Traffic congestion in Omaha got worse in 2013, but that isn't entirely a bad thing.
A new report from traffic data firm Inrix suggests increased congestion is a byproduct of an improving economy. Nationally, congestion in the U.S. was up 6 percent from 2012.
"After a tumultuous economic year in 2012, the economy may be back on the mend and with that bringing increased traffic congestion," the report stated.
According to Inrex, traffic congestion in Omaha increased by 16 percent in 2013 over 2012, placing it among the top 20 cities nationally with the largest year-over-year increases. The firm determines congestion by the average number of hours commuters spend in traffic through the year.
Of the top 100 cities in the U.S. measured by Inrex, Omaha ranked 94th, with drivers here spending an average of just 1.5 hours in gridlock last year.
In Los Angeles, the nation's most congested city, drivers spent an average of 64.4 hours in gridlock in 2013.
The Big Omaha lineup has gotten a little bit bigger. Event organizers having announced four more speakers for the May 7-9 event.
>> Kevin Rose, founder of news aggregator website Digg and a general partner at Google Ventures
>> Neuroscientist Darya Rose, author of "Foodist" and founder of healthy-eating website Summer Tomato
>> Visual artist and photographer Chase Jarvis, founder of live-streaming educational platform creativeLIVE.com
>> Ingrid Sanders, founder and CEO of PopExpert, a website offering users one-on-one video sessions with subject matter experts.
The event will be at Kaneko, 1111 Jones St. Visit BigOmaha.com for more information.
Lincoln native Alan Platt Sands wants money from people willing to take a risk.
His idea is to produce a TV series based on the history and present-day activities of the Rogers House, a 100-year-old Lincoln home that has been a bed-and-breakfast inn since 1984. Sort of a Midwestern version of Fawlty Towers, the 1970s BBC production.
All he needs is $157,000 to call, "Action!"
"It is speculative, but when we hit, it could be huge," Sands said. "It's not a sure thing, but most things aren't. But at the same time, anybody that has some disposable income or needs a tax write-off - that's why a lot of Hollywood people invest in projects. They just count it as a loss and write it off."
If that sounds enticing, you might be the right person to put some money into "The Rogers House," Sands' concept of a "positive, down-to-earth 'dramedy,' family-friendly television series" based on its residents, student/innkeepers, historical owners and "zany neighbors."
The money will go to produce a "teaser" to show to cable TV executives.
Sands' recent posting on Kickstarter drew only 11 pledges totaling $714 toward a $25,000 goal.
But he said that's because he didn't understand how crowdfunding works. Most successful Kickstarter projects have substantial pre-funding before they go online and attract other investors, he said, and he started from zero.
Now he is seeking sponsors among Lincoln businesses for a March 16 event, and he has lined up one so far. The sponsors will be prominent at a free public skating party from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Haymarket skating area.
If it ever hits the road, a prototype truck designed by Walmart could help the mega-retailer keep its "always low" prices down.
Known as the Walmart Advanced Vehicle Experience, or WAVE, the aerodynamic concept truck can burn diesel fuel, but researchers have also experimented with electricity, natural gas, biodiesel and fuel derived from waste grease.
The truck was unveiled in February at the retailer's Global Sustainability Milestone Meeting.
Tracy Rosser, Walmart's senior vice president of transportation, called the design "a bold leap forward" in how the company thinks about fleet efficiency.
"Like the concept cars at auto shows, you won't see this (WAVE truck) on the road any time soon, but the advances in technology and the lessons we learn from this project will have impacts on the industry," Rosser told The World-Herald in an email.
Researchers with Walmart have also devised a concept trailer made mostly from carbon fiber, making it about two tons lighter than a typical trailer.
Another trailer known as the Supercube is already on the road in Canada for the second phase of testing. Walmart claims the 60.5-foot trailer (a typical trailer is 53 feet long) reduces transport costs by 24 percent and greenhouse gas emissions by 14 percent.
With about 7,000 trucks in its fleet, Walmart has the fourth-largest private carrier fleet in the country, according to industry publication Transport Topics.
The company operates 41 retail stores in Nebraska, including four Sam's Clubs, along with a grocery distribution center in North Platte.
Gift shop Spruce, 5022 Leavenworth St., and other women-owned businesses in the neighborhood are offering discounts, drawings and other promotions to celebrate International Women's Day, Saturday, March 8.
The occasion, a national holiday in many countries, "celebrates the social, political and economic achievements of women while focusing world attention on areas requiring further action," according to the holiday's official website.
Spruce owner Amy Sporrer said customers can look for purple windows at participating businesses.
Nebraska Crossing Outlets in Gretna has two new stores opening this month.
On Monday, the Justice and Brothers outlet store opens. Justice offers fashion apparel for girls age 7 and up, while its counterpart, Brothers, offers fashion apparel for boys age 7 and up. The new store is located near the Children's Place.
Famous Footwear, which offers brand name, athletic, casual and dress shoes for men, women and children, opens March 19. It is located near the Wilsons Leather outlet store.
The outlet mall also plans to:
>> Open a new, larger set of women's restrooms that are accessible through the interior hallways - no more waiting outside. "It will be much more weather-friendly," property manager Kelly Calderone said. The new women's restroom with seven stalls will be located near the J. Crew and Claire's outlet stores. The facility, scheduled to open next month, also will feature a "mom's room" where mothers can feed and change their babies.
>> Return to regular hours March 15. The outlet mall, which has been keeping winter hours, will be open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays.
<a href="http://dataomaha.com/media/nebraskacrossing/nebraskacrossing.html" target="_blank">Nebraska Crossing list of stores</a>
Seth McMillan, owner of the McLovin: A Store for Men in the Old Market, plans to open a second Omaha menswear store this spring at Countryside Village.
McMillan's new store will be named Ensemble: A Men's Collection, and will occupy a 1,300-square-foot space at 8730 Countryside Plaza, next to the Market Basket. It will offer contemporary menswear, McMillan said.
"We just signed the lease, but we're not going to open until May 1," McMillan said.
Aldi will reopen its Council Bluffs store with a new look March 17.
The store, 3135 Manawa Center Drive, has been closed since Feb. 23 while undergoing a renovation that includes higher ceilings, improved natural lighting and energy-saving refrigerators.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be at 8:45 a.m. March 17. The store will officially reopen at 9 a.m.
Aldi also has three stores in Omaha.
Cosentry, the Omaha-based data center services firm, said its Omaha-Midlands Data Center has achieved LEED Gold certification from the United States Green Building Council.
It is one of 40 LEED Gold data centers in the U.S. and the first in the state, the USGBC said. Yahoo's La Vista data center is rated LEED Silver. Two data centers in Iowa have the highest LEED rating, Platinum.
LEED provides third-party verification of energy-efficient buildings. Earlier environmental honors for the Cosentry facility included Energy Star certification in both 2012 and 2013.
"We are honored to have exceeded our own efficiency forecast and earned LEED Gold Certification this year," said Jason Black, Cosentry's vice president of data center services.
Cosentry CEO Brad Hokamp said energy-saving measures at the facility save Cosentry hundreds of thousands of dollars a year by reducing power and water consumption, and also have cut back its carbon dioxide emissions, ultimately saving money for Cosentry clients. Hokamp received the award in a ceremony at the Omaha-Midlands Data Center on Feb. 18.
Morrissey Engineering of Omaha provided mechanical, electrical and technology design; commissioning; and LEED consulting services for the project.
"This project meets the intent of the LEED program in the truest sense, by going above and beyond to decrease its environmental footprint and by documenting compliance through third party certification," said Sarah Gudeman, mechanical engineer and energy analyst with Morrissey.
For more: Our story and photos from last year on Cosentry's expansion at the Omaha-Midlands Data Center.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the number of LEED Gold data centers in the U.S.
The Executive MBA program at the University of Nebraska at Omaha is hosting a series of seminars to explore investing in the "21st Century stock market."
Adjunct professor of finance George Morgan will present three sessions from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. on Friday mornings: "How the 21st Century Stock Market Operates" on March 7; "Index Investing" on March 21; and "Buy and Hold Still Works" on April 4.
The sessions will be held in Mammel Hall on the university's south campus. Continental breakfast will be provided.
Each session contains stand-alone material and attendance at a previous session is not required.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to register. Cost is $20 for one session or $30 for two or more.