October 6, 2015

Governor Ricketts reacts to ConAgra’s move

Omaha and Nebraska officials continue to voice disappointment with ConAgra Foods decision to move their headquarters to Chicago. Governor Pete Ricketts says he talked to their CEO a month ago and again this week and offered incentives and was told this is a restructuring issue and they did not need assistance. He says it is difficult to know what actually happened behind the scenes.

Governor Ricketts says, “I read in the Chicago Tribune that they had been offered an incentive package by Illinois to move there. The CEO, Sean Connolly only came on-board in April so I’m not sure what transpired.”

Governor Ricketts says Nebraska has work to do to attract and retain businesses. He says he recently had conversations with companies interested in locating here and that was the point of his current trade missions to Japan, China and in Europe.

Nebraska also needs to do more to retain a competitive edge. Governor Ricketts says, “We have the 12th highest property tax and the 26th highest income taxes and being in the middle-of-the-pack when it comes to taxes is not competitive. We have to work on that. We also need to work on cutting regulatory red tape that gets in the way of job creation.” Ricketts adds this is a competitive world and we are always at risk. While we get high rankings in a number of business rankings and cost of living, we can’t take these things for granted.

Nebraska losing ConAgra Foods headquarters; moving to Chicago

ConAgra Foods, Inc. today announced a restructuring plan that includes moving the company headquarters from Omaha to Chicago.

According to a news release the reorganization “expects to realize at least $300-million of efficiency benefits within the next three years”. Part of that reorganization means a reduction in their workforce. They plan to eliminate 1,500 positions, or 30% of their global office-based workforce. ConAgra plans to cut about 1,000 positions at the Omaha headquarters leaving about 1,200 employees at the facility. There are nearly 900 workers at plants in Lincoln and Council Bluffs, Iowa and no changes are planned at those facilities.

In a news release today, ConAgra Foods President and CEO Sean Connolly said, “Today’s announcements are important milestones as we continue to execute against our strategic plan to build a focused, higher-margin, more contemporary and higher performing company.” Connolly added the move to Chicago will “enhance their ability to attract and retain top talent and focus on brand building and innovation.”

Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert says she had a conversation with Connolly on Wednesday and asked him directly if there was anything the city or state could do to change their direction. She was told this is not about incentives but based on the industry and the business they are in. Mayor Stothert says ConAgra Foods has been a wonderful community partner and they will continue to have a presence in the metro area.

Ho Chunk plans major development in South Sioux City area

CEO Lance Morgan

CEO Lance Morgan

The economic development company owned by the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska is planning on more development in and around the Sioux City area.

Lance Morgan, the CEO of Ho Chunk Incorporated, says one of the projects is developing a 200-acre piece of land on the Nebraska side of the Missouri River.

Morgan says they are going to announce in a couple of weeks the plans for a “new urbanism” type of community where walking and activities are integrated into the plan. That project in South Sioux City, Nebraska, is directly across from where the former John Morrell meat-packing plant was located.

“Once that plant was removed — the John Morrell plant — it created an opportunity that no one else saw or thought of taking advantage of,” Morgan says. The company already owns some properties in Sioux City and is planning to do more building in the downtown area.

He says they’ve bought a couple of buildings on Pearl Street and are going to build some apartments and restaurant space. “We’ve bought three large buildings on Virginia Street and we are going to call it Virginia Square. And that’s going to be really on the spectacular side, much like you would think of the Old Market down in Omaha,” according to Morgan.

He says Ho Chunk is committed to investing around $100-million in the various projects in the Tri-State metro area. Morgan says Ho Chunk’s revenues are expected to total around $270-million in 2015.

By Woody Gottburg, KSCJ, Sioux City



Nebraska Tourism Conference October 20-22

“The Power of Nice” is the theme of this year’s Nebraska Tourism Conference. Angela White is the marketing manager for the Nebraska Tourism Division and says the three day event attracts hundreds of tourism and hospitality industry leaders throughout the state. She says it is a great place to network and learn more about the industry.

White says, “Anyone looking to start any tourism related business should come to this event. Not only will they hear great speakers but they will meet people who do the same sorts of things and get some great advice and help.”

White says the keynote speaker is Shawn Achor, a leading expert on the connection between happiness and success. His Happiness Advantage training is the largest and most successful positive psychology corporate training programs to date.

The Fabulous Beekman Boys, Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge will also be teaching multiple sessions. They purchased the Beekman 1802 farm in 2007 and launched one of the fastest growing lifestyle brands in the country. They are known on the Cooking Channel and competed and won CBS’s 2012 “The Amazing Race”.

The conference is October 20th through the 22nd at River’s Edge Convention Center in Columbus. Log on to visitnebraska.com for more information.

Gov. Ricketts has a “beef” with Donald Tump

Gov. Pete Ricketts meets with Japanese business executives during his trade mission to Japan/Photo courtesy of Gov. Ricketts' office

Gov. Pete Ricketts meets with Japanese business executives during his trade mission to Japan/Photo courtesy of Gov. Ricketts’ office

Gov. Pete Ricketts has a “beef” with Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump.

Ricketts made an aside about Trump during a recent conference call with Nebraska reporters during his trade mission to Japan.

“Despite what Donald Trump has said, Itochu wants to get more Nebraska beef,” Ricketts stated. “In fact, not only do they import Nebraska beef, but about 20% of our beef exports go to Japan and that’s a market where we can capitalize on growing that going forward as well.”

During a telephone interview with Gov. Ricketts from Japan, Nebraska Radio Network asked Ricketts to elaborate on the statement.

“In the speech from the USS Iowa, Donald Trump had made a remark about how all we sell Japan is our beef and they don’t want it. It’s just not the case,” Ricketts told us. “We were meeting with one of the companies that imports Nebraska beef, Itochu, and they want to get more Nebraska beef.”

Itochu is a major Japanese trading company. It invests heavily in agri-business, including a 50-million-gallon per year, next generation biodiesel fuel project with Flint Hills Resources and Benefuel that is being jointly developed in Beatrice.

Ricketts says Japan has emerged as a major market for Nebraska beef.

“About 20% of our beef exports go to Japan,” Ricketts said. “That’s not a market that is refusing our beef. That’s a market that wants our beef.”

Both Ricketts and Trump are Republicans. Asked recently during a news conference at the Capitol about the Republican field for president, Ricketts expressed an affinity for his fellow governors in the race and stated he had never met Trump.