LINCOLN – BD (Becton, Dickinson and Company) and Hughes Brothers, Inc., have been named Nebraska Manufacturers of the Year. Hughes Brothers received the award for small-sized manufacturers, while BD received the award for large manufacturers.
The award recognizes Nebraska manufacturers that implement innovative ways to conduct business through the use of products, processes, technologies and strategies. The companies were honored today at the annual NE Chamber Manufacturing Summit, with top sponsor RSM US LLP, a leading provider of assurance, tax and consulting services to the manufacturing and wholesale distribution industries. Other event sponsors include Nebraska Public Power District, Ash Grove, Behlen Mfg. Co., Kawasaki Motors Manufacturing Corp., U.S.A., and Meridian Business.
“Nebraska manufacturers have been answering the call to solve America’s toughest challenges for decades. Hughes Brothers and BD are two shining examples of that ingenuity at work,” said Bryan Slone, NE Chamber president. “We’re so proud to have these companies operating and expanding in our communities.”
Small Manufacturer of the Year
Headquartered in Seward, Hughes Brothers, produces electric transmission and distribution products to reliably transport electricity across the U.S. Products include wood, metal and fiberglass framing and fixtures, engineering services and even storm restoration kits, which have proven critical during floods, wildfires, hurricanes and a derecho.
Hughes Brothers built Nebraska’s first 115kV transmission line from Columbus to North Platte in the early 1930s, which set it up for a national role in the Rural Electrification Act during the Great Depression. Today, the company’s commitment to quality and next-era engineering make it a leader in electrical distribution solutions, with 900,000 customized products.
“It’s a big custom job shop. That’s how we started, and that’s what we still do today,” said John Hughes, president of Hughes Brothers.
The company’s 275 employees celebrated its 100th anniversary October 15, opening a museum to the public featuring the history of electric transmission in Seward.
Large Manufacturer of the Year
BD began operations in Nebraska after World War II in response to U.S. government initiatives to diversify manufacturing geographically throughout the nation.
The Broken Bow facility is among one of the largest producers of blood collection devices to support critical care and clinical applications around the world. Operational since 1960, the facility has expanded to 300,000 square feet and 625 associates.
“The success of our company is measured on patient outcomes. We provide technology to advance healthcare for patients, clinicians and doctors,” said Dave Berge, Broken Bow plant manager. “One of the things we’re most proud of is being engaged in the fight against COVID-19.”
BD Broken Bow continues to grow and hire new associates to meet the demands of the growing market, and has expanded over the last several years, adding a new state-of-the-art additive laboratory and increasing warehouse capacity through the lease of 30,000 square foot facility. The company currently employs 3,500 Nebraskans between four facilities in Broken Bow, Columbus and Holdrege.
Nebraska is home to more than 1,500 manufacturers employing 100,000 workers. One in 10 jobs is in manufacturing. The industry contributes more than $13.5 billion annually to Nebraska’s Gross State Product. Average annual wages in manufacturing exceeded $67,200 in 2019, the most recent year data is available.
The NE Chamber is the largest, statewide business association and Nebraska’s affiliate of the National Association of Manufacturers. It has proudly served as the voice of Nebraska’s business community since 1912.
La Vista – Women in Manufacturing (WiM) – Nebraska, a professional organization created to promote, support and inspire women who choose manufacturing careers, today announced it will formally join the NE Manufacturing Alliance in work to promote STEM careers and other initiatives to support Nebraska’s fastest growing high-tech sector.
“There’s a place for everyone in manufacturing, whether you’re in sales, accounting, marketing, engineering, robotics or welding,” said Juli Thelen, Communications & Community Outreach for Behlen Mfg. Co. and Events Director for WiM Nebraska. “By the way, women are excelling in all of those fields.”
“We have one message for women looking for their next, or even their first, career move – you have a support network waiting to welcome you and help you succeed,” Thelen added.
The announcement was made today at a gathering of 50 members and supporters at the organization’s first annual breakfast held since the pandemic’s start.
Formed in 2019, WiM – Nebraska is focused on providing professional development, networking, and mentoring opportunities for female students and colleagues. Both corporations and individuals may join, with significantly reduced rates for students.
WiM – Nebraska is the fifth, statewide manufacturing organization to join the NE Manufacturing Alliance, which also includes: the state’s Nebraska Manufacturing Advisory Council (NeMAC); the Nebraska Advanced Manufacturing Coalition (NAMC); the Nebraska Manufacturing Extension Partnership (Nebraska MEP) at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln; and the NE Chamber, Nebraska’s affiliate of the National Association of Manufacturers.
The NE Manufacturing Alliance brings efficiency and alignment to initiatives that:
The Alliance embraces the economic development priorities put forth in the Blueprint Nebraska report, Growing the Good Life. The report identified 15 signature initiatives with the greatest impact on statewide quality of life, overall job growth, attracting 18-34-year-olds and keeping the costs of doing business competitive. The plan also included a strong focus on growing key business sectors through technology adoption and innovation.
Workforce, growth and quality of life remain at heart of ongoing chamber mission
SEWARD – Two local chamber of commerce executives were recognized as “Professionals of the Year” by the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce Executives (NCCE), a professional development organization comprised of the leaders of more than 50 local chambers of commerce across the state.
Tina Biteghe Bi Ndong, executive director of West Point Chamber of Commerce, took home the honor among small communities (less than 5,000 population). From dog shows to Farm-to-Fork events, Tina keeps her approach to events and communications fresh. She is a strong community and business advocate, receiving the Rural Economic Area Partnership (REAP) Extra Mile Award for small business development in 2019.
Tara Lea, executive director of Fremont Area Chamber of Commerce, received the large community award (5,000 population or more.) In addition to leadership positions in both NCCE and the Mid-America Chamber Executives, Tara has guided her community through a rebranding effort, launched unique community events and sponsorship opportunities, and found new ways to give local business exposure through social media.
“Chamber professionals are the forever advocates of main street businesses, local commerce and community growth both in their regions and the state. Their work helps build community identity and connectedness,” said Jonathan Jank, President of NCCE and the Seward County Chamber & Development Partnership. “Tara and Tina take this mission to heart every day. Their energy and success are examples for all of us.”
The new awards program was launched by NCCE in combination with “Chamber of Commerce Month” proclaimed in October by Governor Pete Ricketts. Local chamber leaders are recognized for their exceptional work and professionalism in business development, innovative programs with measurable results, organizational effectiveness and leadership in the profession and NCCE.
The Scottsbluff/Gering United Chamber of Commerce hosted the NCCE Fall Conference, featuring updates from the U.S. and NE Chambers, social media training, and a 1950s-style dinner at Cozad’s Antique Garage.
At its regular business meeting, the members of NCCE affirmed their commitment to supporting partnerships and engaging state and local leaders more urgently on economic opportunities, including:
Any local chamber in Nebraska is eligible to join NCCE. For more information, contact Jonathan Jank at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chambers, Economic Developers: Workforce, economic infrastructure key in rebuilding with ARPA Funds
LINCOLN – Leaders of chambers and economic development organizations from across the state today outlined a joint proposal to quickly ramp up workforce initiatives, talent attraction, innovation and economic infrastructure through the COVID-19 recovery. The proposal was introduced to Appropriations Committee members at an October 5 interim hearing on use of Nebraska’s approximately $1 billion in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.
Initiatives are organized around four key themes: workforce; business relief and growth; quality of place; and diversity, equity and inclusion.
“Although several initiatives are featured in this proposal, one common thread binds them together – workforce,” said Bryan Slone, NE Chamber president. “Everywhere we go across the state, lack of available talent is the #1 issue holding us back from full economic recovery.”
Key considerations ask Nebraska leaders to help:
“The name of the game right now in economic development, in communities of all sizes, is available workforce,” said Walker Zulkoski, President of the Nebraska Economic Developers Association. “By workforce, we don’t just mean more people, we mean people and all the infrastructure that supports them – housing, childcare, recreation, experiential learning and innovation capacity.”
The proposal complements economic development initiatives outlined in the Blueprint Nebraska statewide strategic plan, including attracting 43,000 18- to 34-year-olds to Nebraska by 2030, spurring construction of 40,000 housing units, and driving up annual income of every Nebraskan by $15,000 by stimulating innovation and tech-enabled careers and training.
Statements offered by partner organizations
Wendy Birdsall, Lincoln Chamber of Commerce President
“The Lincoln Chamber has been very pleased to collaborate with chambers of commerce and economic developers from across the state in developing a comprehensive list of recommendations for transformative investments. We appreciate that this is a start of a conversation about how to spend significant funds from the American Rescue Plan, and we look forward to partnering with all parties who are interested in growing jobs and building our workforce.”
David G. Brown, Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce President and CEO
“To sustain and expand Nebraska’s economy, targeted investment in Nebraska’s businesses and workers will not only provide immediate assistance to those impacted by the pandemic, but also make a significant and lasting difference in advancing Nebraska’s attractiveness as a place to live, work, play and compete.”
Jonathan Jank, Nebraska Chamber of Commerce Executives President and Seward County Chamber and Development Partnership President and CEO
“We’ve always known vibrant communities and great jobs attract new residents. Right now, quality of life is playing a greater role in families’ decisions to relocate – something Nebraska has in abundance. Our ARPA proposal will accelerate talent attraction in our area.”
Bryan Slone, NE Chamber President
“This ARPA proposal has big play potential to add to the 10-yard gains we’ve been making over the last decade. The strength of the proposal lies in how aligned a diverse group of business and community leaders can be on next steps to move our state and its residents forward.”