By Gino Blefari
This week, my travels took me to Omaha, NE, a city smack in the middle of the U.S.A. and home to an organization we all know well, Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Before this year, I had only been to—or better yet, been through—Omaha twice before, years ago as a child on a family road trip from California to my home state of Massachusetts. I remember even then, as we drove along Interstate 80, Omaha was a study in contrast, a small, urban skyline surrounded by the quintessential Midwestern scape of flat, open land.
Now I’m a seasoned Omaha visitor, with three trips to the city in the past year, most recently to attend the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting and then, just this week, to visit Vince Leisey and his team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Ambassador Real Estate. Each time I return I’m struck by the distinctiveness of the city and I get the recurring feeling that this place is unlike any other; it’s easy to understand why Berkshire Hathaway would be stationed here.
You can see the uniqueness of Omaha come to life in the thoughtful, neat—even progressive—architecture of the city and the all-American landmarks that it contains; from the clean lines of the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge that stretches from Nebraska to Iowa, to the bright red, white and blue of the massive Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium, home to the upcoming NCAA Division I College World Series. Even the state’s slogan seems to understand … Nebraska, the good life. And indeed it is.
Entire books have been written about what makes Berkshire Hathaway such a perpetual success story in all sectors of business, what makes it different from any other company in the world. It’s an expansive organization—just named No. 5 on Forbes’ Global 2000 list of the world’s biggest companies and No. 1 largest company in the U.S.—and it’s based in Omaha, the 60th-largest metropolitan area in the United States.
Why? Well, here’s my message and my answer: Berkshire Hathaway, much like Omaha, is a fascinating contradiction, one of the most sizeable organizations on Earth and yet, the most enduring. But that’s why Omaha—a city in the exact middle of the U.S.—is the perfect place to serve as the heartbeat of Berkshire Hathaway, because it’s only right that such an extraordinary company call such an extraordinary place home.