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Chamber Begins Celebration of 125 Years 6/26/18  06/27/18 2:49:52 PM Printer Friendly VersionPrinter Friendly Version

Pete Thompson, chief information officer, helped organize the Chamber’s latest move.    
Chamber Begins Celebration of 125 Years
By Julien R. Fielding
The Daily Record

For a few years, the leadership and board at the Greater Omaha Chamber had been talking about what to do with their space at 1301 Harney St. They had occupied the building for 35 years, and they were looking for a change.
But should they remodel or move? “We wanted to stay downtown, where the development was happening, but we wanted a more modern look,” said Pete Thompson, chief information officer.
They found their answer when space became available on the top floor at 808 ConAgra Dr. (formerly Building #5), Suite 400. Construction started in December 2017, the Chamber began moving in April, and by April 27 they were up and ready to serve their members.
“We did a lot of design work, had to add a few walls, and bought some new furniture,” added Thompson, who organized the move. “It’s a great place to be.”
On Tuesday, June 5, they decided to show it off to its members during this month’s Coffee & Contacts.
To accommodate the 299 people who attended, the Chamber organized a shuttle bus service. Those who came had the chance to network and take tours of the space. Mayor Jean Stothert was one of those.
So what’s different about the new space?
The old location was just under 20,000-square-feet; the new one is 23,000-square-feet. The old space had about 37 individual offices; the new one has just six offices for the 60 employees. The result is an open-air feel.
“We changed the layout, and put in extra work space,” Thompson added.
Also new is space being dedicated to the Startup Collaborative, a tech incubator program. Entrepreneurs in this program can rent space – small suites – from the Chamber so that they can interact with Chamber personnel.
The Startup Collaborative supports all stages of business development from evaluating initial product-market fit to working through the challenges of early scale. Entrepreneurs in the program earn their way to incentives, including angel investment capital. Available funds will be deployed in $25,000 and $50,000 increments to qualifying participants in the TSC’s fellowship program who have pinpointed product-market fit, developed a prototype, have an in-house team, and at least 25 paying customers, staffing support, subsidized office space and access to one of the Midwest’s “most connected venture networks.”
Co-founded in 2017 by Nathan Preheim and Erica Wassinger, the Startup Collaborative is the “evolution of a three-way merge between a traditional 90-day accelerator, an incubator, and a community building organization.”
As of June 5th, it had supported 176 entrepreneurs, Wassinger said. Females and minorities make up about half of that number; most have been in their mid-to-late 30s.
“We are looking for entrepreneurs who want to start high tech and high growth companies with software at the core of their business model,” she added.
Prosper Omaha 2.0
At Tuesday’s Coffee & Contacts, the Chamber also kicked off the beginning of a six-month celebration of its 125-year anniversary.
Many things are happening at the Chamber, said Jill Bruckner, communications/PR manager. “One of the most notable strategies happening is the launch of Prosper Omaha 2.0, part of our ongoing economic-development efforts. It’s not an anniversary activity, but it impacts the entire community.”
A five-year $32 million strategic initiative powered by community leadership and business sponsorship, Prosper Omaha 2.0 identifies performance strategies and priorities for fast-tracking the area toward Greater Omaha’s Preferred Future. The idea is to raise funds to tackle challenges and amplify opportunities for organizations, individuals and the region.
“The approach uses data-driven decision making, community input and future planning, to address goals in the following categories: Business growth, people, and place,” Bruckner said.
The campaign’s $32 million goal will be allocated with $16 million going for Business Growth initiatives, $7.6 million for People initiatives, and $8.4 million for Place initiatives.
Some of the goals for business growth include “creating a more diverse and inclusive economy, boasting our startup ecosystem, and recruit and retain businesses that create significant wage, investment, and job growth to help small businesses expand and thrive across the region,” she said.
In the People category, they want to “implement best-in-the-nation diversity and inclusive hiring and promotion practices, advocate for exceptional schools with a renewed focus on career-based skills, post-secondary preparation and alignment with regional future-focused jobs.”
And in the Place category, they want to “promote the development of an enhanced transportation system, encourage the development of more inspiring and engaging public places, and build upon strong assets and drive economic growth through solid and intentional partnerships,” Bruckner said.
For more information about the Chamber, go to www.omahachamber.org; for the Startup Collaborative, go to StartupCollaborative.com. And for more information about Prosper Omaha 2.0, go to www.omahachamber.org/prosper-omaha/.
The next Coffee & Contacts will be from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. on August 9 at 75 North.

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