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2010 a year of steady change on business front PDF E-mail

New faces and new places appeared on the local business scene in 2010, a busy year by any standard.
What follows is a week-by-week summary review of the year’s business news, as reported in the News-Register:
n Jan. 6 -- Mike and Pat Gibilisco celebrated the beginning of their 20th year at Super Foods in Aurora, noting that the one constant amidst two decades of change has been a commitment to customer service.
Brad Bangs is promoted to director of rehabilitation services at Memorial Community Health Inc.
n Jan. 13 -- Despite a nationwide recession, construction activity in Aurora nearly doubled during 2009, sparked by a surge of new home construction. The final tally of building permits issued at city hall added up to $4.6 million for the year, with the lion’s share of that coming in the form of 18 new single-family dwellings.
n Jan. 20 -- The February edition of Corvette Fever magazine told the story of three “car guys” who combined their passion for classic automobiles with years of fiberglass experience to create an eye-popping reproduction of a 1963 split-window Sting Ray coupe body, featuring a 1993 powertrain and chassis hidden underneath. The unique combination was produced by a spin-off company called Classic Glass, based in Aurora.
Regan Else and Zach Fowler were promoted at Dohman, Akerlund & Eddy, LLC in Aurora. Else was named a supervisor and Fowler a senior accountant at the locally-based public accounting firm.
n Jan. 27 -- Audrey Vaught took the reigns of the Aurora Area Chamber & Development and will now lead a group which outgoing president Tom Darbro said is always looking forward. “We’re in an economic slump, although we don’t know it in Aurora,” Darbro said at the AACD annual banquet.
Memorial Community Health names Leeta Christie as infection control nurse.
n Feb. 3 -- Nebraska State Fair organizers talked about the pending move to Grand Island and invited Hamilton County volunteers and organizations to look for opportunities to get involved. Christine Rasmussen told AACD members  that the new fairgrounds will be impressive, and will also create an opportunity for broad-based marketing exposure.
n Feb. 10 -- The corner of Highways 14 and 34 came back to life with the opening of MC & Sons Service and Repair. Mike Carlson, Kris Willcock and Kansas native Ray Throckmorton opened a service business with plans to work on all makes and models of vehicles.
Glen Harvey of Aurora received Con-Way Freight’s most prestigious honor, the President’s Award, as one of 10 employees to be recognized from than 21,000 nationwide nominations.
n Feb. 17 -- The quality of service and health care on the inside of Memorial Community Health’s four facilities didn’t match the look and feel of the marketing image on the outside. That shared sentiment led CEO Diane Keller and the MCHI board down a strategic planning path which ended with the debut of a new corporate logo.
Adams native Trevor Jantzen joined MCHI as a new occupational therapist.
n Feb. 24 -- Hamilton Telephone Company, doing business as Hamilton Telecommunications, was selected as one of two new telecommunications relay service providers for the state of California. The Aurora-based business was chosen to provide free telecommunications services that make telephone connections possible between people who are deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind or speech disabled and people who use standard phones.
Mid-Nebraska Disposal/Clark Brothers Sanitation of Grand Island expanded with the purchase of Central Waste Disposal and began handling garbage services in Aurora.
Kelly Helgoth joined the staff of Gibson & Associates as a licensed real estate agent.
n March 3 -- The Aurora Cooperative announced a plan to expand grain storage, drying and handling capabilities at its three railroad terminals located at Aurora West, Sedan and Grand Island. The total cost of the facility expansions was estimated at $11 million.
Construction activity got off to a slow start in 2010 with no permits issued for either January or February.
n March 10 -- The Aurora Cooperative extended its vast, ag-based resources skyward with the acquisition of four aerial application businesses in Aurora, Henderson, Minden and Kearney. Sensing an opportunity to better serve its agronomy patrons throughout its multistate trade area, the Aurora-based company purchased Traudt Aerial Service in Aurora, Boardman Aerial Spraying in Henderson, Pioneer Aerial Applicators in Minden and Buffalo Aerial Services in Kearney.
n March 17 -- A gas station ripped apart by a tornado near Aurora’s I-80 intersection was demolished, clearing a path toward sale of the property. The former Shell station had been closed since that fateful day, May 29, 2008.
Jazzercise dance fitness program honors local instructor Stacy Groetzinger with the prestigious President’s Club Award Silver status.
Dani Barnett joined the staff of the Aurora News-Register as an advertising sales representative.
April Luers joined the staff at Strong Financial Resources as a licensed property and casualty agent.
n March 24 -- There was a new listing on the rollcall of area businesses, but the name of the game remained much the same for Bish Enterprises, Inc. Brad Bish announced that the venture his father, Harv, started up in 1976 officially changed its name effective Jan. 1.
Hordville native Linda Andreasen Klaasmeyer was named interim director at Hamilton Manor to provide leadership during a time of transition at the facility.
Strong Financial Resources, Inc., announced the hiring of Sophia Kohls as commercial lines business coordinator.
n March 31 -- Ten new homes were rising quickly in a new low-income housing subdivision in Aurora expected to be ready for tenants by August. Robin Estates, LP, located just off 18th and A streets, was slowed by wet, snowy weather during the winter months, but is now making visible progress.
Taxable sales were down across the board in the region for December, ending the year on a slide. Hamilton County’s total dipped by 18.1 percent from the previous year.
n April 7 -- Nebraska Public Power District brought community leaders up to speed on a local piece of a large-scale TransCanada XL Pipeline project which could pass through the corner of Hamilton County. NPPD reviewed plans for a new substation and 115 kV transmission line to connect power to the TransCanada pumping station proposed for northeast of Central City.
n April 14 -- The MACH II irrigation tire rolled on from its original home near Giltner and is now owned and manufactured by the Seljan Company in Lake Mills, Wisc. Founders Mike Hawthorne and Clayton Higgins sold all but 10 percent of the company Jan. 1, saying it was a good move for all involved.
Local construction activity was strong in March, boosted by two new single-family dwellings worth $277,420.
n April 21 -- The Aurora News-Register was honored with two prestigious awards presented by the Omaha World-Herald for outstanding service to its community and coverage of agriculture, the state’s leading industry, and its impact on Hamilton County. The News-Register also earned 24 awards in the better newspaper contest and was the top winner in its circulation category.
n April 28 -- After a stressful nine months of uncertainty about the status of its franchise agreement, it was business as usual again at Advantage Chevrolet in Aurora. The local dealership received word that it can began ordering new vehicles, which means Advantage is back on line with General Motors.
n May 5 -- Susan’s Books & Gifts in Aurora unveiled a book donation program which enables the locally-owned store to give up to 5,000 books away to kids in schools, hospitals and to people suffering from grief and personal situations. The key to the program, Susan Williams explained, is that customers donate books they no longer want or need.
n May 12 -- A technology-based group of volunteers reviewed another successful year of growth, training and change at its annual meeting, while also recognizing the financial challenges of operating a technology center in a rural community. The Hamilton County Information Technology Corporation passed the baton from one president to another (Rick Goertzen to Phil Hupf), both of whom cited the valuable work being done at the Aurora Technology Center.
Starting in March of 2011, new telephone lines or services may be assigned with the new 531 area code if 402 numbering resources are no longer available. Hamilton Telephone Co. vice president John Nelson urged customers to adjust to the new 10-digit system.
n May 19 -- A downtown Aurora landmark sprung back to life with the reopening of the Grandview Cafe and Lounge. Closed for more than a year after the death of former owner Donnie Tessman, the L Street eatery reopened for business with new owners, new interior and a new menu, all at the same familiar address.
n May 26 -- Health-conscious consumers looking for a place to buy homegrown, whole-grain products can now find what they’re looking for in downtown Aurora. Grain Place Foods, a certified producer of organic whole grains and seeds, has teamed up with Espressions Coffee Shop to form what both parties consider to be a natural partnership.
Heritage Insurance hired Amy Nissen as an agent. Susan Deininger, the senior branch office administrator of the Aurora Edward Jones office, earned the firm’s 15-year service award.
n June 2 -- Lisa Cerveny and Devin Klute opened the Old House Cafe in Hampton, hoping to create a casual, family-friendly dining atmosphere. The Old House Cafe menu features breakfast entrees all day long, plus a variety of hot and cold noon meals and a daily special.
n June 9 -- The Hamilton Motor Inn and former Pappy Jacks Restaurant will soon be coming back to life with new managers, a fresh look and a different names on the signs overhead. Roy and Julles Rogers of Aurora leased the Interstate 80 property with plans to reopen both the 25-room motel and restaurant. The businesses will be operated as Liberty Inn at Aurora and the DoubleRRestaurant.
Pinnacle Bank promoted Ryan Trauernicht to the position of loan officer/management trainee for its Aurora branch.
n June 16 -- Brandi Bottorff knew right out of high school that she wanted to work with hair for a living. Eleven years later, she owns her own salon and feels at home in a house near downtown Aurora recently converted into the Escape Salon. Fellow Xenon Cosmetology School alum Emily (Sullivan) Peterson joined Bottorff after working for three years in Lincoln, Omaha and York salons.
n June 23 -- Megan and Curran Vetter opened Posh & Precious on the downtown square. The new business features clothing with a young, contemporary look, including denim, handbags and accessories, as well as a baby line of gifts and clothing sized for newborns to 2-year-olds.
Breakfast was on the house Thursday morning for more than 300 Fagen, Inc., construction workers on site at Aurora West to finish the Aventine Renewable Energy ethanol plant. A crew of volunteers with the Aurora Area Chamber & Development prepared a pancake breakfast as a way to say thank you.
n June 30 -- Construction of the new 113-milllion gallon ethanol plant remained on schedule, despite heavy spring rains, according to project manager Glenn See III. Fagen, Inc., boosted its workforce from an initial 200-person crew to more than 330, hoping to finish the plant in time for fall harvest. The crew has been working 12 hours a day, six days a week since mid-April.
n July 7 -- Firework sales were booming, according to local distributors, though a new Nebraska law set to go into effect this October could boost sales higher still next year and even in December. The law allows for a three-day selling season of consumer fireworks on Dec. 29-31 if approved by local city ordinances.
Hamilton Contact Center Services announced that it will close its call center in Kearney on Aug. 27, at which time the company will consolidate resources and concentrate its contact operations in Aurora and Columbus.
n July 14 -- Christa Hunnicutt’s long-term vision to offer optometry services in a rural community came into focus as she became the eye care professional in Aurora after Roger Holling’s retirement. Holling sold his long-time practice July 1 to Grand Island Optical, which then hired Hunnicutt.
n July 21 -- Leslie Meents and Todd Jensen joined the staff at Advantage Chevrolet Buick in downtown Aurora.
The board of directors of Cornerstone Bank announced the appointments of Jody Griffith and Steve Anderson as new officers.
n July 28 -- Six years after building a new facility on the northeast corner of the downtown square, Cornerstone Bank expanded again as construction began to the north of the main bank on what will soon house Cornerstone Insurance Agency.
The Aurora Cooperative announced plans to expand agronomy, ag aviation, retail energy, and retail livestock feed operations at two sites in York.
n Aug. 4 -- Dennis and Joanne Lynch of Chapman brought their carnival to the Hamilton County Fair, just as they have been for the past 24 consecutive years. Lynch has spent most of his 68 years on the road with the carnival and said it’s a way of life for him and his family.
n Aug. 11 -- Aventine Renewable Energy Holdings, Inc. reported a net loss of $9.3 million for the second quarter of the year, compared to a $48.9 million loss for the same period in 2009.
Building permits for two new single-family dwellings pushed the July construction total to more than $500,000, keeping the 2010 tally well ahead of the pace set in recent years at $5.7 million.
n Aug. 18 -- More than 30 years after buying an irrigation service business located on what is now the McDonald’s Restaurant site, Jack Hattan decided to sell the operation to his grandsons, Chad and Luke Peterson. Now at age 83, Hattan said it’s time to let the younger generation handle more of the heavy lifting as well as the business itself.
n Aug. 25 -- A 30-year vision is quickly coming into focus just off Highway 34 in Aurora. The Penner Athletic Courts complex broke ground in April, and despite early-summer rain delays it’s on target for an Oct. 1 opening.
n Sept. 1 -- Shae Swanson and Kevin Quiring are teaming up to provide custom service with their new Midwest Skid Steer Contractors venture.
EPCO Carbon Dioxide Products removed its equipment from Aurora to an ethanol plant near Hastings, citing a lack of consistent carbon dioxide supply from Nebraska Energy, LLC.
n Sept. 8 -- Five months after an inspirational visit to a used book store in North Carolina, Stu and Susan Williams introduced a used book line at Susan’s Books in Aurora. Rather than invest money in a used inventory, however, Susan asked her customers to get involved by giving from their own personal collections, and they responded with 5,000 donations.
n Sept. 15 -- CF Industries touted its safety record, inviting community members to tour the anhydrous ammonia storage facility while marking more than 45 years without a loss-time accident.
The year-to-date building permit total in Aurora more than doubled with one turn of the shovel as construction began on a three-phase hospital expansion. Memorial Community Health, Inc., broke ground on a $7.6 million project which will add nine new private long-term care rooms while also updating the emergency and dietary areas.
n Sept. 22 -- Seven years after opening the door to development at Aurora’s I-80 interchange, Love’s Travel Stops and Country Stores is still breaking new ground. The Oklahoma-based company became the anchor tenant in the new Woodard Subdivision in 2003, and expanded within the last year to include a new tire care center.
Aurora Construction Enterprises made plans at its annual meeting to build two 1,400 to 1,600 sq. ft. spec homes next spring in the Northridge Subdivision.
n Sept. 29 -- When Mim and Kevin Klawonn opened their photo studio in downtown Aurora back in 2006, the long-term plan was to convert, eventually, to a home-based business. That vision has come true sooner than later, as the couple relocated KeepsakeStudio to their newly built home north of Hampton.
Randy Papneau joined the staff at Grosshans International, Inc., as a salesman specializing in the RTK auto pilot guidance system.
n Oct. 6 -- Interstate Batteries marked a milestone, selling its 1 millionth battery since the late Bob and Dee Koberstein established the family-owned business in 1973.
n Oct. 13 -- One of Aurora’s largest employers is “holding its own” despite a slumping economy. Known for most of its 40-year history as BonnaVilla Homes, the company changed its name to Chief Custom Homes and is slowly starting to see the benefit of its revised business strategy.
Hamilton Telecommunications received the Department of Defense “Patriotic Employer” Award in recognition of their support of employee participation in America’s National Guard and Reserve Forces.
n Oct. 20 -- A new business opened on the downtown square with the arrival of Nailtastic Salon. Owner Sherry Fochtman, a native of Gordon, converted two combined offices in the Condon Building into a colorful Caribbean setting and now offers a full line of custom nail services.
Don’t Care Bar & Grill opened in Marquette, more than two years after Jason Van Hoosen began renovating a downtown building. The venture ends a 17-year period in which local patrons couldn’t buy a meal or drink in Marquette.
n Oct. 27 -- The Aurora Fitness Center is shaping up its interior design and line-up of workout equipment, hoping to help members shape up as well. New owners Steve and Laura Kielian of Lincoln debuted the remodeled facility with an open house earlier this month.
The public accounting firm of McDermott & Mller, P.C. promoted former Aurora resident Andrew Janzen to shareholder in the Hastings office of the firm.
n Nov. 3 -- The Aurora Child Care Center celebrated its one-year anniversary, noting an increase from an original 33 enrolled children and six employees to 69 youngsters, with 10 full-time and five part-time staff members.
n Nov. 10 -- There is a new man with a new vision at the head office of the York-based United Farmers Cooperative. Since taking the reins in August 2009, Marquette area native Carl Dickinson said he has been doing a lot of listening, and concluded that it was time to revamp the corporate culture. Despite a record year with $434 million in sales and $7.5 million in local profit, Dickinson said he and his leadership team have recognized a need for significant change.
The Robin Estates development, consisting of 10 single-family homes, completed construction at the end of September and all but two homes are now occupied, according to project developer Matt Thomas, president of Dana Point Development.
n Nov. 17 -- The recent salmonella and egg recall scares may have had nothing to do with pet food, but the global impact is reaching Aurora’s Procter & Gamble Pet Care facility in a big way.
P&G executives predicted that regulatory authorities will soon start to raise the bar for quality assurance regarding all kinds of food in the household, including pet food. That prompted a strategic move to beef up internal quality requirements here at the Aurora plant, which produces 30 percent of P&G’s Iams and Eukanuba brand products worldwide.
Nebraska Industries like Aurora’s Procter & Gambles Pet Care site need help filling the management pipeline. That was the message delivered to Nebraska Lt. Gov. Rick Sheehy, who visited the Aurora plant on what he called an on-going tour of Nebraska business and industry.
n Nov. 24 -- Attracting workforce talent to the community, maintaining downtown buildings, empowering local volunteers and recruiting a major tenant to the new power park site were ranked as the top 2011 priorities for the Aurora Area Chamber & Development.
n Dec. 1 -- Six vehicles sit on the lot at Tom’s Used Cars in Aurora and when those are gone owner Tom Newlun plans to close the doors on a 38-year career. The Aurora native has decided it’s time to retire and has sold the lot, which will be home to a new business, as of Jan. 1.
n Dec. 8 -- Office parties, family gatherings and holiday receptions fill the calendar in December, which means it’s a busy time for area catering businesses. And despite reports of a sluggish economy, business is good this holiday season, according to several local businesses.
n Dec. 15 --  November was a light month for local construction activity, as only two building permits were issued at city hall. A total of $15,000 was added to the year-to-date sum, which now stands at $13.6 million, well ahead of the $6.2 million pace of 2009.
Aurora native Sara Darbro joined the staff of Touch of Health, and Daniel Van Pelt of rural Phillips was named senior vice president of the Bank of Doniphan.
n Dec. 22 -- The president of the Nebraska Trucking Association said Aurora was among the first Nebraska communities to take advantage of its location on Interstate 80 as a transportation logistic hub. Larry Johnson reported that more companies like Con-Way Freight, FedEx and Interstate Batteries could bring additional jobs to the region as part of a shift toward a central U.S. distribution model.
Nicole Fisher of Aurora and Shaylee Hadenfeldt of Doniphan have joined the staff of Escape Salon in Aurora.

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