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Nebraska Diplomats Host Awards Banquet

Governor Ricketts receives Diplomats award.

August 9, 2022 (LINCOLN, NEB.) – The Nebraska Diplomats Banquet took place Tuesday evening, with­­­ 330 people attending the celebration at Younes Conference Center North in Kearney.

Governor Pete Ricketts and the Nebraska Department of Economic Development presented the following awards at the Tuesday evening event:

Business of the Year – Google, Papillion (Dan Harbeke, Head of Public Policy and External Affairs, accepting award)

In April, Google announced plans to invest at least $750 million more in Nebraska by building its first Omaha data center. The company will also add to its Papillion data center complex. This latest investment, along with $600 million in 2019, will put the company’s investment into operations in Nebraska at more than $1 billion. Google said in a new report that since 2009 it has awarded more than $2 million in grants to Nebraska nonprofits and schools and nearly $2.4 million in free search advertising to area organizations.

Google’s contributions to grow communities and enhance the Good Life are numerous. Most recently, Google announced a $100,000 contribution to Omaha’s new main library facility. The company is also partnering with trusted community institutions across the state to bring digital skills training, grant funding and other resources and services to more Nebraskans. Google’s commitment to technology enablement is bringing added focus and results through Nebraska’s 21st-Century tech transformation.

Grow with Google has partnered with more than 80 organizations to train more than 56,000 Nebraskans on digital skills, including public libraries, chambers of commerce, community colleges and more. 

In Nebraska, has awarded more than $2 million in grants to nonprofits and other organizations. Google for Nonprofits has supported 1,227 Nebraska nonprofits since 2011. With Google’s Impact Challenge assistance, Kearney Works is tackling rural workforce issues; the Lincoln New Americans Task Force: CareerLadder is helping create career pathways for immigrants and refugees; Native360 Loan Fund is providing affordable capital and technical assistance to Native American business owners; and Metropolitan Community College is preparing Omaha Correctional Center residents for successful job re-entry.

Community of the Year – City of Holdrege (Ron Tillery, EDC Director, accepting award)

Holdrege has a diversified economy – including agribusiness, logistics companies, professional services and manufacturing. Holdrege is home to medical device manufacturers Becton Dickinson (BD) and embecta who together employ more than 700 people and produce critical health products on a global scale.

BD has been in Holdrege for over 50 years and the company has recently made several expansions starting with a $100 million equipment upgrade to add automated production lines. Two years later the company added $40 million of upgrades and in 2020 BD entered into an agreement with the federal government to invest $70M to add production lines for COVID-19 syringes.

As a regional hub for retail and medical services, Holdrege attracts young professionals that are choosing the city as their place to live and work – the area has some of the best agribusiness and farming.

In 2020 Phelps County was recognized by Site Selection Magazine as the #2 Most Robust Rural County economy in the nation.

Community of the Year – City of Gothenburg (Mike Bacon, Partner, Bacon, Vinton & Venteicher, L.L.C., accepting award)

In 2019, the National Civic League recognized the City of Gothenburg as one of 10 All-American Cities for local leaders’ work in inclusive civic engagement. Gothenburg represented the smallest community in the annual group of award winners and emphasized the community’s “All Means All” philosophy, which encourages the City’s emphasis on stakeholder engagement for local development.

Community collaboration played an important role in the development of Gothenburg Health’s $29.5 million facility which includes a health and wellness center. The YMCA building includes a high school regulation-size gym, four-lane swimming pool, second floor walking track and educational space. 

Gothenburg also welcomed the expansion of Iowa-based Curbtender, Inc. in 2019, which established the garbage truck compacter manufacturer’s first Nebraska location. The company purchased the former Baldwin Filters building following Gothenburg Improvement Company’s acquisition of the property. The addition of Curbtender complements Gothenburg’s strong manufacturing presence established by Parker Hannifin, Wearparts, Gothenburg Feed Products and Dayton Phoenix.

Diplomat of the Year – Matt Williams, Chair of the Board, Flatwater Bank, Gothenburg

Senator Williams leadership activities have included chairing the Nebraska Bankers Association (NBA), the American Bankers Association, the Gothenburg Improvement Company and the Gothenburg Chamber of Commerce. In addition, Matt has been actively involved with the State Chamber, the Innovation Campus Board of Directors, the FDIC Advisory Committee on Community Banking, the TeamMates Mentoring Program and many more.

More recently, Senator Williams has chaired the Banking, Commerce & Insurance Committee of the Nebraska Legislature. One of his key priorities as a State Senator was the Rural Workforce Housing Investment Act (RWHF) which was originally adopted in 2017. This highly successful statewide program provides competitive matching grants to local and regional entities for the purposes of creating new workforce housing options in communities of less than 100,000 residents.

Senator Williams worked tirelessly with the NBA’s Workforce Housing Task Force to design the parameters of the RWHF before introducing the program in legislation, identifying initial funding and securing ultimate legislative and Gubernatorial support. Initial metrics from the program suggest that from 2017 to 2021, the original $17 million invested by the State fostered the development of $113 million in housing construction. These funds subsequently resulted in 823 new housing units and 35 substantial rehabs in rural Nebraska. In Columbus, as an example, the RWHF is credited with creating more than 400+ new housing units over the past several years. This past session, Senator Williams secured an additional $30 million in funding for the program and pushed through additional program updates to further improve access and utilization. He also worked closely with his urban counterparts to develop and secure funding for the middle-income housing legislation.

Ambassador Plenipotentiary – Governor Pete Ricketts, State of Nebraska 

Governor Pete Ricketts was sworn in as Nebraska’s 40th Governor in January 2015 and reelected to a second term in November 2018.  He’s steered Nebraska through historic floods, wildfires, and a global pandemic to achieve impressive growth. Thanks in part to the Governor’s leadership, Nebraska won the Governor’s Cup for the most economic development projects per capita three years in a row from 2016 to 2018. Nebraska has finished in the top five of the Governor’s Cup standings every year he’s been in office.

During his first year in office, Gov. Ricketts and his team created the Center of Operational Excellence (COE) to cut red tape, improve processes, and deliver a better customer experience to taxpayers.  Since its inception, the COE has completed over 900 projects resulting in over $100 million in verified savings. The COE’s work has bolstered Nebraska’s business-friendly reputation. In July 2022, CNBC ranked Nebraska #7 nationally—and #1 in the Midwest—in its annual ranking of America’s Top States for Business. 

Governor Ricketts has worked to build a talent pipeline to connect Nebraska’s graduates with great-paying jobs.  As Governor, he has championed innovative programs like the Developing Youth Talent Initiative (middle school), Jobs for America’s Graduates (high school), and the Nebraska Career Scholarship program (college). His workforce initiatives have contributed to Nebraska achieving record-high employment for 12 months straight.

The Governor has worked tirelessly to grow Nebraska trade.  He has led trade missions to Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark, Germany, Japan, Mexico, and Vietnam. His efforts to promote the state have helped attract international investment and open doors for Nebraska companies to do business abroad. 

Over the past eight years, the Governor has partnered with the Unicameral to dramatically reduce the rate of state spending growth—limiting it to 2.8% annually.  During that same time, he has worked with the Legislature to deliver $12.7 billion of tax relief to Nebraskans.  The historic tax package passed in 2022 will provide 12 times the amount of tax relief of any tax relief bill passed in Nebraska by any prior administration.

Governor’s Excellence in Agriculture Entrepreneurship Award – Thomas Kayton, Founder/President, TractorMat, Seward

Thomas Kayton built TractorMat from an idea in his garage to a nationally distributed brand out of Seward, Nebraska. TractorMat uses reverse 3D engineering to make custom-fitted mats for a variety of different farming equipment. Made of high-grade durable plastic, TractorMats of all kinds have helped farmers across the United States, providing traction for safety and fast, easy cleaning of the cab.

Founder of TractorMat, Thomas Kayton, grew up in the fields and understands firsthand the importance of clean equipment and being time efficient. After years of hard work in the fields and hard work cleaning the machinery, TractorMat was founded to create a simple solution everyone in the industry can use.

Governor’s Excellence in Agriculture Partnership Award – Nebraska Beef Council (Ann Marie Bosshamer, Executive Director, accepting award), Kearney

The Nebraska Beef Council has been a valuable partner of the state of Nebraska over the years to promote the international reputation and grow sales of the state’s number one economic sector: beef. The Nebraska Beef Council is funded by the Beef Checkoff and is dedicated to increasing demand and sales of beef through initiatives including research, public education, promotional activities, and new product development.

With support from the Nebraska Beef Council, the Nebraska Department of Agriculture and other state agencies have been able to more effectively promote Nebraska beef in dozens of countries and build a brand of excellence recognized worldwide. The Beef Council routinely sends its leaders to participate in state of Nebraska international trade missions where they help share the story of beef from Nebraska and give firsthand accounts of the care that the state’s cattlemen and cattlewomen put into raising cattle. Their valuable relationship with the state of Nebraska over the years has had an undeniable impact in growing global demand for beef from Nebraska.

Governor’s Excellence in Agriculture Conservation Award – John and Sheena Krohn, Albion

John and Sheena Krohn raise corn and soybeans west of Albion, Nebraska on land that has been in John’s family for 120 years. The Krohns have implemented several farming practices with conservation in mind. The farm has been in no-till for over 20 years and cover crops have been used extensively for the last 10 years. In 2014, the Krohns installed flowmeters on all their wells and soil moisture probes to more precisely use irrigation water. The Krohns utilize grid sampling on their fields and have seen organic matter increase with the adoption of these conservation practices.

John Krohn currently serves as a member of the Nebraska Corn Board and has joined the Lower Loup NRD’s voluntary Integrated Management Plan stakeholder’s group. He has since participated in the Lower Lopu NRD’s Drought Management Plan meetings. John was recently nominated for the Nebraska Association of Resources Districts’ Nebraska Outstanding Water Conservation Award.

The 2022 Banquet also marked the induction of the following new Diplomats:

  • Greg Eickmeier – National Accounts Manager, Behlen Mfg. Co., Columbus 
  • Heather Macholan – President-Industrial Products, Behlen Mfg. Co., Columbus
  • Laban Njuguna, CEO – Zabuni Specialty Coffee Auction, Grand Island
  • Daniel Hoffman, CEO – Invest Nebraska, Lincoln
  • Candice Alder, Economic Developer – Norfolk Area Economic Development, Norfolk
  • James Charvat, Owner – Charvat & Associates, Valley

The Nebraska Diplomats would like to thank the following 2022 sponsors:

  • Platinum – Farm Credit Services of America
  • Gold – NetChoice
  • Gold – Economic Development Council of Buffalo County
  • Gold – Lincoln Partnership for Economic Development
  • Gold – Nebraska Economic Developers Assn.
  • Gold – Nebraska Diplomats
  • Gold – Nebraska Public Power District
  • Gold – Omaha Public Power District
  • Silver – Google
  • Silver – Greater Omaha Economic Development Partnership
  • Silver – Nebraska Chamber of Commerce & Industry
  • Bronze – Bio Nebraska Life Sciences Assn.
  • Bronze – Black Hills Energy
  • Bronze – Phelps Co. Development Corporation

With a membership of more than 286 business executives and community leaders, the Nebraska Diplomats, Inc. is the largest economic development organization in Nebraska. For more information, visit