Tag Archives: Veterans

The Right Stuff

October 2, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Raymond Page can trace his family’s military history to the Civil War and the 7th Pennsylvania Cavalry Regiment. Family members fought in World War I. His namesake grandfather survived a bullet wound after being shot on the beaches of Normandy during World War II.

Such a deep legacy of service may explain why, shortly after entering a university close to his rural northern Pennsylvania home, Page decided he wasn’t cut out for college. 

In 1988, at age 18, Page opted to follow his father and two older brothers into the U.S. Air Force. Another kind of education kicked in immediately at Offutt Air Force Base in Bellevue. 

“My first career was a radio operator, because I’ve always been into electronics,” says Page, 49. “Eventually I transitioned into meteorology and went to forecasting school. Offutt has the [Air Force Weather Agency] here, so it’s a job-rich environment.”

After ending his Air Force career as a major in 2014 after 26 years in the service, Page contemplated life as a civilian.

As he fielded several opportunities before accepting a position at Mutual of Omaha, Page discovered the reason transitions to the private sector run smoothly here: Omaha businesses need, actively recruit, and above all value veterans. 


“A better question is, why wouldn’t they want to hire a veteran?” observes Jeffrey Owens, vice president of Security Operations at First Data in Omaha and a Marine Corps veteran who enlisted during the Gulf War. “These young people trained, at a very young age, how to be leader[s], how to make decisions under high stress situations.”

The unemployment rate of post-9/11 veterans keeps trending down.  According to the latest numbers from the U.S. Labor Department, it stands at 3.3 percent nationwide. Still, many companies wonder why the number of employees with military experience isn’t higher, considering all the recruitment programs in place. 

The glitch may lie at the other end of the equation. 

“One of the scariest things for military people transitioning is there’s not a direct correlation of jobs [in the private sector],” says Page, echoing the thoughts of many veterans who may wonder, “Where do my skills fit in?” 

Page put his skills to the test in two war zones, Afghanistan and Iraq. During the Iraqi invasion in 2003, his weather detachment forecasted a monster three-day sandstorm, putting Army leaders in a position to keep their troops safe and hunkered down. 

“Even though I was a weather officer, I had a lot of experience in computer programming,” says Page, who lives in Bellevue with his wife and two children. “Military people, especially Air Force people, are wired to adapt quickly as we move from job to job. We show initiative.”

Owens, who also spent 14 years as a detective with the Atlanta Police Department, can’t speak highly enough of the qualities he observes every day in his employees. ”All the veterans I’ve had the opportunity to manage have exhibited loyalty, hard work, and they have a history and tradition built into them. Why wouldn’t you want those assets?”

Along with a lack of a business network, self-marketing may be a problem with many veterans. Military service focuses on the collective, making it difficult for a veteran to distinguish him-or-herself from the group, which is often an essential part of interviewing.

But that emphasis on the collective means many former service members will appreciate company values, missions, and visions.

First Data, founded in Omaha 47 years ago and now the world’s largest payment processor, reaches out to veterans through its First Data Salutes program. The company offers career opportunities and education resources for military personnel and their spouses; provides point-of-sale and business application technology free of charge to veteran-owned small businesses; and, like many local businesses, grants flex time to members of the National Guard or Reserves.

“What the company says to them is, ‘Hey, your job will be here when you get back.’ That gives them comfort and security while they’re [deployed],” says Owens.

First Data’s efforts on behalf of veterans, who made up 14.4 percent of the company’s Omaha hires last year, have won accolades. Military Times magazine has ranked the company No. 1 on its annual “Best for Vets: Employers” list the past two years, an honor “that cannot be bought, only earned,” according to the magazine’s editor. The rigorous survey, sent to 2,300 companies nationwide, contains 90 questions that companies must fill out and return. 

Page’s computer and leadership abilities caught the interest of Mutual of Omaha when the company hosted meet-up groups of software developers. Since joining the insurance company four years ago, he has thrived as an information systems manager. 

He has also positioned himself as a trusted adviser for Mutual’s military initiative, the Veterans Employee Resource Board. The group, in conjunction with the HR department, provides mentoring and assistance to people coming out of the service. Quarterly meetings focus on developing business knowledge and honing leadership skills. Members join their fellow Mutual employees in volunteering for community projects several times a year.

Page and other VERB members offer a bridge of understanding when it comes to the language of a veteran recruit’s skill set. 

“We also work with managers to help them decipher resumes,” Page points out. “What military people put on a resume is different from a civilian’s resume. I help interpret.”

Page realizes a lack of connections forms the biggest roadblock to people exiting the military. “I tell people to start networking, start visiting companies before they leave the service. Companies love talking to military men and women.”

Here in the Midlands, that’s sound advice.

Visit firstdata.com or mutualofomaha.com for more information.

This article was printed in the October/November 2018 edition of B2B. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Jeffrey Owens

Honoring Veterans

September 18, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Two years ago, my husband and I met a group of friends from Iowa City at Elk Rock State Park near Knoxville, Iowa, for a “meet in the middle” excursion. I made the mistake of booking sites for the six of us at the equestrian campground, which featured well-maintained trails that nearly every other camper, all horse owners, made use of that weekend.

Knoxville happens to be my hometown, so while in the area, we paid a visit to my parents. Upon explaining to them where we camped, my father said, “I think that was some of my guys who originally created those horse trails.”

‘My guys’ refers to veterans. My father was a psychologist for the VA Medical Center in Knoxville for 40 years.

These veterans came together to create trails at a state-run park that could be used by anyone, just as they came together during conflicts to fight for the U.S. They felt a sense of purpose and honor in coming together for the common good. This sense of honor, especially, is a trait that many veterans carry into the working world.

Veterans Day falls on Nov. 11, and as a way of saying, “thank you,” we have created features in this edition of B2B that are dedicated to honoring veterans. We spotlight two former servicemen who became entrepreneurs, we explain some legal considerations with employing National Guard members, and we help employers translate some of the great qualifications a soldier has from “government speak” to the business world.

Also, we at Omaha Magazine are creating a special event that will be perfect for networking. Learn more about the Best of Omaha Soirée (Nov. 8) in our “After Hours” department. I hope to see you there.

This letter was printed in the October/November 2018 edition of B2B. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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

Vets in Business

Whenever I think about the veterans I know who have started businesses after leaving the military, I reflect on the leadership qualities they learned and bring with them to the workplace. Honesty, responsibility, respect—yes, these are important values. But the best quality of them all, the one that uplifts and inspires me the most, is their extreme sense of honor. 

Having a sense of honor feels like an ancient thing, a deep and noble thing. When life is full of extreme trials and devastations, honorable people rise above the rest and stay focused on what is excellent. Others might give up or give in, succumb to rationalizations and workarounds, but those with a sense of honor have a strong appreciation of the good and the right, and they intentionally choose to live by their moral principles.

Notice, then, that the key to honor is as much about resolve and willpower as it is about having specific moral principles front of mind. Honor is an action word. Without consistent, calm, clear follow-through, a sense of honor is hollow.

When I visualize an honorable person, I think of an archer, focused on a bullseye, bow pulled taut
with an arrow ready for release. Years of dedication and practice enable the archer to remain cool and composed, shooting the arrow straight and true. Yes, for me, a sense of honor is acquired over time and through experience. 

These days, I think I have a pretty good ability to pick out businesspeople who are, or have been, in the military. I pick up on their sense of honor. When I recently met Richard Messina, owner of Play It Again Sports, his demeanor and description of how and why he runs his business exemplified his sense of honor. He could, so easily, buy used sports equipment for pennies for what they are worth and resell them for much more than they are worth. But his sense of honor directs him. He sees himself and his business as a part of the community and, so, unfair business practices are not acceptable. Rich was in the Air Force for 17 years. His aim is straight and true. 

To Rich and all Omaha vets: I admire your sense of honor and, in this, I want to be just like you.

This column was printed in the October/November 2018 edition of B2B. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Beverly Kracher, Ph.D., is the executive director of the Business Ethics Alliance and the Daugherty Chair in Business Ethics and Society at Creighton University.

Making Their Own Way

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The military teaches people to work as a collective. In some ways, it can be called the ultimate team. It also teaches many how to work as individuals.

James E. Walker was one who learned how to work as an individual. Joining the U.S. Army was an easy decision for him.

“I just had no sense of direction,” he says.

It was 1979, and Walker—who had dropped out of high school two years earlier—saw a lot of merit to the idea of getting three hot meals daily, a place to stay, and a monthly paycheck.

“It was a no-brainer to me,” says Walker, now 57 and owner of Custom Diesel Drivers Training, an Omaha truck-driving school that trains about 300 students a year.

He served in the Army just after the Vietnam War, and was a recovery specialist whose job was to retrieve broken equipment from the front lines and bring it in for repair. Among his tools were a 28-wheel tractor/trailer and a 5-ton wrecker.

The work suited him. 

“I was around trucks quite a bit growing up,” says Walker, clarifying the age he started working with trucks was about 9.

While growing up in southwest Iowa, he lived across the street from a man who had a couple of semi-trailer trucks, and young Walker sometimes drove them.

“That wasn’t too legal,” he says. “I couldn’t even touch the pedals. Just turn on the key, shove it into gear, and get rolling.” 

Walker enjoyed his time in the Army, and considering re-enlisting as his hitch was coming to an end in 1982. But he had recently married Bonnie (now his wife of 37 years), and his next posting would have been in Germany. The couple had a baby on the way, and she didn’t want to go overseas. Instead, the couple moved to Colorado.

After James left the military, the transition to civilian employment wasn’t easy. Much of the problem had to do with the difference between military and civilian management styles.

“When you’re in the military, they pretty much give you a mission, and you go and do the mission,” he says. “It just doesn’t work that way in the real world, because too many people are breathing down your neck, watching what you’re doing all day. It’s a real pain.”

Supervisors’ training also differed between military and civilian life. In the Army, he says, those who tell others what to do are already skilled in those tasks. That isn’t always the case in the civilian world, as Walker discovered in some of his post-military jobs in construction and manufacturing.

“You’ve got people who are telling you what to do when they don’t even know how to do it themselves,” he says.

He eventually worked for a plastics injection-molding company—an opportunity that would put his career path on a new road.

“I was able to work my way into driving the truck for them, which really worked out well for me,” Walker says. The job lasted four years, with two years spent driving the truck and the rest managing the company’s warehouse. 

What followed were 22 years of over-the-road semi-trailer truck driving, “hauling swinging beef out to Hunt’s Point, New York—stuff like that,” he says. Walker also drove grain trucks and flatbeds.

He and Bonnie eventually moved to Omaha, near her hometown of Gretna. As their two children headed toward their teen years, Walker began driving trucks locally, which went on for a decade.

He then became an instructor at Custom Diesel Drivers Training, and after a year was offered the opportunity to purchase the then-nearly bankrupt school. 

“They sold it to me for a ridiculous low price,” he says. “I couldn’t turn it down. I had nothing to lose by buying it.”

Since Walker purchased it, the school has grown, going from one truck, one trailer, and one office employee to six trailers, six trucks, and nine office employees. The office, formerly in a 700-square-foot space near Sapp Bros., recently moved to a 10,000-square-foot office at 5020 L St.

Many of the school’s students are veterans. Walker says the trucking industry offers them
an opportunity to—as in the military—work without interference.

“That’s the freedom of driving a truck and being your own boss,” he says.

For veteran Dario Dulovic, 43, being in a wartime environment was nothing new.

Born in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina (formerly Yugoslavia), Dulovic’s first experience with war happened at age 18, when an early 1990s religious conflict between Orthodox Christians and Muslims tore his country apart.

His father owned a pizza restaurant, but that ended when the war broke out.

“We lost everything in about 10 days,” he says. “So we had to run to Montenegro.”

Dulovic’s family—including his father, mother, and sister—lived in that small southeast Europe country for about four years, then emigrated to America.

With help from the U.S. government, they settled in Danville, Kentucky. The family received a month’s rent and three months of food stamps. 

Dulovic’s knowledge of America had come through the movies, most of which were set in large cities such as New York and Chicago. Danville, with a population of about 16,500, was not one of those. 

“It was an experience,” Dulovic says.

As the only family member who could speak English, Dulovic found himself bearing a lot of responsibility. He found a factory job and went to work.

“I was supporting everyone for three or four months,” he says.

Six months later, he joined the Kentucky National Guard as a way of paying for college while remaining near his family.

Training happened on weekends and during the summer.

Then came 9/11. 

“After Sept. 11, everything changed. It was like the regular Army,” he says. Training became constant.

In 2006 and 2007, his unit deployed to Iraq, where it was situated on a former Iraqi airbase.

Though Dulovic had been trained as a vehicle mechanic, in Iraq he was a base security guard.

It wasn’t a cushy desk job. He had to help defend the base, which came under sniper fire. Improvised Explosive Devices, also known as IEDs, were a hazard on area roads.

“That was my second war,” Dulovic says.

As for transitioning back to civilian life, it wasn’t a problem.

“I can adapt anywhere,” he says. “It’s like that survival instinct.” 

Though he didn’t have a problem with getting back to civilian life, he acknowledged that others do. He also says it’s important to think “out of the box” and stay positive.

“Use your energy to work on things you can change,” he says, “And never give up.” 

After coming back to the U.S., he enrolled at Eastern Kentucky University to study computer information systems. 

His involvement with computing had begun decades before, when he got his first computer—a Commodore 64—in 1987 at age 11.

Eventually he got a job working for the Department of Defense. In 2011, he moved to Bellevue for a job at Offutt as a software developer for the Air Force Weather Agency.

Three years later, he started a side business fixing residential computers.

“It was just more for fun, really,” he says.

He didn’t expect it to grow, but grow it did. 

A year ago, he quit his software development job to concentrate on the business, called DME Computer Services, which provides information technology support for small- and medium-size companies in metro Omaha. DME is based in the home Dulovic shares with his wife of three years, Mirela, and their children, Emma and Oliver.

Dulovic is planning to spend another year as a one-person operation, then will consider adding staff. 

“I don’t want to rush anything,” he says.

Visit cddt.us and dmeomaha.com for more information.

This article was printed in the October/November 2018 edition of B2B. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

This online version has been changed from the print edition to reflect updated information.

Dario Dulovic

Custom Diesel Drivers Training, Inc.

December 1, 2017 by

This sponsored content was printed in the November/December issue of Omaha Magazine. To view, click here: https://issuu.com/omahapublications/docs/80623_omag_city/78

James Walker bleeds red, white, and blue. As a young man, Walker served under the military occupation code 63F, Army Recovery Specialist, from 1979-1982. In the years just post-Vietnam, this position was especially important to the military. Walker performed operator maintenance on all types of wreckers, recovery vehicles, and associated equipment.

“We used an M-88 tank and got other tanks and brought them back,” Walker says. “We had a 28-wheel tractor-trailer, that was my specialty.”

Walker and his unit spent three years recovering vehicles and sending them back to his base at Fort Riley, Kansas. It was three proud years for Walker—three that helped guide the course of his life.

“I probably would have made a career out of the military, if I hadn’t not gotten married,” Walker says.

Walker came back to the Midwest and began a life with his now-wife of 37 years, Bonnie. Transitioning from military service to civilian life was not easy.

“It was awfully hard for me to come out of the military and have someone stand over my shoulder and tell me what to do,” Walker says.

Instead, he turned to a profession with a natural fit for his skill set, and his mind set. One in which he could be his own boss. As a truck driver, Walter served his country by moving supplies from place to place. He had learned to drive a truck years before from “the guy across the street.” The guy was Denzil Edwards, Bonnie’s father.

In 2003, he dropped off a resume at Custom Diesel Drivers’ Training. At that point, he was tired of driving and wanted to try a new profession. Five years later, then-director Walt Craft called Walker and wanted to speak with him.

Walker accepted a position as an instructor for one year before then-president Roger Alger asked Walker if he was interested in buying the business. Walker was not, but Alger told Craft that Walker should look into all the company files and learn as much as he could about the business. One year later Walker bought the company, with some financial help from Alger.

Under Walker’s ownership, the business has grown from 41 students in his first year to more than 300 students annually. Many of those students are veterans. Walker and his employees work hand-in-hand with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to obtain funding for veterans interested in studying to get a commercial driver’s license. They also maintain relationships with other trucking companies and serve as an unofficial unemployment office for their students, since they have knowledge of who is hiring in the industry. Walker says most trucking companies are veteran- friendly, and trucking is a good way for someone coming out of the military to earn a decent income and be their own boss.

They also created a commemorative truck, featuring an image of a soldier on the cab and an image of an American flag on the trailer. The company displays this truck as a symbol of gratitude at veteran-friendly events, such as those with the First Responders Foundation, whenever requested.

“I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in if people hadn’t helped me out,” Walker says. “So I try to help out as many people as I can.”

Custom Diesel Drivers Training, Inc.

14615 Cornhusker Rd., Omaha, NE 68138 402.894.1400


Wading Through the Floodwaters

July 2, 2015 by

Article originally appears in July/August 2015 60-Plus.

Commie Schaben’s 82-year-old father, Ed, is a Korean War veteran who served at Virginia Beach. He survived horrors untold, but last year, he almost died after his small intestine ruptured.

Commie was determined to have him live at home with her after that, but she says making that happen without some kind of assistance would have been difficult.

“I’d be really hurting,” she says. “I’d be skimping and scraping really bad. I probably would have had to put him in a home. I’d rather have him here with me.”

So she went to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website to see if she could obtain any assistance for her dad along the lines of a wheelchair or bathroom handlebars. She sent them her phone number, asking for some guidance.

Dave Olney, a local care advocate, got in touch with her. It turned out the V.A. could do a lot more for her and her dad than she realized.

“It’s just wonderful,” she says.

It may not be the most widely known aid program, but the V.A. offers benefits to former members of the armed forces, and their spouses, to help pay for the cost of care. The veterans’ benefits program helps eligible members pay for care costs like assisted living, treatment after major medical conditions, etc.

Olney often works with clients seeking to obtain veterans benefits and says a veteran and his/her spouse are eligible to receive $25,000 a year for care. A veteran by him or herself may receive a little over $21,000 annually, and the surviving spouse of a veteran may be eligible for over $13,000 annually.

Only about 5 percent of eligible veterans are taking advantage of these benefits.

“In today’s society, as you grow older, quite often, the more care you need, and some of our elderly people [are in] need of care and protecting their assets,” Olney says.

So, why are so few veterans collecting this money?

Olney thinks there are two reasons. The first is that not many people know about the benefits.

The second is that the process can be complicated. Even though no one can charge for filling out the requisite paperwork, oftentimes that paperwork can be confusing, and incorrectly entered or missing information may lead to the V.A. denying an applicant without an explanation.

Olney says one of his recent clients was denied because of a piece of paper missing from the application.

“He would’ve quit right then and there, but that’s the way it is when you deal with government. They don’t always give you all the facts.”

Allan Jackson, director of the Douglas County Veterans Services, says the V.A. requires certain forms and documents to establish a given veteran’s service time and discharge status. The V.A. also requests verification of income and assets as well as medical information if the requested benefits are for care; however, he says there are limits to what a Veterans Service officer is allowed to ask of someone inquiring about benefits.

“We can’t get into an individual’s history,” he says. “We can’t get into an individual’s income and assets. Confidentiality comes into play.”

Even if you fill out all the paperwork, Olney says, how you answer a given question may alter your chances of receiving benefits. For example, the paperwork asks about your assets. What is considered an asset? If you own a given asset, do you own 100 percent of it? (The correct answer is no.) Questions like those aren’t explained in the rules, Olney says, and a care advocate can help applicants determine their finances and incomes, and how care costs affect their incomes. If you tell the V.A. you make a certain amount of money, the V.A. might deny you benefits because your income is too high. Jackson stresses the importance of itemizing the ways in which your income is spent on care. And if you factor in the cost of your care, Olney says, that might help your case.

Olney says he’s found the average veteran who successfully applies and submits the paperwork will start receiving benefits within 90 days. And if more eligible members take advantage of the benefits, there might be other advantages as well. Not only would the veterans and their families be better off, but there would be less strain on other federal programs like Medicaid and Social Security.

As for Ed, Commie says, the V.A. sends visiting nurses to their home. Her dad is also at the top of the list of eligible candidates to stay at the new V.A. home if it comes to that, and if her mom were still alive, the V.A. would have helped her get into assisted living.

“They are entitled to this,” Olney says. “It’s a thing they’ve sacrificed for…it’s something they have truly earned, so why shouldn’t they have this benefit if they’ve truly earned it?


Battling for Veterans

December 3, 2014 by and
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

As members of the Greatest Generation, today’s military veterans were drilled about the value of discipline. While discipline is often synonymous with a do-it-yourself attitude, when it comes to receiving their military benefits, those who have served also need to have the discipline to make sure they are receiving all of the benefits entitled to them from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Care advocate David Olney is one of the people fighting on the front lines to make sure veterans are doing just that.

“A majority of seniors have worked very hard in their lifetime, especially veterans,” says Olney. “And their legacy is the hard work they’ve done and are passing on to their heirs. A part of that legacy is taking advantage of the things that they have accomplished during their lifetime and are eligible for, and I think that’s very important.”

Under the VA, there are two types of disability income benefits available for veterans who served on active duty—pension and compensation. The pension program benefits are tied to disabilities that are not service-related, while compensation benefits are tied to disabilities that are service-related.

No matter what kind of benefits veterans or their family members are looking to apply for, Olney says to start early. Benefits-seekers can either go to an accredited agent, such as Olney, or to their local VA county service officer. In the case of Douglas County residents, that would be Bernie Brosnihan.

Both Olney and Brosnihan say their consultations last about 60-90 minutes. From there, Olney will send clients to their local VA office to fill out the necessary paperwork. Brosnihan says that once the initial claim is filed, it usually takes about six months to hear back from the state VA office. With a multitude of different pension income benefits available, and different qualifications for each, it’s important that veterans turn to someone who is VA accredited to maximize their potential pension or compensation benefits.

“Let’s take a veteran whose 70% disabled, Says Olney. “He turns 70, so he could now be considered unemployable, and that automatically makes him 100% disabled. There are many examples like that where we automatically see an increase in benefits. Unless you stop by and visit your veteran’s service officer every year, you aren’t going to see this.”

Additionally, it’s not just veterans who should be checking in. Widows and widowers of veterans can be eligible to receive death pension or dependents indemnity compensation (DIC). Sons and daughters who act as caretakers for their veteran parent can also receive payment through an aid and attendance allowance for disabled veterans.

Both Brosnihan and Olney agree that, no matter what information veterans might have heard or been told about, it is their responsibility to take advantage of them, and not ignore them.

“World War II veterans in particular had this attitude of bucking up,” says Brosnihan. “So many of these people missed out on benefits they could have gotten.”

For questions about their benefits eligibility, veterans can contact the Douglas County Veterans’ Service Office at 402-444-7180.


Finding Purpose

October 22, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

From the outside, Dennis Circo’s Enterprise Center at 96th and L streets looks like a lot of other buildings under construction. But once you walk through the temporary entrance, you’re immediately struck by the intricate beauty of what is becoming one of the city’s most upscale office buildings.

The Enterprise Center once housed Circo’s company, Precision Industries Inc., a longtime Omaha company that was a giant on the international scene of integrated supply-chain management and industrial distribution. It served dozens of the country’s top Fortune 500 corporations. Circo sold the company in 2007 but retained numerous properties throughout Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Texas, and Tennessee. The sale was surprising, he says now, since the company was never actually for sale.

Circo said he was hesitant to sell the company—it defined who he was. But when the eventual buyer, DXP Enterprises, came to him with an offer and met every demand Circo could raise, he decided the time might be right to sell.

“I was one of those people who I thought would die at my desk,” he says. “I was traveling four days a week, putting in a lot of hours, and my health wasn’t great.”

The sale, though fortuitous since it happened just months before the country’s headfirst dive into recession, was hard on Circo. Harder than he ever imagined it would be.

“I was like those football players who retire and then get lost in the foggy wilderness,” he says. “They don’t know what to do with themselves. The game defines who they were.”

The company was founded in 1945 by his father, Sebastian “Seb” Circo, who died in 2005. The company had survived tough times, particularly in the early 2000s. After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, one of Precision’s clients, Delta Air Lines, went bankrupt. Several large steel mills that Precision worked with closed.

Precision Industries defined Circo for most of his life. He started driving the delivery truck during the summer as a 16-year-old and joined the company full-time after graduating from Creighton University when sales were at $2.9 million. He saw it grow to $300 million annually when it sold.

The company’s 700 employees were family to Circo. He says he was close to selling Precision in 2005 after his father’s death, but couldn’t do it. But in 2007, Circo’s thinking began to change.

“I looked in the mirror and thought maybe this is what I’m supposed to do,” he says.

The years following the sale affected Circo in ways he didn’t expect. For several years, he says, he suffered from an identity crisis. The Enterprise Center project, buildings in other states, and the new challenges they bring has helped to re-energize Circo.

Space in the Center, which already has tenants working in the building’s first of three planned phases, already is in high demand. Circo marveled how Mark Simonson, vice president of marketing and management, leased all 30 available spaces in the first phase in less than 45 days. During a tour of the building the two joked that a lot of those customers didn’t need much prodding to sign on—simply walking into the building and seeing the interior often was enough.

“This is a different concept in Omaha, a total concierge environment, where all services are provided,” Simonson says. “We’ve taken it to a different level, a level of elegance that isn’t offered elsewhere in Omaha.”

Circo and Simonson agreed that it helped that Omaha’s business community knows Precision Industries and the Circo family had over 60 years of service and success in the industrial community, and that this new venture would be a first-class operation.

The interior features lots of wood, crown molding, high ceilings, granite, marble floors, and an event room that will handle up to 100 guests.

Tenants also have access to a full-time, live receptionist, state-of-the-art meeting rooms, high-definition video teleconferencing capabilities, and full-time IT support. There are board rooms, conference rooms, and event rooms. A variety of floor plans is available, and tenants can choose between furnished and unfurnished offices.

Tenants can choose from long and short-term leases. In addition, the building is located on one of the city’s busiest thoroughfares and is only minutes from the interstate. Among the early tenants are AFLAC, a mediator, and a number of insurance agents and attorneys. The second and third phases are about 90 days away from completion. The building will house about 160 offices and cost about $4.5 million to renovate.

“It’s been a fun project,” Circo says. “It has genuinely rejuvenated me.”

The Enterprise Center isn’t all that has kept Circo on the move lately. Over the last few years, he has become more open about his philanthropic ventures. In May, the Dennis P. Circo ‘65 Memorial Plaza at Creighton Prep was dedicated. Circo, a graduate of Prep, noticed the name of Circo’s mother’s first husband, John Cantoni, was missing from a wall memorial honoring Prep grads who had died in battle along with 333 Jesuit Priests, Brothers, teachers and mentors. From there grew into a larger outdoor memorial that he funded. Circo’s mother, Olive, passed away in July.

Circo also sponsors 55 scholarships that allow minority students to attend private schools across the metro. The scholarships cover all their costs. Photos of many of those students are displayed prominently in his office area inside the Enterprise Center.

Circo also has started numerous scholarships at Creighton University, his alma mater, in the name of some of the priests there. And in the Enterprise Center, Circo has donated space to one of his favorite nonprofits, Saving Grace Perishable Food Rescue and Delivery, which collects food donations with a truck and delivers it to Omaha’s needy.

Circo also gave Saving Grace the money to purchase the refrigerated truck that is used in gathering and delivering food donations.

He says that, for years, he helped charitable organizations behind the scenes, choosing to remain anonymous and shun attention for his giving. But, he says, that changed a few years ago after meeting with a priest at a school located in one of Omaha’s most impoverished areas.

“The priest told me a story about a well-known, very wealthy local Omaha businessman who he approached for a donation. The priest told this businessman that when he came to this particular school and neighborhood it was a very dark place with little or no hope for the students and he was trying to bring some hope there. He asked this kind and generous businessman if he would consider sponsoring one child all the way through high school up into college. The businessman told the priest, ‘No. I won’t do it for one student; I’ll do it for all students that meet certain minimum criteria.’”

Circo says that act of kindness was the inspiration for the Circo Scholarship Program.

“So you see, there is an upside to not remaining anonymous,” Circo says. “Generosity is contagious.”