Businesses that test soil, ship meat, build wooden barn homes, sample grain, make pumps and consult on engineering will be recognized this week by the University of Nebraska.
They are the Businesses of the Year honored by the university’s Nebraska Business Development Center for their contributions to the state’s economy.
The awards will be made Friday at a luncheon in the Capitol attended by state senators, Lt. Gov. Mike Foley and Courtney Dentlinger, director of the State Department of Economic Development.
The honorees were chosen from dozens of nominated companies from among clients of the development center:
» The Manufacturing Business of the Year is Brand Hydraulics of Omaha, founded in 1956 by Glen and Mary Lou Brand and operated by their son, Greg.
The company designs, manufactures, assembles and tests hydraulic valves and for the past decade has designed and incorporated electronic controls into its products.
Scott White, Brand’s production manger, said the company worked with consultants from the business development center to streamline its assembly processes — in one case reducing the number of steps that workers, walking back and forth, took to produce a piece of equipment from 345 to five.
The “lean” manufacturing process has workers concentrating on one product at a time rather than multiple products at the same time, White said, saving time, organizing tools better, using floor space more efficiently and reducing costs.
The center’s consultants encouraged the company to adopt a continuous-improvement system, setting up teams of empowered employees that take charge of their processes and find ways to improve efficiency, he said.
» The Sustainability Business of the Year is Sand Creek Post & Beam of Wayne, which manufactures custom-designed wood barns and barn home kits.
Jule Goeller, who owns the business with her husband, Len Dickinson, said the center’s consultants helped the business use its wood resources more efficiently and improve its production processes.
The center also serves as a clearinghouse for a wide range of national, state, regional and local business development programs so that small businesses can find the help they need to succeed, Goeller said.
“It’s really hard for a small business owner, especially when it’s a growing business, to know what is available without having to contact each and every economic development group out there,” she said. “That’s one thing we have really appreciated about them.”
The company’s success meant that when a tornado in 2013 destroyed its production facility, along with many other businesses in Wayne, it was able to rebuild and open eight months later, Goeller said.
» Champions of Small Business: Kevin and Christine Grooms, owners of American Agricultural Laboratory of McCook.
The Groomses purchased and renamed Olsen’s Agricultural Laboratory in 2007, investing time and money developing new services and products and expanding the company’s operations, as well as providing entrepreneurship and business-related education in the McCook area.
The company was founded in 1976 by Bob Olsen.
» Innovation Business of the Year: Windcall Manufacturing of Venango.
Windcall developed, manufactures and sells the GrainGoat, a battery-powered, handheld machine that harvests, cleans and calculates the moisture content of small grains so that harvesting can take place when they are at optimum condition.
» Government Contractor of the Year: Farris Engineering of Omaha.
Farris Engineering is an employee-owned engineering consulting firm with offices in Lincoln, Des Moines and Colorado Springs.
Its staff provides mechanical, electrical and fire protection services and in recent years has added consulting in technology, commissioning and lighting design.
» Export Business of the Year: New Grand Ocean International of Omaha.
New Grand Ocean International Co. Ltd., founded 10 years ago, is the leading meat exporter and importer between Thailand and the United States and operates in 16 other countries.
Its sales average $72 million a year, specializing in processed beef and pork and chicken offal. It also helps suppliers in Thailand with regulation and health inspections.
Last year the Nebraska Business Development Center served about 2,900 businesses in the state, measuring the economic impact of its work at $360 million. Services include business planning, financial forecasting, loan packaging, market research, technical commercialization and exporting.
The center is supported by the University of Nebraska at Omaha College of Business Administration, the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Defense Logistics Agency and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Its partners include the University of Nebraska at Kearney, Southeast Community College, Wayne State College, Mid-Plains Community College and Chadron State College.
It has offices in Omaha, Lincoln, Kearney, Grand Island, North Platte, Wayne, Scottsbluff and Chadron.
Businesses of the Year
Businesses honored by the Nebraska Business Development Center for contributions to the Nebraska economy
Champions of Small Business
Kevin and Christine Grooms, American Agricultural Laboratory, McCook
Windcall Manufacturing, Venango
Farris Engineering, Omaha
Sand Creek Post & Beam, Wayne
Brand Hydraulics, Omaha
New Grand Ocean International, Omaha