HARTINGTON — Jim Neu, a ma who employed hundreds of area residents, while at the same time helping to put Hartington on the national map, has died at the age of 83.
Neu died Nov. 24 at his Yankton S.D., home surrounded by family.
Neu grew up working in his father’s Hartington creamery business. He earned degrees in food processing and business administration from the University of Nebraska in 1962. He then moved to Madison Wis., for a year to learn more about the cheese making process.
He moved back to Hartington in 1963 and started the Neu Cheese Company here, operating it for 23 years until selling it to Mid-America Dairymen in December 1986.
When Neu opened the cheese plant in the back of the creamery building in May 1963, it was only the fifth cheese plant in the state. At the time, cheese plants were also housed in O’Neill, Orchard, Ord and Oxford.
Neu’s original cheese plant was built to be able to process 18,000 gallons of milk an hour. At first he produced only natural Cheddar cheese at the local facility.
It didn’t take long to outgrow that facility, though. In April 1966, Neu opened a new, 11,000 square foot facility along Highway 84 on the southwestern edge of Hartington.
At the height of Neu Cheese Company’s success, the local dairy produced 16 million pounds of cheese in 1985 and had sales of $26 million.
In 1979, Hartington made national news when Neu handed out $40,000 in $2 bills as Christmas bonuses. Those $2 bills showed up in the cash registers of local merchants for several months, showing just how big of an impact the local industry had on northeast Nebraska.
Reports of the unique Christmas bonuses aired on the naionally syndicated Paul Harvey news report.
During his business career, Neu was honored with several awards, including the Outstanding Community Service Award by the Hartington Chamber of Commerce in 1974, and the Nebraska Small Business Person of the Year award in 1978.
Neu also served on the Hartington City Council from 1970-1982 and was a trustee at Mount Marty College. A complete obiturary can be found inside.
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