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Fed OKs sale of Cabela's bank, paving way for merger

The Federal Reserve on Wednesday signed off on the sale of Cabela's World's Foremost Bank, paving the way for the company to complete its merger with Bass Pro Shops.

The Fed released a 23-page order Wednesday afternoon that said it concluded the sale of the bank to Columbus, Georgia-based Synovus Financial "would not have a significantly adverse effect on competition or on the concentration of resources in any relevant banking market."

Synovus, which joined the deal in April after Capital One ran into regulatory issues, plans to take over $1.2 billion in assets from the bank, keep certificates of deposit and sell the credit card assets to Capital One.

The sale of the bank assets was the last hurdle to clear in Cabela's $4 billion sale to rival Bass Pro Shops. The deal received Cabela's shareholder approval and the approval of anti-trust regulators in July.

The deal is now expected to close before Oct. 3. Though Bass Pro Shops will continue to use the Cabela's name and keep its stores open, there are likely to be layoffs of Cabela's employees in Sidney, where the outdoors retailer has its headquarters.

The company employs around 2,000 people in the town of about 7,000, and though Bass Pro has said it plans to keep a "significant" presence there, it has acknowledged that there will be job cuts.

The outlook for Lincoln is brighter. Capital One has said it plans to keep the credit card operation based in Lincoln and appears likely to keep most if not all of the more than 500 people working there.

Emails sent to all four companies seeking comment were not returned.

Investors seemed to breathe a sigh of relief after the Fed's announcement. Though it came after the close of U.S. stock markets, Cabela's stock rose 14 percent in after-hours trading.

There had been speculation that if the Fed did not approve the bank sale by the Oct. 3 deadline for the merger to close, that Bass Pro would seek a lower price or walk away from the deal.

CompanyCam offering its app free to Nebraska contractors

CompanyCam has more than 9,000 users across the U.S. and in several other countries.

But the Lincoln startup wants to get the word out to more Nebraska companies and get more of them using its project management app that improves communication between contractors and their employees.

To that end, the two-year-old company is offering its product for free for a year for any Nebraska-based contractors.

"This is our home state, and we at least want to give everybody in our home state a chance to learn about it," said Chrissy Frerichs, CompanyCam's marketing project manager.

The free offer starts Sept. 18 and goes until Oct. 31. Any Nebraska-based company can sign up for the CompanyCam app for as many as five users, and it will be free to use until Oct. 31, 2018.

The service usually costs $12 a month per user, so that's potentially $60 a month in free services. The hope, of course, is that some of those users will find it so valuable they will start paying for it once the free trial period ends.

CompanyCam is dubbing the promotion "HomeField Advantage" and is using Husker football season to spread its message. The company plans tailgate parties at Eighth and P streets before the Rutgers game on Sept. 23 and before the Ohio State game on Oct. 14 to get the word out about the company and the promotion.

CompanyCam is the brainchild of Luke Hansen, who developed the app after struggling with coordinating job site communication while working at his family's business, White Castle Roofing.

The app allows companies to take "smart" photos on a job site that automatically connect themselves to the right job and instantly sync back to the home office.

It has been a success not only in attracting users, including large companies such as Pella and 84 Lumber, but also in attracting investors. CompanyCam won the pitch competition in June at the Inside/Outside Innovation Summit at Pinnacle Bank Arena, beating startups from Nebraska and three other states. The win came with a $100,000 investment from Nelnet.

CompanyCam has used the pitch competition investment to ramp up its staff and now has 15 employees, with six current openings to fill, Frerichs said.

26,000 and counting — UNL breaks enrollment record set last year

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln topped 26,000 students this fall for the first time in school history, notching record enrollment for the third straight year.

The university said Wednesday that 26,079 undergraduate and graduate students are enrolled this year, a 0.7 percent increase over last year’s enrollment figure of 25,897 taken on the sixth day of classes.

Chancellor Ronnie Green attributed the sustained growth — UNL has grown by 11 percent over the last decade — to superior programs, exceptional faculty and an ability to prepare students for successful careers.

“I have often said that our university is the DNA of the state and an increasingly essential gateway to a more successful, more prosperous Nebraska,” Green said. “When there is positive enrollment news for the university, it is also positive news for our state.”

The increase at UNL came despite several challenges that came up during the last year’s recruiting process, said Amber Williams, assistant vice chancellor for academic services and enrollment management.

A budget shortfall required NU to cut $30 million across the system, and NU’s Board of Regents in June approved two years of tuition increases — 5.4 percent and 3.2 percent, respectively.

Also, fallout from the 2016 presidential campaign seen as hostile toward immigrants and a proposed travel ban by the Trump administration against seven predominantly Muslim countries created uncertainty at U.S. universities that enroll foreign students — including UNL.

While the 3,356 international students enrolled at UNL this year is an increase over last year’s 3,232 international students, the number of first-time international enrollees dropped by 43 students.

“We weren’t immune to some of the national and global trends, but I do feel like we were able to minimize the impact as much as we could,” Williams said.

And, finally, a change to the filing process for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as FAFSA, allowed families to complete the application sooner, giving students more time to shop around.

“Students nowadays are applying to seven or more schools,” Williams said. “It wasn’t like that when I started in higher education 17 years ago, so we have to compete at a higher level than we have in the past.”

According to the enrollment figures released Wednesday, UNL seemingly succeeded.

Once again, UNL’s growth is driven by the largest freshman class in school history. This year’s 4,905 first-year students surpass last year’s class of 4,860.

Other highlights from the 2017 enrollment report:

* The number of Nebraska students attending UNL, both in undergraduate and graduate courses, is 17,597. Williams said UNL plans to “double down” on its efforts to recruit students from within the state going into next year.

* UNL is also boasting its most-diverse population in school history. Minorities make up more than 15 percent of the undergraduate population — a total of 3,173 students.

Across its four campuses and the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture, NU grew by 0.3 percent this year to 52,516 students — also a record — even as the total undergraduate student population dipped slightly.

NU President Hank Bounds said while he is pleased to be serving the most students in the university’s history, he hopes to find ways to accelerate growth in the future.

“You always have to be happy when it’s the largest enrollment in your history, but I would be more comfortable if we were growing at a 2 percent or 2.5 percent clip,” he said. “We will look at every strategy and see where our opportunities are to grow.”

The University of Nebraska Medical Center set an enrollment record for the 17th year in a row, topping 3,908 students despite a 1.8 percent drop in its undergraduate enrollment from last year.

The University of Nebraska at Omaha also grew this year, to 15,731 students, driven by its largest-ever freshman class. The newest Mavericks are the most-diverse in school history: one-third are minorities, while 44 percent are the first in their families to go to college.

Enrollment dropped by 2.1 percent at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, and by 7.3 percent at the ag college in Curtis.

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Garth Brooks to play Lincoln next month

Garth Brooks is returning to Lincoln for the first time in two decades.

The country music superstar will play Pinnacle Bank Arena on Oct. 21, 20 years and a month after his last Lincoln show.

“We’re extremely honored to see Garth return to Lincoln 20 years after his last performance here,” said Lincoln arena manager Tom Lorenz. “It’s going to be multiple days of high excitement to have Garth in town.”

In his last Lincoln appearances, Brooks played five shows, from Sept. 24 to Sept. 28, 1997, at the Devaney Sports Center.

The number of concerts in October has yet to be determined.

On his “World Tour” that began in 2014, Brooks has been holding multiple-day residencies in every city. After the initially announced show sells out, more are added. Brooks has done at least three concerts in each of the cities.

In Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Brooks will be playing nine shows — the most in any city — over two weekends in September. Only the Sept. 16 show was included in the initial on-sale announcement.

Brooks has five shows planned in Indianapolis next month.

“We don’t know how many shows they’ll do,” Lorenz said. “If they get enough demand, they put another show on sale.”

In Omaha in 2015, Brooks played six shows in four days at CenturyLink Center, with two concerts a night on two of the nights, one at 7 p.m. and one at 10:30 p.m. In Sioux Falls, three of the weekend days have two shows, one at 3 p.m. and one at 7:30 p.m. Either of those schedules could work in Lincoln if enough shows are added to require two per day.

As is Brooks’ policy, all tickets for all shows will be $74.98 (including taxes and fees).

Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Sept. 15. Tickets will be available only at and by phone at 800-745-3000.

Brooks first performed in Lincoln in November 1990, headlining a Pershing Auditorium show as his breakthrough album “No Fences” flew up the country and pop charts. But his Lincoln connection goes back to 1984.

That was when Brooks was a javelin thrower for Oklahoma State, with dreams of Olympic glory, and came to Lincoln for the Big Eight Conference track meet.

“The only time I didn’t make the finals in javelin was my senior year,” Brooks told the Lincoln Journal in 1990. “I think that was the big transfer into music for me, and I was seeing what I wanted to do, and I had dedicated a lot of time into my singing. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway. The level of javelin throwing was up real big in my senior year.”

Brooks played the Devaney Center for the first time in 1993 before returning there for the five shows in 1997.

Lincoln grain prices Tuesday

Range of cash grain prices paid to farmers by country elevators in the Lincoln area as of 4 p.m. Tuesday:

Wheat No. 2: 3.61

Corn No. 2: 3.52

Milo: 3.24

Soybeans: 9.84