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Columbus loses manufacturing leader
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Columbus loses manufacturing leader

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Phil Raimondo

Behlen Manufacturing Co. Chairman/CEO Phil Raimondo speaks during the company's 85-year celebration in Columbus in June. Raimondo died Sunday.

COLUMBUS -- A local leader in manufacturing, Phil Raimondo, chairman and CEO of Behlen Mfg. Co., died Sunday.

Raimondo was 59.

“Phil was a great guy, a good businessman,” state Sen. Mike Moser of Columbus said. “The Raimondo family have been great supporters of the Columbus community and believers in Nebraska and believers in manufacturing in the U.S.”

Behlen Mfg. Co. was founded in 1936 by Walter D. Behlen. Wickes Corp. took over the company and Phil Raimondo's father, TR Raimondo, was its general manager. 

TR Raimondo -- along with Dick Casey, Bob Theilen and Steve McGill -- bought the Columbus-based company in 1984 to return it to local ownership. They reportedly invested $30 million and lost $7 million in their first year. In June, Behlen was valued at $300 million.

Behlen Manufacturing

The employees at Behlen Mfg. Co. in Columbus take a company photo together. Behlen Chairman and CEO Phil Raimondo passed away over the weekend.

“They’ve been so important to the Columbus area because they rescued Behlen from the edge of extinction,” Moser said. “They’ve done such a great job in making it stronger than it’s ever been before.”

Last year the company celebrated 36 years of local ownership. Behlen also has locations in Omaha; Boise, Idaho; Baker City, Oregon; McGregor, Texas; and Sarasota, Florida, according to its website.

At a June celebration to mark its 85th anniversary, Phil Raimondo attributed Behlen’s success to its more than 1,200 employees.

At the June event, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts highlighted the company’s involvement in the community, specifically an apprenticeship program in which Columbus High School students can learn about manufacturing and enter the workforce right after high school.

Ricketts also noted Behlen’s role during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"When some of the local folks were being furloughed from their companies, Behlen stood up to offer them temporary employment to help them get through a rough patch," Ricketts said. "That's what Nebraskans do. They help out their neighbors."

Columbus Mayor Jim Bulkley said Raimondo’s loss will be felt throughout the community.

“Prayers go out to his family and to the Behlen corporation for the loss of a great leader and a great individual who has just been a tremendous asset to the Columbus community for many, many years,” Bulkley said. “He will be deeply missed.”

Hannah Schrodt is the news editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach her via email at hannah.schrodt@lee.net.

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