrate its 10th season in 2013, is sponsored by local organizations and Friends of Playing With Fire.

BANK OF THE WEST CELEBRATES AMERICA Memorial Park in Midtown Omaha swells with up to 80,000 people to celebrate the birth of our nation. Free fireworks and live music from favorite bands are the stars of this family friendly festival, held on a Friday close to the Fourth of July. RED SKY MUSIC FESTIVAL TD Ameritrade Park Omaha is home to more than baseball in late July. The North Downtown Omaha ballpark and surrounding area hosts a high-energy three-day party with established musicians and up-and-coming stars. Journey and 311 helped launch the inaugural festival in 2011. Poison, Def Leppard, Rascal Flatts and Brad Paisley rocked the 2012 lineup. 137

8 MUST-Sees A beginner’s guide to some of the metro area’s greatest attractions Learn more:


THE OLD MARKET, bounded by 10th and 14th Streets, Farnam and Leavenworth Streets

Always bustling, the Old Market pulls visitors and locals to its top-notch restaurants, retail shops and art galleries. Brick-paved streets, horse-drawn carriages and street musicians add flavor to this hangout district. Shops sell the offbeat and unusual, from handmade silver jewelry and soft leather garments to quirky greeting cards and Christmas ornaments. Vendors of produce, flowers and things garden-grown gave the Old Market its name and reputation. On Saturdays from late spring to early fall, the Omaha Farmers Market is a nod to that tradition. Vendors come from rural Nebraska and Iowa to display their wares in tents, under awnings and on the streets. It’s all about the food for many Old Market faithfuls. Aromas waft into the streets from exotic and traditional fare prepared inside some of the city’s A-list establishments. THE DURHAM MUSEUM, 801 S. 10th St.

Beautiful architecture blends with memories of a time gone by at this exquisitely restored Art Deco train station near Omaha’s Old Market. More than a railroad museum, The Durham celebrates the history of the region and offers a broad range of traveling exhibits through the museum’s affiliation with the Smithsonian Institution and strong ties with the Library of Congress, National Archives and the Field Museum. There’s a lot to see — from interactive bronze figures in the Great Hall, to a 1940s streetcar and1890s train cars. Enjoy a phosphate from the soda fountain, and souvenir shopping at the museum gift shop. The museum’s signature event, Christmas at Union Station, is a commuity favorite for live entertainment around a large, decorated tree in the Great Hall.



You can stand with one foot in Nebraska and the other in Iowa at the midpoint of this S-curve footbridge over the Missouri River. Named after the former Nebraska senator who secured funding for the project, the iconic bridge is a must-see for visitors and a popular leisure destination for locals. The Nebraska entrance, part of the 3-acre Omaha Plaza, has an interactive water jet fountain, fiber wave sculpture, environmental play area and access to the National Park Service Visitors Center. A network of paved trails extends north and south from the plaza.


JOSLYN ART MUSEUM, 2200 Dodge St. Sarah Joslyn’s gift to the people of Omaha in memory of her husband, George, is the crown jewel among the city’s many cultural treasures. The museum, built in 1931 with pink marble imported from Europe, is one of the finest examples of Art Deco architecture in the nation. The Walter and Suzanne Scott Pavilion, added in 1994, was designed by renowned British architect Norman Foster. Past and present meet under a massive Chihuly sculpture with more than 2,000 pieces of individually blown glass. The museum is known for its eclectic collection of works, beginning with Greek pottery and moving through Europe and into American Western art and finishing in the 20th century. The museum’s outdoor sculpture garden features more than 20 works for public enjoyment. LAURITZEN GARDENS – OMAHA’S BOTANICAL CENTER, 100 Bancroft St.

On any given day, any of 20 themed gardens at this 100-acre botanical center could be your favorite. Let’s say you have your children or grandchildren in tow. Take them to the Sunflower Forest, then head for the model railroad garden with its bridges, tunnels and city landmark buildings made of natural materials. You can walk the trails or take the tram (May through September). If the weather is less-than-ideal, the visitors’ center is an oasis from the elements. October through May, you will see major floral displays from the onsite greenhouses. Kenefick Park, visible from westbound Interstate 80, shares its parking lot with the botanical center. The park is a must-see for train buffs. Two pristine historic locomotives from Union Pacific Railroad make their home here.

STRATEGIC AIR & SPACE MUSEUM, I-80 Exit 426, near Ashland, Neb. The Strategic Air & Space Museum is dedicated to the preservation of historic aircraft and artifacts from the Strategic Air Command. There are educational adventures for kids and traveling exhibits for all ages. The main entrance features a jaw-dropping Lockheed SR71A Blackbird spy plane. The most recent and significant addition is an old war horse that required six years to be restored to its original glory. In September 2012, the museum unveiled one of the world’s last surviving Boeing B-29 Superfortresses, “Lucky Lady.”



OMAHA’S HENRY DOORLY ZOO & AQUARIUM, 3701 S. 10th St. Recently named by online travel site TripAdvisor as the No. 1 zoo in the United States, Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium already had fans convinced of that. With its Lied Jungle and Desert Dome singled out for special mention, the zoo also offers visitors an unusually large number of animals within 200 yards of the entrance gates. For decades now, visitors have come to the zoo to vicariously travel the world. Tropical rainforests grow inside the Lied Jungle. Desert canyons dominate the Desert Dome. Other-worldly creatures inhabit the Kingdoms of the Night. Endangered animals make the scene at Expedition Madagascar. In the redesigned and renovated Suzanne and Walter Scott Aquarium, sharks and rays glide over and around zoo visitors watching from an underwater tunnel. Love’s Jazz & Arts Center 2510 N. 24th St. Born of a revitalization effort in North Omaha, Love’s Jazz and Arts Center is the only facility in the region dedicated to preserving, presenting and promoting African American art and jazz. The center explores the contributions of those who’ve impacted the world of jazz, including Omaha’s own legendary jazz musician Preston Love Sr.


500 S. 20th St. The magical world of the Omaha Children’s Museum opens to more than 268,000 people every year. The creative arts area includes the Fairytale Theater with daily programming, face painting, recycled art, a pin-art wall, make-and-take area and artist-in-residence 140

studio. Permanent exhibits include the “Fantastic Future Me” and “Tinkering Studio.” The Charlie Campbell Science & Technology Center allows young guests to see science in action at the museum’s signature Super Gravitron. This massive ball machine has pneumatic, hydraulic and mechanical sections, interactive video programs and live science presentations!

El Museo Latino 4701 S. 25th St. El Museo Latino is one of only eleven Latino art and history museums in the United States today. Located in the heart of South Omaha, El Museo Latino invites the community to explore its latest exhibits, participate in art, music or folklorico dance classes, and join in special celebrations of Cinco de Mayo and Hispanic Heritage Month. C O U R T E S Y O F E L M U S E O L AT I N O

Antiques & Gardens, a Picture-Perfect Blend


welve years ago, Mary Seina attended an antique show at the New York Botanical Garden. Inspired, she brought back to Omaha’s Lauritzen Gardens the idea of combining the beauty of a botanical garden with an antique show. “People who love gardens love antiques,” said the longtime volunteer. “When you bring an antique into the room, it brings life and charm, comfort and warmth.” With her friend, the late Kimball Lauritzen, Seina co-founded the Lauritzen Gardens Antique and Garden Show nine years ago. Collectors flock from six states to the popular event held in September. The three days are filled with shopping, educational sessions, appraisals and tranquility, as well as lectures by experts in antiques, gardening and design. Dealers who in the first year had to be coaxed to come to Omaha now ask to return.

“We have a waiting list of some of the finest dealers in the world,” said Seina. Dealers bring with them paintings, antique frames, jewelry, porcelain, silver, Oriental rugs and much more. “Many of the most treasured items in our home are from the sale. Tables, lamps, artwork, copper …” said Cindy Bay, honorary co-chairwoman. It is not the largest event held at Omaha’s botanical garden, noted Kim Davis, the director of annual campaigns. “We have 10,000 people attend Railroad Days, and a summer concert draws thousands.” But the antique show is the biggest fundraiser. “The show has raised more than $3 million since its start,” Davis said. “More than 40,000 people have attended.” Guest speakers the first year were twin brothers Leigh and Leslie Keno, antique dealers who at the time appeared on PBS’


“Antiques Roadshow.” Presentations by award-winning designer P. Allen Smith and Lady Henrietta Spencer-Churchill, an interior designer from London, also have been on the show’s agenda. “Last year a writer for Architectural Digest came to Omaha to find out how we get the best dealers and best speakers,” Seina said. It’s the ambiance and hospitality that draw people to the show. Bay, like Seina, believes gardens and antiques go together. “You’re sitting outside at an exquisite brunch, luncheon or coffee with national experts sharing their life’s passion. You tour the garden. It’s something people look forward to year after year.”


Culinary Adventures for Every taste


Omahans love to eat. You don’t have to live here long to understand why. We have a smorgasbord of dining options, with new restaurants opening regularly and old favorites beckoning us back again and again. Ethnic specialties are varied — Greek, Ethiopian, Czech, Cuban, Moroccan, Indian, Korean — along with good old Italian, Chinese and Mexican. We have comfort food, phenomenal burger joints, fine dining, sushi, barbecue and of course, steak, steak and more steak. Think of this list as a jumping-off point to begin your own culinary adventure.

J. Coco 5203 Leavenworth St. Chef Jennifer Coco, nominated for a James Beard culinary award, left her longtime position at the Flatiron Cafe, an Omaha standard, to open her own place, and she did it right. Located inside an old neighborhood grocery store, J. Coco is incredibly popular with the people who live in the surrounding neighborhoods, and it makes sense why: A great cocktail list and a well-priced menu make it easy to come back. Try the short rib tacos, the wagyu burger or the Iowa lamb two ways. Grey Plume 220 S. 31st Ave., in Midtown Crossing Chef Clayton Chapman lets the seasons drive his cooking at his farm-to-table restaurant where regional meat and produce is key. The food is refined, yet approachable. The Green Restaurant Association also named the Grey Plume as the greenest restaurant in the country before it even opened. Everything inside, including much of the wood, is reclaimed or energy-efficient. Pitch Coal-Fire Pizzeria 5021 Underwood Ave. A neighborhood favorite that attracts a vibrant, age-diverse crowd, Pitch’s thin crust pizza cooked in a coal-fired oven keeps regulars coming back for more.

Owner Willy Theisen, who founded Godfather’s Pizza, got back into the pizza business with this Midtown Omaha spot. The ’shrooms pizza, drizzled with flavorful truffle oil, is a crowd favorite. Upstream Brewing Company 514 S. 11th St. in the Old Market; 17070 Wright Plaza in Shops of Legacy With two locations in Omaha, Upstream Brewing Company has a solid menu of bar food, including a few upscale items, and is known for its wide array of house-brewed ales. The seasonals, often on special, are usually creative, and the accompanying menu is full of food that pairs perfectly with an ice-cold beer. BRIX 225 N. 179th St., Village Pointe; 220 S. 31st. Ave., Midtown Crossing Designed by owner Dan Matuszek, the Brix concept brings three businesses together under one roof — a wine and spirits “and more” retail store, an onpremise wine bistro and a state-of-the-art event center. Brix opened its first location in Village Pointe in West Omaha in 2009. A second bistro arrives in Midtown Crossing in 2012. It features a larger bar area for drinks and cocktails, plus 10 to 15 different premium craft beers on draught. Cheers! OMAHA WORLD-HERALD


Shop. Stroll. Dine. Relax.


The Omaha metro area is seeing a resurgence in the seemingly simple idea that you can live and shop and dine in the same neighborhood. Midtown Crossing This award-winning shopping, dining and entertainment destination is a $325-million catalyst for community revitalization just west of Downtown Omaha. The area has a dynamic blend of local and national restaurants and retailers. Midtown Crossing is home to an eco-friendly boutique hotel, a full-service grocery store and upscale residential offerings— from luxury condominiums to well-appointed apartments. The Midtown location is within minutes from Omaha’s largest educational institutions, major employers and downtown hot spots. Lay out a mat for Yoga Rocks the Park, sneak in a lunchtime workout at the fitness center or walk the dog in the seven-acre front yard. A midweek farmers’ market, Jazz on the Green and other free concerts, holiday light displays and special events draw thousands to this contemporary mixed-use development.

Downtown “Downtown” is actually several neighborhoods that are differentiating themselves more and more. The Old Market has long been established as a dining and shopping attraction, and its housing options continue to expand beyond what once was a niche. Now you can live on the riverfront and take in the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge or dine at Rick’s Cafe Boatyard. Or you can walk to all the attractions that downtown and the Old Market offer. North Downtown Omaha is developing into a popular entertainment district, thanks to major destinations such as the CenturyLink Center Omaha and TD Ameritrade Park Omaha and smaller attractions like the indie music venue Slowdown or Film Streams at the Ruth Sokolof Theater. And you can eat and drink at such popular spots as the Old Mattress Factory Bar and Grill or Goodnights Pizza.

Village Pointe Shopping Center As Greater Omaha expands westward toward the suburban area of Elkhorn, so have the options for dining, shopping and entertainment. Village Pointe bustles with a multi-screen movie theater adjacent to a host of restaurants, including Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse and Brix Wine Bar + Bistro. The parking lots – and the events calendar – always seem to be full. Village Pointe hosts a number of community gatherings throughout the year, including The Vibes at Village Pointe concert series, the Village Pointe Wine Festival and the Village Pointe Farmers Market. People come from all parts of the city to enjoy the family friendly atmosphere. Aksarben Village Like Midtown Crossing, Aksarben Village has become an overnight hit. Built on the site of the former Ak-Sar-Ben racetrack and coliseum, the development offers a mix of neighborhood shops including Wohlner’s grocery and Jones

Bros. Cupcakes, a popular attraction in the Aksarben Cinema and two apartment complexes, along with numerous professional offices that keep the area busy during the day. The project has quickly developed into the neighborhood center for the already-popular AkSar-Ben and Elmwood Park neighborhoods. Shadow Lake Towne Center You don’t have to live in urban Omaha to have a top-notch shopping experience in your neighborhood. Although Shadow Lake Towne Center is a draw for people throughout Sarpy County, it also is home to the booming Shadow Lake housing subdivision. If you’re not planning to build a home, an apartment complex is in the works to broaden the housing options. The shopping center’s draw comes from big-name retailers. Dining options range from the local WheatFields and Morning, Noon & Night to popular chains like Old Chicago.



5 AAA Nebraska 25 Aksarben Village 96 Alegent Creighton Health 53 American National Bank 48 Bank of the West 122 Bellevue University 42 Blue Cross Blue Shield

105 Clarkson College

IFC COX Business

National Safety Council

Metropolitan Utilities District

Midwest Dermatology Clinic, P.C.

Miller Electric Montessori Educational Centers

The Nebraska Medical Center

40 NEI Global Relocation 54 Novozymes 46 NP Dodge Real Estate 130 Omaha Community Playhouse

135 Omaha Performing Arts 115 Omaha Public Schools IBC Omaha World-Herald 133 Opera Omaha BC Performance Auto Group 73 Pinnacle Bank 49 Prochaska & Associates 109 Ramada Plaza Omaha 109 Sioux Falls Seminary

Creighton University The Durham Museum Embassy Suites Omaha-La Vista


41 Tenaska 47 Travel and Transport 29 TSYS Merchant Solutions 3 Union Pacific 103 University of Nebraska


84 U.S. Bank 13 Werner 20 West Corporation 112 Westside Community

Contractors & Engineers

45 Husch Blackwell 33 Hyatt 7 Koley Jessen 110 Marian High School 113 Mercy High School 99 Methodist Health System 119 Metropolitan Community




37 101

30 Fraser Stryker 19 Gallup 51 Gavilon 27 Great Western Bank 56 Grunwald Mechanical

Midwest Woodworkers

Credit Union

56 45 114

74 First Data First National Bank 38-39 9 First Nebraska Educators

Midtown Crossing

141 109


121 133 15

Medical Center

17 ConAgra Foods 55 Cornhusker State


of Nebraska

131 Borsheims 55 Brand Metal Works 73 CBSHOME Real Estate 1 Children’s Hospital &

Medical Center

University of Nebraska at Omaha



Extraordinary Opportunities

2012 Greater Omaha Chamber Book