More than 20 Nebraska businesses among country's 5,000 fastest growing: Here's who they are

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Twenty-six Nebraska businesses are among the 5,000 fastest-growing private companies in the country, and a wide range of industries are represented.

The top Nebraska business on the Inc. 5000 annual list of the fastest-growing private companies is City Ventures, a real estate and business firm that’s developing a key La Vista site.

Inc. looked at growth in revenue between 2015 and 2018 in companies that are U.S.-based, privately held, for-profit and independent — not subsidiaries. Other Nebraska companies on the list include a national law firm that promotes its Nebraska base, a well-known local startup and a company that specializes in building mail-sorting robots.

They took different paths to their growth, but many said their success lies in filling an unmet need and generally doing really good work.

Many of the firms on the list do travel staffing for health care jobs — a booming industry with an Omaha hub.

The roots of the Omaha home base for companies date back to the 1980s and ’90s, said officials with those companies, and they expect business to keep growing.

Chart: Fastest-growing companies in Nebraska

Companies on the 2019 Inc. 5000 are ranked according to percentage revenue growth from 2015 to 2018. To qualify, companies must have been founded and generating revenue by March 31, 2015. They must be U.S.-based, privately held, for-profit, and independent — not subsidiaries or divisions of other companies — as of Dec. 31, 2018. (Since then, some on the list may have gone public or been acquired.) The minimum revenue required for 2015 is $100,000; the minimum for 2018, $2 million.

Source: Inc5000

"We’re just in a constant state of change,” said Andy Wettengel, marketing director for OneStaff Medical. “It’s not expected to slow down.”

City Ventures, the fastest-growing company in the state, set out to do big work, said co-founders Chris Erickson, 37, and Danny White, 43.

Erickson’s background is real estate; White’s is in businesses. They decided to bring the two together — the business operating profits fund the real estate projects for a better long-term investment.

Neither is from Omaha — Erickson hails from Holdrege, Nebraska, and White came here from the East Coast. But, they said, they found Omaha a good place to do business, both because of the costs and the people.

“Business is really all about the relationships,” Erickson said. “When you know the people you do business with, it’s a lot easier.”

Their businesses are an eclectic mix centered mostly on transportation and construction. They own the rights to Miss USA in six states including Nebraska. They have a patent on a type of temporary shoring. They own part of an aviation company that functions like a stable does for horses — you own the plane, they take care of it and provide the pilot.

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Their largest project in the metro area is the $235 million La Vista City Centre project along 84th Street, where they are redeveloping 34 acres, long a source of frustration in La Vista, into a mixed-use complex with residences, shopping, restaurants and an indoor-outdoor concert venue between Park View Boulevard and Giles Road.

Other companies, too, said that Nebraska is a good place to do business.

Hilgers Graben, a law firm in the state’s top 10, makes Nebraska’s low cost of living a central pitch to companies around the country. And its Lincoln base of operations also allows it to attract attorneys by promising a family-friendly work environment, said partner Mike Hilgers.

“We’re a Nebraska company,” Hilgers said. “We’re growing right here.”

Here is more information on Nebraska’s top 10 companies on the Inc. 5000 list:

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20180618_new_84thstreet (copy)

An artist's rendering of the City Centre redevelopment project underway in La Vista. The City Centre project is a City Ventures development.

1. City Ventures

Address: 22 S. 15th St., Omaha

Leaders: Co-founders Chris Erickson and Danny White

Number of employees: 500

Founded: 2013

What it does: Marries real estate development with other business operations including auto dealerships and car washes.

Why it’s growing so fast: Aggressive reinvestment of proceeds into new businesses and real estate in the metro area and around the country.

Interesting fact about the company: White, a former hockey player, used his sports connections to get in touch with billionaire Stan Kroenke, who owned the site of a former Walmart that had been empty in La Vista for years. The duo persuaded Kroenke to sell, and now they’re developing one of the most prominent La Vista sites.

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2. mobile text alerts

2. Mobile Text Alerts

Address: 3224 S. 76th St., Lincoln

Leaders: Founder and CEO James Pelton

Number of employees: 8

Founded: 2011

What it does: Allows customers to mass text a group of subscribers, similar to an email newsletter for text messages.

Why it’s growing so fast: Pelton hired the first salesperson in 2016 and went full time at the company in 2017. He attributes its rapid growth to filling an unmet need.

Interesting fact about the company: All the employees are based in Lincoln, but they work remotely full time.

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3 Capstone Technologies

A robotic mail sorting device by CapStone Technologies is used by the United States Postal Service. 

3. CapStone Technologies

Address: 826 P St., Lincoln

Leaders: Co-founders Troy Power and Robert Hagen, and Executive Vice President of Business Development Fritz Buglewicz

Number of employees: 29

Founded: 1999

What it does: Builds robots and software to automate and make more efficient the process of producing and sorting mail.

Why it’s growing so fast: The mail sorting industry is facing both a labor shortage and pressure from the U.S. Postal Service to improve accuracy.

Interesting fact about the company: The company’s robots have touched every single Valpak coupon — those coupons that come in blue envelopes in the mail.

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4 Dynamo

4. Dynamo

Address: 1915 S. 64th Ave., Omaha

Leaders: Co-founder and CEO Michelle Wingard

Number of employees: 11 plus contractors

Founded: 2014

What it does: Consulting company that provides solutions to technology problems for other companies, while also recruiting candidates with specific skills and providing consultants to fill skills gaps.

Why it’s growing so fast: This time frame represents the majority of the company’s existence

Interesting fact about the company: Wingard left a global Fortune 500 company to found Dynamo. She initially planned to name the company SME (for strategy meets execution) before overhearing someone reference alphabet soup of companies. This association led her to name the venture Dynamo instead.

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Aaron Hackworth, right, an information technology specialist, and Steve Isom, vice president of finance, chat in a lunch/meeting area at Flywheel.

5. Flywheel

Address: 1405 Harney St., Omaha

Leaders: Co-founders Dusty Davidson, Tony Noecker and Rick Knudtson

Number of employees: 174

Founded: 2012

What it does: Online platform that helps people host and manage their WordPress sites

Why it’s growing so fast: The company hired a sales team during this time period and started focusing on building tools for companies and others who host a lot of WordPress sites.

Interesting fact about the company: It was sold in June to Austin-based WP Engine for an undisclosed amount.

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6 ecomitize

6. Ecomitize

Address: 14808 Shepard St., Omaha

Leaders: Founder and CEO Jacob North

Number of employees: 39

Founded: 2013

What it does: Builds websites for e-commerce businesses

Why it’s growing so fast: The company attributes its steady growth to doing good work at a reasonable price.

Interesting fact about the company: It has employees on five continents.

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7 atlas medstaff

7. Atlas MedStaff

Address: 11159 Mill Valley Road, Omaha

Leaders: President and CEO Steve Ryan and co-founder and Vice President Rich Smith

Number of employees: 135

Founded: 2012

What it does: Travel staffing agency for nurses, physical and other therapists and techs

Why it’s growing so fast: It helps to be part of a booming industry, which Smith says is driven by more medical professionals choosing to go the travel route. Smith also attributes the growth to the company’s reputation.

Interesting fact about the company: It has its own YouTube channel as well as a podcast about beer called A Beer with Atlas.

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Fusion Medical Staffing front desk managers Alyx Smeal, left, and Lori Krystof look over client profiles.

8. Fusion Medical Staffing

Address: 11808 Grant St., Omaha

Leaders: President and CEO Sam Wageman

Number of employees: 300

Founded: 2009

What it does: Health care travel staffing agency, like a national temp agency for health care professionals

Why it’s growing so fast: The industry has grown in general because of the nursing shortage. Fusion’s growth during this time frame was organic rather than through acquisitions.

Interesting fact about the company: In 2017, the company grew so fast that it outgrew a building intended to last five years in five months.

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9 hilgers graben

Mike Hilgers, above, a Nebraska state senator, along with partner Andrew Graben head a Lincoln law firm that works with complex commercial and intellectual property litigation for clients around the country.

9. Hilgers Graben

Address: 575 Fallbrook Blvd., Lincoln, with offices in Omaha, Dallas and Denver

Leaders: Partners Andrew Graben and Mike Hilgers

Number of employees: 31

Founded: 2011

What it does: Law firm that works with complex commercial and intellectual property litigation for clients around the country. The firm pitches that it can do good work cheaper with its headquarters in Nebraska because of the low cost of living as well as price of office space.

Why it’s growing so fast: Hilgers said the company’s model “really took off” during this time period, and it especially grew its specialization on discovery, or document reviews.

Interesting fact about the company: Hilgers is also a Nebraska state senator.

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Words chosen by OneStaff Medical LLC employees to describe the company decorate a wall in the company office. The larger the word, the more often it was suggested. 

10. OneStaff Medical

Address: 11718 Nicholas St., Omaha

Leaders: Co-owners CEO Jack Swinney and COO Jason Avenell

Number of employees: 121

Founded: 2010

What it does: travel medical staffing firm for nurses CNAs, LPNs and allied professions

Why it’s growing so fast: It’s in a growing industry, and marketing director Andy Wettengel attributes its particular growth on maintaining a startup culture even as it gets larger. The company also rebranded itself during this time frame.

Interesting fact about the company: Both owners had a parent who died within weeks of each other. In honor of those parents they give out T-shirts to each employee with the mottoes: “You rise by lifting others” and “It costs nothing to be kind.”

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