Jim Nielson

Jim Nielson
born April 2, 1931

Jim Nielson said his father, Glenn, gave him some good advice that has served him well.

"If you're going to pull a fast deal, you better make it a good one, because you'll have to live on it the rest of your life," Nielson recalls his father telling him. "He really believed strongly that you have to treat people fairly and honestly."

Nielson said he never got to know his father well until he worked for him at Husky Oil.

Glenn Nielson, a farmer and rancher from Cardston, Alberta, moved to Montana in search of work in the mid-1930s. He worked at a refinery in Cut Bank, and in 1938 bought the Park Refinery in Cody, building it into Husky Oil.

Jim Nielson spent three years in the Navy and worked for Husky, doing everything from roughneck work in Canada to learning marketing in Salt Lake City.

Nielson's family had a farm at the site of what is now the Olive Glenn Golf Course, named for his mother and father, and one of the family's many low-key philanthropic efforts that has benefited Cody, including Boy Scout and Girl Scout camps and Yellowstone Regional Airport.

Nielson recalls raising hay and peas on the golf course property, rushing each summer to harvest in time for peak prices from a Cowley vegetable cannery.

"Pitching green pea pods and vines is darn hard work," he said.

Ranching is becoming even tougher work in Wyoming, with competition from Argentina, Venezuela and even Florida, where the grazing season runs year-round, Nielson said.

"If you can break even around here ranching, you've done a whale of a job," he said, adding that he would follow holistic ranching practices if he were starting today.

"The world is changing so fast, you've got to be able to go with it. You've got to continue to learn," he said.

Nielson eventually became president of the publicly traded Husky Oil, serving until its sale in 1979. He now operates Nielson & Associates, a private oil and gas management firm where his son Jay also works.

"Cody is a good place to raise a family," he said, adding that "your children can't disappear in a crowd, and that makes them think twice about something before they do it."

Nielson advised young people in Cody to "take advantage of all the computers, TV and newspapers you can, and stay abreast of what's going on in the rest of the world," adding that a good communications infrastructure was critical for Cody.

"I also think you need to get out and see what is around this area," he said.

Building a winter economy is also key for Cody's future, Nielson said. He is working to revive the Sleeping Giant ski area as a community run facility.

"I believe strongly that it has the potential to be great winter economic development for Cody and the Bighorn Basin. The more I see of that project, the more excited I get about what I think we really can do," he said.

"I also think we need to have things for older people to do. You shouldn't stop learning, and older people are useful. We need to find things for them to do," he said.

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