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Pizza, news and lawn mower entrepreneurs among newbies to Nebraska business hall of fame

By: - January 12, 2023 1:15 pm
Nebraska state flag

The Nebraska state flag flies in front of the governor’s mansion on Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022, in Lincoln. (Rebecca S. Gratz for Nebraska Examiner)

LINCOLN — A pioneering Black newswoman, a pizza entrepreneur and a man who led his town to be called “Lawn Mower Capital of the World” are part of the next group to be inducted into the Nebraska Business Hall of Fame.

The 2023 nominees, who will be honored at a Feb. 2 event of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry: the late Mildred Brown, Omaha Star; Jim Clifton and Jane Miller, Gallup of Omaha; Ralph and Beverly Holzfaster family, agribusiness/community development of Paxton; Anthony Messineo Jr., Valentino’s of Lincoln; and the late Wilfred Tegtmeier, Encore Manufacturing of Beatrice.

The group joins some 130 business leaders in the statewide hall of fame who have impacted Nebraska’s economy, jobs and quality of living, according to the chamber. The hall was established in 1992 by the Nebraska Chamber in partnership with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Business.

“This year’s honorees embody the vision, grit and community loyalty often ingrained in our boldest-thinking Nebraskans,” said Bryan Slone, chamber president.

Said Kathy Farrell of UNL: “This group includes entrepreneurs, exceptional business leaders and highly engaged citizens who made a tremendous impact on the state.” 

Hall of fame recipients (biographies provided by the chamber):

Mildred Brown (Courtesy of NE Chamber of Commerce)

Mildred “Millie” Brown, Omaha Star, (awarded posthumously)

Brown was owner, publisher and editor of the Omaha Star, the nation’s longest-operating, Black-owned newspaper run by a woman. Launched in 1938, the newspaper helped steer Omahans through racial segregation, the 1960s civil rights movement and racial unrest through the early 1970s. Her coverage was honored by President Lyndon B. Johnson. The Star featured positive news about the Black community and encouraged readers to vote and run for public office. Brown died in 1989. Today, the Star is the only African American newspaper printed in Nebraska. The biweekly publication is available in print or digitally via subscription and reaches about 30,000 in 48 states.

Jim Clifton (Courtesy of NE Chamber of Commerce)

Jim Clifton, Gallup, Omaha

Clifton is chairman of Gallup, a global analytics and advice firm. Under his CEO leadership from 1988 to 2022, Gallup expanded worldwide with 30 offices in 20 countries and regions. He created The Gallup Path,  which establishes linkages among human nature in the workplace, customer engagement and business outcomes and is used in more than 500 companies worldwide. The Gallup World Poll, another of his innovations, gives the world’s 7 billion citizens a voice on key global issues. He’s written four books and several articles on global leadership. The Clifton Foundation and Gallup helped establish the Don Clifton Strengths Institute at the University of Nebraska, which supports early development of state business builders.

Jane Miller (Courtesy of NE Chamber of Commerce)

Jane Miller, Gallup, Omaha

Miller is the retired president and chief operating officer of Gallup. She oversaw worldwide operations, ensuring all systems, resources and people were aligned to achieve organizational goals across client servicing and market direct functions. She is committed to creating strong communities that begin with strong workplaces, as evidenced by leadership as a director or trustee for Peter Kiewit Foundation, TeamMates Mentoring, Kiewit Luminarium, Omaha Zoological Society, Nebraska Medicine and the University of Nebraska Foundation. Miller was the recipient of the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce Women in Leadership Award and was inducted into that chamber’s Hall of Fame in 2017.

 

Ralph and Beverly Holzfaster (Courtesy of NE Chamber of Commerce)

Ralph and Beverly Holzfaster family, Agribusiness / Community Development, Paxton

The Holzfasters began early agricultural careers in custom harvesting and proving new stubble mulch practices on dryland wheat, which led to a stint farming in British Columbia. Embracing pivot irrigation technology in 1969, Ralph opened a Lindsay Manufacturing dealership in Ogallala. He served on boards including Nebraska Ethanol Authority & Development, Nebraska Public Power District, Keith County Economic Development Board and Foundation and Mid-Plains Community College Foundation. The Holzfaster family remains active in agriculture and other initiatives including managing Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse & Lounge.

 

Tony Messineo  (Courtesy of David Dale and NE Chamber)

Anthony “Tony” Messineo Jr., Valentino’s, Lincoln

In 1972, Messineo and his brother, Ron, purchased Valentino’s, a pizza business started near UNL’s East Campus. The takeout pizza service at the 60-seat restaurant quickly boomed. Today, Valentino’s employs more than 500 Nebraskans at 40 locations and ships frozen pizza nationally and internationally, in addition to offering sauces and frozen pizza in Nebraska grocery stores. As the official pizza of the Huskers, Valentino’s sells over 22,000 slices per home football game. Messineo contributes time and talent to places including Cedar’s Home for Children, Make-A-Wish Foundation and TeamMates. He has received several honors, including induction into the Omaha Hospitality Hall of Fame.

 

Dick Tegtmeier (Courtesy of NE Chamber of Commerce)

Wilfred “Dick” Tegtmeier, Encore Mfg. Co., Beatrice (awarded posthumously)

Tegtmeier turned sketches drawn in his basement into two businesses that eventually employed more than 600 Nebraskans and gave Beatrice the unofficial title of “Lawn Mower Capital of the World.” He designed his first mowers at Kees Manufacturing in the 1970s before starting Exmark Manufacturing with partners in 1983. In 1988, he formed Encore Manufacturing. Both companies remain drivers of Beatrice’s economy. Exmark is now a division of Toro Co., and Encore was sold to a Chinese company on the condition that the Beatrice operation stayed. Tegtmeier, who died in 2013, represented the state on trade missions and was active in such organizations as St. Paul Lutheran Church and Beatrice Optimists.

 

 

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Cindy Gonzalez
Cindy Gonzalez

Senior Reporter Cindy Gonzalez, an Omaha native, has more than 35 years of experience, largely at the Omaha World-Herald. Her coverage areas have included business and real estate development; regional reporting; immigration, demographics and diverse communities; and City Hall and local politics. She has won awards from organizations including Great Plains Journalism, the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing (SABEW) and the Associated Press. Cindy has been recognized by various nonprofits for community contributions and diversity efforts. She chairs the board that oversees the local university’s student newspaper.

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