Content provided by Kostya Etus, CFA, Portfolio Manager
I recently watched a fairly new documentary titled, “Becoming Warren Buffett” on HBO. It was a good production, but there was one thing that kept eating away at me. Every few scenes, the film showed corn fields as far as the eye could see. That doesn’t really help the stereotype that everyone in Nebraska is a farmer and that we ride horses and tractors to work.
There are many small, rural towns in Nebraska (another great movie, titled “Nebraska,” which is directed by Omaha native Alexander Payne, beautifully depicts life in a small Nebraska town). But, Omaha is not one of them. Omaha has close to half a million people in the city limits and almost a million in the metro area, making it one of the largest metro populations in the Midwest and ranked in the top 100 in the country.
One factor that sets Omaha apart is the city is very spread out, so the population density is quite low. This is the reason Omaha is sometimes referred to as the “biggest small city.” It also allows Omaha to have many coveted per-capita stats:
- One of the highest number of millionaires and billionaires per capita. Billionaires include Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts, Walter Scott of construction giant Peter Kiewit, and, of course, the second richest man in the world, Berkshire Hathaway founder and CEO Warren Buffett.
- One of the highest number of Fortune 500 and 1000 companies per capita. Fortune 500 names include: Berkshire Hathaway, Union Pacific, Peter Kiewit, and Mutual of Omaha (ConAgra Foods recently moved its headquarters to Chicago), and the Fortune 1000 list includes: Valmont Industries, TD Ameritrade, West Corporation, and Werner Enterprises.
- Last, but not least, one of the highest number of restaurants and bars per capita.
Omaha has also ranked among the top in many polls, including most affordable and most business-friendly city, best place to live and work, and best place to raise a family. And let’s not forget one of the main attractions, the Henry Doorly Zoo, which is considered, and often ranked, the best zoo in the world. That’s right, the world! So if you’re still wondering why anyone would visit Omaha, let me enlighten you:
- Omaha is home to one of the most enjoyable college sports events, the College World Series (CWS). The population of Omaha seems to double come mid-June as the CWS gets underway. Baseball fans from all over the country come to enjoy the tournament in a new stadium built right next to downtown Omaha. Thousands of people flock to the area to enjoy all-day tailgating and experience the local area in the week-long event.
- In early May, value investors from around the world make a pilgrimage to the see the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffett, and hear his words of wisdom. Berkshire Hathaway’s annual shareholder meeting is held at a convention center in downtown Omaha, but the festivities spread throughout the city. Local businesses owned by Berkshire, including Nebraska Furniture Mart and Borsheims Fine Jewelry, offer great discounts for shareholders. All that is required to attend is ownership of one share. (Since the 50/1 stock split in 2010 for B shares, it has become a lot easier to gain entry).
- If you have seen the movie “Yes Man” with Jim Carrey then you know coming to a Husker football game is a must. The whole state seems to converge on Lincoln (about an hour’s drive from Omaha) on game day, and Memorial Stadium becomes the third-largest city in the state (cell phones have been known to stop working due to the population overload). With a lack of professional teams in the area, the love, pride, and loyalty for the Huskers are unmatched. Yes, Husker fans are notoriously gracious and the entire state bleeds Husker red. Game day is an experience like no other. Miles of tailgating all around the stadium leads up to one of the most intense moments as you enter the stadium, experience the iconic tunnel walk, and surround yourself in a sea of red.
So the next time you think of Omaha as just cornfields, do the city a favor and think again.