March 14, 2017—For many young Nebraskans, getting a sound, university-based education is the gateway to a successful career. For one UNL graduate, an animal science degree, his desire to learn, and loyalty to his company offered opportunities that took him all over the world – and back to his home state.
Dan Neil’s 15-years at Nestle Purina have landed him at the Nestle Corporate Office in Switzerland, managing supply chains in China, and as a director in the company’s St. Louis headquarters. But the Lexington native says Nebraska remains at the top of his list for best places to grow his career and his family. After spending years working for the company outside the state, Neil moved to Lincoln in 2014 to become Logistics Manager at Nestle Purina’s factory in Crete.
“My wife and I both went to school at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. We liked experiencing life in other places, but we decided our family would be better off back in Lincoln. We missed it a lot since we left.”
Neil’s journey back to Nebraska started not long after graduating from UNL in 1996. After spending time buying commodities in Omaha and working on his family farm, he took his first job with Ralston Purina in Davenport, Iowa, as an assistant manager in a dry pet food factory. During this time, Nestle acquired Purina Pet Care, which subsequently led to a new opportunity in Clinton, Iowa, and six years in the Crete factory. From 2010 to 2014, he worked in Purina Pet Care’s corporate office in St. Louis. As his opportunities grew within the company, Neil realized he could have all he wanted right here at home.
Throughout the past two years in his new role as Logistics Manager, Neil and his wife have cut their daily commutes significantly, connected with reliable and affordable child daycare through UNL’s student newspaper, and helped form strong community connections for their two children.
“It’s just the people mostly; the family element of things, and the relationships I’ve created at work and with my family in Lincoln. We love being here. The cost of living is less, the commute and traffic are better, and the people are wonderful.”
Neil also spends time recruiting for his company in a place full of ambitious, hardworking Nebraskans. Several times a year, he speaks to UNL’s “Senior Seminar” Animal Science Class, which introduces students to real-world opportunities.
“A lot of them are just like I was at the end of my time at UNL; they don’t know yet exactly what they want to do,” Neil said. “I had this Animal Science Degree from UNL, but wondered, ‘What will I do if I decide not to apply for Vet School?’ I am there to help these students understand that there are so many opportunities in the pet care industry. At Nestle Purina, we need great people with organized skills and a four-year degree who are willing to learn. My degree is what got me in the door at that company.”
He also reiterates the important combination of the life skills and strong work ethic he learned growing up in Nebraska, not unlike many young people from across the state who have chosen UNL to further their educational opportunities.
“Growing up on a farm in central Nebraska, I learned how to work and how to problem solve. That’s probably a big part of being successful in this company, along with my education. A combination of the two have prepared me for what I’m doing now.”
Neil appreciates the relationships he’s built to stay connected at Nestle Purina. Crete’s facility serves as Purina Pet Care’s largest factory, which employs more than 500 people.
“I’m glad I’ve had those experiences working overseas and across the United States, but those places weren’t home. It’s great to be back in Nebraska, where great opportunities have merged with a great quality of life.”
The Nebraska Alumni Association supports student recruitment, scholarships and alumni engagement with the help of its 24,000 members. Nebraska’s Department of Economic Development (DED) is committed to working with leaders across the state and the Nebraska Department of Labor to retain and bring talented Nebraskans into the state’s workforce. For the latest information about high-wage, high-demand and high-skill jobs available in Nebraska, please visit http://h3.ne.gov/H3/.