The Midlands Business Journal is looking back ON THE YEAR AT THE PEOPLE, PLACES AND EVENTS THAT MADE AN IMPACT ON THE GREATER OMAHA METRO, COUNCIL BLUFFS AND LINCOLN AREA IN 2022.
Editor’s note: This year was an exciting year for new facilities, programs and initiatives in the Midlands. Unemployment fell and many projects were announced. According to the Greater Omaha Chamber, Omaha’s construction industry saw an increase of 8.1% in October 2022 compared to 2021, Lincoln was named #1 on the Best Cities for Young Professionals list by Insurify and Council Bluffs launched numerous philanthropic and community resources. When sifting through announcements throughout the year, MBJ editors took careful consideration in selecting 50 news items. We hope readers enjoy this walk-through of some of the biggest highlights.
1. Scoular Celebrates 130 Years with New Headquarters
Scoular kicked off its 130th year in agribusiness in its new global headquarters, setting the company up for an eventful year.
“Scoular was founded in 1892 as a small grain company. In 1967, our modern-day founder, Marshall Faith, purchased Scoular and reimagined its potential,” said Scoular CEO Paul Maas.
“His transformative spirit, compassion and integrity set the tone at Scoular for growth, innovation and community giving, and this vision is carried out today through the leadership of Chairman of the Board David Faith. As a result, our 1,400 employees continue to define what’s possible in agribusiness supply chains for our customers and partners around the world.”
Over the course of 2022 the company moved into the top 50 of the Forbes’ 2022 list of America’s largest private companies, moving from number 68 to number 48, with a revenue of $9.71 billion. It joins the ranks of two other Nebraska-based companies, Kiewit and Tenaska.
It also broke ground on the $75 million expansion of Petsource, a freeze-dried pet food ingredient manufacturing facility in Seward, Nebraska. The expansion will reportedly triple the facility’s production capacity and add 80 jobs when it’s completed in 2023.
Throughout the year Scoular continued to give back to the community. Notably it was named one of United Way of the Midlands’ Corporate Partners for 2022. United Way of the Midlands noted that Scoular, who has been a partner for 30 years, raised $190,000 this year for United Way of the Midlands.
2. Aileen Warren takes over at ICAN after Susan Henricks retires
Susan Henricks retired and Aileen Warren stepped into the role of president and CEO on January 24.
Warren has been involved with ICAN since 1996 and has served two six-year terms on its board of directors, completing the second term in 2021, and as a member of its executive committee. She also served as co-chair of the 2010 ICAN Women’s Leadership Conference and has been a speaker at past events.
Warren said that her first year at the helm of the leadership development nonprofit has felt fulfilling as it has allowed her to “focus on my passion for leadership development.”
“As I look back on 2022, I am proud of the new and existing companies we were able to serve; the experiences we hosted for inspiring leadership development, learning and connection; the partners that invest in our authentic leadership mission; and the growth in our ICAN Scholarship Fund to expand the reach and access of our programs to deserving leaders in our community and beyond,” she said.
Prior to joining ICAN, Warren was associate vice chancellor and executive director of human resources for the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
Her volunteer work includes acting as president of the Women’s Fund of Omaha, executive board committee member for Omaha Home for Boys, president of the Omaha Downtown Rotary, and member of the Urban League of Nebraska Guild.
3. The City of Omaha Announces Modern Streetcar Plan
After years of discussion and research by various agencies, the city announced plans to move forward with its first modern streetcar line. The streetcar will reportedly cover three miles, ferrying passengers from downtown Omaha to Blackstone via Farnam and Harney Streets.
There will be a loop that runs in front of the CHI Health Center on 10th and Cass streets. From there it will head south, following Capital Ave to 8th Street before meeting up with Farnam Street. The route will run up Farnam Street from 10th to 42nd streets, and will return on Harney Street.
Similar to Kansas City, Missouri’s KC Streetcar, which runs through its downtown district, Omaha’s streetcar will be free to ride.
An Omaha Streetcar Authority (OSA) update on December 7 reported that “the city plans to use revenue generated by Tax Increment Financing (TIF) from development within a roughly six-block distance along the streetcar route to pay the bond debt.” The project is estimated to cost $306 million and be completed by 2026.
As of December 2022, the OSA is working on a plan to procure the streetcars as it can take anywhere between two-to-three years to receive them. The City of Portland, Oregon has proposed a joint procurement. Portland is looking to purchase 11 vehicles for its streetcar system, while Omaha is looking to purchase six, which could reduce costs. Interim OSA Executive Director Rick Gustafson was quoted in a December 13 update saying that there is a possibility of two other cities joining the joint procurement deal. OSA is expected to make a decision in early 2023.
4. Wendy Birdsall Retires, Jason Ball Takes Over as Lincoln Chamber President
Wendy Birdsall, chamber president for 16 years, announced her retirement in June 2021. Her career at the chamber spanned 30 years in total. She led the growth of both Lincoln Partnership for Economic Development and Lincoln’s Young Professionals Group.
After a nationwide search, the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce announced Ball’s appointment in December 2021. Ball, who previously worked as director of business development at the Lincoln Chamber from 2008 to 2012, also held the president & CEO role at the Hutchinson/Reno County Chamber of Commerce, Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce and Round Rock Chamber. Of note, in 2022 Ball led the chamber in developing an economic vitality strategy and efforts to pass LB1014, which designated $20 million in federal funds to explore a secondary water source for the city of Lincoln.
5. Timothy Mittan Named New Director of SBA Nebraska
The U.S. Small Business Administration announced Timothy R. Mittan as its new district director for the Nebraska District SBA office. He assumed the role on Jan. 3. Mittan, a Nebraska native, came to the post with credentials including being a former economics and entrepreneurship instructor with Southeast Community College, and was the original founder and director of the SCC Entrepreneurship Center and Focus Suites. Additionally, Mittan was associate director for the Los Angeles Regional Small Business Development Center Network, a resource partner of the SBA, located in Long Beach, California. Mittan succeeds Leon Milobar, who held the position for 17 years.
6. Mutual of Omaha Headquarters Announced
After years of speculation, Mutual of Omaha announced its plans to move the company headquarters. The final destination? Downtown Omaha. Specifically, on the site of the former W. Dale Clark Main Library on 14th Street between Farnam and Dodge streets.
“The downtown site is a strong strategic fit and supports our goal to attract and retain talent and continue to enhance our culture of collaboration and innovation,” said Jim Nolan, spokesman for Mutual of Omaha.
“From the Riverfront redevelopment to the streetcar plans, the vision for downtown Omaha is inspiring. We have a rare opportunity to be part of that vision. The addition of Mutual of Omaha’s headquarters will significantly add to the energy and vitality of our urban core, while also providing our associates with a modern, dynamic and engaging work environment.”
The new headquarters, which will include 44 floors and will stand at 677 feet tall, will become the state’s tallest building, moving First National Bank to a close second.
Plans for a 2,200 vehicle parking garage for employees will also double as community parking after business hours. A multi-level sky lobby will connect the two structures and will offer dining options, a fitness center, employee wellness services as well as landscaped outdoor terraces.
The City of Omaha Planning Board approved Mutual of Omaha’s TIF (Tax Increment Financing) application, which amounts to $68.6 million. The project was estimated to cost $433 million, and Omaha-based Lanoha Real Estate Co. is developing the site. Other local companies collaborating on the project include Alvine Engineering and JE Dunn Construction.
7. College of Saint Mary Set for New Leadership
Dr. Maryanne Stevens, who announced she will retire after 27 years as College of Saint Mary president, will be stepping down from her post after the May 2023 commencement. Stevens leaves a legacy of numerous innovative programs including a residence hall for college-age single mothers and Marie Curie scholarships for low-income women majoring in math or science. Additionally, she has led several capital campaigns and has focused on the affordability of tuition through scholarships by rolling student fees into tuition and reducing undergraduate tuition by 33%.
Moving into the president role July 1, Dr. Glynis Fitzgerald has more than 25 years of experience in public and private universities. Previously, Fitzgerald was senior vice president and provost for Alvernia University in Reading, Pennsylvania, and vice president of academic affairs and dean for the school of graduate studies at Central Connecticut State University.
8. CB Tech Career Acceleration Program Announced
The February 24th announcement for the CB Tech Career Acceleration Program was proof that when organizations work together great things can happen. The program, which is a partnership between the Council Bluffs Area Chamber of Commerce, Centro Latino of Iowa, Iowa Western Community College, and the AIM Institute, received a $50,000 grant from Google to get started.
The two-part program is designed to help underemployed citizens, specifically those in the Latino population.
“Latinos make up the second-largest population in Pottawattamie County,” said Council Bluffs Chamber of Commerce Workforce Development Director Alicia Frieze.
“It’s important to the CB Chamber that we are providing equitable opportunities for all of our residents.”
In addition to 100 hours of coding classes, participants also have access to ESL (English as a Second Language) classes, resume preparation, a LinkedIn workshop, and their very own Google ChromeBook.
The goal is to help participants enter into what Itzel Lopez, AIM vice president of advancement and community relations, defines as H3 (high skill, high demand, high pay) jobs in tech.
“These employment opportunities can change the trajectory of an individual’s life and our vision of building a thriving community where anyone can pursue a rewarding tech career,” she said.
Frieze said that the CB Chamber also has business members that have agreed to interview graduates, should graduates complete the course and need assistance obtaining a job.
The first cohort started with six participants, and the applications for the second cohort are open at https://www.councilbluffsiowa.com/cb-career-acceleration.
9. Urban Core Strategic Plan announced
The Greater Omaha Chamber and its Urban Core Committee released the Urban Core Strategic Plan to address three gaps in the redevelopment happening downtown: lack of density, limited mobility, and segmented corridors.
The Plan noted that while the focus is on revitalizing the core, it also intends “to connect and extend the investments in jobs, housing and amenities into neighborhoods immediately adjacent to the core.”
The study boundaries are as follows: River’s Edge and Dodge Park Golf Course on the east, 48th Street on the west, Cuming Street on the north and Leavenworth Street on the south.
A set of guiding principles was decided on to help determine what the areas of focus would be. The Urban Core Master Plan selected the following adjectives to describe the ideal outcome: uniquely urban, diverse, equitable, inclusive, sustainable, vibrant/active, safe, affordable, and attractive.
With those goals in mind, the committee selected four areas to focus on: anchor projects – such as the Mutual of Omaha headquarters; a modern streetcar to enhance mobility; the redevelopment of Dodge Park; and creating a LID over I-480 that would replace three major bridges that are nearing the end of their lifespan.
Moving into 2023, Urban Core Committee chairperson and OPPD president and CEO, Javier Fernandez, said two subcommittees will focus on housing and marketing the core.
“The subcommittees are conducting research and gathering data to help inform our next steps as we continue our work into 2023 and beyond,” he said. “We are excited to continue to partner with the city and business community to reach our ambitious 20-year goals.”
The Strategic Plan is available online at omahachanber.org/urban-core.
10. David Brown retires, Veta Jeffery takes over at Greater Omaha Chamber
After 19 years leading the Greater Omaha Chamber, David Brown announced he would retire from the position of president and CEO in May of 2022. Despite his “retired” status, Brown has kept busy. He joined NEXT Generation Consulting as lead consultant the same month he retired and in July 2022 the University of Nebraska at Omaha announced that he would be joining the organization as executive in residence. According to the UNO announcement, Brown will “provide expertise and strategy for the university’s workforce development initiatives.” Brown has spent his entire career in economic development starting in 1985 as VP of economic development at the Greater Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce.
His desire to better the community is something he has in common with Veta Jeffery who took over as president and CEO of the Greater Omaha Chamber upon Brown’s retirement. Prior to her appointment, Jeffery was the chief diversity officer for St. Louis County Government, and before that, senior vice president of community and economic development at Midwest BankCentre.
Jeffery said her first six months in Omaha have been “incredible.”
“At the Greater Omaha Chamber, we are involved in so many important efforts to transform our city and that has all been rewarding. Personally, I am proud of all I have gotten to learn about Omaha: who we are, what we represent and all that is to come for our growing region,” she said.
11. Designs for Phase 4 of River’s Edge Park Revealed
Across the Missouri River, the Southwest Iowa Nonprofit for Collective Impact (SINC) released the final plans for Phase 4 of the Council Bluffs Riverfront development. After completion the development is expected to not only generate over $300 million a year, but help attract and retain talent.
The first of the new attractions, Belles’ Play Garden, opened this summer, and aims to teach children about the local ecosystem through interactive play elements, like the 15-foot-tall pelican that can be climbed.
Pete Tulipana, SINC president and CEO, said another feature will be the MidAmerican Energy Adventure Tower. The 138-foot-tall tower will include multiple viewing platforms “on different levels, taking visitors above the trees to experience the expansive and unique river, woodland and city views.”
“An adventure course is part of the tower and provides challenging outdoor activities, including a 50-foot climbing wall, simulated caving experiences and a roll-guide,” Tulipana said.
A fun fact, the climbing wall is designed to meet the requirements of a pre-Olympic site for speed climbing, and visitors will be able to climb through 400 linear feet of simulated caved environments.
Other features will include a treetop walk spanning 2,480 linear feet that will connect with Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, as well as a pier.
“The pier will provide an above water experience taking pedestrians beyond the edge of the Missouri River,” Tulipana said.
Construction on the remaining elements is expected to begin in the Spring of 2023.
12. UNMC Nebraska Center for Women’s Health Research Approved
Approved by the University of Nebraska Board of Regents on April 8, the Nebraska Center for Women’s Health Research is meant to be a nationally recognized center for women’s health research. Its aim is to reduce health care costs in the state of Nebraska through collaborative research, education programs, patient care and outreach. John Davis, Ph.D., will be the inaugural director of the center. He is also the director of the Olson Center for Women’s Health.
Additionally, the center will promote and facilitate educational opportunities on women’s health issues and health disparities, as well as be a platform for experts to speak to researchers, educators, students and the community. Cross-campus collaboration is also said to be a priority.
13. Roadmaster Drivers School Opens
As Omaha is an important transportation hub for the Midwest, the Roadmasters Drivers School opened a facility at 10008 Sapp Bros. Dr. to meet demand. The school offers a course to become a licensed truck driver in four weeks. The school has opened at a time when the national truck driver shortage has reached 80,000, according to the American Trucking Associations. The school aims to graduate around 500 students each year.
14. Autism Action Partnership Common Senses Festival
A month-long citywide event, the Common Senses Festival, a production of the Autism Action Partnership, was formed with the purpose of positively impacting inclusion efforts for the Omaha autism community. With more than 5,000 attending the festival, events included installations, performances, lectures and workshops. There were 29 organizations represented at the “Don’t Just Dim the Lights” arts and inclusion symposium and 138 speakers during the Timbre Talks, an effort to lift the voice of the autism community. Taking place during Autism Awareness Month, the event was created by Kate Noble Weitz. Weitz recognized a need for such an event in Omaha after taking a trip to New York City with her son Freddie for a performing arts festival for children on the autism spectrum.
15. Joslyn Art Museum Closes Doors For Renovation and Expansion
Joslyn Art Museum announced that it would temporarily close at the beginning of May for two years as a major renovation and expansion takes place. The last addition to the museum was made in 2009 when two new sculpture gardens were added to create outdoor experiences.
A new 42,000-square-foot building will be attached to the Walter & Suzanne Scott Pavilion, which was added in 1994, changing the face of the museum.
The new building will be named after Rhonda and Howard Hawks of The Hawks Foundation and is being designed by Snøhetta, a Norwegian architecture firm, and Omaha-based Alley Poyner Macchietto Architecture. The first floor of The Rhonda and Howard Hawks Pavilion will house the new atrium lobby, the museum shop, and community space. The second floor will house galleries that will rely on natural lighting from the atrium’s horizontal skylights.
In an effort to help guide visitors, the primary access point has been moved to Davenport Street and the front entrance will be relocated near the new entrance drive.
The new atrium entrance will be named after nationally renowned artist Phillip G. Schrager, whose work will be displayed. The Phillip G. Schrager Collection of Contemporary Art gifted the museum over fifty works of art to display in the atrium.
The retaining wall on the southeast corner of Dodge street is also being lowered to provide visitors arriving from the east a clear view of the destination.
The Museum plans to reopen in 2024, and entrance to the museum will remain free.
16. The Granary Green opens in Ralston
One piece of Ralston’s Hinge Project came online with the ribbon cutting for The Granary Green, an outdoor event space next to the iconic Bushwackers on Ralston’s Main Street.
The Granary Green is part of a $20 million investment in the former Old Ralston Granary area, which has been renamed the Granary District. The developer for the project is I See It Ventures, whose CEO Gordon Whitten was quoted in a press release saying “we are coming together with the city to create jobs, innovation, and economic revitalization.”
When completed the district will house commercial tenants, as well as residents.
The Granary Green is 14,000 square feet and has a 27-foot LED screen that can be used for concerts, viewing parties and movie nights.
Since opening the venue, The Granary Green has hosted events such as the Independence Day Concert, Douglas County Fair events, the Bourbon, Beer & BBQ Festival, tailgating and watch parties, and more.
The Granary Green is attached to the Granary Districts event venue, Venues at the Granary, which hosts weddings and social events.
17. Scooter’s Opens New Distribution Centers
Scooter’s Coffee opened two new distribution centers – one in Omaha, and one in Atlanta – under Harvest Roasting, the company’s vertically integrated supply chain division. There is also a second distribution center in Omaha, as well as one in Kansas City, Missouri and Dallas, bringing the total to five.
“Opening new distribution centers in Omaha and Atlanta has allowed us to ramp up production and optimize our supply chain,” said President Joe Thornton who joined the team in July 2022. Thornton previously served in senior leadership roles at companies such as Starbucks and Jamba Juice, and is the founder of Vizzionnary Brands.
“These centers will be a key catalyst in helping achieve our goal of operating 1,000 stores in the United States by 2024.”
The newly opened Omaha distribution center is located at 13564 Valley Ridge Drive in La Vista, and will help service 300 Scooter’s drive-thru kiosks in 10 states. The Atlanta location will reportedly help Scooter’s enter “into new and growing markets in the South and Southwest,” according to a press release.
The May press release also noted that Scooters was approaching 500 locations in 24 states. As of December 2022 Scooter’s Coffee is approaching 600 locations in 28 states. The company will celebrate its 25th anniversary in March of 2023.
18. RTG Moves into Fremont Headquarters
Moving into its 54,000-square-foot corporate headquarters in Fremont, RTG Medical, a veteran-owned health care staffing agency, kept its award-winning workplace culture in mind with its design. Most recently winning a Merit Award for the 2022 Healthcare Awards, its wellness program is incorporated into the headquarters, which includes a 2,100-square-foot gym and on-site massage room. Other features include a multi-modal path connecting to a lakefront. Making the move in May, the company celebrated with an official ribbon-cutting ceremony Sept. 29th.
19. SBA names Appsky owners Small Business Persons of the Year
The U.S. Small Business Administration, which named a Small Business Person of the Year for each of the 50 states, named Omaha-based Appsky, LLC owners Taylor Korensky, Spencer Robinson and Jade Jensen as its Nebraska winners. This award is given as part of National Small Business Week to recognize businesses that have experienced high growth, overcome adversity and have contributed to the community. Established in 2016 by Korensky, Appsky is a custom software development agency specializing in the design and development of mobile and web applications. Appsky fit the bill by seeing sales growth by almost $1 million between 2019 and 2021, and its community involvement. Korensky is a member of the Nebraska Tech Collaborative, an organizer of Tech Omaha and a member of the Omaha Executives Association.
20. PCCF Changes Name and Becomes Community Foundation for Western Iowa
Announced on May 8, the Pottawattamie County Community Foundation changed its name to Community Foundation for Western Iowa. The name change came at a time when the foundation saw a need to expand its philanthropic support services beyond the county and throughout the Western Iowa region. Under its umbrella, programs and services include: SHARE Iowa, Make IT Happen, and two field of interest funds: the Women’s Fund of Southwest Iowa and the Southwest Iowa Mental Health & Substance Abuse Fund. The strategic vision was decided upon by the foundation’s board of directors, stakeholders, donors and committee members.
21. Groundbreaking of Early Learning Center in Council Bluffs
The Council Bluffs School District began construction on its Early Learning Center.
At 8th Street and Avenue G. The 38,000-square-foot facility will include 14 classrooms and three rooms for infants and toddlers. The center is designed to serve nearly 200 at-risk students with full-day preschool from birth to age 3.
Students will be taught a state-approved curriculum and assessment system aligned with the Iowa Early Learning Standards. In addition, child development programming will include parent and family engagement, health, safety, mental health, medical, dental and nutritional services. Before- and after-school care will be provided in partnership with the Council Bluffs Schools Foundation. The center is slated to open August 2023.
22. Nebraska Multisport Complex Launches
Officially launched on May 27, the Nebraska Multisport Complex has been in the making for 11 years. With a few bumps in the road, and a delay after breaking ground in 2016, zoning changes were approved in April. Currently in Phase 1 of development, the project includes 12 multipurpose fields. The economic impact is forecasted to be $9.9 million.
“This past spring, the launch of the Nebraska MultiSport Complex (NMSC) in La Vista is a game-changer as it places Nebraska and the Omaha Metro area as not only on par but a gold standard among facilities in Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City and Des Moines,” said Mike Cassling, chairman of the board of directors in a statement.
The Championship Field Complex opens March 2023 with events including its Nebraska Spring Kickoff March 3-5 and an opening festival April 1-2.
23. Council Bluffs Purchases 93-acres of Land East of Lake Manawa
The City of Council Bluffs quietly purchased 93-acres of land east of Lake Manawa State Park with the intent to create infrastructure for future affordable workforce housing. In a statement from the City, the land could fit nearly 400 units in a variety of options, ranging from single family homes to rowhomes and multi-family housing.
The city used over $4 million in ARPA (American Rescue Act Plan) funds to purchase the land, which was the second largest allotment, signaling the City’s commitment to affordable housing.
“Our intent would be to develop the land with streets and infrastructure (sewer & water) and sell the newly developed lots to a variety of builders at a price that doesn’t include any profit for lot development,” said Mayor Matt Walsh.
“The lower lot sales price would then be passed through to the ultimate homebuyer so that we can produce reasonably priced, safe and affordable ‘workforce housing’. In a perfect world the City would recapture its initial investment through lot sales.”
While planning is still in its infancy, City officials have signaled their intent to keep houses between the $170,000 and $250,000 range. More information will be released in 2023.
24. BKD Merges with DHG to form FORVIS
BKD Wealth Advisors and DHG Wealth Advisors announced a merger effective June 1 under the name FORVIS Wealth Advisors. At that time, the merger grew the company’s reach to have a presence in 23 cities and 12 states with a portfolio of more than $7.7 billion in assets under management and $1.5 billion in assets under advisement. Regional offices are located in Omaha and Lincoln.
25. Gene Leahy Mall Reopens
After nearly three years of anticipation the Gene Leahy Mall reopened over the July 4 weekend.
“Our opening weekend alone drew about 50,000 people to the park, and thousands more in the months that followed,” said Kristyna Engdahl, director of communications at the Metropolitan Entertainment & Convention Authority (MECA).
MECA manages The Riverfront development, which when completed will include Heartland of America Park, Lewis and Clark Landing and the Kiewit Luminarium in addition to the Gene Leahy Mall. The entire development will reportedly cost over $300 million dollars, the majority of which are being privately donated to The Downtown Riverfront Trust.
Where the lagoon previously meandered is now 50,000 square-feet street level lawn space. New additions include a performance pavilion, sculpture garden, dog park, playground and a fountain that doubles as a splash pad during the summer. Staples include the iconic downtown slides, as well as the Solo Building arch and “The Heritage” statue.
The park is patrolled by security 24/7, and bathrooms are locked when the park closes to help create and preserve a safe space.
Programming has included free fitness classes on the lawn, music concerts, movies on the lawn, Art Jam in the Park with Joslyn Art Museum, Book Cart and Out and About events with the Omaha Public Library, dog training classes, and more.
“We continue to activate Gene Leahy Mall with holiday and seasonal events, while also planning for the grand opening of Heartland of America Park and Lewis & Clark Landing in the summer of 2023,” Engdahl said.
26. OPS Opens High Schools with YMCA Partnership
Omaha Public Schools opened the doors to its newest high school, Westview High School, to students and the community, with the inclusion of a YMCA facility. Located at 156th & Ida streets, the facility is a partnership between OPS and YMCA to integrate educational opportunities within the YMCA facilities. Buena Vista High School at 60th and L streets also opened in August with YMCA Express facilities and a OneWorld Community Health Centers clinic. The YMCA and OPS partnership comes with a 50-year agreement.
27. Eide Bailly Acquires Seim Johnson
Omaha-based CPA firm Seim Johnson became part of Eide Bailly on July 25 through an acquisition. This marked Eide Bailly’s entrance into the Nebraska market. Previously, Seim Johnson was a member of the Eide Bailly Alliance, a member-based association of non-competing CPA firms formed by Eide Bailly. Jerry O’Doherty, Seim Johnson managing partner, became partner and market leader of south central for the firm. Eide Bailley has 350 partners and nearly 3,000 staff nationally.
28. Dennis Pate Retires, Luis Padilla Takes Over at Henry Doorly Zoo
The Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium announced that Luis Padilla, DVM Dipl. ACZM, would be stepping into the role of president and CEO. Padilla is following in the footsteps of Dennis Pate, who led the Zoo through major renovations during his 14-year tenure.
Padilla, like Pate, has spent his career working for various zoos across the country. Prior to joining the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, Padilla held positions at the St. Louis Zoo, first as a veterinarian, then as vice president of animal collections and finally as director of animal health. He has also held positions at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the Smithsonian National Zoo.
Padilla also serves as an accreditation commissioner for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
“As I begin this journey to lead one of the top zoos in the world, with its stellar staff and excellence in animal care, I am humbled and excited. Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is a globally recognized leader that is proudly beloved by its local community,” Padilla said.
“Finding ways to make what is great even better will be my challenge as I lead this organization. Expanding on this legacy and the Zoo’s commitment to Omaha are the building blocks of my mission.”
Padilla was selected following a national search and his first day was November 14, 2022.
29. Milan Laser Hair Removal Unveils Expansion
On its 10th year in business, Milan Laser Hair Removal announced its expanded and remodeled corporate headquarters at 17645 Wright St. In addition to the new 45,000-square-foot headquarters, a warehouse distribution center and call center are located in the metro area. Getting its start in Papillion in 2012, Milan was co-founded by CEO Dr. Shikhar Saxena.
Nationally, there are more than 200 locations and the company is said to perform over 50,000 treatments each month.
30. Leadership Changes Announced at Tenaska Energy
Howard Hawks, co-founder and chairman of Tenaska Energy, Inc., announced he will step back from his role as chairman of the board on Jan. 1, 2023. He will remain on the board and serve as chairman emeritus. CEO Jerry Crouse will transition to chairman and Chris Leitner will assume the role of president and CEO. Hawks co-founded Tenaska in 1987.
31. Youth Sports Complex in Lincoln Announced
A dream for an accessible baseball and softball complex for youth in Lincoln has finally gotten feet. Jeff Maul, executive director of Visit Lincoln and vice president of the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce, said the idea for the Lincoln Youth Complex has been around for nearly 16 years, starting back in 2006 with the 2015 Vision Committee.
“[The committee sought to] create pillars of development for our community and it included a sports triangle of facilities that would build out the destination,” Maul said.
The triangle included Haymarket Park, Memorial Stadium, and Pinnacle Bank Arena, with a youth sports complex nearby.
Located off of Cornhusker Highway and I-80 near Oak Creek, the complex will have eight synthetic turf fields dedicated to accessibility for all ages, backgrounds and abilities.
One field will be the new home for Homer’s Heroes, a league for kids ages 5-17 who have physical or intellectual disabilities. Another field will be the new stadium for Nebraska Wesleyan University’s baseball and softball teams.
During the summer, Maul said the plan is to open five fields to Lincoln Youth from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Complex will work with Nebraska Wesleyan University and other athletic programs to provide softball and baseball camps.
“Community partners will contribute to removing obstacles for youth, including help with transportation, equipment and uniforms,” Maul said. “We have had conversations with and have commitments from various community partners (YMCA, Community Learning Centers, the Clyde Malone Center, the Asian Community Center, the Center for People in Need, Boys and Girls Clubs, and others) to help us connect with youth.”
The $27 million project is being funded by the City of Lincoln, Lancaster County, and private and public donors in the community.
32. SHARE Iowa Launches
An initiative of the Community Foundation for Western Iowa, SHARE Iowa is a community engagement conduit to connect Iowans to nonprofits. Officially launched Sept. 13, SHARE Iowa was created through a partnership between CFWI and SHARE Omaha and modeled after its Omaha counterpart.
33. BBB 25th Annual Torch Awards
The local Better Business Bureau (BBB) — serving Nebraska, South Dakota, parts of Kansas, and southwest Iowa — hit a major milestone this year when it celebrated the 25th annual BBB Torch Awards for Ethics Luncheon (formerly the Integrity Awards) on September 21.
Nearly 600 people showed up to recognize local businesses and hear from keynote speaker John Carreyrou, a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter for The Wall Street Journal and the author of “Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup.”
“We are so grateful to all who took part in the 25th BBB Torch Awards for Ethics luncheon,” said local BBB President and CEO Jim Hegarty. “It was incredibly moving to see so many business and community leaders come together for the sole purpose of elevating trust in the marketplace.”
Omaha honorees included: Burton A/C Heating & Plumbing & More, Florence Home, Hurrdat, Mr. Car Shipper, North End Teleservices, Outlook Enrichment, and PayPal.
It also recognized three high school students with the 2022 Scott Mecham Student of Integrity Award.
“I am proud to have celebrated a quarter-century of this event in Omaha,” Hegarty said. “We’re excited about what’s to come in the next 25 years.”
Nominations for the 2023 BBB Torch Awards for Ethics will open in the Spring.
34. BAXTER ANNOUNCES NEW OWNERS OF FORMER DEALERSHIP ASSETS
In a bid to focus on recent expansions, locally owned and operated Baxter Auto Group sold four Chrysler Dodge-Jeep-Ram (Stellantis) dealerships to Edwards Auto Group.
“We’ve been primarily focused on expansion with our recent dealership openings in Kansas City, Nebraska and Colorado Springs,” said Mickey Anderson, president & CEO at Baxter Auto Group, in a press release.
“With strong demand for established, profitable dealerships, our team determined that this was an appropriate time to divest of these stores. This transaction is consistent with our long-term plan for geographic diversity.”
Edwards Auto Group will retain the Stellantis store at 180th and Dodge streets, and has sold the Papillon location to H&H and the Lincoln store to Sid Dillion.
In the past two years, Baxter has purchased Toyota of Colorado Springs and opened Baxter Subaru La Vista and Subaru of Olathe.
Baxter currently operates 11 dealerships in the Greater Omaha area, two in Lincoln, four in Kansas and two in Colorado Springs. It also operates eight B Street Collision Centers; five in Omaha, one in Lincoln, and two in Kansas.
“We remain optimistic about the automotive industry, and we will continue to look for new opportunities to expand our business and how we can better serve our customers,” Anderson said in the release. “We’re delighted with our operations in Omaha, which is an exceptional place to do business.”
35. Diventures Opens Five New Locations
Omaha-based Diventures, a swim and scuba center, has acquired The Dive Shop, leading to expansion in Memphis, Tennessee, Little Rock Arkansas and Marietta Georgia. Additionally, it acquired Nautilus Aquatics in Sterling, Virginia and Vienna, Virginia. It now has 17 locations in 11 states.
36. Project Harmony Celebrates 25 Years
Project Harmony, a child advocacy agency, marked a milestone year with its 25th Anniversary Gala on Oct. 15. Project Harmony’s mission to end child abuse and neglect has resulted in years of protecting children, collaborating with professionals and engaging the community. At the time of the celebration, more than 56,500 children had passed through the organization’s doors. More than 200 professionals work under Project Harmony’s roof, with Child Protective Services on-site and Omaha Police Department detectives and staff assigned to investigate child abuse crimes. Located at 11949 Q St., its service area includes eastern Nebraska and 16 counties in southwest Iowa.
37. Omaha Downtown Improvement District Receives Awards
The 2022 America in Bloom National Awards Program announced the Omaha Downtown Improvement District as the winner of the Best Public Art Program Award for Pioneer Courage Park and the Orbit bus stops and the Most Impressive New Project or Program Award for the Riverfront. Participants were evaluated on community vitality, overall impression, environmental efforts, heritage celebration, urban forestry, landscaped areas, and flowers. Judges visited 280 communities from 43 states to determine winners.
38. UNeTech Institute Wins Build to Scale Competition
The UNeTech Institute, an entrepreneurial support organization and startup incubator affiliated with the University of Nebraska at Omaha and University of Nebraska Medical Center, received the 2022 Economic Development Agency’s Build to Scale Competition. The award of $300,000, will be intended to allow the institute to reach regional, national and international investors and continue support of medical technology startups. The Omaha Medical Technology Development Alliance will expand on UNeTech’s existing collaboration with the UNO College of Business Administration. Jace Gatzemeyer, Ph.D., UNeTech’s innovation development strategist, crafted the proposal.
39. Sarpy County Museum Announces Expansion
The Sarpy County Museum announced plans for a new facility at Highway 370 and 90th Street in Papillion. The 28,000-square-foot museum will incorporate more accessibility and visibility. The facility will house the museum’s current collection, traveling exhibits, administrative and education areas and archival storage.
40. Elevator Opens Co-Warehousing Space
Located at 14th and Jones streets, Elevator opened its doors with features including month-to-month warehousing, office space, fulfillment and on-demand labor with e-commerce entrepreneurs in mind. Co-founders Shannon and Emiliano Lerda previously received $1.7 million in seed round funding to open the first location of the concept. The 77,000-square-foot facility holds 75 warehouses, 17 offices, underground parking, and more than 7,000 square feet of shared space.
41. Lincoln Federal Credit Union Merges with First Nebraska Credit Union
Following a vote by members in June, Lincoln USDA Federal Credit Union merged with First Nebraska Credit Union as of Oct. 1. The Lincoln USDA FCU branch at Centennial Mall in Lincoln has closed and members are now being served at FNCU’s five branches.
42. Pat Dees Retires, Denise McCauley Takes Over at WoodmenLife
WoodmenLife selected Denise McCauley to fill the role of president and CEO following the retirement of current president and CEO, Pat Dees. Dees will also retire from his position as chairman of the WoodmenLife National Board of Directors.
McCauley will be the first woman to serve as president of the 100 year-old company.
“I am excited to be a part of an organization that is committed to its mission,” McCauley said. “As the future president and CEO of WoodmenLife, I hope to inspire others to live to their greatest potential.”
McCauley joined the company in 2008 as a vice president of core operations, and was promoted to senior vice president, operations in 2011. She was promoted to her most recent role as executive vice president & chief operating officer, secretary of WoodmenLife, in 2015.
Outside of the office, McCauley serves on the board for Food Bank for the Heartland, as well as on the executive leadership team of the American Heart Association’s Heart & Stroke Walk. McCauley grew up in Omaha and graduated from the University of Nebraska at Omaha with a bachelor of science degree in business administration.
In 2019 the UNO’s College of Business Administration recognized McCauley with one of the four Distinguished Alumni Awards of 2019.
Dees joined WoodmenLife in 1988 as a sales representative in Angleton, Texas. He became a regional director in 1996, serving in positions in several states before moving to Omaha in 2009. He was promoted to president & CEO in March 2017.
43. NEW FACILITY ANNOUNCED FOR CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL
Addressing a need for mental health services for children, a behavioral health and wellness center will be located on Children’s Hospital & Medical Center’s main campus on 84th Street and West Dodge Road at the former site of the Nebraska Methodist College. Announced in November, the $89 million project will have a groundbreaking in 2023 and a planned opening date of spring 2025. Features of the center will include a behavioral health emergency assessment center, 38 inpatient hospital beds and outpatient mental health services co-located with pediatric primary care. The project is a collaboration of Mental Health Innovation Foundation, Children’s, CHI Health Immanuel and Creighton University mental health professionals. Kiewit Building Group and HDR are tasked with the project.
44. Omaha Children’s Museum Names Fawn Taylor CEO
After a nationwide search, Omaha Children’s Museum announced Fawn Taylor as its new CEO. Taylor was previously vice president of family & community services at Nebraska Early Childhood Collaborative. She also served as executive director of Early Childhood Services for nine years. In total, she has over 20 years of experience working with children and families. She took office on Nov. 9. Lindy Hoyer, who stepped down from the post in 2021, was executive director of the museum for 19 years.
45. Initiative 433 to Raise Minimum Wage Passed
Despite some opposition, Initiative 433 to raise the minimum wage statewide passed during the general election on November 8. The Associated Press reported that 58.5% of voters — or 381,379 individuals — voted in favor of the initiative, which would gradually raise the minimum wage from $9 to $15 over the course of three years starting January 1, 2023.
46. Urban League receives $2.9 million gift from MacKenzie Scott
Urban League of Nebraska announced a $2.9 million gift from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, the largest single contribution to the organization in its 90-year history. The funds will be used toward educational programs and initiatives for over 1,400 students, work programs for 4,000 adults and support services for approximately 3,000 low-income families. ULN will be implementing restorative practices to address factors related to the school-to-prison pipeline; inclusion of credentialed life and career coaching; and resources to measure and evaluate the impact of the new programs.
47. Nebraska DED Awards $20 million for Affordable Housing
The Nebraska Department of Economic Development (DED) awarded $20 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) to 11 affordable housing projects in Omaha Qualified Census Tracts (QCTs). The DED received applications for 37 projects totaling $110,301,568 in requests. These funds provide grants for new construction and rehabilitation of affordable housing units, as well as preparing land parcels for future developments.
48. Child Saving Institute Announces $46 Million Capital Campaign
Child Saving Institute, which has been active in Omaha for 130 years, has launched a $46,000,000 capital campaign. CSI, a nonprofit focusing on the prevention, intervention and treatment of child abuse, has named the initiative Campaign for Hope. The campaign is focused on addressing the growing demand for pediatric and adolescent therapy, expanding an emergency shelter, supportive early education services and expanding access to high-quality early childhood education. To do so, its location at 45th and Dodge streets will be nearly doubled. The project will include an on-site mental health clinic, a newly-built emergency shelter housing 16 beds, four additional early childhood education classrooms and treatment child care classrooms within its early childhood education center. The project is set to take two years with Kiewit as the contractor and TACK Architects as the architect. More information on the Campaign for Hope can be found at childsaving.org/campaignforhope.
49. BLink Community-Wide Wi-Fi extended to Lewis Central District
BLink, a free and open Wi-Fi network in Council Bluffs, brings connectivity to neighborhoods, the Council Bluffs Community School District and outdoor spaces. Phase 8 of the project went live Dec. 7 with the inclusion of the Lewis Central Community School District.
50. The Nebraska Chamber Announces Tech Nebraska
In a bid to help unify and grow the tech sector statewide the Nebraska Chamber Commerce has launched Tech Nebraska.
Nebraska’s tech sector currently produces $4.5 billion in GDP and ranks in the top 15 states for most tech jobs per capita, according to a Nebraska Chamber press release.
However, a Milken Institute State Technology and Science Index for 2022 ranked Nebraska as No. 34 out of the 50 states. The index measures state-level knowledge economies, including their capability to support business formation, job creation, and wage growth.
“Nebraska needs a thriving, unified tech sector to help drive its economy, compete for top talent and solve the challenges of tomorrow,” said Bryan Sloane, Nebraska State Chamber President, in the release.
“It’s imperative — regardless of whether you run a business in the urban core of Omaha, the shop floor in Columbus or from a pasture in the Sandhills. Every company is a tech company.”
Nebraska is off to a good start with $4.5 billion in GDP coming from the technology sector, according to the Nebraska Chamber.
Several organizations have joined the founding board, including representatives from Kiewit, Google, Methodist Health System, Union Pacific, Meta, and Workshop.
According to the Nebraska Chamber, Tech Nebraska will help “drive industry growth and position the state as a leader in the future of technology and innovation, advocate for tech-forward public policies and support the development of a diverse, talented workforce.”