Tag Archives: Business

Brush With Greatness

May 24, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

People don’t spend much time contemplating the products made by Omaha’s NAGL Manufacturing Company, but many certainly depend on them. Consider NAGL’s top product, the humble nail polish brush. When people apply a fresh coat of color to their toenails or fingernails, they typically think about the polish’s hue and brand, but it is rare to stop and consider the origin or merit of the tiny little brush that applies the paint to make one’s digits pop.

Anyone who has used nail polish in the past 80-plus years has almost certainly used a NAGL-made brush. Carl J. Nagl started the company in the mid 1930s in its original location near Johnny’s Cafe in South Omaha.

“We produce [brushes] for all the major nail polish brands,” says Erica McDonald, controller at NAGL. “NAGL used to make a wider variety of cosmetic brushes, but now we primarily do nail polish brushes and anything that might look like a nail polish brush but is used to apply something else.”

NAGL, currently the world’s largest supplier of nail enamel brushes, produces brushes and/or bottles for beloved brands like CoverGirl, OPI, Revlon, Avon, L’oreal, Sally Hansen, Maybelline, and many others.

“Every nail polish brand, really,” McDonald confirms.

While you would not think of a nail polish brush as a product requiring forward thinking, NAGL does their own development, like their flow-through brush, as well as customizing and creating per customer request. It might not happen daily, but they have created brushes for Essie’s gel couture bottle with a twisted design and Christian Louboutin’s striking, stiletto-esque bottle toppers.

“We are happy to accommodate customer-driven changes that allow for their own take on a brush or product,” McDonald says. “Customers come to us with an idea in mind, then we show them what’s possible within their budget and limitations. We like to give them the flexibility to do whatever they want.”

The company, currently located at 36th and Martha streets, changed hands several times and was eventually purchased in 2003 by Team Technology Inc., which helped NAGL branch into medical, dental, and automotive markets.       

In addition to making 2.5 million brushes every single day, NAGL annually produces more than 84 million oral swabs for use in medical facilities. The company also creates brushes for automotive touch-up paint, model kits, super glue, and antifungal solutions, plus caps, bottles, packaging solutions, a vibrating flosser, and more.    

“If you’d asked me before I started here, I would’ve guessed that this nail polish bottle, cap, and brush came from China,” McDonald says. “But it comes from Omaha, Nebraska. It’s kind of wild that these everyday products that you rely on to enhance your beauty come from here—much less this residential neighborhood.”   

In addition to being made-in-the-USA, the company prides itself on its sustainability practices.

“We distill 100 percent of our acetone and lacquer, and recycle the sludge that remains from distillation. This saves nearly 6,000 gallons of these hazardous substances from going into landfills each year and remains well below EPA requirements,” McDonald says. “We also reduced our waste output by 50 percent, starting in 2014, by implementing a full-facility recycling program. With a very plastics-heavy operation, it’s very important to protect the health and sustainability of our environment.”

Despite changes in ownership and product lines over the years, McDonald says NAGL remains a workplace that inspires employee loyalty. McDonald’s predecessor was with NAGL for 35 years, and human resources manager June Jones has worked there since the 1960s.

“It’s neat to work somewhere you’re actually making the product that you’re selling,” McDonald says. “You get more invested, and our team’s involved in the entire process.” 

Visit naglmfg.com for more information.

This article was printed in the Summer 2017 edition of B2B.

Fair Deal Village MarketPlace

Photography by Sarah Lemke

As a child, Terri Sanders visited the original Fair Deal Cafe on 24th Street with her father to eat breakfast or lunch, and experience a vibrant North Omaha.

Sanders says the cafe, known from the ’40s to ’70s as Omaha’s “Black City Hall,” was a popular meeting spot for politicians and local African-American leaders.

Now community leaders say the Fair Deal Village MarketPlace, a recently completed $2.4 million economic development project built on the footprint of the café, will increase commuter traffic and dramatically change the North 24th Street business corridor.

“The businesses are successful, and again—it’s a revitalization,” says Sanders, 59, a member of the Omaha Economic Development Corp. and the development’s site manager. “You never return to what it was, but you can certainly revitalize it and go forward into the future.”

OEDC partnered with Omaha-based architecture firm Alley Poyner Macchietto for the project, which was built between March 22 and Dec. 3, 2016. OEDC is a nonprofit that benefits North Omaha, which has a history of poverty and other socio-economic hardships.

Officials also are branding the development, located at 2118 N. 24th St., as an entertainment and arts district. In addition to a reinvented Fair Deal Cafe, the development includes the Fair Deal Grocery Market and eight Omaha-based artisanal businesses. The grocery store, which focuses on healthy foods, is open seven days a week, and the Fair Deal Cafe is closed on Mondays.

“It brings positive [change] to the corridor,” Sanders says. “These businesses provide not just economic development for the business owners, but it also provides jobs to support them.”

The other eight tenants include: Hand of Gold, a nail salon; Fashun Freak, a women’s clothing and accessory store; ABE (All Black Everything), a men’s contemporary clothing store; LikNu Boutique, a women’s clothing and accessory store; Mike’s Custom Creations, a custom shoe and cleaning business; Divine Nspirations, a Christian gift shop; It’z Poppin, a gourmet popcorn shop; and D-Marie Hair Boutique, a hair salon.

“I think by virtue of the businesses located there, it’s an artist area,” Sanders says. “It’s a historical district—first of all—and arts and culture are a part of that.”

But here’s the twist:

The majority of the development, just south of 24th and Burdette streets, is constructed via an arrangement of shipping containers. The seemingly unusual approach to building the structure is becoming a popular trend across the world.

“I think the container concept, in itself, is unique. We’re the first [commercial] container site in the State of Nebraska,” Sanders says. “It’s an economical way to provide retail spaces to businesses that were either home-based or internet-based on a consistent basis.”

More than 50 commercial spaces created from containers exist across the United States, Canada, Europe, Africa, and even Australia. Experts say the model effectively ups foot traffic. The alternative structure serves as a cost-effective and durable approach to community redevelopment.

Each container at the Omaha marketplace is fitted with heating and air conditioning, Sanders says. Six of them are 8-by-20 feet, and two are 16-by-20 feet. She also says the visual appeal of the development has increased foot traffic on North 24th Street.

“I noticed when there are activities at the Union [for Contemporary Arts], there are people that come down to the Fair Deal to eat and shop,” she says.

James Thele, planning director with the City of Omaha, describes the project as a solid foundation for future economic development along North 24th Street.

“We envisioned, as a community, North 24th Street as being an arts and entertainment center,” says Thele, who pointed to the nearby Union for Contemporary Arts.

The city’s contributions to the project included a $370,000 federal community development block grant and $195,000 in tax increment financing—or TIF, a common incentive that allows developers to use a portion of future property taxes to cover initial costs.

City officials also acquired an adjacent property to the marketplace, which will be converted into a parking lot connected to the new entertainment district.

Edward Dantzler, a city development section manager, says the 35-space lot will include two handicap accessible stalls. In total, the lot will cost $370,000, with completion in May.

“The parking lot and stalls will be reserved for the Fair Deal project,” Dantzler says.

Thele says while it’s “hard to argue” about the benefits of jobs and new business in North Omaha, it is important to see other prospects of the development.

“It attracts attention,” Thele says. “It creates a buzz, and that’s important.”

Sanders says further revitalization on 24th Street will help North Omaha continue to grow and become a destination for visitors throughout the city.

“And even though we’ve not been open six months, I’m starting to see that vibrance returning to the community,” she says.

Visit oedc.info for more information.

This article was printed in the Summer 2017 edition of B2B.

Kate Packard

May 11, 2017 by

This sponsored content appears in the Winter 2017 edition of B2B. To view, click here: https://issuu.com/omahapublications/docs/b2b_0217_125/56

As president of Kaplan University’s Nebraska campuses—and a woman—Kate Packard has a keen understanding of what the majority of her students need and want from their educational experience.

After all, 75 percent of them are women, and just as she does, they learn to integrate education into their busy lives of children, career, and family.

“As women, we understand the juggle—being a mom, daughter, employee, student, business leader, etc.,” Packard says. “As a female leader, I also juggle similar demands in a day. As a female leader, innovation is a valuable quality to possess.

“This quality allows female leaders the opportunity to juggle and prioritize daily so that we can remain focused on personal growth and accomplishments.” 

Kaplan University is a higher education institution offering more than 180 programs including diplomas, associates, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees, as well as professional certifications and graduate certificates for eligible, nontraditional students.

Fifty-nine percent of Kaplan’s students are over the age of 30. Time spent on any level of education assists students to master both basic and advanced skills. The more time spent focusing on education, the stronger the students’ writing, reading, comprehension, and communication skills will develop. Packard says it’s the flexibility of Kaplan University that also appeals to students—male and female, traditional and nontraditional.

“Each day I focus on pushing the boundaries by approaching what we do inside the walls of the university to support our students,” she says. “By the end of your program, you will have become accustomed to interacting with a wide variety of people and these social skills will assist students in their job search.”

5425 103rd St.
Omaha, NE 68314
402.431.6100
kaplanuniversity.edu/omaha-nebraska.aspx

Professional Pets

May 3, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Some of the names spoken about at the marketing firm Envoy might seem unorthodox: Adam, Steve, Stella … and Butter? These names don’t belong to people, but to a pair of Devon rex cats, a French bulldog/pug, and a mini goldendoodle. Dentists have kept tropical aquariums in their waiting rooms for generations, but expanding a workplace’s pet-tential is far more common than that.

Penny Hatchell and Kathy Broniecki have owned Envoy for 13 years, producing materials for clients as varied as Hiland Dairy, Boys Town, and Max I. Walker Cleaners. The decision to allow pets in the office came from the desire to create a flexible and welcoming work environment: “We love to come to work, and we want our employees to come to work,” Broniecki explains. The decision seems to be working for them: “There’s a much greater overall wellness to the office—our quality and productivity has improved, and it keeps things light.”

Kathy Broniecki’s French bulldog/pug, Stella, comes to the office daily.

The animals are great for keeping employees happy, or helping employees who have a bad day cheer up.

“This has been studied and we can see that animals have value in emotional therapy, or to be assistant animals in places like nursing homes,” says Teresa T. Freeman, a therapist in Omaha. “They have noticed a positive effect in studies pets have on people in isolated situations to help boost their mood, wellness, and even improve physiology—things like heart rate, blood pressure, and other stress responses.”

The cats were rescued and considered part of Envoy, while the dogs and a hedgehog are others’ personal pets.

Broniecki says the company is reasonable about how having pets around can affect productivity, too: “It’s natural to get distracted at work, and focusing too hard can just make things worse. Getting by distracted by the pets is a much more positive outlet than other options,” Broniecki says.

Perhaps the greatest boon to Envoy has been the camaraderie the animals’ presence has built. “One stormy day,” Broniecki says, “Adam the cat went missing. It became an all-hands-on- deck situation in that moment trying to find him.” Everyone keeps treats on their desks for them, and when the dogs arrive in the morning, they make sure to greet every employee first thing, desk by desk. Hatchell, who takes the cats home with her when the day is over, adds: “even over the holidays, I’ll get texts asking how they’re doing, and even requesting pics.”

That camaraderie is a common bond between employees and furry friends, and can be a way to connect with shyer clients or new staff members.

“It breaks down barriers,” Freeman says. “People may not be comfortable with where they’re at emotionally, or isolated.”

Envoy’s office cat Adam, is a rescue cat.

Envoy is not alone in enjoying the pet perks. At J.A. McCoy CPA (located off 90th and Maple streets) Julie McCoy, in partnership with her rescue dog JoJo, tackles that lightning rod of stressful situations—taxes. McCoy has kept a dog at work since day one of starting her firm. “We work a lot of long hours, and dealing with taxes and estates is often not a fun experience. But with JoJo here, people look forward to coming in,” she says. Like at Envoy, McCoy has seen the same positive influence in her office: “Clients love it–we get a lot of business by word of mouth because of JoJo.” And of course, employees are encouraged to have play time. “We’re doing stuff that requires a lot of concentration, so it’s good to have a break.”

Pam Wiese, V.P. of public relations for the Nebraska Humane Society, also believes that having pets in the office can do wonders to reduce stress. “Focusing on something that isn’t another person, like the nurturing qualities of animals, can help calm people down.” Pets, she says, provide an element of levity that certainly has value in defusing tense work scenarios. She brings her own dog to work every day, but cats, fish, and even critters can all contribute. “We once had a bearded dragon here in the office. He’d sit out on his rock and sunbathe while people came to visit him over their lunches,” Wiese says. Though the NHS has not made any concerted push to get animals into offices, they have had their share of interested parties looking to adopt. “We’re happy to work with people to find an animal for them,” she says, “as long as it’s an appropriate situation.”

There are certainly many factors to weigh before introducing a pet into your own office. “Animals need to be comfortable,” Weise says. If the conditions aren’t safe or comforting for the pet, that opens up the opportunity for additional problems, like becoming loud or aggressive. If you’re going to have a pet, they will need to have their own private space and occasionally training to cope with many active people surrounding them. There’s also the human factor to consider: not everyone is an animal lover. “You’ll need to be considerate of the phobias, allergies, and even prejudices of the people passing through your workplace.”

McCoy, Broniecki, and Hatchell were all able to speak to experiences with clients that turned sour because of their furry compatriots, but also noted that they were few and far between. “Only one client of ours didn’t want to come to the office because we had cats,” Hatchell explains. Similarly, McCoy shared that she did have clients with phobias: “We always try to be upfront and communicate ahead we’re a pet-friendly office. When a client comes in that has trouble with that, we make sure JoJo stays in her ‘office’ [and she does have an office, nameplate and all].”

Regardless, they were each in confident agreement: their pawed pals have been a big plus for their businesses.

Nora belongs to Amy Goldyn.

This article was printed in the Spring 2017 edition of B2B.

Lynne Sangimino

April 14, 2017 by

This sponsored content appears in the Winter 2017 edition of B2B. To view, click here: https://issuu.com/omahapublications/docs/b2b_0217_125/56

Lynne Sangimino tells women that to move forward in their careers, sometimes they have to move sideways.

“I worked for a company that I helped build that was bought by another company,” she says. “In hindsight, it was one of the best things that ever happened. The willingness to try another role is very valuable. You have to be prepared to make a number of changes, including making a lateral move before moving up. It will help you grow.”

Sangimino has been with Cox for 10 years, making the move to Omaha three years ago to serve as vice president for Cox Business in Omaha. In her role she leads the Cox Business team for commercial customers, with clients ranging from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies.

“I love this community,” she says. “It has high expectations of local business leaders for collaboration. I don’t know if Omaha realizes how unusual that is. We work together and compete for the greater good. I’ve not found that in other communities where I’ve lived.”

Not only do local companies work together, so do the employees at Cox. Committees made up of Cox employees focus on ways that workers can be involved in the community. Employees often volunteer to work for charities.

“Many of our employees serve on philanthropic boards. So their influence is felt not only at the company’s business, but in the Omaha community,” says Sangimino.

Technology has historically been a male-driven industry, she notes. But that’s not so at Cox.

“What’s unique about Cox in Omaha is most of our executives here are female,” she says. “It’s a testament to our company placing high focus on diversity.  Our female employees are very capable and very confident and especially involved.”

The average tenure of employees on the Cox Business team is 10 years, “which I think is unique in business these days,” Sangimino says.

Cox Communications is one of the largest broadband and entertainment companies in the U.S., providing video, internet, telephone service, home and business security.

“We’ve been successful in the Omaha community 35 years with our residential services and have been offering business services for 18 years. Cox is a company that is in many markets nationwide,” she says.

“We are one of the first companies of our type to offer business security, (launched in July), both detection and surveillance for small-to-medium-size businesses.”

Customers choose us as their technology partner because of our ability to be nimble, she says. “We break through red tape to get things done quickly. We are a large company with strong capabilities and financial stability that does not lose sight of our customer and serving them 24/7.”

Reflecting on her legacy, Sangimino says, “It’s my hope that I’ve helped lift others up in their careers through mentoring and stretch assignments; it’s so satisfying hearing some employees I’ve led five or 10 years ago who started their own business or moved up the ladder, who called to say, ‘thank you.’ I serve my team and my company to leave it better than when I came.”

401 N. 117th St.
Omaha, NE 68154
402.934.3223
coxbusiness.com

Pacific Life

April 13, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The site of Omaha’s old Knights of Aksarben complex—acres of once-busy thoroughbred horse racing and concert space turned albatross—has blossomed anew as the live-work-play destination spot known as Aksarben Village.

The booming mixed-use development is home to popular eateries, a movie theater, health club, and two colleges. This is part of why Pacific Life Insurance Company moved its regional business operations office from downtown to a new five-story building there in late 2015. The company’s Omaha office has grown from 250 to 450 workers since the blue-gray motif structure’s 2014 groundbreaking.

The gleaming, glass-fronted Holland Basham Architects design offers many creature comforts and inhabits prime real estate at 6750 Mercy Road.

The new digs provide a branded presence after a low-key profile at downtown’s Landmark Center.

Angela Greisen, Pacific Life assistant vice president for human resources, says, “We couldn’t have our name on the previous building in any big, visible way. We’d been in Omaha 12-plus years and people still didn’t know we were here.” That’s changed, she says, as events “bring thousands of people to the village and our new building with our big branding and signage is right there in the middle of everything.”

“That’s been huge for us. It’s also given us higher applicant flow because people now know we’re here and here to stay and we’re growing.”

Where many employees had to use off-site parking downtown, they now have an 850-stall covered garage. A heated, enclosed skybridge connects the building to the garage.

Greisen was part of a project team drawn from each Pacific Life business unit that polled employees about their likes and dislikes.

“The three most important things employees said they wanted were parking, amenities, and a nearby location with easy access,” she says.

Aksarben was the clear site choice. Pacific Life partnered with Magnum Development on the $33 million new build. The company occupies the second through fifth floors. Eateries and shops fill the ground floor.

“Staff response has been great,” Greisen says. “They love the parking, the amenities, the bright, airy feel of the building with the wide-open layout, natural lighting, and clean, modern finishes. Though we added only about 10,000 square feet, it’s organized much more efficiently.”

Each floor plan incorporates cutting-edge work spaces to enhance communication, team-building, workflow, and group projects via huddle spaces, conference rooms, and commons areas. She says, “Staff can seamlessly interface in real time with colleagues at other locations through videoconferencing, teleconferencing, and webinar technology.”

There’s a Wall Street trading-room floor look to the third floor internal wholesaling area. Flat-screen panels stream motivational performance messages and live market conditions to the sales desk floor.

In multiple areas, adjustable, stand-up work stations are available. Employees can indulge their freshly brewed beverage cravings at several Keurig stations.

The in-house Park View Cafe is a grab-your-own, pay-with-your-phone Company Kitchen model. The spacious room converts into a meeting-reception space with audio-video connectivity. A covered balcony offers a panoramic overlook of Stinson Park.

Though not green certified, the structure integrates many conservation features, including energy efficient windows, LED lighting, HVAC that is programmed to shut off when areas are unoccupied, low water usage restroom fixtures, and motion-sensor lighting.

Greisen says employees appreciate Aksarben Village’s warm welcome and plethora of things to do. Proximity is a big plus, too, as Pacific Life is an employer partner of the University of Nebraska at Omaha, whose south campus is in the village. As an employer partner, company representatives promote their job opportunites and participate in career fairs; staffers also speak to classes and conduct mock interviews when asked. Greisen hopes this partnership will grow.

“We expect an increase because we have a partnership with UNO, and now we are literally on the edge of their campus,” she says. “It’s very convenient. Increased visibility.  It gives us even more opportunities to partner with the university.”

This visibility, along with the popular amenities, could mean an increase in sought-after employees at Pacific Life in the near future.  And that can help secure Pacific Life’s future.

Visit  aksarbenvillage.com for more information.

This article was printed in the Spring 2017 edition of B2B.

Beth Raper

March 30, 2017 by

This sponsored content appears in the Winter 2017 edition of B2B. To view, click here: https://issuu.com/omahapublications/docs/b2b_0217_125/56

From 20 people to 50,000 people. Fun Services provides entertainment for groups of all sizes.

The 50,000 people? That would be the Offutt Open House and Air Show, where Fun Services supplies entertainment.

The company has been around 50 years, says Beth Raper, who runs Fun Services with her husband, Joey. They employ 40 people.

She says not only is Fun Services the oldest firm of its kind in Omaha, it’s the best equipped in all of Nebraska and western Iowa to help customers plan special events offering inflatable rides, concessions, and casino parties, as well as party rentals, tables, chairs, and canopies.

“We have been in the business so long that we have the inventory to accommodate the customer,” Raper says. “We help businesses, churches, and schools plan special events.”

“Some people call to rent a few things. Some call and say, ‘Would you guys help with everything? I’m planning a party for 500 people,’” she says. “People appreciate that we‘re a one-stop shop.”

She and her husband bought the family-owned business five years ago. He was familiar with Fun Services and what it could provide—with good reason, she says. They both were working at Fun Services while in high school, when they met. “That’s everyone’s favorite story about us,” she says.

After college graduation, she worked as a wedding planner for five years.  Of course, she planned her own wedding to Joey. It was a small, quiet wedding with friends and family. No inflatable rides. No concessions. Just fun.

Fun Services is a fun place for the college-age students currently employed. “We provide great part-time jobs for kids. They are part-time in college and work part-time for us. We take care of our employees and have parties throughout the year.”

Approximately 90 percent of her clientele are women. “A lot of women work in an environment where they are responsible for planning a party—perhaps a PTA mother or someone planning a church festival,” she says.

“I want to be known for the fact that I love what I do. Everybody has a great time at events we plan. I try to put my touch on everything I do,” says Raper.  “But when I am at home, I focus my time on family and kids.”

Raper goes from executive boss to mom in seconds when she walks out the Fun Services door.  She has one child and is expecting another baby in time for Christmas.

Separating the two worlds is important, she says. “I think women that are mothers but also have full-time jobs know it’s hard to balance. I try to leave work at work. And make sure when I am at home, I focus my time on family and kids.”

7535 D St.
Omaha, NE 68124
402.393.7397
funservicesneia.com

The Silicon Trail

March 28, 2017 by

When United Airlines’ first daily nonstop service flight from Eppley Airfield to San Francisco International Airport eased away from the gate in September 2016, Randy Thelen made certain he had a seat.

The senior vice president for economic development at the Omaha Chamber of Commerce saw the importance of that 7 a.m. flight—believed to be the first regular nonstop service between the two cities in a quarter century. Shortly after 9 a.m., he was on the West Coast, in the fertile Silicon Valley, ready for business.

Despite Omaha’s firm footing in the Silicon Prairie—with tech giants like PayPal, Google, LinkedIn, and Yahoo all maintaining a significant presence in the metro—Omaha long struggled with a serious shortcoming when it came time to recruit more. The same shortcoming didn’t help local technology startups secure financial backing from the apparent over-abundance of thick wallet in the Bay area.

Getting from Silicon Valley to Omaha’s corner of the Silicon Prairie was more than a hassle. It usually required at least one connecting flight, stretching a three-hour nonstop flight into nearly a full day of airplanes and airports … and that’s the delay-free version.

“As much as we don’t want location to be a barrier, there’s a very real situation where Silicon Valley investors won’t fly somewhere if they have to switch planes,” says Dusty Davidson, the CEO and co-founder of Flywheel, an Omaha-based startup that builds and hosts WordPress websites. Davidson is also known for his role in creating Silicon Prairie News and one of the largest entrepreneurial tech conferences in the region, Big Omaha.

“It’s not the connection, it’s the time,” he adds.

The required connecting flights cast a pall over Omaha’s distinct advantage as a low-cost jewel compared to the Silicon Valley. Omaha’s lower cost of living and more affordable housing helps save companies on their largest expense: wages. Add in the various business incentives available from the state, along with a strong talent pool and sound infrastructure, and Omaha makes an attractive option for startup and established tech companies, with that notable exception.

“We came up short on the connectivity or on the flights in and out of Silicon Valley,” Thelen says.

Then United Airlines made San Francisco’s International Airport the nation’s 25th airport with regular nonstop flight services to and from Omaha. This spring, a 26th regular nonstop Omaha route will open between here and Houston via Southwest Airlines.

“Now, we’ve taken away that competitive disadvantage, and we’ve been able to promote it as an advantage,” Thelen says. “It really has changed the conversation as we try to continue to build that pipeline between here and Silicon Valley.”

“The ability to have direct service does have an impact on the businesses that choose to do business here,” says Nancy Miller, vice president of operations at Travel and Transport, a national travel booking company based in Omaha. “I think it helps Omaha businesses.”

That an airline would add a regular nonstop flight to San Francisco lends credence to claims of Omaha’s growth as a potential hub in the Silicon Prairie.

“The Omaha economy really seems to have been doing well over the last couple of years,” says Dave Roth, deputy executive director of the Omaha Airport Authority. “It’s just a really positive combination of Omaha and the airlines for those additional flights.”

Omaha has popped up on several national lists as a new hot spot for tech startups. SmartAsset named Omaha the best city in the nation to work in tech in 2015, and Nebraska has been No. 3 on Forbes’ list of Best States for Business for two years running.

Thelen used his first flight to the Silicon Valley to meet with a dozen tech companies, some who already have outposts in town, and few others he’d like see set up shop.

“For the cost of one hotel stay and a pretty simple flight in and out, you can get two full business days of work without the hassle of changing planes and the risk of getting delayed,” Thelen says. “The convenience of business travel just went up exponentially, and you can expect that connectivity to continue to grow.”

Executives headquartered in San Francisco can more easily visit and engage with their Midwestern operations. Or, employees based in Omaha can more efficiently meet with leadership in Silicon Valley. Officials at PayPal and LinkedIn—which employ about 2,800 and 300 people, respectively, in the Omaha area—say there is frequent travel between the Silicon Valley and their operations in Omaha, but exact figures were unavailable.

“To have firms like that, that now have much, much easier access back and forth, frankly it makes our location all that more integral to the operation because it’s a simpler connect now,” Thelen says.

He added: “That simple flight makes a big, big difference.”

And even homegrown startups can take advantage. They can get twice as much done on recruiting trips from the valley, whether they are looking for talent or financing.

Davidson, the CEO at Flywheel, says the increased connectivity will indeed make a big difference for local companies raising money. There still remains a lot of work to put Omaha “on the map” with more sources of local capital and slowing the export of the state’s top technology talent, to name a few.

“I don’t know that you’re able to look at [direct flights to San Francisco] and say, ‘Hey, look, we solved the problem,’” he says. “I think there’s 50 things that are contributing, and what you really want to do is, just one at a time, start whittling away.”

Visit omahachamber.org for more information.

This article was printed in the Spring 2017 edition of B2B.

Revamped Radio

March 18, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

When the band Train came to Omaha’s Baxter Arena for a concert in December 2016, there were plenty of flashing lights and excited fans. “But when the lights go out and the audience starts screaming, there’s no rush like it in the world,” says Andy Ruback, general manager of NRG Media. Ruback knows a great deal about screaming fans—when a big concert comes to town the likelihood is that Ruback had his hand in the planning. His role as general manager has evolved over the years from managing radio stations to include managing events brought to town by NRG Media Live.

The business is a natural fit for NRG, which owns stations ranging from Power 106.9 to 1290 KOIL. The company was looking to the future for broadcasting and leaning toward live shows as a way to increase profitability. NRG used their strengths in connecting people to music to expand into the business of concert production. With the radio stations’ on-air talent knowing their listeners’ preferences, the media company naturally knew what acts had potential to bring in revenue, and which ones might not.

Ruback came to Omaha from Lincoln, where he served as general manager for their NRG stations. Upon his arrival at the NRG offices in Omaha in 2012, Ruback went full speed ahead. He says the intention was never to focus on live shows over radio shows; rather, he called his plans a method for “diversifying for growth.”

Concert production is a challenge that Ruback gladly accepted, but in it, found unique bumps in the road. Some of those bumps included special requirements, such as permits, that needed the legal team’s help. Shock rocker Alice Cooper, for example, required the team to acquire special insurance because of the pyrotechnics involved with his show. Ruback and his team figured out how to get the right insurance, and now know who to ask the next time someone wants to light up fireworks onstage.

Ruback says some of the more surprising challenges he and his team have faced come from smaller, more routine details.

“I would say it’s more about the crowd experience logistics,” Ruback says. “How do we try to work with the arenas to make sure there’s enough concessions on the floor? What should be the entry ticket price? What should be the price for the front row?”

Logistics is the simplest description for the business of producing concerts. Is the specific artist available at the time? Is there enough interest in this artist to fill the seats? Is a venue available on the day needed?

“We could have the great idea, and the right price, but there could be a UNO hockey game and a Lancers game on the night we want, and we’re out of luck,” Ruback says.

It is a revenue stream in which many community businesses desire to participate, and there are many ways for them to participate, including attaching their name to experiences such as meet-and-greets with the band before or after the show, and attaching their name to souvenirs. Attendees at the Train concert, for example, vied for flashing bracelets and cups branded with a sponsor’s logo. Signage prominently displayed throughout Baxter Arena featured sponsor logos.

The scenario is beneficial to everyone involved: the band gets to play to a well-attended venue, the fans get to enjoy the band, and the sponsors get to present their message in an effective way.

“On that day, no other media group is producing a concert,” Ruback says. “So you’re looking at content that advertisers want to be a part of, but no other client can do.”

The diversification proved wildly successful. Ruback says that since 2014, more than 100,000 people have attended an NRG Media Live event. Associate athletic director for University of Nebraska at Omaha Mike Kemp enjoys his business dealings with NRG Media Live and says that when Ruback puts on a concert at Baxter Arena “… it’s not just a concert—it’s an event. He has great vision and ideas and that’s the true charm of what he does.”

“I think NRG Media does a great job of engaging the community to get behind the events,” adds Kemp. NRG Media has the ability to promote coming shows using the radio stations on their roster and their strong social media presence. This equals solid attendance numbers at concerts and happy sponsors.

“Andy’s full of energy and great ideas,” Kemp says of Ruback. “He’s an honest guy with great enthusiasm for what he does.” Rubak’s vision has evolved NRG Media into much more than an organization simply running local radio stations. In fact, the next time there is a popular concert in town, there is an excellent chance that Ruback can be found there, smiling and enjoying the rush.

Visit nrgmedia.com for more information.

This article was printed in the Spring 2017 edition of B2B.

From The Editor

February 23, 2017 by

B2B Magazine started 2017 by highlighting the many successful women in business around Omaha, and this issue, we bring you the best of the city for business needs.

This contest is a bit different from the Best of Omaha, where the ballot is published online so anyone in the community can choose their favorites. In the Best of B2B contest, the winners are nominated on ballots printed in the 20,000 copies of the winter issue. Each issue of the magazine contained a ballot—a chance for readers to vote on favorite businesses that cater to the local business community (for example: business lunch, carpet cleaning, and much more).

How many of us can truly say we love our work? I do, actually. I look forward to coming to the office. A big part of this is that I work with an incredible team of creatives and salespeople, and one lizard. Yes, lizard—Spike the bearded dragon. Spike came to visit a couple of years ago when the publisher and his family left for Europe, and he has been with us since. He’s docile, usually sitting under his heat lamp hanging around. Sometimes when I am really feeling overwhelmed, I walk downstairs to his aquarium and watch him for a moment, sunning himself, enjoying life.

In the spring issue, we bring you the story of Envoy, which keep cats, dogs, and even a hedgehog in the office. Employees keep treats for the fur-ployees at their desks, and if one of the pets turns up missing, the whole office helps in finding their special friend.

What about you? Do you have a pet in your office? Does your office allow you to bring your pets to work? Or do you vote nay to keeping or having pets in the office? Does the fur or the smell bother you? Follow us on social media and join the conversation (@omahamagazine on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram).

We also have other incredible articles in this issue. Like many forms of traditional media, radio is looking for alternate ways to increase revenue. NRG Media has found new business opportunities through concerts.

Ride-sharing has become a popular trend in the past several years. While people are more prone to call for an Uber in a coastal city where the cost of owning a car is prohibitive, Omaha does offer alternatives to jumping into your own vehicle when you want to go somewhere. One of those alternatives is Zipcar. This car-sharing service allows users to access one of several fleet vehicles in the area by reserving a time and date for a car. The vehicle is then available for the reserver to use by the hour or the day.

And if you need to go outside of the city, traveling to Silicon Valley just became a bit easier by flying on United Airlines’ nonstop flights between Omaha and San Francisco.

This issue of B2B, like all issues, proves to be an adventure. I hope you enjoy it.

Daisy Hutzell-Rodman is associate editor of B2B, a publication of Omaha Magazine LTD. She can be reached at daisy@omahamagazine.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This letter was printed in the Spring 2017 edition of B2B.