Photo from 2017 Nebraska Diplomats Banquet

The Nebraska Diplomats concluded in Omaha last month a five-region Economic Celebration series launched on June 1 of last year.

Nebraska Diplomats is a non-profit organization comprised of Nebraska business executives and community leaders, the intent of which is to promote a productive business climate and support the efforts of the Governor and the Nebraska Department of Economic Development (DED).

The purpose of the series—which included visits to Norfolk, Kearney, Scottsbluff, Seward and Omaha, and which will culminate at a statewide celebratory banquet in Lincoln on July 11, 2018, on the eve of the Nebraska Governor’s Summit—was to celebrate economic development achievements of Nebraska’s respective regions while recognizing the individuals and communities that attributed to such efforts.

The events were attended by Governor Pete Ricketts, as well as representatives from DED and numerous economic development, private, public and community organizations.

The Diplomats have hosted celebratory events on an annual basis, but this year’s five-region series marked a major departure from its usual format.

“2017 was a tremendous year for Nebraska in terms of achievements throughout each region,” said Diplomats President Jane McDaniel. “The series this year allowed us to devote time to recognize individually the people and communities that have contributed to the economic well-being of their state over the past year.”

Recognizing Nebraska’s Northeast region, the series kicked off on June 1, 2017, in Norfolk. Following a presentation by Stronger Communities Together—a regional economic development coalition—representatives from Burt County Economic Development Corporation and Dividends Nebraska hosted a discussion on workforce development and housing issues. Governor Ricketts then presented awards to Cargill, Columbus (Business of the Year); Columbus’ John Lohr (Diplomat of the Year) and the City of Wayne (Community of the Year). The event concluded with tours of Nucor Steel, Wayne State College and downtown Norfolk, followed by a social event at Eldorado Hills Golf Club.

In Kearney on July 27, recognizing the Central region, ceremonies began with rounds of golf at the Kearney Country Club. This was followed by a presentation on workforce and housing issues by representatives from the Economic Development Council of Buffalo County. Awards were then presented to Chief Industries, Inc. of Grand Island, as well as Mac’s Creek Winery and Vineyards, of Lexington (Businesses of the Year); Kearney’s Stan Clouse (Diplomat of the Year) and the City of Broken Bow (Community of the Year).

The Western region event was held at the Wildcat Hills Nature Center in Gering on October 5. Representatives from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission opened with a presentation on recent additions and renovations to the Nature Center. This was followed by a panel discussion hosted by local business leaders, with a focus on engaging community youth. Diplomats from the cities of Scottsbluff, Alliance, Gering, Sidney and Kimball were then recognized for their respective achievements. In addition, Scottsbluff Public Schools and Aulick Industries, Scottsbluff, were acknowledged for their mutual receipt of a 2017 Nebraska Developing Youth Talent Initiative grant.

The Southeast region event occurred in Seward on November 2, starting with a walking tour of historic downtown Seward, Concordia University, Southeast Community College-Milford and two local factories. Diplomats President Jane McDaniel presented regional awards to Rare Earth Salts, Beatrice (Innovator of the Year); Ariens Company, Auburn (Business of the Year); Richard Baier, of Lincoln (Diplomat of the Year) and the City of Beatrice (Community of the Year). The awards were followed by a panel discussion on innovators and partnerships. Events concluded with a social mixer hosted at downtown Seward’s Bottle Rocket Brewery.

The regional celebrations concluded in Omaha on February 13, 2018. After opening remarks by Governor Ricketts, Aaron Davis—a member of the 1994 National Championship Nebraska Cornhuskers—gave a keynote address. Recently-appointed DED Director Dave Rippe was subsequently introduced. Awards were then presented to Evonik, Blair (Business of the Year); the City of Fremont (Community of the Year); Omaha’s Mike Moylan (Diplomat of the Year) and Omaha Public Power District (Power in the Partnership).

This year’s regional celebrations will culminate at the traditional Diplomat Banquet, to be held on July 11 at the Cornhusker Marriott hotel in Lincoln, on the eve of the Nebraska Governor’s Summit—an event that brings together business and economic development community leaders from across the state to discuss unique challenges and opportunities facing the Nebraska economy.

During the banquet, each region will be recognized for its economic development achievements and contributions to statewide growth. Governor Ricketts will also present a special Diplomat Ambassador Plenipotentiary award to recognize 2017’s most outstanding Diplomat.

“We’re incredibly excited for the annual Banquet, as it will cap what has been an outstanding year of achievements,” McDaniel said. “And all of us will be looking forward to seeing the accomplishments we achieve for our state in 2018.”

Photos from this year’s regional events can be accessed at the following link More information on the upcoming Diplomat Banquet will be announced soon. To learn more about the Nebraska Diplomats, or to become a member, visit the organization website at, or contact DED’s Lori Shaal at 402-471-4592 or