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Energy news from Omaha Public Power District


Innovator, life-long learner works to make a difference

July 16, 2018 | Jason Kuiper | innovation, OPPD at work, OPPD employees
Matt Hardebeck_headshot

Maybe it’s because his mother was a school counselor, but teaching and learning have always played a big role in Matt Hardebeck’s life.

Hardebeck, OPPD’s Innovation manager, has been with the utility for 13 years. While getting his engineering degree at the University of Nebraska Omaha, he saw a posting for a co-op position at OPPD.

“While most of my classmates were going to work for large construction or engineering firms, I always heard from friends it would be a dream to ‘get on’ at OPPD, so I figured I’d give it a try,” said Hardebeck. “Immediately, I connected with the critical product that we provide daily and became so passionate about serving the community. Through multiple career shifts, I’m now tied into providing OPPD with new growth opportunities.”

making the case

Hardebeck was one of several employees who came up with the idea for an innovation team.

The group convinced and gained the support of OPPD President and CEO Tim Burke and the senior management team to create something unique for a public utility. The Innovation Team is now going into its third year.

Matt Hardebeck_Careerockit
Hardebeck speaks to high school students participating in the Careerockit program.

“It’s amazing to be a part of this group and look back at what we have created,” he said.

thinking through concepts

Hardebeck’s days consist of ideation, concept development and communication.

One day he may review augmented reality concepts with substation relay techs in the morning, then interview customers about a smart home device in the afternoon.

His work on the Innovation Team has been the most rewarding project he’s worked on at OPPD, he said.

OPPD has some of the most talented employees, Hardebeck said, and there is an opportunity to help the utility adapt to a changing industry.

“I’m so glad to be a part of that transformation,” he said. “I get to dream and see the world so differently from others. It can be externally challenging, but so exciting. I get to look at how to deliver the future by turning ideas into solutions that address a changing utility landscape.

“The work that the Innovation Lab will do will shift the direction of OPPD forever, and how cool is that?”

Matt Hardebeck_YP Summit 2017
Hardebeck spoke about the creation of OPPD’s Innovation program at the 2017 Omaha Chamber’s Young Professionals Summit.

Hardebeck’s work hasn’t gone unnoticed by his peers. In 2017, the utility’s Young Professionals Group named him Young Professional of the Year.

Outside of work, Hardebeck loves spending time outdoors hunting, fishing and snowboarding. A former college soccer player, he also coaches his three young children in sports.

in the community

As a member of Leadership Sarpy, he worked on the Legacy of Literacy program. The program works to increase literacy and he has worked with Bellevue Public Schools in that effort. Hardebeck also serves as a mentor with Partnership 4 Kids (P4K) and has worked with both groups to start a Book Buddy pilot program in one Bellevue elementary school next year.

“With the Book Buddy program, mentors will go to kindergarten and pre-kindergarten classrooms to read a book and hand out copies for each student to take home,” he said. “The number of books in a child’s home and reading have a large impact in personal and social success. I feel really good about the long-lasting impacts this program will have on students.”

Hardebeck’s drive to improve OPPD processes will continue to have big impacts at OPPD and his community.

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About Jason Kuiper

Jason Kuiper joined OPPD as a communications specialist in 2015. He is a former staff writer and reporter at the Omaha World-Herald, where he covered a wide range of topics but spent the majority of his career covering crime. He is a graduate of the University of Nebraska at Omaha and has also appeared in several true crime documentary shows. In his free time he enjoys cooking, spending time with his wife and three children, and reading crime novels.

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