When Identity Marketing Group’s Mark McCormack refers to his home state of Nebraska as “flyover country,” it’s with something of a nod and a wink, so to speak.
What McCormack knows is that if you look down on his part of flyover country, you’re going to see an area of resilience and newfound vitality. Cheekily referred to as “Silicon Prairie,” this region centered roughly on the Omaha-Kansas City-Des Moines triangle has become a boomtown of sorts for tech startups seeking a more affordable alternative to Silicon Valley. “You see a lot of tech customers here,” McCormack confirms, citing the dramatically lower costs of living that allow ambitious startups to invest in their ideas and hire on the cheap, relative to California.
Those customers, steeped as they are in the latest developments in technology, aren’t going to be satisfied with tired old ideas about promotion. That compels Nebraskan distributors like Production Creek Specialty Advertising (asi/299743), which is based in Lincoln, to think about how they market themselves in an equally innovative way. “We are in a very creative industry,” says Jessica Johnson, promotional consultant for the distributor. “If we can’t get it right for ourselves, I don’t think people will take us seriously when we do it for them.”
Though industry growth in Nebraska is a modest 1.6%, it’s still tied with Minnesota as the second highest in the region behind South Dakota’s 2.8%. And both Johnson and McCormack describe growth that is consistent – reliable and steady (just like the region itself), but without the huge spikes that might define success elsewhere. “Our 2016 was up about 10 points year over year,” says McCormack. “Not huge – I know there was a lot of growth in the market, but Nebraska is usually a little more conservative, so our growth stays pretty even keel.”
Johnson, too, feels at home with the measured pace of being a distributor in the Midwest. “We’ve consistently had growth ever since about 2010,” she says. “We haven’t had huge jumps, but we’ve had anywhere from 3% to 8% growth each year and we’re on track to do the same this year.” Such dependable earnings have allowed Production Creek to buy new facilities in the state capital of Lincoln, itself a hotbed of tech startups, and home to another magnet for talent, the University of Nebraska.
Nebraska also benefits from the reassuring presence of its many entrenched industries, chiefly among them insurance and finance, in addition to the advantageous location of both Lincoln and Omaha, centrally nestled within the Midwest and its busy cities. “You’d never want to leave,” says McCormack of his native Omaha. “I travel to go see clients in Detroit, Dallas, Florida and I always say: ‘Yeah, I still like home.’”
Chuck Zak is a contributing writer for Advantages