By T.J. Accola
Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey gave UNO students a glimpse last Wednesday night of the plethora of issues he faces as head of the “best place to grow a small business and raise a family.”
And students, most of them a part of UNO’s MBA program, responded with their own multitude of issues, including questions on legalized gambling, the future of Omaha’s downtown and the state of higher education in the area.
Fahey addressed a crowded house Wednesday evening in the Roskens Hall auditorium as part of UNO’s Master of Business Administration Program’s Leadership Series. The series, sponsored by the Ron and Shirley Burns Leadership Fund, is designed to bring business and community leaders together with students to provide a forum for discussing issues related to business leadership.
Few fit that bill better than Fahey, a former businessman who won his bid for mayor of Omaha last May.
His election to mayor caps a 30-year career in Omaha business and is, as he explained, in many ways a business venture in and of itself.
Fahey discussed with students how business plays a factor in nearly every decision he must make as mayor, from proposed lake drainage to the revitalization of downtown Omaha.
When not explaining to the audience the intricacies of balancing public need with lower spending, Fahey was expressing his approval of UNO, and Omaha’s collegiate institutions in general.
“I think UNO is a wonderful institution,” said Fahey, a 1973 graduate of Creighton University. “I think we’re very fortunate to have [UNO, Creighton and Metropolitan Community College].”
Fahey expressed hope for graduates, touting the revitalization of downtown Omaha as key to the growth of white-collar jobs in the area. Fahey said he has high expectations for the project, which he thinks will draw a number of marquee companies Omaha.
Fahey said the growth will also spark a new wave of business owners and entrepreneurs, who will be able to fill the void left by established businesses as they move into new buildings such as the First National Center.