Nebraskaland Aviation Selected as Large Business of the Year
19 Oct 2023
Just as Nebraskaland Aviation was putting the finishing touches on its multi-million dollar expansion in September, owner Tye Marquardt received a visit from PCDC representatives.
Tye figured it was a routine business meeting until he was handed a letter.
“I opened it, read the letter, and it just shocked me,” Tye said. “I guess we just didn’t ever see anything like this happening. It was very surprising and very humbling.”
The letter explained that Nebraskaland Aviation is being inducted into the Phelps County Development Corporation Business Hall of Fame as the 2022 Large Business of the Year.
“Honestly, it hit me in a soft spot,” Tye said about the honor. “When your community recognizes your business in such a way as this, it brings about strong feelings of appreciation and gratitude.”
The selection letter noted Nebraskaland’s recent facility investments in addition to its long-standing operations in Central Nebraska and Kansas.
“Your service to the ag community, Nebraska’s largest economic sector, helps build and sustain our regional economy,” the PCDC letter noted.
Nebraskaland Aviation, 1002 Brewster Road, is a family-owned business headquartered in Holdrege that provides aerial application services to farmers along with ground liquid custom applications, dry fertilizer custom applications and chemical and fertilizer sales to growers who do their own spraying.
“Whether it be controlling weeds, insects, disease or providing fertility, our job has always been to help farmers maximize yield in the most cost-effective way,” Tye said.
Nebraskaland serves a 22-county area in South-Central Nebraska and North-Central Kansas. Besides Holdrege, the business has locations in Holstein, Alma, Minden, Phillipsburg, KS (Kansas Crop Care) and Smith Center, KS (Kansas Ag Care). Nebraskaland also partners with three other family businesses, O & S Flying Service in Holdrege, Knox Ag Aviation in York and Anderson Aerial, LLC, in Russell, KS.
Nebraskaland is owned by Tye and Aimee Marquardt of Holdrege and their children. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Westerlin-Harrington Flying Service, which was started by Dennis Westerlin in the mid-1960s. It was later owned by Jim and Sue Lindstrom. Tye joined the operation in 2007 and learned everything he could from Jim and Sue. He purchased the remaining shares of Westerlin-Harrington Flying Service in 2012.
“We just finished our 17th season at Nebraskaland Aviation,” Tye said. “Our family continues to own 100 percent of the company today.”
A Family Culture
The culture at Nebraskaland is all about family. Tye and Aimee’s sons, Tony and Austin, work full-time at the Holdrege location. Their daughter, Alexis, and her husband, Travis, live in Juniata where Travis manages the Holstein location. Their youngest children, twins Derrek and Taya, are sophomores at Holdrege High School and help at the business in the summers.
“While we are super proud of our kids, the employees at Nebraskaland are like family to us as well,” Aimee said. “Some of them have worked here since high school and college years, coming on full-time after graduation. All the employees at Nebraskaland Aviation are extremely important to us, and each one of them contributes to the success of the business in their own unique way. We are grateful to work with such a wonderful bunch of people.”
Between all its locations, Nebraskaland employs 37 full-time employees, 9 pilots and 8-10 seasonal part-time employees, with most of those being in Holdrege. The business is currently seeking to hire another handful of full-time employees, including an inventory specialist, sprayer operators, truck drivers and operations support.
Nebraskaland has had very low employee turnover, which may be attributed to the family atmosphere of the business.
“Being in a family business, we enjoy the flexibility that gives us,” Aimee said. “We give that type of flexibility to our employees as well because they are like family to us.”
Nebraskaland just completed a major expansion of its facilities at Brewster Field. The project included demolishing its old hangars, which had about 4,500 square feet of space, and building a new 20,000-square-foot hangar.
“As our business has grown over the years, we simply outgrew the old hangars,” Tye said. “We needed to house additional aircraft, and we needed a weather-tight hangar with good lighting and heat to perform inspections and light maintenance on our aircraft.”
The new hangar has security cameras inside and out, smoke alarms and a security/alarm system.
“Security in ag aviation is always a top priority,” Tye said.
The new hangar also includes a unique upper-level observation deck. The deck’s inside lounge area features a kitchen, TV and seating area. The outside observation area spans 360 degrees giving an unobstructed view of airplanes taking off and landing and beautiful Nebraska sunsets and sunrises.
“When we built the hangar, we made the decision early on that we wanted something special for our customers,” Tye said. “The upper-level pilots’ lounge became a priority. Our customers and their kids can now come and enjoy watching the airplanes and a beautiful view without any obstructions.”
The project also included relocating Nebraskaland’s water and fuel supplies to improve safety and efficiency.
Tye said he attributes the company’s success to their supportive customers, outstanding employees and their suppliers both locally and beyond.
“Rapid Lube, Beckman Aircraft Maintenance, Central Nebraska Truck Repair, Landmark Implement, Bosselman Energy, Holdrege Equipment and so many others keep our operation rolling and allow us to remain a dependable supplier,” Tye said. “Without all of these things, Nebraskaland wouldn’t be here today.”
Looking to the future, Tye said Nebraskaland will continue to reinvest in the business to meet the demands of a competitive business environment. For 2024, Nebraskaland is adding three John Deere spray rigs. Another future investment may include a dry fertilizer facility.
“This would include some capabilities that are not found in any dry fertilizer facilities in the area,” Tye said. “Our customers have a lot of options when it comes to suppliers. Our goal is to make sure we are never outdone.”
The business will also focus on continuing to provide quality jobs for the community and maintain a quality family-friendly work environment.
“By doing this, we will continue to have very little employee turnover, which helps us to remain a dependable service provider.”
Nebraskaland will be honored at PCDC’s Business Hall of Fame banquet on Thursday, October 26, at the Holdrege Sun Theater & Event Venue. The event begins at 6:30 p.m. The keynote speaker will be Governor Jim Pillen. Advance tickets are available for $30 per person by calling PCDC at (308) 995-4148 or emailing Stacy@PhelpsCountyNE.com.