Statewide business and community leaders recognized during banquet awards ceremony.


This evening, Gov. Pete Ricketts joined the Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA) and the Nebraska Department of Economic Development (DED) to kick off tomorrow’s Governor’s Summit on Ag and Economic Development with a reception and banquet hosted by the Nebraska Diplomats. The event was held at the Younes Conference Center in Kearney.

“Through historic floods and a once-in-a-generation pandemic, the Good Life has continued to grow due to the grit and resilience of our people,” said Gov. Ricketts. “Thank you to the Nebraska Diplomats, economic development leaders across the state, and everyone in our ag community for your ongoing work to create great opportunities for Nebraskans.”

“We are honored to once again host Governor Ricketts and leaders from around our state as we kick off one of the year’s most important events,” said Diplomats President Tim O’Brien. “There are few opportunities for so many of us to come together to celebrate our successes, discuss challenges and opportunities, and align on the road ahead for our great state.”

During the evening’s awards ceremony, O’Brien and Diplomats Past-President Dan Duncan joined Gov. Ricketts on stage to recognize groups and individuals who have supported the state’s economic and agricultural growth in recent years. Honorees included:

  • Businesses of the Year: Monolith Materials; Vireo Resources
  • Governor’s Excellence in Agriculture Entrepreneurship Award: Oak Barn Beef
  • Governor’s Excellence in Agriculture Partnership Award: Farm Credit Services of America
  • Community of the Year: Laurel
  • Diplomat of the Year: Tim Burke, CEO of OPPD

Oak Creek Beef is a one-stop, online, farm-to-table business that offers premium Nebraska-raised products from family farms. Founder, owner and operator Hannah Klitz started her business when she was a sophomore at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as a way to put a face to the farmer and share information about quality Nebraska agricultural products.

“Hannah is a fifth-generation cattle producer with a passion for hard work and agriculture,” said NDA Director Steve Wellman. “She exemplifies all that the Governor’s Excellence in Agriculture Entrepreneurship Award stands for in Nebraska.”

Farm Credit Services of America is a customer-owned cooperative that provides financial services including land, equipment and livestock loans to farmers, ranchers, agribusinesses and rural residents in Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming. The organization has a network of 42 local offices within those four states, with corporate headquarters located in Omaha.

“The entire Farm Credit Services of America organization, from their customer-owners, to their employees, to their ag-friendly products and services, supports rural communities and helps producers succeed,” said Wellman. “Supporting agriculture producers and our rural communities helps make partnerships in Nebraska successful. That’s why Farm Credit Services of America is a deserving recipient of this year’s Governor’s Excellence in Agriculture Partnership Award.”

Monolith Materials of Lincoln and Vireo Resources of Plattsmouth received Business of the Year accolades for 2021.

Monolith Materials is a next-generation chemical and energy company developing economically sustainable, technology-forward ways to make everyday products cleaner. Monolith uses renewable electricity to transform natural gas into vital materials, including carbon black and hydrogen, that are needed for a wide range of applications and industries.

Vireo Resources, in Plattsmouth, produces nutraceuticals for human and animal health. Vireo is constructing a new 32,000 square foot facility alongside its existing plant to become the first U.S. producer of the nutritional supplement creatine. Its expansion is slated to create 30 jobs when the facility is up-and-running in 2022.

“High-growth manufacturers like Monolith Materials and Vireo Resources are part of the fabric of our state, creating the jobs and careers that allow families to thrive in our economy,” said DED Director Anthony L. Goins. “We congratulate these firms for their ongoing innovation and expansion, and look forward to seeing them continue to grow alongside our communities.”

Laurel was honored as Nebraska’s 2021 Community of the Year. A thriving and progressive farming community, it is located in the southeast corner of Cedar County, in northeast Nebraska.

“Laurel is home to nearly 1,000 residents who work together to bring out the best in their community and create the Good Life that Nebraska is known for,” said O’Brien. “Tonight we are proud to present them with the Community of the Year award for 2021.”

OPPD CEO Tim Burke was presented with the Diplomat of the Year award for his outstanding leadership and tireless work to grow the state.

“Tim embodies what it means to be a Diplomat,” said Duncan. “His vision, expertise, decision-making, and passion for our state have translated to wins for Nebraska in whatever role he’s performing. It is our honor to bestow this recognition and show our appreciation for a job well done.”

The banquet concluded with a reception honoring Duncan for his service as former Diplomats president.

“It has been an honor to serve as the President of the Diplomats Board,” Duncan said.

“It is a great organization that does important work supporting economic development in the state. I look forward to Tim O’Brien’s leadership over the next couple of years.”

Tomorrow’s Governor’s Summit on Ag and Economic Development will commence at the Younes Conference Center at 8:30 a.m. with a welcome from Gov. Ricketts. Terry Branstad, former Iowa governor and former U.S. Ambassador to China, will be this year’s keynote speaker.