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A S TA R - H E R A L D P U B L I C AT I O N

Caring for the community

Attracting crowds

Funeral home helping those in times of grief

Scotts Bluff County Fair celebrates 125 years

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Business

W W W. S TA R H E R A L D . C O M

‘Best Hometown in America’

Taking care of business

Alliance sets new vision

Enterprise Center offers start-up assistance in Goshen County

page 9

page 12

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page 14

Gering business produces growth By MAUNETTE LOEKS Staff Reporter

Photo by Maunette Loeks

Nick Hald, a physical therapist at Regional West’s Rehab Center, said job opportunities for himself and his fiancé attracted the couple to Regional West. Moving to the area has allowed them to purchase a home and other opportunities they wouldn’t have had as soon if they remained in a large community.

Home sweet home n Regional West offers

opportunity to graduates By MAUNETTE LOEKS Staff Reporter

A variety of jobs at Regional West Medical Center are bringing western Nebraska residents back home to stay. Four employees at Regional West Medical Center are beginning careers while returning to their hometowns. Andrew Reifschneider, human re-

sources recruiter at Regional West Medical Center, has been at the hospital about a month. Reifschneider grew up in Gering, graduating in 2006. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Wyoming before becoming a commissioned officer for the U.S. Army. He ser ved six years. “I originally joined the Army as a musician, playing guitar for an Army rock band,” he said. “I realized that

while it was a lot of fun, there was not a lot of future in it.” He pursued a career as an adjutant general, the army’s version of human resources. He said he felt the career “would transfer to civilian life.” His career led him back to western Nebraska. He continues to ser ve in the National Guard in Scottsbluff, ser ving See RWMC page 2

In the office of CS Precision owner Scott James, family photos are intermixed with piles of couplings and other metal fragments. It seems appropriate for a business that has its roots in a long family histor y. Opened in 2000, CS Precision is an offshoot of Couplematics Systems, a company that James’ grandfather, Mark Morrison, founded in 1959. James’ father, Cliff, operated the business after his grandfather’s retirement in the 1980s, and James himself worked at the business until he and his father spearheaded the formation of CS Precision. James primarily operates CS Precision and is also involved in operating Couplematic Systems. Though many people, even Gering residents, are unfamiliar with the business, CS Precision produces couplings, hydraulic components and transfer components for a variety of equipment. “We make couplings for any agriculture equipment, industrial equipment, mining equipment, pressure washers,” James said, explaining that the business provides components for companies across the United States. The business has its roots in innovation, going back to James’ grandfather. “He started the business as an implement business, started in L yman,” James said. “He came up with a machine in which he could fix his own hydraulic hoses in the field and started doing work for others.” James’ father, Cliff, took over the Couplematic business and expanded the line. “We started off as a regional business, specializing in the ag sector, and under my dad, the business expanded into the industrial market.” Cliff moved the Couplematic business to Scottsbluff in the mid-1980s. The Jameses decided to open their own machine shop, leading to the founding of CS Precision. “We wanted more direct control over the products we used,” James said. “A lot of machine shops weren’t capable of making the higher-pressure products that we needed. We had some deliver y issues. We decided to do it on our own.” James has been involved in the family business “on and off” his whole adult life. He attended college at Colorado State University, majoring in production operations management. The company provides couplings and components to mostly large customers. A “small run” at the business is 5,000 pieces. “Our hydraulic line has been growing so fast that we have seen 25 percent growth each year,” James said. “So many of the fields that our business provides product lines to, like the oil field, are doing well right now. When need goes up, our demand grows. We pick up new distributors all the time, and as they grow, we have to produce more parts.” “We have quadrupled in size,” James said of the building that CS Precision constructed in 2000 on Lockwood Road. “We have expanded into new lines.” See GERING page 3

Chamber award-winner took the plunge

n New attorney Maxie Miller finds many ways to serve her community By STEVE FREDERICK Editor

When members of the Next Young Professionals took the “Polar Plunge” into the frigid waters of the North Platte River last weekend, the group’s secretary, Maxie Morgan, drew the line at participating. But that’s one of the few times Morgan has turned down an opportunity to help. As a newcomer to Scottsbluff in 2009, she plunged right in to community life. She and her husband, Jeff, own two adopted dogs, and she joined the Humane Society’s board of directors. An attorney with the Sorensen and Hahn Law Firm, she became

a guardian ad litem, assisting troubled children in court proceedings, and joined CAPstone, which also serves neglected and abused children. In addition to working with the Next Young Professionals, she volunteers at the Midwest Theater and enjoys playing volleyball at the YMCA. Her willingness to serve her new community won her this year’s Rising Star award in January from the Scottsbluff-Gering United Chamber of Commerce, presented to a business newcomer who, according to the citation, “has not only followed their vision by getting off to a successful start, but also gives of themselves, their time, talent and re-

sources to this community.” Her involvement in valley life began when her new boss, attorney John Sorensen, and his wife, Becky, hosted a gathering of some friends to welcome her to the firm. “After I started working here, John and Becky had a little welcoming reception for me, and that’s how I got to know some people,” Morgan said. “I was so grateful for that.” The new connections led her to the Next Young Professionals, which began as a project of the chamber and is now an independent organization. The group See MORGAN, page 4

Photo by Steve Frederick

Attorney Maxie Morgan was honored in January by the Scottsbluff-Gering United Chamber of Commerce for her extensive volunteer service.


2 SATURDAY, MARCH 3, 2012

Pride

Star-Herald

Photos by Maunette Loeks

ABOVE: Andrew Reifschneider returned to Scottsbluff after a military career. He’s been serving as a human resources recruiter at Regional West Medical Center and says he’d gladly recommend the hospital and the community to any potential candidates. LEFT: Dylan Cardiff, a safety coordinator at Regional West Medical Center, specializes in overseeing construction projects and ensuring patient health and safety is not compromised. Cardiff says he has seen a lot of young professionals, like himself and his wife return to the community, including his cousin, an architect at a local firm.

RWMC: Four employees starting careers after coming back to hometowns Continued from page 1 as the battalion’s human resources officer. “I always really liked human resources, especially in the military,” he said. “You do your job every day and you are helping people.” While in the Army, Reifschneider said, he traveled from coast to coast. He said he could have continued his Army career, but “at some point, you want to settle down.” His mom, Kathy Reifschneider, has served as a nurse at Regional West Medical Center for 36 years. Now, his job is to attract people similar to himself to the hospital, acquiring candidates from the website, from inquiries and other sources. The rural nature of the community can make it a challenge to attract people, but when asked what he would tell people about coming to western Nebraska, he replied, “I can offer that I’ve been around the country. I’ve lived in big cities — New York, Washington, D.C. — and I believe this is the best place to work. You’d be hard pressed to

find a place as great as this.” Dylan Cardiff, safety coordinator for occupational and environmental health departments at Regional West, agrees. In his role as safety coordinator, Cardiff helps oversee employee and patient health. He specializes in construction and OSHA regulations, as well as helping to ensure that the hospital meets its fire prevention standards, life safety code and joint commission codes. Cardiff is a 2001 graduate of Scottsbluff High School who ventured to Omaha after high school. He received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Nebraska while working several construction jobs in health care facilities. It became his specialty as he worked in facilities in Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri. But Cardiff and his wife “basically always wanted to move back,” he said. He returned to Regional West after a position opened up, familiar with the hospital because his grandmother had served more than 2,000 hours as a volunteer admissions clerk at the hospital.

“Regional West is such a large employer, there are a lot of opportunities.” Cardiff and his wife have an 11-month-old son, among the reasons they wanted to retur n “home” and be among family. He cites crime and other factors that never gave another community “that hometown feel for us.” “I have lived everywhere in Nebraska,” he said. “It is nice. There are lots of things to do, but sometimes you miss the rural setting.” Cardiff and his wife, who is a paralegal at a local law firm, also praise the opportunities of working in rural Nebraska. His wife works for the Pahlke law firm, touted as one of the best firms in win percentage in the state. Nicholas Hald, a physical therapist at the Rehab Center at Regional West, says he also found oppor tunity knocking in western Nebraska. Hald, who graduated Scottsbluff High School in 2003, had ventured to Midland Lutheran College, lived in Omaha for a year, and moved to Denver to attend physical therapy school at

Regis University for three years before returning to western Nebraska. Hald said he “always wanted to be involved in health care” when he found his place working as a rehabilitation technician. “You get to spend quality time with patients, working with them all day,” he said of his attraction to physical therapy. As an athlete in high school, he said, he had been exposed through injuries to physical therapy and the rehabilitation process. He said he knew Scott Edwards, who is a family friend, and decided to pursue the career. Hald graduated last May and he and his fiancé, Ram-

see, also a physical therapist, were looking for jobs when they found two openings at the Rehab Center. “I didn’t think of returning to the area until last spring,” he said. “My fiancé and I would have been competing for jobs anywhere else.” For Hald and his fiancé, living in Scottsbluff offers “the best of both worlds.” They are close to Ramsee’s family, who live in Rapid City, S.D. When they want to do activities, such as snowboarding, they are close enough to Colorado to make a weekend trip. “The job opportunity was one of the best options for us,” he said, adding that working in the Rehab Cen-

ter allows them a breadth of experience until they decide if they want to specialize in an area. They get opportunities at continuing education and other opportunities that allow them to develop as professionals. “We get to work with both inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation, which gives us experience working with a diverse group of people.” The couple was also able to purchase their first home, something they wouldn’t have been able to afford in Denver. “We basically feel like we are ahead of where we wanted to be,” he said. “It’s been great.”

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SATURDAY, MARCH 3, 2012 3

GERING: Business has quadrupled in size

Photos by Maunette Loeks

ABOVE: Metal shavings from the multispindle machines are being gathered for recycling. ABOVE RIGHT: When CS Precision started in 2000, with the help of LB 840 funds from Gering and Scottsbluff, it had three machines in its machine shop, like these multi-spindle machines used to make the couplings sold by the business. Now, the business has 22 multispindle machines and five computer numerical control machines. RIGHT: CS Precision produces more than 2,000 configurations of couplings and averages production of 50,000 pieces a day. Scott James, owner, said the business has seen steady increases each year of about 25 percent in production at the machine shop. LEFT: A CS Precision worker assembles interlocking parts during a recent shift. CS Precision has two shifts of workers. About 50 workers are employed at the plant, quite an increase from the 12 workers the business started with. BELOW: A CS Precision employee uses copper for brazing, which fills the joints in the couplings she is working on.

Scott James, owner and operator of CS Precision, shows a heat treatment machine, one of the newest machines at the CS Precision plant. The plant, constructed in 2000 in Gering, has been expanded four times as the business continues to see success.

RIGHT: A CS Precision worker uses a computer numerical control machine to bend a section of metal (by her left hand) for bent coupling. At the CS Precision plant, Scott James said, a part can go from the drawing board to cutting, tooling and on a machine for creation within a day.

Continued from page 1 The business started with 12 employees — mostly new workers, though some had experience in the machine shop industry. “We learned as we went along,” he said. At the time of its startup, the business had three machines. Today, CS Precision houses 22 multi-spindle machines and five computer numerical control machines. The most recent addition to the business was a heat-treating machine, which does the finishing process on the industrial components. Only one of its manufacturing processes isn’t done inhouse. About 50 workers are employed at the Gering business, producing more than 2,000 configurations of parts and averaging production of 50,000 pieces a day. Since 2000, the business has evolved so much that “it’s not even recognizable from what it was before.” The business got its start with the help of about $250,000 in community development block grants from the state of Nebraska and LB 840 funds from the cities of Gering and Scottsbluff. The LB840 and grant funds were instrumental to the business, James said. “The money really helped to get us started,” he said. “It allowed us to grow a lot faster. This is what the programs are for. It was beneficial to us. We have been beneficial to the area.”

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4 SATURDAY, MARCH 3, 2012

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Courtesy photos

ABOVE: Maxie and Jeff Morgan RIGHT: Morgan, right, and friends celebrate a volleyball victory at the Scottsbluff YMCA.

MORGAN: Attorney has been in the Panhandle since 2009 Continued from page 1 ser ves to welcome, recr uit and retain young professionals in the North Platte Valley. It sponsors social functions and professional development programs.

Members can join as individuals, or businesses can sponsor groups of employees at several sponsorship levels. A membership automatically includes a spouse, and attendance at events often tops more than 100. “That’s how I met a lot of other people,” Morgan s a i d . “ We l i k e t o d o fundraisers for other charitable groups. We promote charities as a way to help young people get involved in the community. It’s a good way to network and a great way to meet people.” Members of the group bundled up and jumped into the river last weekend as participants in the Polar Plunge, a fundraiser

for the Special Olympics. Her law practice covers a range of topics, including family and juvenile law, Social Security and disability, estates and bankr uptcies. She’s a member of the bar in California and Nebraska. “It’s a general practice for the most part,” she said. “John teaches me how to do these various things.” Her journey to Nebraska took a few twists and turns, including a stint as a nanny for a business par tner of Bono, lead singer of rock music’s U2, and once met the star. That was in California, while she attended law school in San Francisco. But her roots are in small towns. Morgan gr ew up in Waldpor t, Ore., a small coastal community known for fishing and tourism. It offered a variety of oppor tunities for a high school student to stay busy. In high school she played volley-

ball and basketball and was a member of the student council and the National Honor Society. “I felt connected to the town from the time I was ver y small,” she said. “You know a lot of people from school and church and the community.” After high school she attended Oregon State University, and later Golden Gate University law school in San Francisco while her new husband attended graduate school. She earned a number of honors while earning her law degree and participated in the Family Law Clinic. She ser ved as a street law instructor for innercity youth. She finished law school in 2007 and worked briefly as an assistant to a criminal defense attorney in Por tland. In March 2008, Jeff got a job as a histor y professor in Chadron. Her new home far from the Pacific Coast offered limited business

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opportunities for a young lawyer with little knowledge of Nebraska law. “I didn’t want to tr y to hang out a shingle,” she said, so she applied for a position at several law practices in Scottsbluf f, where the legal community is more active. She landed the job with Sorensen & Hahn, and after Jeff finished his stint in Chadron he moved here. He now writes full time and has completed three books about fly fishing. On Tuesday, her 32nd

birthday, he was in Oregon on a fishing trip. “He calls it ‘research,’” she said, indicating parentheses with a wiggle of her fingers. “My wedding gift was a fly rod and reel.” In return for her taking up his favorite sport, he agreed to take her skiing. She enjoys both downhill and Nordic skiing, mountain biking, hiking, camping, reading, movies, college football and creating bead jewelr y. “I love to be outdoors,”

she said. “Growing up in Oregon, that’s part of the way of life.” She’s still finding ways to get involved, recently taking steps to join the United Way board. Although she can occasionally feel far from her family and her roots in Oregon, life in rural Nebraska is a good fit — “being plugged into the community, having a good network of friends, having a job I enjoy,” she said. “I actually enjoy the climate.”


Pride

Star-Herald

SATURDAY, MARCH 3, 2012 5

Local funeral home caring for community By CHABELLA GUZMAN Staff Reporter

Few businesses can claim to have roots in the Valley that reach back more than 90 years. Dugan-Kramer Funeral Chapel in Scottsbluf f is one of them. While the name has changed, the funeral home has had a local owner since 1917. The George Read Company opened the business behind its furniture store, originally located on the corner of 15th and Broadway. “Emer y Barr y worked for the company in 1920. He would lay carpet during the day and tend to the funeral business as well,” said Dennis Kramer, vice president and funeral director of Dugan-Kramer Funeral Chapel. “He worked for us until 1984.” Read owned the funeral home until 1959, when Ken Mazur purchased it. T h e n B i l l D u g a n S r. bought it in 1966. The funeral business moved from the furniture store to 20th and Broadway and moved again in 1980 to 32nd and Avenue B in Scottsbluff. Kramer has been a coowner of the funeral home since 1971, when he purchased an interest in it with Dugan. Unlike some funeral directors or owners, Kramer came to the business because he didn’t want to sell cars. “My dad was a partner in Kramer Pontiac, and I had no interest in that,” he said. “Plus, I had been working in the funeral business since I was 15.” Kramer’s older brother, Larr y, had been mowing lawns for Emmett Benson and Dick Jolliffe. He went on vacation, and Dennis took over the mowing of lawns and other tasks. When Larr y came back from his visit to Michigan, he shared the responsibilities with Dennis until finally Dennis took over. “He didn’t like it (funeral business), but I did. I liked helping people in tough times during their grief process,” Kramer said. Helping people is the main reason many people go into the funeral business. Tami Lutz also became a funeral director to help people. “I knew I didn’t want to be a nurse or doctor, but wanted to help families,” she said. Lutz didn’t have the family background the funeral business that many morticians have; in fact, her father questioned her desire to go into the business. “I couldn’t really answer him, but it seemed like a fascinating profession to explore,” she said. “He suggested I get hired by a local funeral home and get experience before college, so I would know for sure.” Lutz did just that in her hometown of West Point. She worked through the summer and found she enjoyed ever y aspect of the business. She achieved her degree in mortuar y science from Kansas, but didn’t like working in Kansas City. She moved back to Nebraska in 1995. Lutz doesn’t consider herself a trailblazer in the field, but as a woman, just being a director puts her in that light. When Kramer attended college in the ‘70s, he said that there were only a couple of women in the field. Now women are entering the field in larger numbers. “It’s such a man’s business,” Lutz said. “When I

was in college it was a lot of men in their 40s, people making midlife car eer changes.” She added that many in the funeral business began in medicine or the ministr y, and vice versa. She didn’t graduate with many women, but agrees that more are getting into the field. “ We h a v e a c a r i n g touch,” she said. “But we still have to prove ourselves and that we can handle it.” Demographics are not the only changes directors have seen over the years, as people have moved from traditional burials to cremation. People prefer cremations anymore, Kramer said. They see other relatives having it done and it gives people from out of town a chance to attend a memorial ser vice at a later date. More people are participating in the funeral ser vices, instead of just clergy; people are personalizing funerals with videos, photos and slide-show memorials. “Some hold a meeting time the night before, to share stories and be with family,” Kramer said. “It is more relaxed rather than at the ser vice time, when people might have to hurr y and get back to work.” With cremations, other aspects have changed as well, such as vaults being smaller for urns rather than caskets. Ashes can even be put in shotgun shells and taken hunting. Tissue from the deceased can be removed and pressed into diamonds, he said. “Alkaline hydrolysis is a green way of dissolving remains to just a few small bones that are then cremated,” Kramer said. “Green burials are popular in Colorado and the west coast, where people are buried in wicker caskets. Ashes can also be put in paper mache and sent out

Photos by Chabella Guzman

ABOVE: The DuganKramer Funeral Chapel has been at its current location on Avenue B since 1980, when it moved from downtown Scottsbluff. Bronwin Hanshew, left, Dennis Kramer and Tami Lutz assist families daily with funeral services.

LEFT: Funeral director and vice president of Dugan-Kramer Funeral Chapel Dennis Kramer gets some help with an account from Tami Lutz, also a funeral director at Dugan-Kramer.

on the ocean to dissolve.” Kramer and Lutz agree that the most important part of the funeral business is building relationships with people and community. “I really enjoy the smalltown feeling,” she said. “I like the coziness of getting to know people and building a relationship with them. In a big town you can see 600 or more families a year and it’s

ver y businesslike, and that is one reason I left the big towns.” Building relationships is not something many think of when they think of a funeral home, but it is a primar y concern in most funeral directors’ minds. “We get to know the families quite a bit,” said Kramer. He adds that the business part is necessar y to keep the doors open and

pay the bills, but funeral homes are also more involved in the people part. “We’re not the stereotypical funeral directors,”

Kramer said. “We are people, too, with compassion and understanding. We are here to take care of the living and deceased.”

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6 SATURDAY, MARCH 3, 2012

Star-Herald

Photo by Maunette Loeks

Kelly Morten offers some unique cupcake flavors at her Farmer’s Market booth and through special orders, including (pictured from left, clockwise): Lemon-filled, Dr. Pepper , Boston crème and traditional vanilla.

Gourmet cupcakes grace farmer’s markets, local events By MAUNETTE LOEKS Staff Reporter

There’s something about cupcakes — an individually-wrapped treat that packs a lot of goodness just for you. For Kelly Morten, cupcakes have become a foray into a career she had been interested in as a teen. Mor ten, who has turned an interest into a successful Farmer’s Market favorite, specializes in the delicacies. Morten said she has always been interested in cooking and baking. She remembers the first time her mom let her cook — she was in the second grade and her mom let her prepare some eggs. “She hated making eggs,” she said. “I think she secretly let me make eggs, thinking, ‘Yes, I never have to do that again!’” When she was 12, she said, she started cooking and baking more, preparing meals for the family. Despite her interest in culinar y arts, after high school Morten earned a degree in early childhood education. “While I was attending Dallas Community Col-

lege, I learned that the main campus had a chef apprentice program. ... But my parents told me that I needed to go to college and get a degree. I was 17. I didn’t know I could say I wanted to do something else.” Mor ten, who mar ried her Texas high school sweetheart, Todd, taught classes for a couple of years before she stopped to take care of her oldest children, Keaton and Ransom, who have genetic brain malformations. The couple has three other children, Sunny, Stella and Lilly. The couple moved to Scottsbluf f about three years ago from Bruning, Neb., after Todd accepted a position with the Scotts Bluf f County Attorney’s Office. Now, Todd works as a defense attorney for Island & Huff in Gering. As Morten got to know people in Scottsbluff, she said she would bake cupcakes and treats for friends, school and church. One of the friends, Laura Welchel, sold goat products at the Scottsbluff Farmer’s Market. “She encouraged me,”

Photos by Maunette Loeks

ABOVE: A cupcake filled with lemon curd has an extra dose of sprinkles and frosting, making it a tantalizing treat.

Morten said. “I ventured into cupcakes because LEFT: Grace, the name they are handy to package adopted for Kelly and easy to sell.” Morten’s Farmer’s Market Mor ten’s cupcakes venture, is a reference to have become a farmer’s G o d ’s G r a c e , w h i c h market favorite. She packMorten says is present all ages and operates her around us. She says she home-based venture as hopes her customers feel “Grace Catering and blessed by the treats she Baked Goods.” prepares. “I am talking about God’s Grace,” she said. “I ever yone who likes chai conut cupcake, to name recipes. She may get see God’s Grace ever ywhere. In our kids. In our tea loves,” a pink lemon- just a few more. She develops her own See GRACE, page 7 home. What good is it to ade cupcake and lime cotalk about God’s Grace? How do you extend it? I extend it in cupcakes.” Morten offers traditional flavors, such as a scr umptious “double chocolate” or chocolate peanut butter cupcakes that are favorites. One cupcake, a Dr. Pepper cupcake, is such a hit that some of Mor ten’s customers regularly let her know on Facebook that they crave the treat and inquire about its availability. “I got that recipe from my mother-in-law,” she said. “And, I thought, why not tr y it as a cupcake?” She also tantalizes the taste buds with a variety of flavors. Some favorites include a raspber r y cupcake, a chai tea cake “that

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Pride

Star-Herald

SATURDAY, MARCH 3, 2012 7

Photos by Maunette Loeks

RIGHT: Grace Catering and Baked Goods’ Kelly Morten, alias “Cupcake Lady,” shares her secret to filling cupcakes — she uses a squeeze bottle to make the job easier. FAR RIGHT: For a recent Community Christian School fundraiser, Morten baked more than 400 cupcakes, including these Boston crème cupcakes awaiting the final touch of ganache. She donated the proceeds of cupcake sales to the school. B E L O W: K e l l y M o r t e n doesn’t just make cupcakes, but manages a full household of five children. During a recent cupcake session, her youngster daughter Lilly eagerly awaited a cupcake of her own.

Photo by Maunette Loeks

Kelly Morten, proprietor of Grace Catering and Baked Goods, puts chocolate ganache on a favorite cupcake — Boston crème. Some of her customers didn’t even know what ganache was until she started becoming a regular at the Scottsbluff Farmer’s Market.

GRACE: A farmer’s market favorite inspiration from a food blog or look up tips on the Internet, but “You can’t just copy something,” she said. “There is no soul in that.” “My family has had a lot of cupcakes,” she said, as they are the testers for her new recipes. “They are probably tired of them.” She opts for natural ingredients instead of extracts. She decorates all her own cupcakes, usually adding her own special touches. She says she learned her technique for frosting cupcakes from making hors d’ oeuvres for parties. “At one time, we were going to farm our own food,” she said on a side note. “We were going to grow our own produce until we figured out we couldn’t support a family on that.” Morten also does special orders of cupcakes, and catering, for birthdays, receptions, and other special events. For a recent event, a Community Christian School fundraiser featuring former Miss America Teresa Scanlan, Morten made more than 400 cupcakes, all spor ting the theme “America’s Sweethear t.” It’s been her largest catering event to date. Asked where a person keeps 400 cupcakes, “I have a special freezer for cupcakes,” Mor ten answered, laughing. In addition to cupcakes, Morten also makes scones,

cinnamon rolls, cof fee cakes and other baked goods. She also makes gluten-free products, though only on a special-order basis. However, there is one thing she doesn’t do. “I don’t do wedding cakes,” she said. “I don’t have the patience to make something look that nice.” For Morten, her home-

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based venture offers the sweet taste of success. “The thing that was most surprising to me is how many people like my stuff,” she said. For more about Grace Catering and Baked Goods, visit “grace” on Facebook or on Morten’s promotional blog at http://graceopenyourmouthwide.vpweb.com.

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Pride

Star-Herald

SATURDAY, MARCH 3, 2012 9

Photo courtesy Carol Murphy/The Mitchell Index

The Scotts Bluff County Fair was in full swing when this photo was taken in 1917.

125 years of changes continue to attract crowds to the Scotts Bluff County Fair By SANDRA HANSEN Ag Editor

MITCHELL — Piles of scrapbooks filled with old photographs and newspaper clippings bear a partial history of the Scotts Bluff County Fair, which celebrates its 125th anniversary this year. The celebration began in 1887 at Gering, and in a slow progression it eventually moved to Mitchell by 1912. At that time, it was referred to as the Cheyenne County fair because Gering was located within the original borders of Cheyenne County. It wasn’t until June 1889 that Gering businessmen formed a Scotts Bluff County Fair association, intending to continue the annual event in Gering. According to an early newspaper account, the first county fair featured agricultural exhibits shown in a tent. Horse races were popular and were on a straightaway track in what later became the southern part of Gering. The first dance pavilion was described as a “bowery sort” of an affair with the hall covered with pine boughs. Music was furnished with instruments borrowed from Kimball residents. As the idea to move the fair to Mitchell gained strength, friction arose between the Gering and Mitchell supporters. Both applied for state funds that were provided for agricultural societies, which operated the fairs. Gering won out, but by then, Scotts Bluff County had been cut away from Cheyenne County, so both societies gained the special funding. The fair management favored novelty attractions such as the first group of Indians, first airplanes, first moving pictures, balloons, high dives, etc. The forms of enter tainment have changed, but they are still par t of the Scotts Bluf f County Fair, according to Lanna Hubbard, fair manager. It was 1912 before a group of Mitchell businessmen gained enough clout and financial backing to move the entire fair to Mitchell. A huge tent was brought from Denver to house exhibits, such as needlework, jellies and

baked goods. Livestock was also entered, but lacking stables, animals were tied to trees. The first building erected on the grounds was a stable. And the businessmen made sure “the race track was in order.” During this period, the two competing fairs were held at the same time. The one in Mitchell was named for the town, while the one at Gering was called the Scotts Bluff County Fair. The Mitchell fair supporters retained their positions on the Gering fair board. In July 1912, the move to Mitchell was made official. The Gering fair association continued its fair until about 1914. The sources of the early histor y include “Pioneer Tales,” a book by early Gering publisher A.B. Wood, and an account by Mrs. H.E. Russell, “Memories of a Pioneer Schoolma’am,” among others. An undated newspaper article cites Great Western Sugar as one of the shareholders in the fair association. It says, “The fair of today is a product of what was begun in 1887. It was started by men of vision and ability and their efforts have since been continued and enlarged until Scotts Bluff’s county fair is truly a ‘state fair’ right here at home!” Hubbard agrees that today’s fair is a product of the 1887 fair. Similar vendors and exhibits can be found at the fairgrounds during the weeklong event in late July and early August. Races still take place, although they are with lawn mowers and 4-wheelers. Artwork and digital photographs fill shelves in the Event Center, and there are fewer home canned goods and less garden produce. A dedicated group of women who make up the county’s Extension Homemakers clubs volunteer to help set up the exhibits and assist visitors during the fair. Cattle numbers have increased, as have sheep and goats, and poultry, rabbits and miscellaneous small critters make appearances. The fairgrounds have become a focal point for large gatherings since the construction of the livestock barn and the event center in the 1980s-1990s. The facili-

Photo by Sandra Hansen

One of the 1945 fair books has survived. The cover highlights five days of pari-mutual racing, a very popular event for the first 50 years or more. This publication cost 25 cents.

ties are used year-round instead of just during the summer fair. Weddings, car rallies, and elephant overnight stays are just a few of the activities that occur at the fairgrounds. The fair is also a great place for youth to begin their 4-H careers. 4-H clubs host meetings and fundraisers there, and the organization’s programs encompass so much more than they did 100 years ago. Children too young for formal 4-H club membership can join pre-4H clubs, or participate in exhibits as independent entrants. Many FFA youth have gone on to careers in which they use skills they credit to their FFA experiences. Their animals have also helped fund college educations. Hubbard said she would like to see the school exhibits increase this year as an observance of the 125th anniversary. See COUNTY page 10

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10 SATURDAY, MARCH 3, 2012

Pride

Star-Herald

Photos by Sandra Hansen

ABOVE: Entertainment has always been a key part of the Scotts Bluff County Fair since it began 125 years ago. Although unicyclists haven’t been featured in recent years, fair management strives to provide quality entertainment each year. The 2012 program is rumored to be a female vocal group, though the deal hadn’t been finalized by press time. ABOVE LEFT: When the 2009 performance by the Lo Cash Cowboys was interrupted by a wild thunderstorm that delayed the program, Fair Manager Lanna Hubbard, other fair officials and the entertainers met to decide what to do. While moving the talks to a different location, Hubbard fell off the stage and was sidelined for a while. The show went on under the shelter, but without electricity. Consequently, the musicians had to come up with some substitute equipment, and this wash tub, played by drummer Phil, was presented to Hubbard to make up for the show she missed. It now hangs in her office at the fairgrounds.

Photo by Sandra Hansen

Fair entertainment has varied over the past century, and big name bands were not on the roster. However, the facilities are used year round and in the past Lawrence Welk, Kay Kyser and Louis Armstrong, have been among the dozens of entertainers who have taken the opportunity to visit with area residents. People often request copies of posters from those early events that are among the memorabilia stored at the fairgrounds.

COUNTY: Fair is great for youth to start 4-H careers Continued from page 9 “It would be awesome,” she said, sitting behind a desk piled high with scrapbooks. Enter tainment has always been an important part of the fair, according to Hubbard. Hometown bands and other entertainers were featured as well as traveling shows. Eventually, bigger name shows were hired for the fair. Among the more recent are Vince Gill in 1992, Montgomer y Gentr y in 2001 and the Lo Cash Cowboys in 2009, when bad weather forced the band to present the program without electricity. Lee Brice, a top-10 countr y singer, brought crowds to the fair in 2011. Hubbard said she learns about potential entertainment by listening to youth, and to suggestions from older citizens. One of her most memorable events was connected to the entertainment pro-

grams. She fell off the stage after a discussion about alternatives the night an electrical storm and rain threatened to cancel the Lo Cash Cowboys act. They eventually moved under the shelter and performed without their amplifiers. Hubbard believes that growing up on a farm gave her the background she needs to really understand her position and the people she works with. Going into her seventh year and sixth fair, she is still excited about

what she does. “It’s not just a job,” said the former special education aide. “It is a passion.” The Ag Society provides the venue for the fair, while the fair manager is responsible for making the event happen. Leading the group is President Rob Ford, Vice President Matt Silverman, Secretary Skip Jenne, and Treasurer Shawn Harvey. Other 2012 members are Jer r y McMackin, Gar y Mar tin, Chip Huckfeldt, Mike Flick and Stu Hessler.


Pride

Star-Herald

SATURDAY, MARCH 3, 2012 11

‘Bagging’ business with innovation By CHABELLA GUZMAN Staff Reporter

MORRILL — While alfalfa season is still a few months off, Tom Jr., John and Tom Sr. Welsch are already producing their first crop of bale in a bag, alfalfa. The Welsch’s Bale in a Bag company was founded two and a half years ago. Tom Jr., the core of the business trio, as his father, Tom Sr., said, had the idea and spent two years getting the business off the ground. “I liked the idea when I heard it,” Tom Sr. said. “I had no idea how to do it, but Tom spent years doing research and found a system that would work and make sure it was all feasible.” Tom Jr. saw a business opportunity with the bale in the bag to stabilize their income. “The market around cows will fluctuate — some years are good, others not so good,” he said. “Looking around I saw that you could use alfalfa for horses and have a more consistent market. Taking out some of the variables in the market.” The bale in a bag will cater to the horse industry primarily. Most farmers produce large 1,000 pound bales of alfalfa the bale in bag will offer a 40 pound option for horse owners when they travel. The business idea was good enough to win the Invest Nebraska Corporation, Wester n Nebraska New Venture Competition in 2010. It was the second competition held in the Panhandle and Executive Director and project manager Dan Hoffman said Welsch’s Bale in a Bag concept and business plan stood out from the others. Growing a business from scratch is not as easy as winning a competition. Tom Jr. still had a lot of hard work ahead of him.

“It’s an every day thing,” he said. “You think you have a problem solved and something else jumps out. It’s a learning experience, but makes you a stronger business and better prepared to handle the next hurdle.” Handling hurdles is something farmers and businessmen and women do everyday. The Welschs have both in their background, as Tom Jr.’s grandfather was a farmer and salesman. Walter Welsch farmed in the Gering Valley, but eventually moved the family out to Stegall, where they had a seed and grocery store. “My dad was a salesman of Mormon and Pioneer seed,” said Tom Sr. “He was one of the first to establish seed corn in the Valley and that took him to Stegall.” The family lived in Stegall, but eventually moved to Morrill in 1965, where Tom Sr. grew up and eventually took over the family farm. “I farmed with my dad and brother, Stan,” he said. “I bought my brother out and now farm with Tom.” He farms about 500 acres and Tom Jr. and his wife, Cr ystal, farm about 100 acres. His brothers, John and Dan, work for his father in the summer, but also have jobs outside of farming. Tom Jr. said there were some setbacks, as they went through the startup of the business. “Getting an electrical connection up to our rural area proved challenging,” he said. “But we purchased a professional generator for that problem.” He added the business received a shot in the arm with a Nebraska Rural Economic Development Loan. It helped them import the machinery from overseas. “We learned a lot from shipping internationally,” he said. “Someday we will use the information to export hay over to areas that

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don’t grow it, opening up another market for ourselves.” John, an employee with the railroad, has also helped his dad and brother with the business. He is a mechanic and helps out in his spare time with getting the business off the ground. John worked with the imported machinery to modify it to fit the needs of the company. The family has stored about 300 tons of hay from the season to get them started in the baling process. “The saved hay should get us to the 2012 crop,” Tom Jr. said. “We usually start watering at the end of June and the first cutting will be calf hay.” The first cutting is not usually of high quality, as it has had a three-month growing period and larger stems. The second and third cuttings are done every 30 days or so and have higher feed value, those cuttings will be

Photo by Chabella Guzman

Welsch’s Bale in a Bag co-owner Tom Welsch Jr. stands next to a large bale of alfalfa that will be turned into several bales and packaged in a plastic bag. Welsch said that the bales will be in stores local farm stores in March.

for the bale in a bag product. The Welschs are anxious to see their product in the stores this month. The first bales will be in area farm

stores and Tom Jr. has been out talking with feed stores and horse owners building a market for the bales. “We’re all excited to see

the new business get started,” Tom Sr. said. “We’re curious to see what the future holds, getting into production and selling the product.”

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Pride

12 SATURDAY, MARCH 3, 2012

Star-Herald

Photo by Kay Grote

Photo by Kay Grote

Alliance’s “Wiggly Park” is a unique amenity to the community, allowing dog owners the freedom of exercising their pets in a safe and scenic location.

Alliance FFA members Bret Schwaderer and Ty Leisy worked last week to construct a receiver hitch deer hanger. The Alliance FFA Chapter has a long history of successful community involvement and member achievement. Chapter advisor is Lori Walla.

Alliance sets new vision to become the ‘Best Hometown in America’ By KAY GROTE For the Star-Herald

ALLIANCE — With renewed enthusiasm and a defined vision for the future, the Alliance community is riding a wave. Just a decade ago, Alliance was mostly known as a “railroad town” with a quirky landmark, but thanks to a consorted effor t toward a redefined image through downtown revitalization and tourism promotion, Alliance now has its sights set on becoming the “Best Hometown in America.” Alliance city manager J.D. Cox, who came on board just a year ago, said that the concept of building the best hometown was birthed from a conversation he had with a resident touting all the current offerings as well as untapped potential of the town. Cox refers to Alliance’s new vision as more of a journey than a destination. “We really are embarking on this journey to making Alliance better and the journey should be something everyone enjoys and can contribute to,” Cox said. “Right now we’re really focusing on building team and community spirit and pride. That will be a foundation to determining

and launching into some of those specific directions in the coming months.” One of the first efforts toward Alliance’s directional journey, Cox said, was adopting the “Building the Best Hometown in America” as a community slogan. A new community promotional jingle was also a d o p t e d i n F e b r u a r y, which has Alliance and Box Butte County singing a new tune. “The jingle, I think, will be a good reminder of all the good things that we have going on here,” said Alliance Chamber of Commerce Director Dixie Nelson. Nelson explained that the jingle is a product of a collaborative ef for t between City of Alliance Visitors Bureau Director Kevin Howard, Alliance Historic Main Street Director Kristi Ellstrom and Chamber Treasurer Kevin Horn. “They worked on it together and tried to capture all the positives about Alliance,” Nelson said. “Kristi has been a great worker on this. She has brought a youthful presence to Alliance’s vision.” While the best hometown in America slogan is used in the song, Ellstrom points to the jingle’s emphasis on choosing to live

and work in Alliance. The Alliance Chamber will use the new tune to promote Alliance events in the coming months. A new travel website is also in the works to promote Alliance’s unique attractions and friendly businesses. The new site, www.VisitAlliance.com, offers a simple navigation structure, mobile friendly theme, and is search engine optimized. It features promotional attraction descriptions and direct links to local businesses, attractions, and accommodation options. Nelson points out that the new website has the ability to grow as the tourism industry grows. “We’ll keep adding to it,” she said. The site has been designed with a unique feature of allowing users to have a hands-on, userfriendly experience by utilizing specialized formatting and techniques that hold content and images in place. Alliance’s energy and vision has fueled many new community projects this year such as a downtown bench and trash receptacle project, downtown beautification, business recruitment, mentoring and promotion. A new emphasis has been placed on pro-

moting historical Box Butte Avenue, bringing new businesses in while maintaining downtown’s historical character. Nelson said all these efforts are working. “We only have two vacant store fronts downtown right now,” she said. Updated signage and aesthetic sprucing is also part of Alliance’s direction. Howard said new directional signs to Alliance’s many attractions and venues such as the new Performing Arts Center, Veterans Cemetery, Dobby’s and Carhenge are on tap. More coordination of service training for community volunteers is also on tap. Cox said the Service Excellence Program will bring excellent front-line service and hospitality, starting with city staff and employees.

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“We’re hoping that the idea of providing excellent ser vice will then spill out throughout the rest of the community,” Cox said. Nelson pointed to one particular business owner who has provided decades of excellent customer ser vice. Jerr y Reynolds, former owner of Art and Jerr y Boot Shop in Alliance and af fectionately known as “Poor Ol’ Jerr y” around town, recently received the Lifetime Service Award for what he gives to his customers and for what he is leaving to the next generation of Box Butte Avenue business owners. “Jerry has had a tremendous impact on this community and actually was very instrumental at bringing people to Alliance,” Nelson said. “He started his business of boot and

shoe repair in the days of the cobblers and repair service. People for miles knew that Jerry was an expert craftsman and could give new life to boots. He also had a great customer service attitude.” Reynolds is now sharing that ser vice philosophy with new business owners. Reynolds is actively mentoring Matt Franchetti, the new owner of Jerry’s Work and Western, and helping other downtown business owners develop a succession plan and recruiting younger business people who want to hone their customer and traditional skills. “It’s amazing how much is going on in Alliance, really,” Howard said. “Everyone is getting on board to making this the best hometown.We all make a pretty good team.”

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Pride

Star-Herald

SATURDAY, MARCH 3, 2012 13

Torrington woman translates passion for learning into a home business By RHONDA SCHULTE For the Star-Herald

TORRINGTON, Wyo. — Rocia (Perez) Nesbitt has turned her passion for learning into the type of business few people offer in the Panhandle area, that of Spanishto-English translator. Casa Blanca Translations and Languages Ser vices, based at Nesbitt’s home a few miles west of the Western Sugar plant in Torrington, Wyo., is available to individuals, organizations or large and small companies. Nesbitt takes on a broad range of disciplines, including financial, commercial, technical, medical and legal documents. The reason Nesbitt is adept in many areas is that she’s determined to expand her skills. Whether it’s language, accounting, hair styling, computer pr ograms, office skills or CPR, she takes the class, earns the diploma, certificate or credits, and then looks for another opportunity. Nesbitt has a collection of diplomas, cer tificates of achievement and honor awards from Mexican and American schools few people could match. From the late 1980s to mid ’90s, Rocio worked as a government employee in Mexico. She quit her job and sold her bakery-sales business when she married John Nesbitt, whom she met when he was visiting Mexico. The couple moved to Torrington in 1997 to further John’s career. He is an English teacher at Eastern Wyoming College. Rocio met her American husband when he was visiting Chihuahua. At the time, she was a busy career woman who owned a cake sales business and worked for the state government. In 1995, the couple married in El Paso, Texas. After the honeymoon, John returned to Torrington and Rocio stayed in Mexico while she awaited legal documentation to live in the U.S. She joined her husband in 1997. “There was a big pain in my heart,” said Rocio. “What am I going to do here? I need to work in something very challenging. I want to use my brain, a lot.” Nesbitt’s solution was to

sign up for classes at EWC and tutor students. For three years, she commuted to work as an accountant and translator for a pipeline company in Casper, Wyo. Nesbitt came to understand there is a need for written and spoken language services in this rural setting, as well as globally. As with many homebased businesses, technology makes it possible for CB T ranslations to accept clients from afar. A client sends a document by e-mail or regular mail, and Nesbitt replies with a price quote. Her fees vary widely based on the industry, location, type of service and time. Nesbitt teaches English or Spanish to small groups in a variety of professions, and to people in the community. She provides language ser vices to health care patients with limited English proficiency by helping them communicate with doctors, nurses and other medical staff. She might work on something as simple as translating a resume, letter or invitation, recipe, poem, brochure, instructions, contract or catalog. Businesses can use a translator to reach a broader audience, said Nesbitt. Nesbitt has translated hundreds of Goshen County School handbook pages to enable Spanish-speaking students and adults understand the district’s policies and procedures. She helps parents communicate with teachers, school staff and principals. Interpreting in a district cour t presents a special challenge because of the nature of the job, said Nesbitt. Some issues can’t be solved by translation alone. “If a defendant needs to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty, the translator can only present the options,” said Nesbitt. “These problems are more acute when they entail legal consequences.” Rocio was one of 14 children born to the Perez family in the city of Chichuahua, the state capital of the State of Chichuahua, Mexico. The first time she studied the English language was in first grade at a Catholic school where the nuns taught classes in two lan-

guages. Learning, she discovered, was a joy. “I still have my book,” she exclaimed. “I love my book.” Nesbitt’s father insisted she train to become a secretary after she had graduated from a private preparatoria (high school) in Chihuahua, located in northern Mexico about a 5½-hour drive south of El Paso, Texas. She completed the three-year bi-lingual executive secretar y program at Colegio Palmore, graduating in 1982. Curious about cosmetology, Nesbitt attended secretarial classes in the mornings and used the second part of the day to earn a certificate from the Institute Superior de Estilistas. “If I’m a secretary, I will need to know how to do my hair and nails,” she reasoned with a laugh. Neither secretarial work nor operating a beauty salon appealed to the graduate. “I finished, but that was not what I wanted to do,” said Nesbitt. “I thought, ‘I want a different career.’” With her father’s blessing, she signed up for a college exchange program at Las Cruces, New Mexico. Every weekend, the school arranged for special excursions and tours for the students, giving them a chance to experience theater, museums, radio stations, a space center, a ski-resort and other sites. There was one frustration. The locals spoke a combination of English and Spanish termed Spanglish. With an Intensive English Beginning/Intermediate diploma in hand, she approached her father with the obvious next move. She said,

“I want to go farther into the United States to learn how people speak just English.” Through the Rotary exchange program, Nesbitt lived with one family and then a second, while attending the Port Huron Adult Community Lear ning School in Michigan (198384). Practicing English, talking and sharing with adults from a myriad of countries, her quest to learn intensified. A teacher at Port Huron asked Nesbitt to help the international students improve their grammar and knowledge of English. The students had a humorous nickname for Nesbitt. “They called me Teacher Number Two,” she said. “I treasure that expression in my heart and keep a smile on my face because of those moments in my life.” Next she studied accounting at the University of Chihuahua. Almost five years later, in 1989, Nesbitt received the CPA certification. Her diploma, printed on pigskin, is framed and hangs on a wall at her home along with many others. Before moving to the U.S., Nesbitt had worked almost nine years for the Government of Chihuahua State Congress as an auditor. Through her employer, Nesbitt added to her list of educational markers. In 1994, she received a diploma from the State Congress for taking computer classes and received a basic Excel diploma granted by the State Government of Chihuahua. A diploma of “El Instituto Lingua Franca, A.C.” that recognizes ELS Programs for 150 hours was added to her collection of documented achieve-

Photo by Rhonda Schulte

Rocio Nesbitt holds a diploma from a school in Mexico and another from the University of Wyoming. These are two of numerous diplomas and certificates she has earned over 30 years.

ments in 1995. In Wyoming, Nesbitt worked in accounts and translations for Belle Forche Pipeline Co. in Casper. Nesbitt was called upon to help with translations when the company was closing a deal with an overseas gas company that involved transferring money from Spain to the U.S. If there was an injury, Nesbitt was called away from her desk to visit with the employees and family members who were not proficient in English. For the past 10 years, Nesbitt has provided professional translation services. She has worked as a oneon-one tutor for a monolingual student at Torrington Middle School, following the girl to each class and helping her understand instructions and materials. She has taught Spanish as a second language at Trail Elementary. Twice, when a Mexican citizen died in this area, Nesbitt translated informa-

tion to the official Mexican death certificate so the bodies could be transported home. She is familiar and comfortable working with the document from her native country. Nesbitt has helped people open checking accounts and assisted with communication between Heartland Biocomposites (now Nature’s Composites) in Torrington and entrepreneurs in Costa Rica. After transferring credits from the University of Chihuahua to the University of Wyoming, she wrote her thesis in Spanish and in 2008 received her master’s degree. As a self-employed businesswoman, Nesbitt especially likes the freedom to create her own work schedule — one that allows her to continue her passion. “I love to learn new vocabulary, new information, or new subjects that help me when I am translating,” she said. “So I am constantly taking classes.”


Pride

14 SATURDAY. MARCH 3, 2012

Star-Herald

Newly opened Enterprise Center offers business start-up assistance in Goshen County By RHONDA SCHULTE For the Star-Herald

TORRINGTON, Wyo. — It takes more than a great idea and enthusiasm to start a business. It also takes strategic planning, financial management, marketing know-how, workspace, supplies and money, among other things. To help start-up businesses and early-stage companies get established in this area, Goshen County Economic Development Corporation has opened a business incubator where entrepreneurs can pool resources, thereby reducing the risk of business failure. The Goshen County Enterprise Center at 110 W. 22nd Ave., Torrington offers business guidance and of fice space along with shared personnel, equipment and services. Completion of a business incubation program increases the likelihood that a start-up company or new industry will stay in business for the long term. “It’s a center for innovation and new ideas, and for taking a business concept and turning it into reality,” said Lisa Johnson, GCEDC executive director. “Those using the center could be new businesses or existing businesses looking for new ways to branch out and be competitive.” As examples, candidates could be looking to start a call center, graphic design company or technology firm. They may have plans to manufacture a product. Primarily, the center is designed for any type of business that needs a professional office setting and is in the early stages of development. Goshen County EDC, established in 1987, works in partnership with local and state government officials to help attract and retain business, large or small. It serves as a main resource for community economic development while offering incentives and resources for local businesses, companies looking to relocate to eastern Wyoming, and entrepreneurs looking to grow. According to Johnson, in recent years the Goshen County Economic Development Corporation has grown in number of projects and scope, and was r unning out of meeting space. In addition, businesses were indicating a desire to come to Goshen County but could not find office space to rent, said Ted Bentley, GCEDC board president and president/CEO of First State Bank. A feasibility study for a business incubator was conducted, and according to Bentley, from early on, the 19-member GCEDC board fully supported the project. On Jan. 26, two years after work on the project began, Johnson and her staff moved from an office at 117 West Ave. to across the street into the renovated Enterprise Center. Prior to the Enterprise Center, the GCEDC had the means to provide basic assistance to lighten the financial burden of a startup business, or to give the much needed guidance and training that would benefit many first-time entrepreneurs, said Johnson. The business incubator model offers more in-depth help. “We want to be a hub of activity,” said Johnson. “Mentorship is a big part of this. It’s not just a building; mentors and networking services come with it.” Also at the top of the GCEDC board’s priority list is to retain existing businesses, and to help them expand, she said. The Goshen County Enterprise Center sets at the corner of Main Street and 22nd Avenue on the north end of Torrington’s downtown business district. Built in 1971, the split-level structure first served as offices for a realty company, attorney and optometrist. Offices became vacant in recent years, and the building was put up for sale.

At about the same time, the GCEDC board was looking into the business incubator strategy, writing a business plan and pursing funding. Using the City of Torrington as a grant sponsor (in name only), the GCEDC applied for a Business Ready Community Projects grant from the Wyoming Business Council. In October 2010, the council awarded $499,710 for the Enterprise Center. Tapping into funds collected from an optional quarter cent sales tax approved by Goshen County residents during the last general election, GCEDC contributed another $88,185 to get the project under way. Last May, Neil Newman, a Torrington general contractor, began the exterior and interior renovations. “This project probably wouldn’t have happened without Lisa (Johnson) and her staf f,” said Bentley. “There was a lot of work on the grant process and a lot of work went into remodeling the building.” The center’s layout includes small and large conference areas, four rentable office spaces, a library cabinet stocked with business resources, an open meeting area (or flex space) with table and chairs, restrooms and two mini kitchens. Tenants may take advantage of the staffed common reception area and store paperwork in a locked file cabinet in the business lab, which has three computer workstations and a raised counter for sorting paperwork or mail. A lift to meet Americans with Disability Act codes ensures easy access to both levels. Tenants have use of private computer networks and wireless Internet, along with office equipment that includes a copy machine, binding machine and scanner. The main conference room combines technology with flexibility. A conference table that seats 15 comfortably is easily broken down into 12 classroom-style tables ideal for individualized group work. An interactive whiteboard is a multi-functional tool for video web conferencing, strategic planning and brain storming. “Research shows that different generations have different work styles,” said Johnson. “So we really want

Photo by Rhonda Schulte

The outdated 1970s-era office building at the corner of Main Street and 22nd Avenue in Torrington, Wyo., now has a modern look with fresh paint, new windows and updated front entrance.

a collaborative atmosphere. Younger entrepreneurs tend to want to be in a more comfortable setting — they don’t want walls and barriers.” GCEDC is redesigning its website at www.goshenwyo.com. Once that is up and going, the website will have a separate, micro-site

for the Enterprise Center with links to online resources. An important component of the Enterprise Center is coaching and counseling. “We want to establish a business mentorship program to advise clients,” said Johnson. “To have more follow up and support for busi-

nesses, rather than just have them come and talk about their ideas.” That will mean scheduling meetings with business exper ts such as the Wyoming Entrepreneur consulting specialists available as a free state-offered service. GCEDC is also partner-

ing with the Wyoming Women’s Business Center and Small Business Administration to coordinate business round table discussions. The next discussion (March 14) will be a presentation on marketing by the University of Wyoming’s See GCEDC, page 15

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Pride

Star-Herald

SATURDAY, MARCH 3, 2012 15

LEFT: Dan Doerfler, a project engineer for Dietzler Construction Company, works at a desk in one of the four Enterprise Center ’s rentable offices on the building’s lower level. The company needed temporary office space until the former Covello Motor building it purchased in Torrington is renovated.

Photos by Rhonda Schulte

ABOVE: Construction workers start the process of removing an outdoor ramp as they remodel a 1971 building into the new Goshen County Enterprise Center in Torrington, Wyo. According to Executive Director Lisa Johnson, adding a lift for ADA accessibility to both levels was a substantial cost of the building project. BELOW: Each level of the new Enterprise Center at Torrington, Wyo., has a small kitchen area with sink, refrigerator and microwave oven.

ABOVE: The GCEDC Enterprise Center business lab on the upper level is equipped with three computer workstations, a raised counter for sorting paperwork and a locked file cabinet. Use of the space is rentable for short or long terms.

L E F T: L i s a J o h n s o n , Goshen County Economic Development Corporation executive director, and Jenny Pragnell, administrative assistant, review documents in Johnson’s office at the Enterprise Center.

GCEDC: Next discussion is March 14 Continued from page 14 Marketing Research Center at Laramie. Round table free luncheons, from 11:45 a.m.-1 p.m. the second Wednesday of each month at the Enterprise Center. They are open to the public by reservation. Tenants are accepted through an application process. Fees vary depending on the space, equipment and services used. Office rent, which includes utilities and wireless Internet, begins at $300 a month for the first year. Leases start with a minimum of six months and have a maximum of three years. “We feel the typical use of the building is two y e a r s , � s a i d B e n t l e y. “That’s ample time for a business to get established and then find its own facility.� Flex space (meeting or work areas) is available for one day or as-needed. For example, a home-based business owner might request use of space in order to meet with a client in a professional setting; renting by the hour, day or week. Another option would be to partner with the Wagon Wheel Pantry, a commercial kitchen incubator at the Goshen County Fairgrounds. An entrepreneur making and selling food products at the kitchen could use the Enterprise Center for marketing, sales and business management, said Johnson. “Our goal would be for a business to outgrow its space and move into an industrial park, or another location where they can continue to grow,� she said. Two businesses have already signed up, each for a year or less. One is a small technology company. The other, Patrick Engineering, is renting office space on a temporary basis until the for mer Covello Motor building in Torrington is remodeled. At that point,

the engineering, design and project-management company will move out of the Enterprise Center. Time will tell whether the business incubator model in Goshen County is considered a success. “What we really need to do is to encourage usage of the building,� said Bentley. “It will be gratifying for us if we can help start up a business, and if five to 10 years down the road that business is a success in Goshen County, I think we can say we’ve accomplished our goal with the Enterprise Center.�

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Star-Herald Pride 1 2012