I am not originally from Omaha. But I love this city so much! Let me tell you why.
Sometimes, when I am driving into Omaha after a weekend in my hometown or somewhere else, I catch sight of the downtown skyline. And do you know what? It makes me tear up. Six years ago, when I moved here, I never imagined how much the city of Omaha and its citizens would help me to grow. The skyline makes me think of all of those changes and the reasons I love Omaha.
When I moved here, I only knew 3 people: my sister, a friend from college, and Holly, my best friend since high school. It was really lonely. I went to work and then went home. This is probably the time that shaped me into the hard-worker that I am today.
About six months after moving here, I was assigned to a project at work. The girl I worked on the project with eventually asked me to go out after work with her and some friends. I went and she introduced me to two or three people. The next week? She introduced me to five or six new people. As our friendship grew, so did the number of people she was introducing me to. Today, those friendships have grown deeper and changed as they have gotten married, had kids, changed jobs, and I’ve started my business.
I’ve made other friends, too. Through other jobs and growing my business, I have found amazing people to surround myself with. Friends who have encouraged me and helped me grow my business. People I can call if my car gets a flat tire or if I just need a happy hour buddy.
What makes these people so special and different? Well, they have helped me be more comfortable with who I am, especially those friends from my early twenties. I have never felt like I had to apologize for who I am or change to fit in. That is a very at-peace feeling! I think it is a bigger city thing – I came from a very small town. But I think it’s only a Midwest thing, too. Have you ever seen The Real Housewives of Any Big City?
Someone once told me that Omaha has more restaurants per capita than some bigger cities. (Side note: also more millionaires, apparently, which is great for a single woman like me. Kidding!) I’m not sure if it’s true, but we do have some great one-off restaurants here. Have you tried Kitchen Table, El Basha, Mula, Wheatfield’s, The Blackstone Meatball, Burrito Envy, The Dundee Dell, Vino Mas, The Omaha Bakery, or any of the restaurants owned by Flagship Restaurant Group or 88 Management Group? If not, that list should be a good start for a tour of Omaha and its eats.
And there is a Farmer’s Market for every area of town! Aksarben, Benson, The Old Market, Wenninghoff’s Farm, Village Point… And if it’s the off-season, there are places like Tomato Tomato (I can’t do the umlaut!) and Fresh Thyme that offer fresh locally-grown produce.
The city of Omaha and its suburbs are consistently on lists like “Best Places for Young Professionals”, or “Best Places to Live,” or “Places with the Best Pizza.” Okay, I made that last one up. But if you haven’t tried Dante or Ragazzi’s, you are missing out!
There is a reason Omaha makes it on these lists. Of course there is the people, but I also look at how the city has grown and changed in the last six years. The two areas I think of that embody this growth are Benson and Blackstone.
When I moved here, those areas were not even starting to develop. And then suddenly, almost overnight – or that’s how it felt – they were full of restaurants and bars and entertainment! And many of those businesses are locally-owned! For that sort of economic development to happen with so little red tape and for it to revitalize neighborhoods in that way is really awe-inspiring!
Not to mention the large companies that are moving to the area. Google has a data center in Council Bluffs, Yahoo! has a data center and advertising hub here, and now Facebook is building a data center, too. Those companies come here because they see the benefits – low cost of living for their employees, a big enough city to offer them hiring options, and tax breaks for coming here.
And then there are the companies here that are always growing and adding jobs: Union Pacific, Berkshire Hathaway, Kiewit. By being here for so many years, those companies deserve most of the credit!
I talked a little bit above about the lack of red tape. The city makes it very easy – at least in my experience – to start and grow a business here. And really, any where you have to deal with bureaucrats in this city, it is a fairly easy. If the DMV is the worst of it (their process is so slow!), then it isn’t so bad. I’ve been in line for 15 minutes or less pretty much everywhere else. And the people have always been helpful!
We are also close to Iowa – home of the Iowa Caucus. Every four years, we get the opportunity to cross the river, meet the candidates, and decide who we think will be the best leader for our country.
When there are political rallies here, they aren’t violent or lead to crime and arrests. Remember the Black Lives Matter protest on 120th and Center? No arrests, OPD officers showing up in peaceful solidarity, no mob mentality or looting. Just signs, honking, and sharing of ideas and opinions.
Not to mention that our mayor is a woman who came into office and cleaned house! She cut our city budget from a deficit to a $10 million surplus. Sure there are flaws in the plan – as potholes abound – but overall any campaign or time in office is full of trial and error. I think her next term will be even better. Plus, from my time in news, I can tell you that she is a tough, but lovely human being.
I started a business here, too. In the first month, I grew my business from zero clients to a full-time job through referrals and word-of-mouth. Many of those coming to me or talking about me were also small business owners.
There are so many ways to meet people and grow a business here: Center Sphere, Networx Business Exchange, and The Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce to name a few. And all of those organizations have a similar culture. They are full of people who want to grow their business and refer customers to other small business owners. Those friendships and business relationships have changed my life, literally!
To sum it up, Omaha is a city that has embraced me for who I am. There is great food here – and I love food. We get to participate in the political climate of our country. Its economic growth and culture have shaped me into a successful, female business owner with a powerful network of friends and business associates. That’s why, Omaha, you are my “home-aha.”