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OMAHA-METRO BUSINESS TO BUSINESS MAGAZINE FALL 2011 VOLUME 11 • NUMBER 4
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FE AT URES special section . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 Commercial Real Estate Guide What a Broker Brings to the Table. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Office Occupancy Rates. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Market Meter. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Location, Location, Location. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Office Market Forecast. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Green Design Trends. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
16 18 20 22 25 26
cover feature . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28 Built To Last, HDR’s Dick Bell
feature. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32 Picture of Success, Lewis Art Gallery
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feature. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43 Nebraska Admirals
omAHA!. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 Angel Guardians, Inc how i roll. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 Jack Keown, Dream Corvette arts & entertainment. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Berried Treasure, Bellevue Berry & Pumpkin Ranch in the office. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39 Inflight Productions know-it-all. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40 Lessons Learned social media. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42 What’s Your Plan?
business law . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38 Patent Law Changes
business ethics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46 Whistleblowing
office furniture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44 A Well-Planned Office
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omaha! S to ry by Sa n dy L e m k e • Ph otos Pr ov i d ed by A n g el Gua r d ia ns i n c .
Christopher Slater, Executive Director
Travis Krzycki, VSP Member
Angel Guardians, Inc. “I feel privileged to have the opportunity to work with each of our individuals every day, and find every smile to be an absolute blessing. To any visitor at Angel Guardians, Inc. the blessings are apparent and abundant. “
– Christopher Slater, Executive Director, Angel Guardians, Inc. hile many opportunities exist for children with special needs, many
families discover a void as their children reach maturity. Omaha is fortunate to have Angel Guardians, Inc., created to enrich the lives of exceptional individuals through adulthood. It is devoted to serving individuals with cognitive and developmental disabilities. These individuals often are diagnosed with a variety of disabilities such as Down Syndrome, the autism spectrum or Asperger’s Syndrome. B2B Omaha Magazine recently visited Angel Guardians Inc. In an eye-opening conversation with its founder, Dan Malone, and Executive Director Christopher Slater, we found it to be a grass-roots, efficient organization with tremendous energy for its mission. The clients work and move in a calm, team spirit atmosphere. Said Slater of Angel Guardians: “Since its inception, Angel Guardians Inc. has been driven from a parental perspective while seeking solutions to issues that affect individuals with special needs as well as their families.” 6
B2B Omaha Magazine • Fall 2011
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Those parents are founders Dan and Jeanne Malone, who have nine children. Tim, the youngest of the Malone family, was born 22 years ago with Down Syndrome. As he grew older, it became glaringly evident to the Malones that Tim was not afforded the same stimulating and enriching social interaction that his brothers and sisters shared with their friends and community. As a teenager with Down Syndrome, it was clear that Tim longed for the social and recreational opportunities that he deserved. In response to that need, the Malones founded the VSP (Very Special People) club. Widely recognized as a premier social club for teens and adults with special needs, the VSP club has been proudly serving the Omaha community since October 2005. With the help of dedicated VSP event coordinators, every Friday and Saturday night from 6 to 9 pm, the VSP hosts amazing events such as dances, fashion shows, karaoke, movie nights, art projects and many more fun activities that are shared by VSP members in a safe, relaxing yet stimulating environment that they can call their own. The Malone family has been dedicated to providing services that support and nurture an environment in which individuals with developmental disabilities are able to continually enhance life skills, self-sufficiency and self esteem. With the founding of the VSP Club, the mission of Angel Guardians Inc. was born. Slater explained, “To help underwrite the VSP Club, Angel Guardians, Inc. opened the Hand Me-Ups Store, which is located at 156th and Spaulding (1 block northwest of Maple). As an answer to the overwhelmingly generous donations at our Hand Me-Ups Store, Angel Guardians, Inc. was able to open the Hand Me-Ups Thrift Furniture store, selling outstanding used and new furniture pieces. We recently moved our furniture store to the southwest corner of 90th and Maple, which is proving to be an outstanding location.” Angel Guardians, Inc. is a 501 (c)(3) not for profit, and relies heavily on donations, sponsorships and fundraising. Slater said, “We are grateful for the support from the community that enables us to continue our mission.” In addition to the VSP Club activities and events, Angel Guardians, Inc. provides opportunities for those with developmental disabilities to gain practical and valuable work skills. The Hand Me-Up thrift stores provide www.ReadOnlineNow.com
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B2B Omaha Magazine • Fall 2011
opportunities for teens and adults with disabilities to work in the stores and interact with customers. Public school transition programs regularly bring special needs students to Hand Me-Ups for work experience. Said Slater, “Angel Guardians, Inc. is exceedingly proud to be recognized as the State of Nebraska’s newest contracted provider of Community-Based Developmental Disabilities Services. The AngelWorks Career Center provides Adult Day Services and prevocational training in a dynamic and supportive environment, and aims to revolutionize the manner in which such services are provided to individuals with special needs.” AngelWorks welcomed its first clients on June 1, 2011, and provides individuals and families with choices previously unavailable within local pre-vocational day services. Slater said, “We believe that individuals with special needs deserve a variety of options that allow them to utilize their skills and talents while carrying out meaningful work in a fun and supportive atmosphere.” The AngelWorks Career Center has unique options available to its clients, which include: • Production Kitchen Center • Sewing Center • Furniture Re-furbishing Center Artisan Center that includes: • Jewelry making • Beading • Ceramics and more Slater added, “We marvel every day at the accomplishments of each and every one of our individuals, and find that unique abilities are continually discovered and celebrated. Our folks express a tremendous amount of pride in their work and thoroughly enjoy the variety that is afforded to them. Many seem to particularly enjoy trips to the various retail outlets, such as All Paws Natural Pet Food Stores and Long Dog Fat Cat, where the products that they make, such as dog treats, chew toys and cat toys can be found for sale. Additionally, we intend to operate a restaurant that will be open to the public for lunch two hours daily, completely staffed by AngelWorks individuals with special needs. Angel Guardians, Inc. is transforming the manner in which prevocational services are provided to individuals with cognitive and developmental disabilities, providing each person with a refreshing and dignified employment experience.” www.OmahaPublications.com
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B2B Omaha Magazine • Fall 2011 9
how i roll S to ry by L i n da Per si g eh l • Ph otos by m i n o r w h i t e s t u d i os .co m Keown in his pet project. The car rarely leaves the driveway.
Jack Keown Dream Corvette ne glance at Jack Keown’s Corvette will have car enthusiasts drooling with
envy, while at the same time scratching their heads. The dream ‘Vette – a composite of numerous Corvette donor cars as well as parts from other makes and models – is unlike any other and is often a major conversation piece when on exhibit at local auto shows. For Keown (pronounced Cowan), the vehicle has been a labor of love for the past half century. Having worked in the auto salvage business for over 45 years, Keown said he had access to parts not readily available to many collectors, and connections with some of the best auto restoration companies in the U.S. In the 1960s, he purchased the car’s replacement front end — a copy of General Motors’ concept car, the XP 700. He later bought the ‘Vette’s body shell – which had been on numerous chassis as a drag car in the early ‘60s – and had it put on
B2B Omaha Magazine • Fall 2011
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a 1957 chassis that was later adapted with all C-4 Corvette independent suspension. The project was then completely stripped down, “every nut and bolt,” Keown said. Custom billet aluminum parts, grill, hood, cove moldings, rear bumpers, quarters and more were designed and installed. BMW headlight capsules, Ford power-window motors and a 1993 LT1 Corvette engine with six-speed transmission were also added. New paint, interior work and more mechanical work brought the car back to pristine condition, inside and out. Keown’s Corvette is seldom driven on city streets, he said. “It has less than 400 miles since the restoration was finished.” It seems he’s content to just let enthusiasts ogle his pet project at local auto shows. And Keown notes, he uses the term “finished” loosely. “It’s not done yet,” he said. www.ReadOnlineNow.com
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arts entertainment S to ry by M o l ly G a r r i ot t • Ph otos by m i n o r w h i t e s t u d i os .co m
Owner Ed Schaefer with sons, Tyson and Zach
Berried Treasure For 26 years, the Bellevue Berry & Pumpkin Ranch
has drawn droves of visitors by offering an authentic agrarian experience
aking the long drive into the 80-acre Bellevue Berry & Pumpkin Ranch is
like traveling back in time to our agrarian past. The atmosphere is warm and inviting, even nostalgic. And if you visit during one of the many festivals it hosts, it is also like time-traveling to a very different past, far removed from the dusty American Plains. The Nebraska Renaissance Faire calls the farm home, where visitors are treated to jousting knights and juggling jesters. The ranch just wrapped up its fourth year of the Midlands Pirate Festival, which re-creates the world of the 17th century Caribbean profiteer. Swashbuckling swordplay ruled the day. “We (also) provide a variety of experiences centered around farming,” explains owner Ed Schaefer. The experience includes strawberry picking in late spring and early summer, black and purple raspberries mid-summer, red raspberries late summer and fall, and pumpkins during harvest season. For Schaefer, the farm is family fun – and big business. Schaefer and his two sons, Tyson, 38, and Zach, 36, operate the wildly successful Bellevue Berry & Pumpkin Ranch. Schaefer does not keep a detailed record of how many visitors the farm draws each year, but he estimates that approximately 60,000 people attend the festivals, weddings, and meetings the farm hosts each year or to pick its seasonal fruit crops. 12
B2B Omaha Magazine • Fall 2011
“We work 12- to 18-hour days, seven days a week. We like it, but we don’t say ‘Boy, this is the dream’,” Schaefer chuckles. With only three full-time and three parttime employees, “You have to wear a lot of hats,” Schaefer says. “We do construction, the payroll, and cook the food [which is grown on site]. And I hardly even use the computer.” After earning his degree in Agricultural Economics from Colorado State University, Schaefer worked in Latin America for the USAID and then in Washington, D.C., with the U.S. General Accountability Office, handling farm and agricultural issues. He and his family farmed in Maryland during his Capitol Hill years. When he left the East Coast to return in the Midwest, he placed his farm in a farmland trust. “I have never sold a farm to development,” Schaefer maintains. It’s a fact of which he is quietly proud, though he doesn’t like to “flaunt” his accomplishments, which include writing a chapter on you-pick strawberry and pumpkin farms in the Department of Agriculture’s Yearbook on Agriculture, and testifying before Congress www.OmahaPublications.com
regarding a study of the changing structure of American agriculture. Over the years, he has expanded his business from a pick-your-own-fruit-and-vegetable farm to an all-encompassing country experience. Crops and livestock are still raised on site. The timber from which Schaefer and his sons have constructed all the farm structures is from reclaimed barns. Tree houses dot the premises. There is a western frontier town and a three-story, 120-foot-long pirate ship. Antique farm equipment hangs on the walls and rafters of the party rooms. One of the biggest draws is the play area. Schaefer patterned the play area after his childhood, when fallen trees were natural jungle gyms and children channeled their inner Tarzan on rope swings. Schaefer’s original intent was to offer a bit of old-fashioned, rural living to the general public. And that is still very much the backbone of the Bellevue Berry & Pumpkin double tree BB0311.pdf 1 6/7/11 Ranch. But increasingly, over the last 10 to
15 years, the farm has expanded its catering operation and become a popular wedding and private party location. “We’ve seen a lot of spin-off business from weddings and private parties,” says Schaefer, with area corporations seeking his services. Initially, businesses booked hayrack rides and hosted company picnics on site. Then, Schaefer began adding services to accommodate corporate meetings and team-building retreats. The numerous spaces at the farm–the barns and party rooms, pirate ship, frontier town–allow for larger groups to break off into smaller ones. The farm is a popular venue for corporate parties. According to Schaefer, it has hosted Werner Enterprises for the trucking company’s holiday party, and Lincoln Financial Group has also had corporate gatherings in the reclaimed barns and party rooms. Schaefer believes the personal attention he and his sons offer is one reason why customers 3:54 PM return to the farm.
“We cater to their niche,” he states, whether it’s a chuck wagon barbeque with two meats and four sides, a hayrack ride and scavenger hunt, or professional DJ services. Tell them what your budget is, and they will accommodate it. During these strained economic times, the Bellevue Berry & Pumpkin Ranch continues to thrive because, as Schaefer claims, “We don’t charge an arm and a leg.” That, and people have a need to return to simpler times when their present is uncertain or harried. Its proximity to the city makes it convenient to soak up a “country feel.” “It’s anti-cold corporate,” Schaefer says. The Bellevue Berry & Pumpkin Ranch is located at 11001 S. 48th Street in Papillion. For more information or to book your next corporate event, call 402-331-5500 or visit www. bellevueberryfarm.com.
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B2B Omaha Magazine • Fall 2011
what a brokerbrings to the table choosing aretail location photo byTOM KESSLER
COMMERCIAL Real Estate Story by Traci Osuna • Photo by Minorwhitestudios.com Jason Fisher, The Lund Company President
what a brokerbrings to
aneuvering through today’s commercial real estate landscape can
be tricky, even for seasoned business professionals. Combined with the inner workings of your own business and everything that comes with the prospect of relocating, the idea of finding the right new space for your business can be more than a bit overwhelming. “It’s just too much to expect a COO or a Director of Operations—people who are often in charge of the search for office space—to be able to conduct a search, find a space, and then negotiate the terms of the deal without being in the marketplace on a day-to-day basis,” says T.J. Twit, Vice President of Lund Company. “Oftentimes, when someone tries to conduct the search themselves, they end up hiring or engaging a broker.” While, for many, using a broker to seal the deal on a new office space might be their first choice, others may view using a broker as an unnecessary middle man and an added expense. But commercial real estate brokers contribute more than just listings of vacant office spaces. The broker is “going to bring that expertise to the table that very, very few buyers can on their own,” says Dan Smith, partner at Smith, Gardner, & Slusky Law. “They understand the market; know what comparable properties are like.” Smith goes on to explain that brokers know all the issues that need to be addressed when considering whether to purchase the property, all part of the buyer’s due diligence: the space’s use and history, any environmental problems, title or structural issues, and deferred maintenance. “I’ll tell you, a broker knows that stuff from experience,” says Smith. “They also know how to put a deal together, how 16
B2B Omaha Magazine • Fall 2011
to negotiate, and how to keep everybody happy along the way.” Smith, an attorney who represents managers and brokers as well has his own experience buying and selling properties, says that he always uses a broker when conducting his own business. “When you’re on the buying side, you need someone to help you through this process, because otherwise, you might buy a building and find out there’s a lot of things associated with that building that are real trouble.” He also adds, when you are buying a building, you are actually buying a business. “It’s a business with cash flow and you had better understand the business dynamics, the business numbers.” Smith references an old real estate adage: you make money going in. “You [need to be well informed] when you buy, because if you pay too much, you’re never going to make money; and good brokers know that; they know how to run those pro formas, they know how to analyze, they know how to give you the numbers and tell you whether you have a paying proposition here,” www.OmahaPublications.com
he says. “…and that’s hugely important.” Jon Blumenthal, partner with Baird Holm Attorneys at Law, works primarily with clients regarding commercial real estate transactions. He views brokers as indispensable. “I would tell you that if you’re a buyer or seller trying to value a property, particularly commercial property, without the help of a broker, it’s like trying to walk through a maze blindfolded,” he said. “That’s what they do, and it’s always helpful to have somebody who is an expert in their field.” Both attorneys recognize that brokers have access to listings that you may not be aware of or can introduce you to locations you would have not ordinarily thought about. “[Brokers] are totally in touch with the whole market,” says Smith. “Not only can they go on to loop.net (a multiple listing service for commercial real estate), but they are networked into the community and there is no substitute for that; a big part [of commercial real estate] is who you know.” Blumenthal adds that, with their inside knowledge, brokers will be able to provide a buyer with many alternatives for their business needs. “They can help you find suitable properties that might not be on your radar screen,” he says. “And they know the market; they know whether you’re getting a good value or not [with regard to] what the property is listed for.” While creativity might not immediately come to mind when considering whether or not to engage a broker, according to Jason Fisher, President of Lund Company, this is a good trait for a broker to possess. “If you have a good broker on your team, they bring a lot of [ingenuity] to the table as far as deal structure and with regard to utilization of space.” Fisher says that his team works to ensure that the long-term commitments that buyers and/or tenants are entering into will allow them to best perform their business’s core function. “You want to make sure that the space works for [the buyer or tenant], not just economically, but physically and in terms of the location,” he says. “I think there’s also some creativity that great brokers can [contribute] to make sure that the company’s going to flourish in that space.” www.ReadOnlineNow.com
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COMMERCIAL Real Estate Story by Traci Osuna • Photo by John Gawley Gateway I-80 Business Park Off 118th & Harry Anderson Avenue (Harrison Street).
officeoccupancy rates hough some living in the area of 132nd and Pacific Streets may look upon the
selling and demolition of the former Ironwood Country Club with nostalgia, others see the opportunity and financial growth that the new Sterling Ridge Project will bring to the city. The project, funded by Lockwood Development, is scheduled to be the future site for office and retail space, religious worship centers, as well as residential space. Already scheduled for the site is Millard Refrigerated Services’ new 80,000 sq. ft. headquarters building as well as a 54,000 sq. ft. multi-tenant office building. Sterling Ridge is just one of several major commercial real estate developments that are scheduled to begin construction within the next year. And, as T.J. Twit, Jr., Vice President of Lund Company, sees it, it’s just a continuation of the positive growth that we have been experiencing in Omaha for the last several years. “I think there is some momentum right now in the Omaha office market,” he says. “Good things are happening and there’s some new development on the horizon.” While much of the country has been experiencing tough economic times overall, Omaha, for the most part, seems to have been able to avoid the brunt of the downturn and has even flourished some in the last two years. “In my opinion, compared to 2008 and the early part of 2009, Omaha is looking really good,” says Twit, especially when evaluated along side comparable cities such as Des Moines, Kansas City and Oklahoma City. In its recent review of the Omaha office market for the second quarter of 2011, Colliers International reports that the local market continues to improve, with vacancies decreasing since Q1 and rental rates up slightly from $17.30 to $17.58 per square foot on average. “The overall Omaha office market vacancy rate is now 15.9 percent, and just slightly above the U.S. national vacancy rate of 15.3 percent,” says Ed Fleming, Senior Vice President of Colliers 18
B2B Omaha Magazine • Fall 2011
International’s Omaha office. “On the good news front, there continues to be hiring in the Omaha community by firms such as PayPal, and that jobs creation will ultimately drive down the vacancy rate.” Class A properties, namely those located in the West Dodge Office Park located at 132nd & Dodge Streets and in and around the I-680 loop (Old Mill, Regency and West Dodge Corridor) have experienced a slight drop in vacancies since late 2010, moving from 8.7 percent to 7.7 percent this past June; while Class B vacancies have increased slightly during the same time period, growing from 14.8 percent to 15.9 percent “Omaha Class A office buildings.…continue to attract the most interest and boast the highest occupancy levels,” says Fleming. Twit agrees and attributes this interest in high-end office space to the fact that many commercial landlords are currently offering Class A properties at reduced Class B+ rates. “Owners of Class B properties are offering discounts to fill their buildings as well and therefore the property class that has the largest vacancy is the Class C properties [primarily more industrial-type office spaces],” says Twit. With Class C vacancies remaining virtually unchanged at 27 percent, Jason Fisher, www.OmahaPublications.com
Affordable Commercial Leasing Opportunities at Central Park Plaza President of Lund Company, says this should not be seen so much as a detriment, but an opportunity for the local commercial real estate market. “This kind of class migration that T.J. is talking about …is healthy because it forces the buildings that are getting a little deteriorated, a little worn, to either continue to go downhill and get re-developed or [it will force landlords] to infuse some capital.” Even though there has been very little new construction in the past year, Twit says there has been “some pretty significant build-tosuit, or over-occupied properties that have been built.” He says TD Ameritrade’s decision to build a brand new 12–story office building in Old Mill is not only a perk to Omaha’s real estate market, but re-affirms the business’ long term commitment to Omaha. CSG Systems will also be moving from their current location near 120th & Blondo Streets into a brand new 208,000 sq.ft. office building at 180th & West Dodge Road, to be completed in August 2012. With two large companies moving out of existing office space and into new construction, Twit says that the effect on the vacancy rate may seem great, but it should not have a big impact on the commercial market numbers overall due to the positive absorption. Absorption, he explains, is the amount of space occupied on a quarter to quarter basis and is the key indicator of an office market’s health. Omaha is experiencing its seventh consecutive quarter of positive absorption. “At the end of second quarter 2011, there was a positive absorption of 120,000 sq.ft. Over the entire 2010, the positive absorption was 225,000 sq. ft., so we’re on about the same pace,” says Twit Both Twit and Fisher add that reverse migration is becoming more of a trend. Landlords are making improvements to existing spaces, such as 450 Regency, or building brand new properties in older areas of town, as in Aksarben Village and Midtown Crossing, and catching the eyes of more people and businesses. “I’ll tell you that [the general feeling in commercial real estate] is that the market… feels better, there’s more activity…there’s more happening right now.”
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OmaHa markeT COMMERCIAL Real Estate 2nd Quarter 2010
Story and Statistics provided by The Lund Company
Vacancy As the dial on the right illustrates, overall vacancy in the Omaha market is weighed down by the Class C market. Of the 19,691,000 square feet of office space in the Omaha market, just over 4,000,000 square feet is designated as Class C. Vacancy within the Class C market has remained static at around 27%. Vacancy in Class A has dropped from 8.7% at the end of 2010 to 7.7% mid 2011. Class B vacancy has increased from 14.8% to 15.9% due to the addition of large, previously untracked properties to the overall inventory.
he end of the second quarter of
2011 marked the seventh consecutive quarter of positive absorption of office space in the Omaha market. As the national economy shows some signs of improvement, the Omaha economy has remained fairly steady due to relatively low unemployment and conservative growth. Of most significance in the office market are a handful of large-scale, build-to-suit projects that are in the works. CSG broke ground June 22, 2011 on a 200,000-squarefoot campus headquarters on the northwest corner of 180th and West Dodge Road. Also, NorthStar Financial announced that they are relocating their Omaha operations into two buildings that will be built near 170th and West Center Road. In addition, Millard Refrigerated Services is anchoring the office component at the Sterling Ridge project on the former Ironwood Country Club site at 132nd and Pacific Street with an 80,000-square-foot international headquarters building. The total inventory of office space has increased slightly as a few buildings that were not previously tracked have been added. These buildings include the Blue Cross Blue Shield south campus on 72nd Street and the building at 12720 I Street. The addition of these properties brings the total Omaha inventory to just under 20 million square feet. Of this total amount, 15.9 percent is offered as vacant and available or available for sublease. This vacancy rate is an increase from 14.8 percent at the conclusion of 2010 but can be attributed to the aforementioned increase in the overall inventory. 20
B2B Omaha Magazine • Fall 2011
Class a Class B Class C
The total market
Vacancy. As the dial on the right illustrates, overall vacancy availability rate is 15.9% in the Omaha market is weighed down by the Class C market. Of the 19,691,000 square feet of office space in the Omaha Absorption market, just over 4,000,000 feet is designated as Class Absorption is thesquare key indicating factor in determining an office C. Vacancy within the Class C market hasyear. remained static market’s health from year to In 2010 theattotal absorbed around 27was percent. Vacancy in225,000 Class A has fromhave 8.7 experienced approximately SF.dropped So far we percent at the end of 2010 to 7.7 percent mid 2011. Class B positive absorption totalling 116,779 SF in 2011. vacancy has increased from 14.8 percent to 15.9 percent due to the addition of large, previously untracked properties to the overall inventory.
Absorption. Absorption is the key indicating factor in determining an office market’s health from year to year. In 2010 the total absorbed was approximately 225,000 SF. So far we have experienced positive absorption totalling 116,779
116,799 SF of positive absorption reflects 2011 year-to-date activity.
Rental Rates As the market slowly corrects, we have seen rental rates begin to creep up. The average overall asking rental rate has increased from $17.30 to $17.58 PSF since 2010.
Class a Class B Class C
Rental Rates. As the market slowly corrects, we have seen rental rates begin to creep up. The average overall asking rental rate has increased from $17.30 to $17.58 PSF since 2010.
All rates reflect a weighted average Full Service rental rate.
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COMMERCIAL Real Estate Story by Aaron Michaels • Photo by John Gawley L Street Marketplace between 120th Street & 132nd Street on ‘L’ Street.
a major player in retail success
t’s the foundation (literally and figuratively) for all real estate transactions and can
often determine success or failure — especially in the retail market. Because of its pivotal importance in the livelihood and sustainability of a business, shopping around for the various factors that help determine success is vital. What are these factors? They vary based on type of business, marketing strategy, product and distribution and others. But the bottom line relies on whether or not these businesses account for the factors most important to them — and then match their retail space and location to them. That’s the hallmark for success, according to industry professionals with the Lund Company. “Most important is that the business understands who its customer is; then, they can identify what aspects of a location works best for them,” said Holly Johnson, Director of Retail Services for the Lund Company. “Depending on their type of business, they can decide how close they need to be to rooftops (homes) versus other businesses or complementary businesses. They also need to know where their competition is located and factor that into their decision.” Being that there are various types of retailers — from fast-food restaurants to chiropractors to department and discount stores, just to name a few — all locations won’t necessarily work for each business. Proximity as well as convenience — despite the level of allegiance and loyalty to brands or price — often determine where people shop. This, of course, doesn’t apply to online shopping, which is a growing piece of the overall market and revenue. That’s why, along with available space, you won’t see a Kohl’s, Target or Wal-Mart taking up a city block in Downtown Omaha, but you will see restaurants, coffee shops and bars within walking distance of the many businesses and townhomes, condos and apartments in the area. In the less densely concentrated areas of Midtown and West Omaha, as well as the city’s 22
B2B Omaha Magazine • Fall 2011
suburban areas, these larger retailers are much more prominent and accessible by car for convenience. They are also usually within a few miles of one another to not only give patrons choice but also opportunity, depending on distance from their homes or convenience for stopping on the way home. “It’s amazing when you think about where you stop to shop, especially on the way home from work,” said Kurt Weeder, senior associate who joined the Lund team in 2002 as a property manager of 1.5 million sq. ft. of retail, office and industrial properties. “People are less likely to cross a busy street like Dodge to go to a store if there is a similar one on the same side of the road as they are heading home. “That’s why on Dodge, heading east in the morning, there are donut shops and bagel stores for breakfast, and on the opposite of the street, for the drive back home, are restaurants with a menu more suited to dinner. That’s not by accident. This isn’t the case for everyone because everyone is different, but generally, people go to the retailer that is www.OmahaPublications.com
For All Your Building Restoration Needs • Caulking • Coatings closest unless they have a very strong allegiance to a particular store or brand.” As far as locating in a new area versus leasing or buying space in an established one, the professionals at Lund again say preference and choice depend on the type of business and customer base. Location choice can also be determined by cost, as rental rates are higher in a new development than in a second-generation development, and space in some parts of town are going to be higher than in others. While cost is definitely a factor in choosing a location for a retail business, Jason Fisher, President of the Lund Company, says visibility and accessibility in new developments may not be as strong as they would be in a more well-known, well-traveled location. “Locating a business at 192nd and Center, where there is less overall traffic and visibility than at 72nd and Dodge, is going to be a difficult choice for a new business, unless it already has a strong following, there is a void in that area for that type of business, or its customer base is concentrated heavily in that area,” said Fisher, who joined Lund in 2004 and has over 10 years of leadership experience in sales and marketing. “Dodge at 72nd is still the most-visible, most-driven area of town, along with Center and Maple Streets, so from a visibility standpoint, it can be ideal. At the same time, if you have to cross Dodge or one of these major streets to get to a retail business, some customers might choose to go somewhere else because of convenience and accessibility.” Fisher added that developments like Shadow Lake Towne Center, Village Pointe and Midtown Crossing, where there is a mixture of retail as well as commercial and living space, are becoming very popular alternatives to stand-alone, indoor malls or other types of retail locations because of their overall appeal and multipurpose advantage. “Locating a business in a growing development like L Street Marketplace, for instance, brings car and foot traffic to many different kinds of retail establishments,” Fisher said. “People can park and walk to many businesses, and because a large box retailer like Wal-Mart or Target is there, it will lure many different kinds of shoppers to that one central location.” www.ReadOnlineNow.com
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Total Office Inventory (SF)
COMMERCIAL fice.submarket map
Total Vacancy (SF)
Direct and sublease space is included.
OmaHa markeT 2nd Quarter 2010
Total market: 19.7 million Sf
Total availability: 3.14 million Sf
1,130,216 918,030 1,000,000
Total Office Inventory (SF)
Suburban west Dodge
Central west Dodge
Total Vacancy (SF)
Direct and sublease space is included.
24 B2B Omaha Magazine office.submarket map • Fall 2011
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s predicted in the 2010 year-
end report, Class A office space led the market as it related to positive absorption. We foresee this trend continuing. New construction will continue to be limited to owner-occupied or pre-leased properties. Currently, there are a number of projects that are waiting for large, good credit tenants to act as the catalyst to begin construction. Among these projects are Seven Regency (Slosburg Company), California Pointe (McNeil Company Builders) and the multi-tenant component of the aforementioned Sterling Ridge (Lockwood Development). Construction is expected to start on at least one of these projects within the next 18 months.
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B2B Omaha Magazine • Fall 2011 25
COMMERCIAL Real Estate Story by Aaron Michaels • Photos by Tom Kessler Morrissey Engineering’s new green corporate offices near 118th & Fort Street.
green is stillgold in
hile the trendy elements in real estate design come and go over time, certain
styles and staples are timeless. Lots of natural light. Columns and arches. Temperature-controlled environments. Energy-efficient lighting. Workspace as well as meeting space. So when a business is searching for office or retail space to lease or buy, there are specific design factors that remain constant and always in demand. At the same time, as new options become available and popular — like energy-efficient technology, architectural advancement and variations in outdoor landscaping — the trends help shape design offerings and requests. The Lund Company, which markets and manages retail office, industrial, agricultural and multi-family properties, knows and responds to these businesses’ wants and needs. In their experience, many of these pertaining to design are inherent to business type as well as employee size and location. In a lease situation, the property manager — in this case, Lund — responds to requests from the leasee in terms of retrofitting the building, changing light fixtures or even just bulbs, or adjusting work cube size (or walls heights) to accommodate business and employee needs. “This can mean making larger cubes for fewer employees or smaller cubes to create more open space for gatherings or meetings. It all depends on the needs of that particular business,” said Martin Patzner, Vice President and Director of Commercial Property Management for Lund. “As a landlord, it’s all about creating the environment that works best for the tenant, and whatever designs or changes they want, we try our best to give them what they want.” One design trend — not aesthetic but functional — that remains very popular in both conversion and new construction properties is energy efficiency. With utilities taking a pretty 26
B2B Omaha Magazine • Fall 2011
hefty chunk out of the operating budgets of businesses and with costs continuing to increase, the more “green” the structure and heating and air conditioning systems are, the better. The same goes for lighting, where simple, inexpensive changes from fluorescent to LED and CFL bulbs and fixtures, which use a fraction of the same amount of energy and must be replaced less often, are popular retrofits. Morrissey Engineering, based in Omaha, works regularly with Lund properties and specializes in delivering high-performance solutions that achieve optimal energy efficiency for a tenant’s mechanical, electrical and technology needs. The company touts itself as being committed to “creating designs that achieve a balance between aesthetics and functionality to create the best environments for people to live and work.” A sign of this is their own 4940 building, which is the first in Nebraska to be awarded LEED® Platinum certification by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the highest level of certification achievable. The same goes for Trane, a global leader in HVAC systems. Lund Company consults with the local dealer to help tenants upgrade and improve a property’s infrastructure and www.OmahaPublications.com
ultimately save money and energy. Trane also provides maintenance agreements to keep HVAC systems operating at maximum efficiency to minimize service calls, eliminate surprises, and control costs for commercial and retail properties. “With a property, it’s important to take a step back and look at the whole building as it operates, and that allows us to help the tenant realize, as far as design and energy trends, what is most important to them,” said Jason Fisher, President of Lund Company. “We rely upon vendors, like Morrissey Engineering and Trane, as well as others, to help us give the client what they need to make specific properties work best for them.” As far as new construction is concerned, a business interested in building from the ground up has design options that go beyond mechanical efficiency. Steel frames with high-performance, strong glass panels in place of concrete or stone welcome much more natural light and provide a more contemporary, functional look and feel.
Because a company’s headquarters is not only its home calling card but also needs to provide a comfortable environment for employees, many options exist to provide a functional yet pleasing property. Once popular, building atriums — or large, open entrance spaces — are being asked for less, according to Patzner, and when they are requested, the space is much more economical and not as big. The same goes for common-area spaces. Along with natural lighting (skylights are a growing trend), and depending on company size and function, space can be designated for office, meeting and storage — or even for a break area or cafeteria. It all comes down to specific wants and needs by the tenant. Outside, design trends include ample and proximate parking (of course); but with more emphasis being placed on the environment, businesses have the option to create various landscapes featuring both perennial and annual flowers and plants, as well as trees. These provide watersheds or rain gardens
to cut down on watering costs and waste, while preventing rain runoff and erosion. One of the consultants Lund often works wit is Mulhall’s, whose exper staff help tenants create the landscape design and function that best fits their needs and price point. From an energy standpoint, new construction allows businesses to choose mechanical and lighting systems that work best for their functional and energy needs — including geothermal energy, roof systems and other energy management systems. “Taking something off the shelf doesn’t always work for every business, so we recommend having something created and designed for a specific business whenever possible,” Patzner said. “Everybody wants to be as green as they can these days for cost- and energy-efficiency, but businesses need to assess what that means for them and what return on investment works best for their budget.”
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cover feature Bell in TD Ameritrade Park Omaha, the metro’s premier sports stadium and entertainment venue. HDR completed the project in Spring 2011.
Not doing laying out. Text in. I’ll re-flow with photos.
Built To Last
Dick Bell’s tenure as CEO of HDR, Inc. closes with accolades for the company and a solid foundation of employee ownership
S to ry by Co r e y R oss • Ph otos by m i n o r w h i t e s t u d i os .co m & co u r t e s y o f H D R , I n c .
warded annually by the American Council of Engineering Companies,
the Grand Conceptor Award is the Heisman Trophy of the engineering world. After never having won the award, Omaha-based
HDR, Inc. has now taken first place the last two years. This year, it was for completing the 1,900-foot-long Hoover Dam Bypass, a concrete arch bridge 900 feet above the Colorado River that was 40 years in the making. The majestic structure is the highest and largest of its type in the Western Hemisphere and is supported by the world’s tallest pre-cast concrete columns. “That was a no-brainer,” HDR CEO Dick Bell says of the landmark project being honored. “Anybody could see that was a fabulous project.” While proud of the bypass project, Bell enjoys telling the story of his company’s 2010 award winner a little more. That project was the Gills Onions Advanced Energy Recovery System in Oxnard, Calif. The system converts onion waste into energy and earned HDR its first ever Grand Conceptor Award. >> B2B Omaha Magazine • Summer 2011 29
cover feature HDR’s 2011 award-winning project — This 1,900 -ft.-long Hoover Dam Bypass, a concrete arch bridge 900 ft. above the Colorado River.
The project that finished second? Cowboys Stadium. “That’s a $20 million project vs. $1.5 billion project,” Bell says. “But what we did was unheard of and so unique. We created a system that produced no waste and a net energy to put into the grid.” The accolades affirm an attitude Bell has tried to cultivate at HDR since he became CEO in 1996 after the company bought itself back from foreign ownership. That attitude is: “There isn’t anything that HDR can’t do if it wants to,” he says. “When we bought ourselves back, it unleashed a dream,” says Bell, who was head of the engineering department for 10 years before becoming CEO. “We wanted to become one great sustainable, world-class company.” As Bells ends his tenure as CEO at the end of the year, he can say his company has accomplished that objective. But while HDR has grown globally, it also has made a huge impact locally, building such iconic structures as the Holland Performing Arts Center, the West Dodge Expressway, the M.U.D. Platte West Water Treatment Plant and the newly opened TD Ameritrade Park. Maintaining that local-global balance has made HDR a winner both at home and abroad, Bell says. “We want Omaha to be a better place for all concerned,” he says. “We want to be the solution providers and make clients for life, here and around the world.” That ambition has resulted in such projects during Bell’s tenure as HDR helping rebuild the Pentagon after 9/11 and designing a $3 billion state-of-the-art hospital in Abu Dhabi. Domestic health care projects comprised HDR’s core architecture business until Bell’s vision unleashed greater goals. “Dick is a very driven person,” says George Little, President of HDR Engineering, Inc. and Vice Chairman of HDR, Inc.. “He’s built a great model for the company and for all of us to follow. We’ve learned a lot from his leadership.” Bell has spent his entire career at HDR. After completing his master’s degree in engineering in five years at South Dakota State, he entered the Army. A day after leaving the Army, he started at HDR – Oct. 4, 1974, Bell recalls, noting that the date coincides with his 30
B2B Omaha Magazine • Fall 2011
Gills Onions Advanced Energy Recover y System in Oxnard, Calif. The project won HDR the Grand Conceptor Award in 2010.
parents’ anniversary. Bell was head of the engineering department from 1986 to 1996, when the company bought itself back to be employee-owned. That move proved to be a turning point and catalyst for explosive growth for the firm, as its revenue growth shows. In 1996, HDR had an annual revenue of $189 million, and in 2010 it was $1.53 billion. And the company’s stock figures (which it doesn’t release) have grown appropriately and beneficially for HDR employee owners, Bell says. In 1996, the company had 1,569 employees. Today, HDR has 7,908 spread out over 185 offices, nationally and internationally. And HDR is highly regarded by its peers. Bell says the company is ranked No. 11 (nationally) by Engineering News Record and architecture is ranked fourth by sister publication Architectural Record. Little says Bell, whom he’s worked with directly for 17 years, has made HDR a seemingly all-purpose problem solver and done so with a no-nonsense style. “He’s very direct, but he’s always looking for the best solution,” Little says. “If there’s an issue, he’ll put it on the table, often before anybody else. He just wants to solve issues.” It’s that singular ability that has earned HDR repeat business, which is what Bell says is critical for the company’s continued success. “Our word and our performance are our bond. If we say we’re going to solve a problem, we’re going to solve it – even at the expense of profit,” Bell says. “Make no mistake about it: HDR wouldn’t be successful without repeat clients and we have a very high percentage. But we have to be at the top of our game all the time and win more than our fair share of projects.” So it’s amidst accolades and prosperity that Bell resigns as CEO to make time for some of the pleasures he’s often denied himself over the years, such as golf and pheasant hunting in his native South Dakota. But Bell resigns his role with a business plan in place for the company through 2012, and he started the strategic planning process to develop a plan through 2017. Bell is confident in the plan, but the uncertainties of the economy and his company’s ability to continue to win government work are the biggest variables, he says. “My only concern is we have to continue www.ReadOnlineNow.com
to win work and there has to be public sector money to do the work because the private sector doesn’t always have the money to do it,” he says. That said, Bell is steadfast in his belief that he leaves behind a culture and foundation that will allow the company to build an even bigger, better future. Late last year, the HDR board of directors selected George Little to be HDR’s CEO after Bell’s departure in December. “I have absolute confidence in George’s ability and in the leadership we have in place,” he says. “Will I miss it? Sure. But it’s time for the next generation of leadership. “I know they’ll do a better job and continue to grow HDR.” B2B Omaha Magazine • Fall 2011 31
feature S to ry by Co r e y R oss • Ph otos by m i n o r w h i t e s t u d i os .co m
Joe and Julie Wynn, owners of Lewis Art Gallery
Picture of Success
Lewis Art Gallery celebrates 40 years of providing art and accessories for home and businesses
red Backer first walked into Lewis Art Gallery when it opened in 1971. He recalls purchasing a Robert Wood seascape and two signed Norman Rockwells, one being of a barbershop scene —a Rockwell classic—and the other being a garden scene. Forty years later, Backer still finds himself patronizing the store and making wonderful discoveries, and occasional purchases. “They carry things that certainly appeal to me,” Backer says. “You go back to a retail place because you enjoy the experience and the merchandise. They have a tremendous and extensive selection.” When Backer first started patronizing Lewis Art Gallery, it was an art gallery and little more. Now, the business includes an award-winning custom framing service, accessories, furniture, and gifts as well as a top-rated yarn store. Julie and Joe Wynn, the second-generation owners of Lewis Art Gallery, say the store has expanded over the years to offer more to its customers and remain competitive in the market place. As the gallery prepares to celebrate its 40th anniversary, Wynn says the business has much to be proud of, including its current location. The opportunity to build a new gallery presented itself when the Children’s Hospital expansion became inevitable and displaced
B2B Omaha Magazine • Fall 2011
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the gallery from its previous location. This allowed Julie and Joe to design the perfect building to combine both businesses—art gallery and yarn store—under one roof at 8600 Cass Street. Wynn says the current location, which encompasses three floors and is 16,500 square feet, is undoubtedly the best of the three locations and is a tremendous showcase for the gallery’s offerings. “We’ve stayed in the same neighborhood, but this building has really given us the ceiling height we need and afforded us a lot of opportunity to grow and show our product better,” she says. “It’s made our lives a whole lot easier.” Julie runs the art gallery, which comprises the entire first floor. The gallery shares the top floor with Personal Threads Boutique, a knitting store that will celebrate its 20th anniversary next year. Joe runs the knitting store. The yarn selection has been rated among the top 10 in the country, Julie says. Julie has literally grown up with the business. Her mother began the gallery in their home in 1971. Julie began working full time at the gallery in 1983 when it was located at 8025 West Dodge Road. Originally, the gallery only offered fine art. It expanded its inventory as the marketplace allowed, Wynn says. “After ‘The Studio’ closed in Rockbrook, we carried more lamps www.ReadOnlineNow.com
and things,” she says. “We are first and foremost an art gallery, but we do stock over 500 lamps. We also sell home furnishings, accessories, gifts, and custom framing.” Wynn notes that the gallery has won several awards for its custom framing and completes 98 percent of its projects in one week. “We’re very competitive in custom framing,” she says. The company recently did reframing for a large corporate project in Aksarben Village. It has also worked extensively with Midtown Crossing and Dante’s Pizzeria in Legacy as well as various banks, medical facilities and professional offices. The gallery offers more than 7,000 pieces of original art on display. Besides residences, the art often ends up on the walls of offices and some will be seen at this year’s Street of Dreams and a condominium design project called Magic at Midtown this November and December. Wynn says no two projects are the same, which is part of what has kept the business fresh and challenging. And earning the repeat business from customers such as Fred Backer has made it enjoyable and rewarding. “We like to do a mix of commercial and residential,” she says. “It’s always a variety, which keeps it fun.”
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4315 South 50th Street 402.733.5500 B2B Omaha Magazine • Fall 2011 33
feature S to ry by L e o A da m Bi g a • Ph otos by m i n o r w h i t e s t u d ios .co m
Proxibid officers Bruce Hoberman, Ryan Downs, and Joe Petsick
Sold on the Internet
Since it was founded in 2003, Proxibid has utilized the Internet to revolutionize the auction industry and now has millions in profits and explosive growth to show for it
efore the Omaha-based technology company introduced its real-time,
live auction web-casting services in 2003, the auction industry was essentially stuck in time, doing business the way it had for millennia. That meant an opportunity waiting to be filled, but also resistance needing to be overcome, Proxibid co-founder and CFO Joe Petsick says. On pace this year alone to conduct 12,000 live auctions and sell more than $300 million online, Proxibid has succeeded on both counts. Headquartered today at 4411 South 96th St., the firm has doubled its growth every 12 to 18 months. Last May, the firm moved into the former Pacesetter Corp. building, where it occupies 23,000 square feet, nearly triple the space of Proxibid’s previous site. The open environment features contemporary artwork by Justin Beller and custom-designed light fixtures by Julie Conway. What started as a company of four people now boasts more than 100 employees. And Petsick says the best is still to come. “Today, Proxibid is the largest aggregator of live auctions in the world and we barely present 34
B2B Omaha Magazine • Fall 2011
a measurable percentage of the volume of industry that’s out there,” he says. “So all of us feel very strongly that our real growth is ahead of us.” Proxibid’s daily webcast auctions cover a vast array of goods. Recent auctions have featured Bernie Madoff’s assets and Rosenblatt Stadium artifacts. Items for bid ranges from heavy equipment to collectibles to antiques and fine art. Auctions originate from all over the nation and world. “One of the goals we stated for ourselves when we were starting Proxibid is we wanted to create a marketplace extremely rich and deep, so that anybody who comes to it would be able to find something they’re interested in bidding on online,” says Petsick. Online bidding through Proxibid, he says, offers a qualified, vetted marketplace, unlike eBay, along with convenience, anonymity and access to multiple auctions. For sellers, it opens up a world of new bidders and valuable metrics about their buying habits. Participating in an online auction is as www.OmahaPublications.com
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simple as visiting www.Proxibid.com and creating a bidder account, says Director of Communications Dana Kaufman. She says once an account is set up, bidders can search by auction company, date or item. Then bidders can elect to enter a current live auction or to pre-bid on an upcoming auction. There’s no fee to join the Proxibid marketplace or to create an account, though some auctions do require a deposit and/or disclosures. Depending on the auction’s size, the event may run anywhere from an hour to several hours, even all day, says Kaufman. The entrepreneurial company, which went public in 2003, got its start at Omaha’s Scott Technology Center incubator during the tech boom when Petsick collaborated with Andrew Letter, Andrew Liakos and Ken Maxwell. (All but Letter are still involved with the company.) A software platform to support live auctions online was developed at the center and tested in Europe. With the model a proven success, Proxibid’s founders raised millions in capital, much of it from high-net-worth Nebraskans. Convincing auction houses to sign on as clients took some doing, though. “That had a lot to do with the fact we were working with an industry that had largely gone unchanged,” Petsick says. “Technology was not something widely embraced or adopted throughout the auction industry. They had to make up a lot of ground in a very short period of time and quite frankly didn’t believe the Internet or technology was going to play that big of a role. “So in our first several years we spent more time convincing auction companies the Internet was not just a fad but something here to stay and a driving force for their business moving forward. That was a very difficult thing for them to comprehend. About two years ago there was a pretty significant shift in their thinking, where they recognized they cannot move forward without it—that it had become a utility.” Getting auction houses onboard early was key. “One of the things we had to do was locate who we thought the early adopters were going to likely be and then push them very hard not only to use the service but to become vocal about its capability, so that they were starting to hear from their own peers,” Petsick says. www.ReadOnlineNow.com
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“Once we got a handful of those key players moving, it started to perpetuate pretty quickly.” Kaufman says Proxibid charges a hosting fee to sellers but makes most of its revenue from items that sell online—through a convenience fee variously paid by bidders or sellers. Additional revenue comes through advertising sales and marketing services provided to auction house clients. Petsick is bullish about Proxibid enjoying a strong finish in 2011. He says the fourth quarter is usually its peak performance period and unique to this fourth quarter: “We have the largest single product release launch in our company’s history. Most of the components in that release are user interface driven.” He says the tweaks are “based mostly on bidder feedback,” adding, “There were obstacles and friction points that made bidders drop off somewhere along the way, and we identified most of those and believe we’ve found the solutions to remove those barriers. We feel it’s going to have a significant lift to overall participation in online auctions.” President Ryan Downs, who came from eBay, says market share growth remains priority one. “We do that in three major ways. (1) Geographical expansion–I expect to have a presence in many other parts of the world in the next few years. (2) In the categories we’re very strong in today, we need to continue to roll up key players, key auction companies. (3) We need to add strength in new categories–do some new things from a product or pricing standpoint to fully capitalize.” Downs says Proxibid’s committed to Omaha “for a variety of reasons.” That starts with the fact he, Petsick and CEO Bruce Hoberman are Nebraskans. Then there’s the metro’s quality workforce, solid infrastructure, affordable office space, pro-business environment and strong university partners. An operations base equidistant to both coasts helps. CEO Bruce Hoberman says that while Proxibid has filled the technology void in the auction world, there’s much more potential to be realized. “From day one, our goal has been market share domination,” Hoberman says. “What we recognize as we look around at very rapidgrowth, technology-based companies is that in almost every instance, the guy who became market share dominant first was the winner in the long run, and that’s been driving us.” www.ReadOnlineNow.com
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he Patent Laws are undergoing a significant change and may have a dramatic
affect on both inventors and corporations. The America Invents Act passed a final vote in Congress by a wide margin on September 8, 2011, and President Obama has indicated that he will sign it into law. Many in the patent community believe that the Act could be signed within the next few months. The Act includes the following changes: First-to-Invent to First-to-File – The U.S. is currently a first-to-invent country that protects inventions on the date of conception. Under the proposed Act, the U.S. would switch to a first-to-file country which would protect inventions on the date of filing. Third Party False Marking Lawsuits – Currently, disinterested lawyers can file false marking lawsuits and split any awards with the government. Under the Act, this practice is eliminated and marking lawsuits can only be filed by the government or by a competitor who can prove competitive injury. Filings on Behalf of Inventors – Currently, the signatures of inventors are required on many patent documents. Under the proposed Act, corporations will be able to file and sign patent documents on behalf of inventors who are under an obligation to assign their rights. Best Mode – Under current laws, inventors are required to set forth the “Best Mode” of the invention and failure to do so can result in the invalidity of the patent. The proposed Act indicates that “Best Mode” cannot be used as a basis for invalidity. Patent Office Procedures – The proposed Act includes provisions for the USPTO to adjust its fees. The proposed Act also allows the USPTO to prioritize examination of certain types of applications, to add satellite offices, and to allow for third party prior art submissions. Ryan T. Grace is a founding partner of ADVENT – an intellectual property law firm in Omaha, Nebraska. Ryan’s practice primarily relates to US and international patent strategy. Ryan T. Grace is a founding partner of ADVENT – an intellectual property law firm in Omaha, Nebraska. Ryan’s practice primarily relates to U.S. and international patent strategy. Ryan is an adjunct professor of Intellectual Property Law at Creighton Law School and he is an inventor on around a dozen U.S. and international patent applications. You can find more information on Ryan’s practice at www. linkedin.com/in/ryantgrace www.OmahaPublications.com
in the office s to ry by l e o Ada m B i g a • Ph otos by m i n o r w h i t e s t u d i os .co m
Inflight’s owner, Michael Hartig
ou may have noticed the sign, Inflight Productions, driving by the pale brick
building at 3114 Saint Mary’s Ave. But unless you make image-enhancing videos or are in the market for one, the name probably doesn’t mean anything. It should. Inflight has anchored that near-downtown corner since 1980, during which time it’s gained a reputation for high-end corporate video work. The business began in 1974 in Sioux Falls, S.D., where the oldest of three brothers, Geoffrey Hartig, was a still photographer. Michael Hartig, the middle brother, joined him. Inflight moved to Omaha in 1978, whereupon it entered film and animation production. The third and youngest brother, Tom, came on board. Inflight officed in Midtown and briefly in the Old Market before leasing street-level space in its current digs, a two-story, circa-1920s building that formerly housed a roofing company, a bakery and a paint supply store. In the 1990s, the Hartigs purchased the 10,000-square-foot building, whose upstairs was a wreck, and did a makeover. “I like to think we got here just in time, because it was worth preserving,” says Michael. The maple floors, walnut woodwork and glass-covered transoms were retained. The warm space is outfitted with a foosball table, overstuffed chairs and sofas, a big-screen TV, a marimba and photos of the brothers’ actor-media personality parents, Eugenia and the late Leo Hartig. The work area consists of two digital editing suites, plus a flex room. www.ReadOnlineNow.com
Producer-director Michael, now the sole owner, decorates his office with photos of his twin girls, model replicas of favorite Volkswagens, a vintage roll-top desk, two black velvet Elvis portraits and a pair of Fender guitars he plays. The first floor has a spacious studio to shoot in. Inflight provides everything in-house, from cameras and cranes to sets and props. Michael can build or repair most anything in basement workshops. Mention how spotless everything is and he admits he’s a neatnik. Even Kirby, the house mascot boxer, knows her place. Inflight has outlived many production houses in town. It’s also helped turn a transitional urban neighborhood into a trendy creatives haven. “We’ve got our little community,” says Hartig. Along the way, Inflight’s gone from film-analog technology to all video-digital, and hasn’t looked back. “The new tools just make it faster and easier to do stuff,” says Hartig. B2B Omaha Magazine • Fall 2011 39
know-it-all “Running into debt isn’t so bad. It’s running into creditors that hurts.” —Author Unknown
ax Romana (Roman Peace) had a good side, too. When violent mobs, bent on destroying private property, get out of hand, only firm authoritarian response will dissuade them from their violent ends. We have seen throughout the European Union expressions of the coming unrest. Three big factors have brought this to the forefront: Austerity – EU countries are coming to grips with their massive debts. Those EU countries that have been more fiscally responsible are growing weary of supporting those that haven’t been so disciplined. Commoditization of Necessary Goods – Since about 1999, we have seen a profound change in the investment in commodities. What was a means of creating fair market pricing has now become an investment vehicle. Energy, food and raw materials markets are now dominated by speculators. This has driven prices to where we are now seeing dramatic unrest as consumer prices for food and energy have spiked well ahead of wage increases. (In the UK alone, there has been a 6.8 percent drop in automobile registration, 35 percent for vans and 40 percent for trucks.)
B2B Omaha Magazine • Fall 2011
Social Safety Nets – All the good intentions in the world will not counteract the fact that people who become accustomed to their daily needs being met by government support systems are changed into a dependent class. Exceptions to this prove this fact. The riots we are seeing on the news foretell a coming struggle between the unproductive and the productive segments of society. Not rich and poor. There are very proud productive people in every economic bracket. There are also a lot of very unproductive wealthy people, who are getting a free ride on the efforts of generations before. Unproductive vs. productive members of society. Contributors vs. those along for a free ride. Get ready, it’s coming. Civil War – I have commented many times about how America allows one to explore their limits. To succeed and to fail. I had a $788,000,000 contract in hand with the Libyan government to build a new city east of Tripoli. Yes, there were some moving pieces that needed sorting out, like bonding advances where the materials were in transit to the port. Then, things started to come unglued in Libya. We all know the result. Looking back, I can see the signs of unrest more clearly. The profound changes occurring in the attitudes of the people on the street. The effect of the government reducing the subsidies for bread. The desire for all things American (especially freedom). The impact of instant communication via cellphone (less so for the internet, as that was all routed through government chokepoints.) I have to hand it to the oil companies. They drill for oil in some of the most difficult and dangerous places in the world. They have adapted to dealing with some of the most unsavory governments out there. They make arrangements work when it’s seemingly impossible. Oil companies will be the first ones back into Libya when the dust settles there. Who knows, I may be back there myself. The government bureaucrats with whom I have a relationship with will still be there. The Libyans still have a deep affection for America and Americans (and a certain resentment of Europeans and a dislike for the Chinese.) www.ReadOnlineNow.com
B2B Omaha Magazine • Fall 2011 41
social media S to ry by j oa n Lu k a s & L e sl i e K l i n e Lu k a s
What’s Your Plan?
So you’ve done social media research and decided that it’s a fit for your business. Where do you start?
egin with a strategy – know exactly what you’re trying to achieve and how
you’ll measure success.
Set Goals and Objectives
Keep in mind, social media streams are designed to start conversations with your customers and keep the conversation going. First, decide what you intend to accomplish and the amount of time and resources you are willing to devote to social media. You might set an objective to raise awareness of your expertise or to drive traffic to your website or blog. Be sure your social media objectives align with your business goals. Integrate social media with strategies in your other core business functions, such as marketing, customer service, and human resources. For example, XYZ Company sells fishing reels. Social media supports marketing by engaging customers through Facebook by asking them to submit fun photos using XYZ fishing reels on their family vacation. For customer service, the company uses Twitter to tell customers how they can get a refund if the fishing reel didn’t work properly. LinkedIn is excellent for human resources because it can recruit salespeople. Decide your social media’s personality traits. Will it be fun or more straightforward, dispensing advice? Choose a voice that fits with your brand. Determine whether you’ll provide the content and then let the public lead the interaction, or if your organization will actively attract discussion by posing questions or asking for feedback on issues in the news. 42
B2B Omaha Magazine • Fall 2011
Facebook, for example, provides free analytics called Facebook Insights, which gives numbers of active users and interactions plus the number of impressions and the percentage of people who responded for each post. Consider social media exposure, which is the number of people potentially reached with your message, as well as social media engagement, which is the number of people who do something with your message. Ideally, you want people to take action with your message – retweet the news article you’ve passed along, post a comment on your blog, or “like” your most recent Facebook post. A recent Forbes magazine article discusses measurement (http://lklinfo.com/odkz1l). Vitrue calculates that having a customer like your Facebook page is worth between 44 cents and $3.60 in increased sales. If you have 500 people participating on your page, that’s a good return on investment of time to maintain your Facebook presence. Tips to Get Your Social Media Dialog Going:
• Invite your customers and vendors to share and participate in your social media streams. • Address people by name when you respond to their posts and use a friendly voice, not corporate message points. • Don’t ignore negative comments. Respond to them; people will appreciate that you responded and that helps mitigate negativity. • Follow back those who have requested to follow you on Twitter. • Revisit your social media approach to determine what’s working and what isn’t and make adjustments. www.OmahaPublications.com
feature S to ry by L i n da Per si g eh l • Ph oto Co u r t e s y o f N eb r a sk a Ad m i r a l s A ss o ciat i o n
Doug Deterding of Kearney takes the admiral pledge, as instructed by Chief of Staff Gloria LeDroit.
hen someone receives the distinction of being named a Nebraska
Admiral, they enter an elite club. They join the company of former Nebraska head football coach Tom Osborne, former and current Nebraska Senators Chuck Hagel and Ben Nelson, respectively, comedian Johnny Carson, golfer Jack Nichlaus, and former U.S. Presidents Gerald Ford, George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan and Franklin D. Roosevelt, to name a few. (Incidentally, two of Omaha Publications’ own, account executives Gwen Lemke and Gil Cohen, have received the Admiral title, Nebraska’s highest honor.) But just what IS a Nebraska Admiral, and how does one become one? A history lesson is due here. The Great Navy of the State of Nebraska was created in 1931. (Yes, we’re a landlocked state, but we none-the-less have a Navy, if in name only.) The Lieutenant Governor of Nebraska at the time appointed “20 to 25 prominent Nebraskans” as Admirals – simply an honorary position, with no duties, compensation, or authentic military rank – in recognition for their www.ReadOnlineNow.com
contributions to the state, and for their works in promoting “The Good Life” in Nebraska. Since then, prominent citizens both inside and outside the state have won the honor. Queen Elizabeth II, Julius “Dr. J” Erving, Bill Murray, Billionaire Bill Gates, Martin Luther King III and Olympian Mark Spitz are among other notable honorees. In total, an estimated 100,000 people have been commissioned as Nebraska Admirals in the past 80 years. In November 2008, Governor Dave Heineman changed the guidelines for Nebraska Admiralship, requiring both nominators and nominees be residents of Nebraska. Nominations must be sent in writing via the U.S. Postal Service or delivered in person to the Governor’s Office in Lincoln. The Governor’s Office retains full discretion for any Admiralship requests. In more recent years, many of the honorees have been leaders in business, industry and the military throughout the state. Ray Ward with Ward Laboratories in Kearney, Doug Deterding of Deterding Alternatives of Kearney, and Gen. James Cartwright, a retired four-star general and former commander of U.S. Strategic Command at Offutt Air Fore Base in Bellevue, are among recently named Nebraska Admirals. Recipients receive a certificate recognizing them for this honor, and are issued a Nebraska Admiral identification card. They’re also invited to join the Nebraska Admirals Association, formed in 1986. The 501©(3) nonprofit organization is devoted to a number of causes, including promoting Nebraska products, educational activities and tourism, and providing support for ships in the U.S. Navy named after Nebraskarelated entities. The NAA hosts ceremonial presentations of Nebraska Admiral certificates upon request. If you’re interested in learning more about Nebraska Admirals or in nominating someone for their philanthropic or community contributions, go to www.nebraskaadmirals.org You can also friend NAA on Facebook. Information for this article was provided courtesy of Gloria LeDroit, Chief of Staff, Nebraska Admirals Association. B2B Omaha Magazine • Fall 2011 43
office furniture S to ry by A l l m a k e s o ffi ce eq u i pm en t
How to create a well-planned office
ou have a great company with great services and great employees. You are
successful in your business ventures and you strive to make your company the best it can be. But what about your office environment? A well-planned office creates a good initial impression on your clients and draws in potential candidates; it also improves the productivity and attitudes of your current employees. Here are a few tips for planning your office environment: DON’Ts!
• Benchmark. Don’t compare your company to other office set-ups. They are not you. They do not have the culture, management or employee practices that your company has. Therefore, your office shouldn’t look like theirs. Instead, analyze current and emerging trends and identify the challenges that your current space presents. • Guess. Many companies guess how their businesses work by what they see. Although observation is helpful, there is always more than what meets the eye. Ask your team members about what they need and use the most.
• Involve your team members. When you analyze your environment and keep your employees involved, you will gain a better understanding of your company’s space. This will help you avoid future problems with your design decisions and identify your employees’ level of resistance to change. Involving your team members in the office design process will also heighten internal morale. • Call a professional. A design professional will help you select specific furniture items and maximize your space. Their knowledge and expertise will bring to light alternatives you never even thought possible.
Stop by All Makes Office Equipment Co. at 25th & Farnam to see what’s new in the office. The All Makes’ team is trained to help you make design and furniture purchases that fit your office atmosphere, your work style and your budget. 44
B2B Omaha Magazine • Fall 2011
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business ethics By B e v er ly J. K r ach er , PH . D.
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onsider the following, an
actual story from an Omaha business person (let’s call him “Ed”): In a previous position, I evaluated and made recommendations regarding requests for proposals for various services/products. In this position, there were certain rules of conduct which included prohibiting fraternizing and/or accepting gifts from potential providers to avoid a conflict of interest. In the course of my job, I inadvertently discovered, through an innocent conversation with a vendor, that my supervisor, who had final approval for proposals, had accepted an all-expense-paid trip to Las Vegas with front-row seats at a highly publicized musical event from that same vendor. But he had told everyone how hard it was to get the seats and how he paid so much for them! If I did nothing, no one would know that I know how my supervisor got the tickets, but I would allow a vendor to essentially buy a very large contract. If I blew the whistle, I was afraid I would end up losing my job. Who would be believed: the very profitable supervisor or me? Should I go around my supervisor and report what I know to the department head? Now, how many of us have the initial reaction that there is a difference between what Ed should do, ethically speaking, and what Ed would do, practically speaking? We realize that Ed has a moral obligation to report because of his role. But we wonder whether an average employee like Ed would put himself and his job on the line in order to report something that amounts to something like $500. What do you think? Would most people take that risk – even though it may be the morally right thing to do? Well, here’s a little information that might interest and even surprise some of you. It’s from the Ethics Resource Center’s (ERC) 2010 Blowing the Whistle on Workplace Misconduct: “In 2009, 63 percent of workers surveyed said they reported workplace misconduct when they saw it…and they blew the whistle on bosses as well as co-workers.”
Whereas we might tend to think that most people will not report workplace misconduct, this survey—from the most credible business ethics research center in the nation—shows that there are more whistleblowers than we might expect. And they are regular people like Ed, you and me. When do employees report misconduct? The ERC report is crystal clear – employees ‘whistleblow’ when they believe they work in an organization with a strong ethical culture “where commitment to ethics is set at the top…the message is reinforced throughout all levels…and employees perceive the ethical standards really matter in an organizations’ day-to-day operations.” In addition, ERC data shows that reporting misconduct is significantly higher when the organization has a “useful code and meaningful training that prepares workers to assess and respond to bad behavior….7 out of 10 who feel very well prepared by company training say they report wrongdoing, while only 25 percent who say they are very poorly prepared will blow the whistle.” Now…back to Ed. Do you want to hear the rest of his story? He says, “I was also afraid to say anything because my supervisor was a very good friend of the department head and both of them were known for sticking together and for retaliation tactics towards anyone they thought “deserved” it.” Should Ed report, morally speaking? Yes. It is his duty. Did Ed report? No way in heck. But if Ed had worked in an organization with a strong ethical culture where management sends positive messages about ethics? The odds are with him. Lesson learned.
B e v e r ly K r ac h e r , P h . D. E x e c u t i v e D i r e c to r , B us i n e s s E t h i c s Alliance c h a i r o f B us i n e s s E thics & Socie t y Co l l e g e o f B us i n e s s , C r e i g h to n U n i v e r s i t y
B2B Omaha Magazine • Fall 2011
B2B Omaha Magazine • Fall 2011 47
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