River City Six – Stephen Osberg
Meet Stephen Osberg, director of transportation development for the Greater Omaha Chamber (www.omahachamber.org).
Tell us a little about your business.
The Greater Omaha Chamber is a membership organization, striving to support the needs of businesses and stimulate economic growth in the Omaha metro area. We take a holistic view of our work, doing all that we can to make Greater Omaha a vibrant place to live, work, and do business.
How did you get started in the business?
The Chamber embarked on a visioning process a few years ago to discern how to ensure our region’s economic health over the next several decades. The resulting vision laid the foundation for our current five-year strategic plan called Prosper 2.0. One prong of the plan includes a focus on how the built environment contributes to providing a quality of life that can attract and retain talent and ensure inclusive access to opportunities. Transportation plays a key role in determining the vitality of our community and connecting people to wherever they want to go. I joined the Chamber in July of 2017 to help lead an effort to reimagine our transportation system to meet our higher-level needs. Prior to joining the Chamber, I worked as a city planner for the City of Omaha and at SRF Consulting.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced professionally?
It’s easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day details of life without taking a look at whether our daily choices are actually moving us toward where we want to be. My job is to bring people together to figure out how our region should function and collectively determine the best path to get there. The challenge lies in shifting people’s mindset toward one of empathy and intentionality about the future.
Tell us a little about your family.
I’ve got a wonderful wife and two darling daughters, one who is seven months old and the other four years old. My wife, Rachel Jacobson, founded and runs Film Streams, a non-profit arthouse cinema. Her example has taught me so much about what it means to work for the betterment of the community.
What do you see as one of the biggest turning points in your life?
Right after finishing my bachelor’s degree, I started working at Blue Line Coffee in Dundee. I was petrified in my early days on the job due to pretty severe shyness. It was difficult for me to start conversations with all the customers that came through the door, a key part of being a barista. Over time, I learned to relax and enjoy interacting with everyone. I heard stories about peoples’ lives and perspectives, and I experienced the value of a thriving neighborhood hub. My observations of that little community led directly to my interest in urban planning and propelled me to graduate school in the subject.
Who inspires you?
Janette Sadik-Khan, former commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation, is a tremendous inspiration to me and anyone else working on making urban spaces more interesting, vibrant places to live and work. I recommend everyone read her book.
What is your favorite book or the last good book you read?
Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino.
What is your favorite movie?
The Red Balloon, because it was my older daughter’s first favorite movie. It’s a French film without much dialogue, all about a boy and his best friend, a balloon. Also, The Gleaners and I from Agnes Varda is super.
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