This afternoon, Governor Jim Pillen congratulated recipients of the annual Business Awards presented by the Nebraska Business Development Center (NBDC).

“At no cost, the Nebraska Business Development Center offers expertise and tools to help businesses grow,” said Gov. Pillen. “Today’s award winners are proof of the tremendous difference NBDC is making in our communities. Thank you to NBDC for the excellent service you’re giving to entrepreneurs all across the state.”

Dan Curran, NBDC’s executive director, announced the awards and highlighted the wide range of services NBDC offers.

“This year’s NBDC award winners are tackling some of the most complex challenges we’re currently facing as a state,” said Curran. “Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart, and the work these individuals are doing is what makes Nebraska a great place to live and work. We are proud to celebrate their accomplishments today.”

Nebraska Economic Development (DED) Director K.C. Belitz thanked NBDC for its strong support of Nebraska’s entrepreneurs as a valued member of the state’s business support network.

“With ten offices in Nebraska, NBDC offers statewide support of our homegrown businesses,” said Director Belitz. “Through the SourceLink Nebraska program, NBDC plays a key role in the state’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, connecting businesses with the resources they need to succeed. NBDC also helps family businesses pass the baton from one generation to the next, and they empower entrepreneurs to achieve the dream of starting a business. Our DED team collaborates closely with NBDC, and we’re grateful for their strong partnership.”

Nebraska Business Development Center – 2023 Business Award Winners

Champion of Small Business – Gloria Patricia Avalos, founder and owner of Patty’s Childcare Center Inc. (Omaha)

Like many Nebraskans, Gloria could see the ripple effects of a childcare shortage in Omaha. Workers were at risk of losing their jobs because they could not find affordable, quality care for their children. Gloria stepped up to meet the need. She worked with NBDC to create a business plan, pull together financial projections, and work through the technical components of opening her first childcare center.

After doing the work and receiving a loan from the Nebraska Enterprise Fund, Gloria was able to open her first center in Papillion, which is able to serve 100 Spanish- and English-speaking families. Her success highlighted the demand for childcare even more, and shortly after, Gloria opened a second center for an additional 100 children on South 13th Street in Omaha. She is planning to open another facility next to the South 13tth Street location later this year. The center will be open 24/7, catering to the needs of the many families who work overnight shifts in the area. This new building will be able to care for 200 children, and will bring the total number of employees at Patty’s Childcare to 100.

Government Contractor of the Year – Prescription Pyro (Broken Bow)

In 1997, Bob Harrold signed up to volunteer for the local fire department. It was a decision that would influence his career trajectory. Inspired by his experience volunteering, Bob purchased a truck in 2010 and began his entrepreneurship journey. His initial services included custom burn and cedar tree removal for private landowners, and some contracting for the State of Nebraska.

Over time, his business evolved to multiple trucks with a team of seasonal employees traveling around the country providing wildfire suppression and prevention services. Bob has worked the Nebraska Business Development Center’s APEX Accelerator program to earn government contracts that have grown his business, including contracts with the U.S. Forest Service and other federal, state, and local entities.

After seeing success with his first venture, Bob is now turning to the creation of a new, additional company that will operate alongside Prescription Pyro. This company, Prairie Fire Forestry, LLC, is dedicated to the removal of woody encroachment, an environmental threat to nearly eight million acres of Nebraska’s intact grasslands.

Innovation Business of the Year – Bluestem Biosciences (Omaha)

Founded by Billy Hagstrom, Tyler Autera, and Jared Wenger, Bluestem Biosciences is working to replace petroleum-derived products such as acrylics, nylons, and plastics through the development of chemicals created from microorganisms instead of oil. Bluestem is committed to Nebraska and its agricultural community. They chose Nebraska to build their company because of the state’s agricultural foundation, existing infrastructure and workforce, and potential for public and private partnerships.

In its first year of operation, Bluestem Biosciences announced a pre-seed financing round of $5 million. In February 2023, the company announced the filing of 24 patent applications protecting its anaerobic chemical platform. The company is also the recipient of a Phase 1 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the Department of Energy.

SourceLink Nebraska Partner of the Year – Nebraska Enterprise Fund (Oakland)

SourceLink Nebraska is an NBDC program connecting Nebraska entrepreneurs and business owners to the resources they need, when they need them. The Nebraska Enterprise Fund (NEF) is one of the valuable resource partners that participates on the SourceLink Nebraska platform to serve the state’s business community.

For more than 30 years, NEF has been providing capital, training, mentoring, and technical assistance to support entrepreneurs and new businesses in Nebraska. The fund supports businesses in underserved communities that are often either unable to obtain bank financing or enough financing to fully fund their business needs. To expand their services, NEF recently began offering a quick loans program, allowing businesses to finance needs up to $2,500 to do things like a build a website or buy a computer while building their credit score and creating a business plan that will enable them to receive a larger loan. They also provide critical business training opportunities on important topics like marketing and legal issues.

About the Nebraska Business Development Center

NBDC provides confidential, no-cost business consulting services to any Nebraskan wanting to start, grow, or transition a business. NBDC is a University of Nebraska at Omaha center with 10 locations, partnering with the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, University of Nebraska at Kearney, Wayne State College, and Chadron State College to deliver its services statewide.

In 2023, NBDC served over 2,000 clients, facilitated over $23 million of business investments, and helped businesses land nearly $300 million of government contracts. To learn more about NBDC’s programs and its economic impact, visit the center’s website at