Monday, June 02, 2008

Not Only the Cabela's

A town like Sidney doesn’t just happen because of one family, even if that family is the Cabela family. As we drove around town on my tour, Gary Person pointed out entrepreneur after entrepreneur who has made major contributions to the town.

Some of those other businesses were a hitch-ball manufacturer, specialty wire and cable manufacturer, a heavy equipment parts supplier for Caterpillar, a shortline and warehousing operator, feed yard, apron maker, bird seed processor, trucking company and rail car repair facility.

We stopped by Convert-A-Ball Distributing Company to visit with Bob Van Vleet who started the company in Sidney. He told me, “I started out with absolutely nothing and after 50 years I’ve still got most of it left.”

Bob holds 18 different patents, the major ones of which revolve around his idea of developing, manufacturing and selling trailer hitch systems which allow you to easily and safely switch from one sized trailer hitch ball to another without the use of any tools. Today, he has just under 50 employees in the six different businesses that he runs.

One of those businesses grew out of his frustration with finding flags that would stand up to the strong winds of western NE after he led volunteer efforts to construct a Memorial to War Veterans in Sidney. His company makes flags out of football jersey material.

American ingenuity! American entrepreneurs! I love ‘em!

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