Jim began his business career at a very early age. When he was seven years old, he worked with his “older” brother Bob, aged 11, to complete the company’s first million flag order at Blackburn Manufacturing. The company was started by his father, Everard “Bud” Blackburn in 1953. Jim graduated from Neligh High School in 1964 and continued his education at Hastings College, receiving his degree in Business in 1969. After completing his education and military service (seven years as a Navy helicopter pilot), Jim returned to Blackburn Manufacturing as a full time employee in 1973. He became president in 1980 when the founder and his father, E. A. Blackburn retired.
As president, Jim drove yearly double-digit revenue increases. On March 3, 1988, the first of many milestones was reached: the company sold its one billionth flag. To accommodate growing demand, Jim expanded the company’s capacity to directly service west coast business by opening a new California plant in 1989. In 1990, another building was added in Neligh, NE which increased the plant’s capacity by 30%. Jim purchased the Neligh Plastics Extrusion Company from Tim Steffl in 1999. In 2005, Jim took the role of CEO and continues to benefit the company occupying that role today.
In recognition of his many accomplishments, Jim was named Nebraska Businessman of the Year in 1992 by United States Small Business Administration and was awarded the Nebraska Distinguished Entrepreneur Award in 2003 by Nebraska Center for Entrepreneurship.