A year after Bass Pro Shops sent shockwaves through 6,800-resident Sidney in remote western Nebraska by announcing a $5.5-billion buyout of Cabela’s, the small town on the plains of Cheyenne County may have just found its silver lining.
On September 4, global technology services provider Xpanxion announced that it will lease up to 65,000 sq. ft. in a former Cabela’s headquarters building in Sidney and bring up to 200 jobs to the community over the next two years.
Xpanxion, based in Alpharetta, Georgia, just north of Atlanta, is a UST Global Group company that will bring health-care and technology jobs to a Nebraska community that saw 2,000 high-paying headquarters jobs evaporate due to the Bass Pro-Cabela’s merger.
When the two outdoor superstore retailers became one last year, community leaders in Sidney and state leaders in Lincoln immediately turned their attention to finding jobs for displaced workers. Bass Pro lent a hand in those rebuilding efforts by pledging to make vacant Cabela’s buildings available to qualifying tenants for just $1 a year.
In Xpanxion, they found a willing taker. Along with the recent opening of a new Rural Delivery and Executive Briefing Center in Kearney, Nebraska, the opening of the new operation in Sidney “reinforces Xpanxion’s commitment to rural sourcing and rural communities by further expanding its current rural delivery and services ecosystem across Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Arkansas and Ohio,” the company said in a press release.
“We remain fully dedicated to our vision of being a trusted digital technology solutions and innovation partner to our clients and will work tirelessly to do so by leveraging the best and brightest talent,” said S. Ramprasad, president of Xpanxion. “This new center in Sidney embodies Xpanxion’s pledge to continuously invest in the rural community and will be a remarkable addition to our global footprint in the tech industry.”
‘Word of Mouth’ Influenced a Global Company
The company noted that it was attracted to Sidney by the available talent in the community, as well as the generous leasing offer extended by Bass Pro.
Melissa Norgard, economic development director for the City of Sidney, says the original project lead came from a business contact that UST Global had when evaluating opportunities for expansion in Nebraska. “They have offices in Kearney and Lincoln, and they were having trouble expanding in some areas due to lack of available workforce and talent,” Norgard says. “I spoke to an executive with the company in April of 2018. They came out to a job fair in Sidney later that month. They went back and had conversations with corporate leadership. We then had discussions with them throughout the summer to finalize terms of the deal.”
UST Global, based in Aliso Viejo in Orange County, California, came to Sidney because of “word of mouth,” says Norgard. “They will solicit talent from within a 60-mile radius. They understand the situation we are in. Many talented people have a college degree here, and they are looking for opportunities to stay here.”
Bass Pro Tries to Squash Spinoff Startups
Some of those talented people are former Cabela’s employees who have tried to make a go at entrepreneurship in Sidney. Two such homegrown business ventures, Highby Outdoors and NexGen Outfitters, worked out deals with the City of Sidney to establish startup operations in town, only to be sued by Bass Pro Shops. A September 22 article in the Omaha World-Herald reported that Bass Pro sued the two retail upstarts, alleging that they “misappropriated company information and violated agreements not to compete after they were let go by Cabela’s last spring.”
The founders of the two startups deny the allegations and claim instead that the lawsuit “reneges on (Cabela’s) professed ‘generosity’ to former employees by crushing their future livelihood, as well as the hopes of Sidney, Nebraska.”
In the meantime, another blow was dealt to Sidney when Quad/Graphics announced in mid-September that it would close its 72-person office in town as Bass Pro shifts all creative work to the company headquarters in Springfield, Missouri.
“It was unexpected,” says Norgard. “We had never gotten a feeling that they were not going to proceed here. We were somewhat surprised when we got a call from Quad telling us that they were closing their facility here within the next year. They will ramp down their labor force here and will start laying off workers in Sidney on November 16.”
The Xpanxion project, however, gives Sidney a much-needed shot in the arm, notes Norgard. “We have several other project leads that we are actively working on right now,” she adds. “Other companies are looking closely at Sidney. We reached out to a couple of Fortune 100 companies who are doing additional due diligence to come up with additional questions for us.”
Norgard says she expects to have “at least a couple of additional corporate investment announcements in Sidney by the end of this year.”
Despite the recent setbacks, Norgard says hopes are high. “A lot of hard-working people are here,” she says. “We are trying to help them however we can.”