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When Neogen bought GeneSeek in 2010, it seriously considered moving the operations of the small animal science company out of Lincoln and to one of the other cities in which it operates.

But then the state of Nebraska asked how it could help to keep the company here, said Jim Herbert, executive chairman of Lansing, Michigan-based Neogen.

So the company stayed.

"We like to say we chose Nebraska and we chose Lincoln by choice rather than by chance," Herbert said.

And he is glad he and the company made that choice.

GeneSeek has since grown from 32 employees in 2010 to 183 today, with 15 jobs still to fill, Herbert said.

It is already on the cusp of outgrowing its second Lincoln facility, a 30,000-square-foot building just north of 48th Street and Cornhusker Highway and will be expanding this fall into an adjacent 19,000-square-foot building it recently bought.

Herbert said the GeneSeek lab, which does DNA testing and gene sequencing for animals, plants and microbes, is the largest of its kind anywhere in the world, producing more than three million samples in the past year.

GeneSeek, he said, has been an "integral part" of wider growth at Neogen, which now has 1,600 employees and a $3.2 billion market cap.

Companies like GeneSeek also are integral to the economy of Nebraska and helped the state win Site Selection Magazine's Governor's Cup for the third year in a row. The award recognizes Nebraska for having the most economic development projects per capita.

Gov. Pete Ricketts said Nebraska had more projects last year than North Dakota, South Dakota and Kansas combined, and he joked that with just four more projects, he would have been able to add Minnesota to that list.

As part of a "victory tour" to celebrate the award, which was announced in March, Ricketts is visiting businesses around the state this week.

He started in Lincoln on Tuesday, first going to the offices of Allo Communications and Nelnet in the Telegraph District near 21st and L streets.

There he heard about how Nelnet has added 1,000 employees in the past two years and now has more than 3,400 employees in Nebraska.

CEO Jeff Noordhoek said the company also has spent nearly $450 million on capital projects in the state in the past decade.

Ricketts said the state is working to create an environment where businesses want to invest in state.

Expansion projects by Nelnet, Allo and GeneSeek were among the 118 in the state last year.

"All these types of investments are creating job opportunities across Nebraska, he said.

After spending the morning visiting Lincoln businesses, Ricketts spent Tuesday afternoon visiting three businesses in Omaha.

Later this week he plans visits to businesses in Bloomfield, Columbus, Norfolk, Minden and Sidney.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-2647 or molberding@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LincolnBizBuzz.

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Business editor/reporter

Matt Olberding is a Lincoln native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been covering business for the Journal Star since 2005.

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