Greater Omaha Business Excellence Awards Celebrate Nebraskan Innovation and More

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Congressman Lee Terry and others with Outlook Nebraska at a celebratory event from May of last year.

There’s no doubt that success is sometimes due to a lucky break, opportune timing, or just plain unadulterated chance (ever read Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers?”).

But on the other hand, the majority of successful innovators and businesses generally involve a high dose of hard work and drive, along with a desire to improve the world or make a change in some way. Nebraska businesses that have achieved success in their category were recognized last Thursday at the 2014 Greater Omaha Business Excellence Awards, and presented to six winners at the Embassy Suites Omaha-La Vista.

The Omaha World-Herald reported that the luncheon recognized winners, from businesswoman Sharon Carleton (CEO of Ervin & Smith), to the nonprofit Lutheran Family Services of Omaha. Real estate development firm White Lotus Group won for the largest minority business impact, and Foundation Supportworks (a manufacturer!) was acclaimed for their network of product distribution across North America.

Most notably, however, manufacturer Outlook Nebraska was extolled for their excellence and progress in innovation. This outstanding company is a perfect example of the Nebraskan ingenuity and hard work that our state is known for, as well as doing their part to make our community a happier and healthier place for each and every citizen.

If you aren’t familiar with Outlook Nebraska, their mission is to enhance quality of life for the blind and visually impaired. They are the state’s largest employer of the blind and visually impaired, and continue to grow and support the local economy through their manufacturing efforts and hiring process.

The company produces a full line of recycled tissue and towel products created by their blind and visually impaired employees: Each machine in their factory is assisted by voice output software and other technology, making it possible for the blind to play their part in production. Their education and training problems make a difference in the lives of their employees, and help those without sight to achieve career goals in ways they never imagined possible.

The organization began in 2000 as a way to help the blind and visually impaired gain self-confidence and acquire skills to work in technology, despite their vision loss. A shocking statistic is that seventy percent of working-age blind adults are unemployed, even if they have college or graduate level degrees. And with approximately 67,000 blind and visually impaired people in Nebraska and Iowa, this is a staggering number of unemployed people that would be able to accomplish so much more if given the chance. Outlook Nebraska hires and trains these individuals to work in a dynamic field that is personally gratifying—talk about innovation!

Products sales and donations are what make this incredible manufacturer possible. To learn more about their factory, schedule a tour with ONI. You can also take a look at their employment opportunities if you or someone you know is blind or visually impaired, or simply wants to learn more about how to help Outlook Nebraska continue to produce and thrive.

Photo credit: Outlook Nebraska