Tag Archives: Des Moines

Omaha Tourism Trivia

August 26, 2016 by

With the College World Series and U.S. Olympic Swim Trials in the city this past summer, out-of-town visitors were front and center, but do you know how many out-of-towners visit Omaha during a typical year?

Take a guess:

A    250,000

B    1.2 million

C    750,000

D   11.9 million

If you guessed B or C, you are like most people we ask, but the answer is D. According to research conducted by Tourism Economics—an Oxford Economics Company, 11.9 million visitors come to Omaha every year. We define a visitor as someone who travels to Omaha from more than 50 miles away. About 60 percent of those are day visitors, folks who travel in from places like Shenandoah, Iowa, to go shopping, out to eat, to see their doctor, or to take in a performance and then return home. The other 40 percent are overnight visitors—people who come to visit relatives, families who want to enjoy a long weekend getaway, fans who travel to Omaha for sporting events or concerts, convention delegates, and business travelers. While we at the Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau (OCVB) don’t have much control over where your relatives live, or with whom you do business, we do have an impact on leisure travelers and convention delegates.

Our convention sales team focuses on bringing convention business here. They travel the country promoting Omaha to groups such as the Council of Engineering and Scientific Society Executives, which met in Omaha in July. The organization is made up of 200 associations that also hold meetings throughout the year, so this one meeting could garner even more convention business in the future for the city. Last year alone, the convention sales team was responsible for 291 meetings here in Omaha, and those meetings brought in more than $125 million to our local economy. 

Our marketing team focuses on building Omaha’s reputation as a great leisure destination, a place where families, couples, and friends can enjoy a fun getaway. In addition to purchasing national advertising to brand Omaha as a visitor destination, the marketing team also targets the drive market, a 250-mile radius around Omaha. A 10-month-long regional advertising campaign in Kansas City, Des Moines, and Sioux Falls paid off. According to independent surveys conducted by Scarborough Research, a total of 402,212 visitors from those cities came to Omaha for an overnight visit during 2015, a 9.3 percent increase over 2014. Think about it: if each of these visitors spent $100 while in Omaha, that’s a $40 million payoff for our city.

So next time you’re on Jeopardy and they ask how many people visit Omaha each year, aim high…we do. B2B

Keith Backsen is executive director of the Omaha Convention & Visitors Bureau

Keith Backsen is executive director of the Omaha Convention & Visitors Bureau

Omaha Defies “Housing Trilemma” Trade-Off

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

If the top 100 cities in the U.S. comprise a family awash in drama and competition, then Omaha is the kid sibling everyone keeps forgetting about. When discussed at the national dinner table (if at all), Omaha is misconstrued, underestimated, and blamed for things that are probably Portland’s fault. “Why can’t you be sunny and fun like your coastal brothers and sisters? Oh, ‘you don’t coast’? That’s your excuse for everything.”

But the national report cards keep coming back aglitter with praise. They say: Omaha has a great future, America. Heck, it could be president someday.

The latest batch of good news comes from, of all places, the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis. In a June report, economist Josh Lehner sought to answer the question of whether a city can boast affordable housing, lots of available jobs, and a high quality of life? His hypothesis was, essentially, “nope.” Cities can usually perform well on one or two measures, he found, but they can’t homer on all three. Lehner calls this “the housing trilemma.”

HousingTrilemma1Consider Austin, Texas. Austin boasts a robust job market and highly desirable quality of life. Consequently, the housing market cannot keep pace with the influx of new residents, so even a one-bedroom apartment costs a couple of body parts per month.

Omaha, however, is one of only three cities that performed solidly in all three categories of Lehner’s report.  The other two? Oklahoma City and Des Moines, Iowa.

Inspired by Lehner’s work, David Drozd, research coordinator for UNO’s Center for Public Affairs Research, looked further into the sources that Lehner used in the housing trilemma study. Drozd said that Omaha and Des Moines were pretty much the only two cities that were able to score within the top 30 on all three indicators of affordable housing, a strong economy, and a high quality of life. 

“It’s just good to see that, overall, the Midwest’s larger metros were tending to come into that sweet spot and basically achieve something that the author premised was somewhat impossible,” Drozd says.

Moreover, Drozd says there is one more crucial perk to Omaha not covered in the Oregon housing trilemma study: the factor of the city’s unusually low cost-of-living, cost-of-goods, and services. Not just the housing, everything is cheaper here.

“As people make their location decision,” Drozd says, “they often just look at the nominal salary of the job they’re looking at and don’t factor in—at least to the degree they probably should—that cost-of-living component, which tends to make the salary you see go a lot further in the Midwest.” 

What about the loss of ConAgra? Will the food giant’s departure knock Omaha out of the housing-jobs-quality of life sweet spot in future studies?

Drozd says it doesn’t help, but it might not hurt, either.

“(Losing ConAgra) takes away some of the large job base. One of the reasons Nebraska, and specifically Omaha, was able to ride out the recession pretty well was that we had the diversity in employers. On the flip side, as those people move away, that opens up some housing, so that we don’t get pinched on the housing-affordability side.”

Visit oregoneconomicanalysis.com/2016/06/08/the-housing-trilemma for more information. B2B


Restaurant Review: Louie’s Wine Dive

April 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

“Wine should be fun” is what it reads on the staff’s t-shirts at Louie’s Wine Dive, and I have to say that I couldn’t agree more. So often, it seems that people are put off by buying wine, ordering wine, or going to wine bars because of the “snooty factor” that is perceived to come along with it. At Louie’s, they’ve done a good job of making wine more accessible to the masses and keeping the snobbery out of it. For that, I commend them.

The Shops of Legacy in West Omaha, has a large selection of very good restaurants. The location that Louie’s now occupies has been home to a couple of restaurants over the past few years, which should be a clue as to how competitive this area is for the West O dining dollar. If the success this small company has had in its Des Moines and Kansas City locations is any indication, then it’s safe to say that Louie’s has a good shot at making it here. The restaurant is very attractive and far from what I would call a dive, but they do have some “divey” features, such as chandeliers made from liquor bottles and mismatched chairs. I would describe the atmosphere as casual and comfortable.

After studying the wine list for a few minutes, it quickly becomes obvious that great care has been taken in the curation of the selections. Most growing regions and varieties are well-represented, and there’s not a dog in the bunch. The food menu has a little of everything as well: creative gourmet food with interesting twists on familiar favorites. There are appetizers, bruschettas, sandwiches, comfort-food entrees, pasta dishes, and salads.

On a recent visit, my dining partner and I started off with an order of Lobster Poutine ($15) and Louie’s Margarita Bruschetta ($9). This version of poutine is a rich lobster sauce poured over some delicious French fries with chunks of Maine lobster and topped with Fontina cheese. This dish was excellent, and one that I would recommend. The bruschetta was equally good and earned extra points since it was made on a baguette from Le Quartier Bakery, which happens to be my favorite bread in Omaha.20130329_bs_9505_Web

Next, we had a starter version of Emily’s Apple Harvest Salad ($5). This was made with baby greens, apples, cranberries, bacon, goat cheese, and candied pecans. I can promise you that I will order this salad every time I return. For entrees, we had the porchetta ($16) and the Shrimp Diablo Pasta ($16). The server told me that the corporate chef had won awards with the porchetta in the past, and after a few bites I could see why. This Italian-rolled pork shoulder is braised for hours with herbs and garlic so it melts in your mouth. The Shrimp Diablo might be the next one to win an award, as the creamy red pepper sauce had just the right amount of spice and a lovely toasted garlic finish. The shrimp are large and cooked perfectly.

Even though we were full, we soldiered on to try Lemon Pound Cake ($6). This moist cake had just the right relationship between sweet and sour and was topped with some fresh blueberry puree. It was a solid finish to a great meal.

I usually like to give new restaurants a little time to work out the kinks before sharing my thoughts with our readers, but, in this case, I made an exception, as it seemed to me that there were no kinks that needed working out. One of the many advantages a small restaurant company enjoys is the ability to send seasoned staff and managers to help open a new location, which makes the whole process considerably smoother and more enjoyable for the patrons. Our server was very well-trained and made some very good food and wine recommendations.

I think Louie’s Wine Dive will make an excellent addition to the West Omaha restaurant scene, and I am already looking forward to my next visit.


Louie’s Wine Dive
16920 Wright Plz., Ste. 118

RATING (5 Stars Possible)

Food & Beverage: ****
Service: ***
Ambiance: ***
Price: Moderate
Overall: ***1/2