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Seizing an Opportunity

Today, more than 20 billion-dollar enterprises are headquartered in Omaha. Together these companies employ more than 40,000 people and produce more than $100 billion in revenue. Most of these companies were started by local entrepreneurs who saw an opportunity and seized it. These companies are foundations of Omaha’s local economy and the city would not be the same without them. Finding these entrepreneurs and accelerating their ventures is critical to the continued economic development of the city.

Historically, the Greater Omaha Chamber’s role in these companies’ development emerged later in their life cycle. No more. Finding enterprises that have the potential to make a billion dollars in revenue is an overarching goal of the Greater Omaha Economic Development Partnership—so much so that the new Entrepreneurship and Innovation department was created at the Chamber. Tom Chapman, the department’s director, said, “This department has the express goal of creating a new group of highly successful enterprises, industries and economic drivers.“

Omaha is a hotbed for market-driven opportunities—including strong startups in new media, insurance, payment systems, built landscape technology and digital security and storage. The Chamber provides guidance and helps the innovators and entrepreneurs make connections so they can craft their companies and find good customer-driven opportunities.

GETTING OFF TO A GOOD START

Halo Institute houses startup companies in a 9,500-square-foot former warehouse in Omaha’s Old Market district, providing them up to $20,000 in services and other aid. Started in 2009, it has a goal of launching 20 startups a year. Incubator firms include Guru Instruments, a company that produces medical equipment— particularly pathology equipment. Guru is striving to produce ergonomic and customer-driven innovations for the pathology market—a market that has not had a significant innovation in about 50 years. Creighton University’s College of Business Administration is a partner in Halo, which is backed financially by Halo Creative Capital.

KANEKO: A MASTERPIECE EVOLVING

The word “little“ is not in the lexicon of Omaha artist and visionary Jun Kaneko. His signature, world-renowned sculptures are colossal—so is his ambitious and evolving cultural institute, KANEKO. Conceived as a gift to the Omaha community, the 75,000-square-foot complex, once completed, will utilize three connected, historic buildings; a new structure and two garden spaces—all devoted to the pursuit of art, science and philosophy.

“At the beginning, I was buying these buildings to expand my studio and warehouse. But, I thought, this was a great chance to do something else,“ said Kaneko. “I always wanted to contribute back to society because I know what I’ve received by being in the U.S., the help I’ve received from other people. It’s enormous. Without that, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now.“

It will be at least two more years before the entire, $10 million facility is complete, but several areas have already come to life, including key exhibition and programming spaces and a joint KANEKO-UNO library.

“We’ve been able to hire a staff, and we’ve already initiated a lot of programming. There’s still a ways to go, but we’ve got our feet wet. We’ve had events, and we’ve had a lot more interaction with the public in the last year-and-a-half than we had prior to that,“ said Executive Director Hal France.

KANEKO occupies three-quarters of a block in Omaha’s Old Market district. It will eventually include additional, multi-level exhibition spaces, a large studio and a research center. Sculpture gardens and an impressive glass atrium—the defining structure of the project—will punctuate the facility’s exterior.

Though it is both elaborate and expansive, France said KANEKO, at its heart, is, quite simply, an idea place and a meeting place.

“Omaha is definitely changing in really exciting ways,“ said Kaneko. “We have lots of visitors from out of town, and they are amazed by what’s happening culturally in Omaha.“

AWARD-WINNING INNOVATION MOVES FULL “STEAMER“ AHEAD FROM OMAHA

Crisp vegetables, with succulent slices of chicken and shrimp, complemented by gourmet sauces, all expertly prepared…by you, in just minutes, in your microwave.

It’s no wonder that Healthy Choice® Café Steamers™ from ConAgra Foods have become a favorite among consumers. The secret is the one-of-a-kind microwaveable DuoTray Steamcooker, a technology that was developed right here in Omaha.

When the Healthy Choice Café Steamers were introduced in 2008, they were named the “best selling new food or beverage product through mid-year“ by Information Resources Inc.

The technology features a bowl containing the sauce and a steamer basket to hold the meat, vegetables and either pasta, rice or potatoes. The separation of the ingredients and the steaming process itself results in heightened flavors, crisp vegetables and optimum textures, akin to stovetop steaming.

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