In 2023, keeping local businesses strong means supporting them through intentional and thoughtful consumer choices. It requires a shift in mindset from seeking convenience and low prices to prioritizing the long-term sustainability and vitality of the community.
Local businesses must also adapt to changing consumer demands, embracing e-commerce and online marketing strategies to reach a wider audience. They can also collaborate with other small businesses and community organizations to pool resources and maximize impact.
Strong businesses must prioritize sustainability and social responsibility, recognizing that success is measured not just by profit but by their positive impact on their communities and the world.
This year, the Greater Omaha Chamber and Premier Bank are here to recognize those businesses that did precisely that. Honorees were selected by a committee of volunteers representing the 3,000 regional companies that are members of the Greater Omaha Chamber.
The Business Excellence Awards are an annual recognition of organizations that elevate our community in the categories of leadership, innovation, philanthropy and sustained excellence. Through their efforts, Greater Omaha is a better place to live, work and play.
For many organizations, being recognized once isn’t the goal. Instead, they shoot for sustained excellence and make a case to be honored year after year. These businesses deserve their own category and are the models for consistency we all strive to be.
Since 2007, ACCESSbank (accessbank.com) has been committed to improving the financial well-being of all of its customers, and that includes families, entrepreneurs, and business owners.
Today, they continue to be recognized for their expertise in commercial banking as ‘Best Business Bank’ for nine consecutive years by B2B Magazine. Their dedication to providing unique solutions, serving as trusted advisors for their clients, and creating strong relationships is a direct result of their growth and client loyalty.
In an environment where business owners are facing challenges in business succession, their team is providing proactive support and guidance to help meet their future financial sustainability.
“Our purpose is simple: ‘Creating Positive Experiences,’” said Kathy Headley, Vice President, Learning Development Manager. “We infuse that purpose into our culture, decision-making, and shared experiences.”
Carson Wealth (carsonwealth.com) is one of the fastest-growing financial services firms in the country, serving more than 45,000 families across the United States.
The Barron’s Hall of Fame firm has also been named as one of Inc. 5000’s Fastest Growing Companies in the Midwest, one of Inc.’s Fastest Growing Companies in the U.S. five times, and the Best Places to Work in Omaha and financial services.
Equally impressive, though, is their commitment to stewardship. In 2011, Ron Carson and his wife, Jeanie, co-founded the Dreamweaver Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to fulfilling the dreams of senior citizens facing life-threatening illnesses.
“We support organizations in the community where we can have an impact and organizations close to our stakeholders, so they feel connected and motivated to participate,” said Ron Carson.
RTG Medical (rtgmedical.com) is a veteran-owned, privately held healthcare staffing company that provides one of the most reliable healthcare staffing solutions nationwide.
They are a six-time Inc. 5000 recipient for Fastest Growing Privately Held Companies, 2021 Largest Healthcare Staffing Firms in the United States by Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA), and three-time Baird Holm LLP Best Places to Work in Omaha.
Even with its rapid growth, RTG stays rooted in their heartland values of supporting the less fortunate.
“RTG Medical firmly believes in giving back to the community that has supported them as a company from the start,” said Karna Dam, Community Engagement Representative. “This philosophy is built into our culture based on integrity, family, and community.”
Signature Performance (signatureperformance.com) is a leading provider of healthcare administrative solutions and services. Since 2004, their foremost solutions and services have been utilized by many of the country’s most respected providers, payers, and health IT organizations.
However, it’s their commitment to their employees (Associates) that might be most impactful.
“We believe that everyone at Signature is a leader because everyone has influence,” said Amy Hennings, Vice President of Experience. “This is the Signature Way.”
An essential component of the Signature Way is supporting a diverse and inclusive workplace where Associates feel respected and valued at all times. This approach provides a foundation for every Associate to become a “go-to” person, a leader in healthcare administration, and to grow and develop their leadership skills and talents through coaching, Think Tank sessions, Community Connection Points, and in-depth mentoring opportunities.
A vision of the future, growing an organization, and developing employees; are the hallmarks of catalytic leaders. The same qualities that help set organizations with dynamic leadership above others. Clarity and demonstration of purpose in all the practices and policies. An outcome that is representative of the values at the core of the business. These are not platitudes but the cornerstones of leadership philosophies that define excellence and inspire it from all who come into contact with the organization.
In 2021 First Insurance Group, LLC became FNIC (fnicgroup.com). It was the transformation of seventeen individual insurance agencies that united their brands, experiences, stories, and futures into ONE.
“FNIC’s Leadership Philosophy is outlined and demonstrated daily by our Executive Leadership team, which is: Leading Self, Leading Others, and Leading the Organization,” said Chris Evans.
In 2022, FNIC was recognized as one of the Best Places to Work in Omaha. In these surveys, three of FNIC’s most favorable items attributed to the trust in Leadership, scoring 95% or higher in each category.
FNIC leadership also understands the importance of relationships and team building. That’s why President, Scott Hill, takes time to meet each new employee within their first few weeks and gets to know them by name. This helps create a sense of value and belonging to FNIC.
“Leaders Exist Everywhere” is one of FNTS’ (fnts.com) cultural commitments, so the company has a thoughtful and purposeful leadership development program for all employees.
The program utilizes many tools and processes to help develop great leaders and enhance their skills which helps strengthen partnerships and creates leading-edge technologies.
FNTS connects with clients to understand their needs, so leadership implemented Executive Leadership Summits to ensure clients have technology that meets their long-term growth objectives. This leadership helped pave the way for FNTS to secure its status as a Microsoft Solutions Partner for Modern Work.
“President Kim Whittaker leads by example,” said Dan Chicoine, Vice President, Marketing. “She fosters teamwork by recognizing cross-functional teams, encourages employees to seek certifications, and provides horizontal growth opportunities.”
At Fusion (fusionmedstaff.com), every level of leadership is committed to helping their people grow in the ways that they want to, whether that means earning certifications or mastering a healthy work-life balance.
“Fusion’s thematic goal for 2023 is Grow Together,” said Leah Kemple, Public Relations Strategist. “This means growth for the business and for the individuals who contribute to its success.”
Leadership at Fusion trusts that employees know what is best for them, and each person’s manager is working to make sure their workload is organized in a way that leads them and the company to success.
This, in turn, makes employees feel like they have freedom and control over their life at work.
ICAN (icanleaders.org) is passionate about playing a key role in helping leaders evolve and grow and helping organizations invest in their talent pipeline.
“Our customized programs allow companies to work alongside ICAN to create leadership curriculum specific to their company’s unique needs,” said Aileen Warren, President & CEO.
Those companies inevitably benefit by retaining and engaging their top talent, and the graduates learn to lead using their strengths, connect across the organization, and best contribute to company goals.
ICAN recently created a new program, Examining Unconscious Bias, to educate leaders on the importance of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. They have 77 graduates who have benefited from this program and are now more aware of their blind spots and have the tools and strategies to create systemic change.
The most challenging phrase in business is “that’s how we’ve always done it.” Those who demonstrate excellence in innovation fly in the face of the status quo, always looking to improve in efficacy and efficiency. The honorees in this category change the establishment, shift paradigms and buck old trends. They see and seize opportunities and find new ways to do things. Our winners have established innovation as part of their everyday routine, and they definitely do not coast.
Harnessing the power of innovation allowed Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Midlands (BBBSM, bbbsomaha.org) to restructure their organization in a post-pandemic world.
“We are still facing the challenges of reconnecting with our families because of unemployment and economic burdens,” said Emma Steeve, Marketing and Outreach Manager. “Plus, they have to cope with academic and emotional setbacks for their children as well.”
This challenge made BBBSM rethink how to strengthen the programming for those they serve. So, they added a new Family Resource Coordinator, and created the BIG Futures program and the BIG Futures Program Coordinator position.
These additions will help develop life skills for young adults while cultivating relationships with community organizations, partners, providers, and agencies to ensure their families have equitable access to the appropriate basic needs.
CyncHealth (cynchealth.org) provides the capability to digitally exchange clinical information among healthcare information systems and providers across the region.
“We are champions of innovation, here to change the world,” said Matt Haave, Communications Specialist. “We are bold in our actions and able to adapt to new demands.”
CyncHealth prides itself on finding new ways to accomplish goals and views constraints as an opportunity to build resourcefulness, self-sufficiency, and adaptability.
In 2020, they generated a COVID-19 dashboard to support statewide COVID-19 data collection and reporting. As part of the Health and Housing Coalition, they launched the first-ever medical respite program in Nebraska. They created the maternal health program to support healthy outcomes throughout pregnancy and the postpartum journey by helping healthcare teams identify at-risk mothers and infants.
Since 1980, Lutz (lutz.us) has grown to become the largest locally-owned firm of its kind in Nebraska, providing accounting, wealth management, recruiting, M&A, and technology services.
“The ongoing talent shortage in our industry ignited us to think outside the box,” said Robby Renshaw, HR Manager. “So, we put a hyper-focus on our internship program, and the results have been truly impressive.”
In 2022, they employed 75 interns across four offices compared to 21 interns in 2017. Through the SkillBridge program, they successfully employed service members during their last 180 days of service to gain real-world experience in the tech industry to ease their transition back into civilian life.
Additionally, Lutz has partnered with the MCC Rapid IT Academy to bring awareness and internship opportunities in the Technology space to under-employed and unemployed Omaha workers.
Ronald McDonald House Charities in Omaha (RMHC, rmhcomaha.org) offers families of sick children access to essential services designed to foster hope and healing. At the same time, they focus on the medical necessities of their children.
“RMHC is committed to the practice of continuous innovative planning for the future, always seeking to improve the lives of sick children and their families,” said Kari Ketcham, Chief Development Officer.
RMHC has broken ground to build the infrastructure necessary to create a micro-community designed to address the health outcomes that align with individuals’ overall health through new program areas that are mandatory for equitable well-being.
Committed to being a catalyst for change, RMHC engineered its 1:1 Family Program, which creates a streamlined process to help families utilize enhanced support throughout their stay.
Serving others is deeply ingrained in our Midwestern ethos. By helping the community, we understand that we help ourselves, and that a rising tide lifts us all. Organizations with a culture of giving help advance Omaha’s overall health and well-being. Those that prioritize paying back and empowering others understand that we’re measured by a bottom line of caring and support. The improvement of our community rests on all of our shoulders, and those who demonstrate excellence in philanthropy carry that burden willingly, proudly and ably.
“Baxter’s (baxterauto.com) philosophy on stewardship centers on our obligation to support the communities where we are located, to make them better places to work, live, and play,” said Bekka Byrne, Employee Experience Manager.
By doing this, they strive to have a positive impact on society and to empower people with the freedom to experience a fulfilling life.
Last year, Baxter provided over $1.2 million in financial donations and sponsorships to local nonprofit organizations focused on food and housing insecurity; health-related causes; support to children and families; education and afterschool care; local arts organizations; and economic and workforce development.
Baxter has partnered with The Furniture Project to collect, repair and deploy used furniture to refugees new to Omaha and anyone in need.
The McGill Restoration (mcgillrestoration.com) team is consistently donating time, resources, and people-power to fuel nonprofits that share their vision of improving communities to the tune of over $100,000 each year.
“The McGill Restoration team shows up and gets their hands dirty on volunteer-based projects,” said Blake Berke, COO. “Serving their staff and neighbors is foundational in their approach to doing business and giving back.”
McGill Restoration likes to focus on local organizations and frequently works with schools, churches, medical-related causes, universities, and other organizations that are central to the communities where they live and work.
Most notably, they installed a treehouse for a Make-A-Wish® Nebraska recipient and donated air conditioning units to a local Girl Scouts camp.
The Omaha Community Foundation (omahafoundation.org) was created in 1982, primarily as a charitable bank for Omaha and Southwest Iowa philanthropists. Since then, their community knowledge has grown, and they’ve become a regional thought leader in philanthropy and community investment.
“Community is the heart of who we are at the Omaha Community Foundation,” said Megan Barrett, Communication Specialist. “We have a deep knowledge of our community’s economic and social needs and the organizations working to solve them.”
That work is especially true of two significant initiatives: Front Porch Investments and the Pathways Community HUB.
Front Porch Investments was created to provide strategic investment and coordinated leadership in affordable housing and homelessness prevention. While HUB is a local program and part of a national initiative to create care coordination networks to serve under-resourced residents.
Stewardship and helping underserved Omaha communities is something Velocity (velocityclinical.com) takes very seriously. In fact, since 1999, they’ve donated over $3 million to charity.
Today, there are three primary campaigns close to their heart: the Strength In Numbers program (SINP), Good Deeds Day, and the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) Omaha Golf Classic.
“For Good Deeds Day, employees are given a cash stipend and a simple instruction: Go make a difference,” said Kelsey Niehauser, Communications Specialist. “And we do!”
Funds raised through the MDA Golf Classic support programming like summer camps for children with MD nationwide, including Camp Courageous in Monticello, IA. Each year, Velocity sends staff members to work there as camp counselors for the week using their volunteer time off (VTO) program, which grants employees 32 paid hours per year to volunteer.
Small Business of the Year
For Hometown Hero Appliance Repair (nhaparts.com), “Hometown Hero” is so much more than just a name – it’s their guiding light. Operating an essential, service-based business over the pandemic was challenging, but highly rewarding.
“Our business has been essential to our customers and we believe that we really can call ourselves heroes,” said president Todd Daganaar. “By allowing us into their homes to operate on their appliances we understand that our customers are awarding us an extreme level of trust, and we never take advantage of it.”
Every customer touch point is given deep consideration and examined for ways to improve. “From the customer’s experience on our website, to the first phone call, to the completed service appointment, we are constantly putting ourselves in their shoes and going the extra mile to serve their needs.”
While this customer-first mindset has always been front-and-center at HHAR, it has certainly been refined in recent years thanks to the fact that Daganaar himself has worked just about every job at HHAR.
“When you truly understand the frustrations and passions of your employees and customers at every level, you can make something truly memorable, as reflected by our awards and 4.9-star average customer ratings.”
Experience comes with time, and every year an organization operates is a testament to its ability to serve, allowing it to uplift the community and contribute to the strength and growth of the region. Milestones matter, and anniversaries mark the dedication of organizational stakeholders, as well as the commitment of customers to the business or nonprofit.
- Baird Holm LLP
- Alter Metal Recycling
- Field Club of Omaha
- Fraser Stryker PC LLO
- I-Go Van and Storage Co.
- Richelieu America Ltd.
- Christensen Lumber, Inc.
- College of Saint Mary
- The Seldin Firm
- Standard Printing Company
- United Way of the Midlands
- American Red Cross Blood Services Midwest Region
- Children’s Hospital & Medical Center
- Elliott Equipment Company
- Human Resource Association of the Midlands (HRAM)
- Kidwell, Inc.
- Kohll’s Rx
- Millard Lumber Inc.
- Nebraska Academy of Family Physicians
- Robert Half International
- Behlen Technology & Manufacturing, LLC
- Engineering Technologies, Inc.
- Godfather’s Pizza – Corporate Office
- Jensen Tire & Auto Company
- Jerry Ryan Clothing & Sportswear
- Lukas Partners
- M’s Pub, Inc.
- Nebraska City Area Economic Development Corporation
- New Cassel Retirement Center
- TSA Manufacturing
- Advance Design & Construction, Inc.
- Bluestone Development
- BNI of the Heartland, LLC
- CASA for Douglas County
- Cox Business
- Diversified Solutions Inc.
- Evonik Corporation
- GROW Nebraska
- Hope Center For Kids
- Ideal Images
- InfiNet Solutions
- Interstate Display Shelving, Inc
- JM Online
- Kahler-Dolce Mortuary
- Keep Kids Alive Drive 25
- Keywest Technology
- Lamson Dugan & Murray LLP
- Max I. Walker Dry Cleaners & Launderers
- Millennium Homes / BW Framing
- Nebraska Cultural Endowment
- Nelson Contracting, LLC
- Northwest Bank – La Vista
- Northwest Bank – Omaha
- Occasion Designed
- Omaha Street School
- planitOmaha, Inc.
- Platte River Concrete Co.
- Scooter’s Coffee
- Stinson LLP
- Sunridge Village LLC
- Westlawn-Hillcrest Funeral Home
- World Class Office Installers, Inc.