Nebraska businesses and industries recognized in West Point

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Nebraska businesses and industries recognized in West Point

Nebraska Diplomats, company, community, and government officials gathered in West Point yesterday to celebrate the economic contributions of the state’s businesses and industries.

Nebraska Diplomats, company, community, and government officials gathered in West Point yesterday to celebrate the economic contributions of the state’s businesses and industries.

With a membership of more than 360 business executives and community leaders, the Nebraska Diplomats Inc. is the largest economic development organization in Nebraska that allies with other economic development organizations to promote the state’s business climate and quality of life.

Governor Dave Heineman welcomed guests during lunch, recapped the new Talent and Innovation Initiatives (widely known as TI2) and proclaimed May 7, 2012, as Business and Industry Recognition Day.

Guest Speaker Jeffrey Gerhart spoke about regulation issues within the banking industry and how these impact entrepreneurs. Gerhart is chairman of the Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA), the only national trade association that exclusively represents community banks. A fourth-generation banker, he also is Chairman of the Bank of Newman Grove, Neb., and has served ICBA and the community banking industry for many years.

Diplomats President Jeff Scherer, Chief Financial Officer for Smeal Fire Apparatus Co., in Snyder, Neb., presented the Diplomats Presidents Excellence in Business Awards to Blue Ox in Pender, Peterson Body & Paint in West Point, and Ryan Jacobs Trucking in Wisner.

Blue Ox is known internationally for quality recreational and commercial towing products, including tow bars and base plates, steering control systems, supplementary brakes, carriers, weight distributing and gooseneck hitches.

Created in 1926 by Rollie McQuistan as the Automatic Curry and Dipping Machine, the company has gone through several name and manufacturing transformations. After WWII, it was renamed the Automatic Equipment Manufacturing Co. by Myron Hesse and finally incorporated in 1968.

For six decades, AEM Co. produced only agricultural products. The development and subsequent purchase of the Kar-Tote by Jay Hesse, in 1984, moved the company in a new direction—the recreational vehicle after-market and car rental industry. The company went on to purchase the Blue Ox line of tow bars and base plates in 1991 and Duncan line of tow bars and brackets in 1994. It also developed its own braking systems, trailer hitches, TruCenter steering product line and other accessories. All product lines are now manufactured at the Pender, Neb. facility. Call 1-800-228-9289, 402-385-3051, or email

Family-owned Peterson Body & Paint has served West Point and the surrounding area for more than 30 years. The company offers full-service collision repair, restoration and maintenance through its state-of-the-art shop and equipment, and works on all makes and models of vehicles—antique or brand new.

Doug Peterson moved back to West Point after attending school in Denver to learn the auto body trade. What started as one man and a building in 1978 is now one of the leading body shops in northeast Nebraska and a premier restoration shop for clients throughout the U.S. Peterson and his son, Tony, have won numerous awards for their work as have many of their clients (including work with Jay Leno) who travel the show car circuit.  Call 402-372-3390, or

Ryan Jacobs started a small trucking firm in Wisner, Neb., more than 16 years ago with the help of a local cattle feeder after he realized the need for his services throughout the area. He has since built the business into one of the leading livestock transportation firms in Cuming County. His hard work and carefully managed planned growth has provided a number of full-time jobs in the area and helped grow other related industries. Contact Jacobs at 402-529-6777.

Following the awards presentations, B&I attendees had the opportunity to tour Smeal Fire Apparatus in Beemer, Neb., or Cuming County area agricultural sites.

Golf and an evening reception held at Indian Trails Country Club rounded out the day’s events.