Catalog Retailer Doubles Capacity
One of the most prominent recent corporate expansions in Nebraska is Oriental Trading Company, Inc.’s (OTC) new 737,000-square-foot fulfillment center in La Vista, NE. Headquartered in Omaha, NE, OTC is the largest direct marketer of novelties, toys, and party supplies and the second largest direct marketer of home décor products. To serve its 18 million customers with over 30,000 unique items, the privately held company needed to nearly double its order processing capacity. The new fulfillment center does just that, bringing OTC’s fulfillment space up to a total of 1.9 million square feet.
La Vista is part of the Greater Omaha region, throughout which OTC employs about 3,000 people. The new building is the largest distribution facility in eastern Nebraska and, according to the company, “utilizes the latest in technology, including a sophisticated order management system.”
“Our newest fulfillment center embodies the future of Oriental Trading Company and our goal of becoming a world class organization,” says Steve Frary, OTC’s president and CEO. “It is an essential part of Oriental Trading Company’s overall platform for growth. When combined with the strength of our brand, our vast product selection and e-commerce capabilities, we are well-positioned for our next phase of growth.”
Ethanol Flowing From NebraskaThere has been speculation that the boom in ethanol plant construction across the Midwest will slow, but it hasn’t stopped ethanol projects already underway in Nebraska from opening recently. US BioEnergy Corporation began production in May 2007 at its Ord, NE facility. Ground was broken on the 50-million-gallon plant in December 2005 and construction was completed ahead of the normal 20-month schedule. The Ord plant is expected to produce approximately 50 million gallons of ethanol and 275,000 tons of modified wet distillers grains per year from the 15 to 18 million bushels of corn provided by local farmers. Forty new jobs were created by the plant. The facility is served by Loup Valleys Rural Public Power District, a Nebraska Public Power District wholesale customer. The next month, Siouxland Ethanol, LLC held its grand opening on June 18, 2007, at its site in Jackson, NE. The $80 million plant, for which ground was broken in September 2005, is estimated to be able to produce 50 million gallons of ethanol and 165,000 tons of distillers grain annually. The company employs 35 people. Abengoa Bioenergy hosted an open house last October to showcase its new $34 million, state-of-the-art cellulosic biomass-to-ethanol pilot plant. The plant, located adjacent to Abengoa’s 55-million-gallon per year ethanol facility, researches and tests proprietary technology for use in commercial-scale conversion of biomass into ethanol. The pilot plant will produce 80 gallons per day of cellulosic ethanol utilizing one ton of wheat straw daily. Other potential feedstocks include corn stover, switchgrass, sorghum, and wood waste. And in November, E Energy announced that production has begun at its ethanol plant near Adams, NE. Each day, approximately 55,000 bushels of corn are used to produce 150,000 gallons of ethanol. The plant also produces 160,000 tons of distillers grains.
Wind Tower Producer Chooses ColumbusEthanol may be big business in Nebraska, but it hasn’t prevented the state from embracing other popular forms of alternative energy. In the case of KATANA Summit, LLC, a partnership of Sumitomo Corporation of Tokyo and KATANA Industries, Inc. of Ephrata, WA, Nebraska will become part of the wind power boom by producing the giant towers upon which wind turbines sit. KATANA announced last year that it will manufacture wind towers in Columbus, NE. The project will utilize 75 acres and more than 250,000 square feet of building space. “This area is geographically correct for manufacturing and distributing the tubular windmill towers we’ll be producing, and the business climate here in this town is just phenomenal for us,” says Darrell Lehmann, president and CEO of KATANA Summit LLC. The company purchased the Columbus Spec Building, Reliance Building, and 46 acres from Loup Power District in the Columbus East Industrial Park for its operations in Columbus. Plans call for manufacturing to begin in June of this year, eventually employing 100 to 120 workers at full production.
Call Centers Still Strong in NebraskaBesides agriculture, energy, and manufacturing, the call center industry is well established in Nebraska. Low labor costs, low employee turnover, and a speaking accent perceived as neutral by most Americans have all contributed to the industry’s success in the state. Among the Nebraska call centers established in 2007 and 2008 thus far are Apogee Retail and Custom Response Technologies (CRT). Apogee Retail chose Columbus, NE for a new call center in February 2008. The company, which operates thrift stores on behalf of charitable organizations, chose Columbus from among 120 communities under consideration. The 35,000-square-foot, $3.6 million call center will open in June, employing 250 to 300 people at $10 per hour and up. CRT, headquartered in Omaha, opened its doors in Lexington, NE in October. The company has occupied 7,500 square feet of the Lexington Business Center, where it will hire up to 75 people to answer and make calls on behalf of insurance companies.
Homegrown Manufacturer ExpandsIn February, Baldwin Filters announced plans to expand its Kearney, NE plant, which also serves as its global headquarters. The company, which produces filters for heavy-duty machinery and vehicles, expects the expansion to cost $20 million and add over 300,000 square feet of additional warehouse and distribution space. Baldwin estimates that it will add 50 new employees (for a total of about 900) over the next five years in conjunction with the expansion. “Baldwin has been exploring this project for several years and we plan to start construction within the next 12 months,” says Sam Ferrise, president of the company. Baldwin was started by J.A. Baldwin in Kearney in 1936, and has been part of the CLARCOR manufacturing group since 1981.