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Author Archives: Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber

5 on Friday: Fuel for Thought

by Steve Dust, CEO, Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber

One: Cedar Valley on INC 5000 List

This year, we celebrate the listing of BraceAbility from Cedar Falls coming in at number 753 on the strength of a 600 percent growth in this five-year old company. BraceAbility is operated by CEO Shaun Linderbaum, who came from another perennial INC 5000 honoree ClickStop, and COO Therese Stevens, who you may know as a partner in TargetClick Marketing, which became a part of another honoree, Mudd Advertising. My bet is that most have not heard of this fast growing Cedar Valley e-commerce firm that sells orthopedic braces. Take a look at www.braceability.com.

ClickStop, operated by owner/CEO Tim Guenther, made the list for the eighth time. Congrats to you, Tim, for making the list again. ClickStop was founded in 2005 and is south of the Cedar Valley metro area in Urbana just off Interstate 380. Tim has created a very cool workplace and also has several connections of interest in the Cedar Valley. As mentioned above, Shaun Linderbaum was CTO at ClickStop before joining the new BraceAbility. Also, Therese Stevens was an intern there.

Another move that will add to Tim’s chances of being on and perhaps higher in the 2018 INC 5000 is the recent acquisition of Clean Laundry Licensing started by Cedar Valley serial entrepreneur marketing guru Phil Akin. Phil joined ClickStop as CMO and his son, Ethan, is leading the growth of the laundry licensing unit. Take a look throughout www.ClickStop.com to get a glimpse of this successful firm 12 years after start up.

Takeaways: Tim knows talent. E-commerce has a bigger, growing impact on the Cedar Valley economy than you’d recognize. There’s a cluster of that knowledge base in our economic area which is adding to the economic base through that spillover impact that I keep talking about.

Inc. 5000 2017: The Full List: Our annual ranking of the fastest-growing private companies in America, Inc.

Two: Hurricane Harvey’s Impact

There’s so much to say about Hurricane Harvey and its impact on the City of Houston and potential impact on the nation’s economy that I wrote an entire blog post on the topic, with multiple links to informative stories.

The Projected Economic Impact of Harvey, Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber, September 1, 2017

Three: Case and Kreske Foundations Project in Economic Inclusion

Thanks to iGus Marketing founder Denita Gadsen for directing me to this article. It describes exactly what the Alliance & Chamber says as a part of our economic inclusion work: any business and economy that embraces its diversity through inclusive action will be stronger. While much of our work has been focused on being more inclusive in our workforce, this concept also applies to scaling overall business growth.

That’s the focus of these articles. Read the Governing article first, then the HuffPo coverage.

Can We Build Inclusive, Innovative Local Economies? Governing, August 15, 2017

Four cities learn how to create inclusive communities, Huff Post, August 18, 2017

Four: Impact of Robots on Workforce Needs for Site Selection

Randy Thompson is senior director of a commercial real estate services group that does site selection for clients. He has some interesting and reasonable views about the role of automation and robots in the shift of distribution to fulfillment and customized manufacturing. Thompson ponders how the site selection process differ if business is driven by direct to consumer fulfillment rather than bulk from wholesale to retail stores. He wonders if manufacturing can reduce the reliance on large supply of humans. It’s all about location and brainpower.

How Technology Will Overcome Demographics, Area Development Online, Q2 2017

Five: Apple, Again. Anatomy of a good deal for Waukee

This excellent analysis of the Apple deal in Waukee, from an incentives perspective, is penned by a fellow some of you have met – John Stineman, Executive Director of the Iowa Chamber Alliance (ICA). The Alliance & Chamber is part of ICA, which focuses on public policy to advance economic development in Iowa.

In this column, John does a good job breaking down the deal and its rationalization. He did this to counter the whiners who don’t understand what a win — even a heavily incentivized data center project — can be for a city government that can supply the energy, broadband, and other significant requirements.

On the other hand, as I mentioned last week, we were in the competition until site requirement jumped from 500 to over 1,000 acres. What these people are going to do with 2,000 acres is yet to be determined: it’s not likely to be covered in more data center space, but stranger things have happened.

Apple deal gets an ‘A’ for return on investment, The Des Moines Register, August 31, 2017

The Projected Economic Impact of Harvey

by Steve Dust, CEO, Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber

So, what happens to the U.S. economy when the fourth largest city in the nation — a major refining center — is shut down? There’s no way to tell yet, but here are some articles that help frame the estimates on how the United States may be impacted by this devastating natural event.

Harvey to Cause Several Months of Unsettled National Economic Data

Applications for unemployment insurance go up, and soaring fuel costs are two of the expected immediate economic impacts of Harvey.

These Are the Data Points That Will Show Harvey’s Economic Impact, Bloomberg, August 31, 2017

Business Conditions in Houston

Here’s an on-the-ground report of business conditions.

Harvey stalls Houston commerce, could cost $50 billion in damage and economic activity, Chron.com, August 29, 2017

Rebuilding Houston

This column by Chris Tomlinson lays the blame for much of the devastation on developers taking advantage of growing populations. Tomlinson also notes that Houston homeowners are dramatically underinsured – only 15 percent who live in a floodplain have flood insurance.

The columnist encourages the City of Houston to alter the form of reconstruction. At a time when people are seeing their belongings mired in mud and seeking a place to protect their families is not a time to debate economics. However, Houston has to come to grips with the balance between people rebuilding affordable, flood-protected homes and businesses and reactionary building requirements that push the investment critical to rebuilding.

Response to Harvey will determine economic impact, Houston Chronicle, August 29, 2017

How to Help

This piece lists some of the U.S. businesses that have stepped up to help with people, materials, and money. If you are affiliated with any of these companies, please consider adding to any funds that they have established to aid the recovery.

Companies are pitching in to help Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, CNBC.com, August 30, 2017

Did you know that your Cedar Valley colleague Joe Vich, in retirement, has become a go-to guy for the American Red Cross disaster recovery group? He volunteers weeks of his time to feed and shelter people who have been made homeless and resource-less due to disaster and also helps individuals in the Cedar Valley when personal disaster strikes. Pam Dowie is another selfless souls who pack a light bag and travel anyplace to help bring human support and essentials to those surviving and recovering. There are many other neighbors doing the same thing; I just happen to know Joe and Pam.

The people of Houston need your help. Here is a list of reputable places to help the recovery.

How You Can Help Victims of Harvey, The Weather Channel, August 29, 2017

5 on Friday: Fuel for Thought

One: Yes, the Cedar Valley Was Considered for Apple’s New Data Center

So, I was walking through the office early Thursday afternoon, and Director of Communications Dorothy de Souza Guedes asks, “What’s your big item to accomplish the rest of the day?” “Getting over the depression of hearing the Governor and Tim Cook announce the Apple data center in [deleted] Des Moines,” was my immediate response.

The Cedar Valley was a strong competitor when this was a 300- to 500-acre project. When Apple discovered it could have a 2,000-acre site with similar features, the competition was, practically speaking, over.

The Apple project has spurred Vice President of Economic Development Lisa Skubal and our Economic Development team to work with our regional partners to discover and work to control two mega-sized sites — one with rail and one without. Why two? The data center mega site has much different requirements than, say, a Toyota plant.

These mega sites are not anomalies. Requests are returning to the market after a fairly long absence of demand with a few exceptions – mostly auto assembly plants throughout the United States and Mexico.

The link is to the article discussing the project and the embedded video reviews the incentive package offered.

Apple’s billion-dollar data center ‘puts Iowa on world stage’

Two: VGM Group Took My Blues Away

At the end of the day Thursday, August 24, my blues were chased away by an Alliance & Chamber’s ribbon cutting.

An open house and ribbon cutting celebrated the newest expansion of the VGM Group’s campus at Ansborough and US 20.  Wow! Thank you, Jim Walsh, Mike Mallaro, and team for delivering such a stunning new office building to the Cedar Valley market.

Designed to give new amenities to the growing VGM team that now numbers 760 in the Cedar Valley, the building is a $20 million investment that brought the complex to over 190,000 square feet.

Celebrating the opening of this amazing office with a ribbon cutting ceremony, I laughed through Jim Walsh’s “welcome and thank you” remarks. Talking with the VGM team and their VIP guests — many Alliance & Chamber investors — reminded me how grateful we should be for the loyal, growing, investing, employers we have in the Cedar Valley. Thank you, again, VGM.

VGM shows off latest addition at Waterloo complex

Three: Editorial on Job Skills to Fill the Gap

If you are an employer, you know the employability and job-specific skills gap is real.  If you’re not a hiring manager or owner, believe us, the issue is real.

It’s troubling when research expresses that vocational training is too specific and stymies older workers from progressing in or to a new career ladder. There are times when we must say “get over it.”

We cannot afford to have a valuable contributor leave the workforce just because they prefer not to be retrained. The incentives that permit that preference need to lead back into lifelong learning and retraining. That’s particularly painful for boomers who love what they’ve done for 30 years. We as a society can’t let these valuable workers slip out of the workforce: the incentive must be to keep learning and keep working through the reasonable career span.

And I almost refuse to give credence to the idea presented in the article below about young men with less than a bachelor’s degree working fewer hours each year because of video games. I know the data is real, but good grief.

This is an editorial of The Courier, which is absolutely on point with the issues of job skills to fill the gap. Thank you, Roy, Nancy, and The Courier team for a very good piece on a critical issue.

Learning job skills is no game

Four: Critical Few Behaviors and Organizational Culture

We’re all looking for ways to make our workplace a place where people are productive for the firm and our clients. There are a lot of people writing and saying stuff about culture. Strategy+Business is a good business journal and accompanying blog with solid content on a broad range of topics.

This short article helps employers and leaders identify keystone behaviors that will contribute to achieving our strategic and operational objectives. It is worth the time to read to get a start prioritizing culture-building activities in terms of implementation and impact.

Getting to the Critical Few Behaviors That Can Drive Cultural Change

Five: The Robot Apocalypse

Investment Advisor Kevin Wilson makes the case I have advanced since 1981: automation is an improvement in our careers and businesses, not a revolutionary challenge to our intellect. Yes, of course, we can conjure a Jetson’s and HAL-lific artificial intelligence tragedy. But let’s back up to where we are in advancing technology, how we’re using it, and how it can leverage our scarce American human capital. Instead, think about how we quickly ramp up from here. That’s what this lengthy, chart-rich SeekingAlpha.com article does.

Much Ado about Nothing: The Robot Apocalypse Is Actually an Economic Renaissance In Disguise

What are you reading that would help me do my job for you? Email me at SDust@CedarValleyAlliance.com.

Waterloo’s Crystal Distribution Approved for IEDA Award

CEDAR VALLEY OF IOWA (August 18, 2017) — The Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) today approved a tax credit award for Crystal Distribution Services, Inc. The company qualified for sales tax rebate on construction materials for a $5.5 million expansion project of its Waterloo facility.

IEDA application assistance was provided through the Alliance & Chamber’s business retention and expansion (BRE) services which focus on keeping and growing businesses in the Greater Cedar Valley. These services are provided to any business in the region, including investors in the Alliance & Chamber.

The Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber economic development team of Lisa Skubal, Vice President of Economic Development, and Cassie Evers, Business Services Coordinator, collaborated with the City of Waterloo and IEDA to assist Crystal Distribution owner Tom Poe with the application process. Their goal was to ensure that the company’s project qualified and was approved this month by IEDA to allow time for construction to begin this year.

On Monday, Waterloo City Council unanimously approved development incentives for Crystal Distribution’s expansion and agreed to serve as a sponsor for the IEDA application.

Today, the IEDA board today awarded this project tax benefits under its High Quality Jobs (HQJ) program which provides qualifying businesses assistance to offset some of the costs incurred to locate, expand, or modernize an Iowa facility. In addition to the capital investment, Crystal Distribution’s project will create one additional job at a qualifying wage of $17.29 per hour.

According to the company’s website, Crystal Distribution provides temperature-controlled warehouse and repackaging services to food processing companies around the world. The company began operation in the Cedar Valley more than 100 years ago by cutting ice from the local river and distributing it around the country. Crystal Distribution is a current investor in the Alliance & Chamber.

Read August 28, 2017, IEDA news release here: Economic Development Board approves awards to support over $48 million in capital investment in Iowa

Read August 15, 2017, The Courier article here: Incentives for Crystal approved



Five on Friday: Fuel for Thought

By Steve Dust, CEO, Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber

You’re changing the way you want to engage with your peers and neighbors, and we must shift with you. During the last week or so, I’ve focused on looking into the changing nature of the work the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber does for you. We have to reflect the conditions in your market and be cognizant of the influences on your business or institution and your customers. Your input on how we execute on these shifts is imperative.

One and Two good documents that summarize current thinking in our industry at the national level.

One: What’s Influencing the Future of Chambers

Horizon Initiative: Chambers 2025 — Eight Influences Shaping the Next Decade for Chambers of Commerce

This links to a summary document from the Spring 2015 issue of Chamber Executive magazine. For more detail, follow the included link to a website with more detail. Eight influences:

  • Belonging and Gathering
  • Communications and Technology
  • Scarcity and Abundance
  • Global Impacts
  • Population Shift
  • Political and Social Fragmentation
  • Resource Alignment
  • Catalytic Leadership

Two: What’s Influencing the Future of Economic Development

Looking Around the Corner: The Future of Economic Development

From the International Economic Development Council, this report examines the emergence of trends and how these can potentially change the economic development industry. Four themes:

  • Demographics
  • Climate change
  • Shifting global roles
  • Technology expansion

Three: Retaining Students is Imperative

Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay

The link above goes to a recent Vox article on a similar topic, regarding why people leave, stay in or return to hometowns of all sizes and the impact of leaving — or not– on the individual, not the town.

I included the article to encourage your consideration relative the strategies to first, retain students as they move through and emerge from Phase 1 higher education or training, and second, encourage former resident young professionals to return. We should recognize, strategically, that the influences and trends discussed in the article will have an impact on our results – and should impact thinking on both timing and description of benefits and opportunities for those coming back to the Cedar Valley.

Four: Millennials Want CEOs to Speak Publically on Social Issues

Millennials Really Want CEOs to Mount their Soap Boxes

The millennials want CEOs to speak up publicly, whether those business leaders like it or not.

There’s a lot to consider in what’s going on and being brought to our attention in the media right now. Here’s a recent article from Chief Executive on the expectations of one market and staff demographic segment for business leaders and owners to speak publicly on issues traditionally not addressed in business communications.

Five: Deere Third-Quarter Earnings

Deere Announces Third-Quarter Earnings of $642 Million

This is a link to the August 18 news release announcing Deere & Company’s third quarter results. Because the information is important to what’s happening in the Cedar Valley, I study these documents and various sources of third-party analysis to get a feel for the sales trends and expectations in the Agriculture and Turf part of the Equipment division.

Open, Economically Vital International Markets Are Essential

By Steve Dust, CEO, Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber

The importance of maintaining an adequate federal budget for International Affairs was the emphasis of an August 1 meeting between U.S. Rep. Rod Blum and representatives of the Iowa Advisory Board to the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition (USGLC).

quote from Steve Dust, CEO, Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & ChamberAppropriately, the meeting was held in Blum’s Cedar Falls office around a conference table featuring a revolving globe.

The Trump Administration’s budget proposed dramatic cuts to the account, while House and Senate FY18 proposals are closer to FY17 enacted levels. The International Affairs activities of the federal government are under the direction of the State Department and Executive Office.

Others in the meeting addressed the national security missions, accountability and transparency reforms underway in the U.S. State Department and USAID, and effectiveness of addressing humanitarian crises with International Affairs programs.

My comments were focused on the important role of the Development and Aid budgets to opening foreign markets for Cedar Valley of Iowa and U.S. exports and the importance of increasing private investment to secure diplomatic relationships.

The Alliance & Chamber pays attention to the customers of our existing businesses and what it takes to expand those markets. Foreign aid in development and economic empowerment creates new buyers for machinery and equipment of all kinds produced here and builds capacity to buy and consume commodities and value added agricultural products.

The concentration of manufacturing, food processing, and commodity production in the Cedar Valley is more evenly balanced than the rest of the state. About 97 percent of the world’s potential consumers are outside the United States. That means open, economically vital markets are essential to business growth here.

Demands for Cedar Valley services go well beyond machinery and food. A few years ago, a Chinese sister city group visiting Cedar Falls had specific interests. They wanted to obtain harvesting equipment, technology for food processing, and assistance to recruit an enormous number of English teachers. Ostensibly the goal was to advance their economic development in the South Central region of the nation. We had or could make effective, quick connections on all fronts that benefited us.

Well-placed and accountable development aid and trade assistance help establish and ensure the political stability in nations to be reliable trading partners and protect investments of Cedar Valley firms. U.S. aid also helps people around the globe to become consumers of our commodities and food products.

Open markets are good for us: effective aid programs encourage rule of law and enable a safe environment for investment in the developing world – often the location of some of the fastest growing economies today.

The International Affairs operations rely heavily on private agencies to most effectively deliver the services on the ground in these nations, and aid and diplomacy are so much better — and less expensive in all ways — than relying on a military presence.

Five on Friday: Fuel for Thought

By Steve Dust, CEO, Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber

I’m on vacation the next few days, but that means there will be more time to pick up a book or report or dig into a blog that looks interesting. What follows are some of the item’s I’ll read.

One: Talent Gap –Small Businesses Perspective

There is a lot published about how the talent and skills gap is viewed and acted on by larger businesses. This a July 25, 2017 article from CNBC features how some smaller businesses are working to find productive people.

Incentives rise as war for workers continues to plague Main Street

Two: Talent Gap – Large Business Perspective

And here’s a July 19 article from Chief Executive Magazine with the larger firm’s perspective.

Closing the Skills Gap Involves Matching the Right Person to the Right Job

Three: Put Publically-controlled Assets in an Urban Wealth Fund?

An urban wealth fund? Business relies on various governmental entities for the infrastructure and amenities of our place where we do business and live. We also are burdened by their regulations, taxes and fees, and decisions associated with that infrastructure and amenities. Imagine if the government entity could be put in the same position (sort of) as their private commercial/industrial property owners, to their taxpayers’ benefit as well as service.

This short post on Dr. Tyler Cowan’s Marginal Revolution blog is thought-provoking. It plants a seed — with more links to the deeper thinking — about what it would look like if a place put all government real assets in single, privately managed portfolio. A primary outcome would be a different management goal — efficiency for the taxpayer, not the government entity — while maintaining the essential public purposes.

How about an “urban wealth fund”?

Four and Five: Books

I have a couple of books to finish and start the next few days. The first is “Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything,” loaned to me by Dave DeVault a couple months ago, so I’d better get it done.

In typical Covey fashion — this is co-written by Stephen M. R. Covey and Rebecca Merrill with a forward from Covey’s father Stephen Covey — this book teaches as it provides practical useable tools for business and personal use. The waves they feature include self-trust, relationship trust, and three important stakeholder trusts. I’m up to the stakeholder chapters. Of course, every Covey book is a how-to in some form. However, this book is also a deep dive on a characteristic that can be methodically improved internally without a rote following a list of laws, etc. I’ve found this book to be very good for this type of writing, and very valuable for team leader, manager, committee chair or exec leader. This book is available at Barnes & Noble locally.

Next on my book reading list is “Making Vision Stick” by Andy Stanley. I haven’t started it yet – I’ll let you know. I’m reading it on the iBook app.

Economic Developers Workshop Links Iowa Partners, Resources

By Cassie Evers, Business Services Coordinator

There are many pieces to the puzzle when it comes to economic development. This complexity is what makes it exciting—but it can also be a bit ambiguous and tough to put together at times.

Each year, the Professional Developers of Iowa (PDI) hosts a workshop for economic developers either new to the profession or new to Iowa. Throughout the workshop, participants gain an understanding of how those pieces—statewide organizations, small business development centers, utility companies, chambers, local economic development organizations, colleges, universities, and government councils—work together.

Given I walked the stage at the University of Northern Iowa a couple of months ago, I attended the workshop as someone new to the economic development profession. The workshop provided a chance for me to meet other economic developers and partners of the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber, and understand available resources.

To start off, I put faces to names, including the partners who led the workshop:

  • Sandy Ehrig, Economic Development Administrator at Iowa Farm Bureau Federation
  • Mark Reinig, Economic Development Program Manager at Iowa State University, CIRAS
  • Kim Didier, Economic and Workforce Development Leader at DMAAC
  • James Hoelscher, Program Manager of Institute of Decision Making
  • Beth Balzer, Manager of Business Development at the Iowa Economic Development Authority

What a great opportunity to gain insight from people who have poured years into making our state as strong as it is for business. Seeing each of these partners’ passion when talking about their work got me even more excited about starting off in the field.

After this conversation, I feel better equipped pick up the phone and know who to call about an initiative or question.

Five on Friday: Fuel for Thought

This is the inaugural “5 on Friday” reading list, a new regular feature of our blog.

By Steve Dust, CEO, Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber

As I was reviewing the communications you receive from the Alliance & Chamber with Dorothy de Souza Guedes, our new Director of Communications, she suggested I give a recap each week of the stuff coming across my line of sight that I found worth the read. “5 on Friday” will provide a link or citation to five items I’m reading in my role with the Alliance & Chamber.

I’m a voracious reader — and it’s all non-fiction, most on the subjects of business and the economy. Sometimes I slip over to government policy and historical accounts of big events in business or government and how these impact us. The other thing I read about is the history and application of my Christian faith, but those topics generally won’t show up on this list unless the article or blogpost is directly overlaid onto the economy.

For each of the five, I’ll give a sentence or so of context and will only include links I have used myself and that you will have access to the material without too much hassle, e.g., registering for a newsletter.

And “5 on Friday” is a two-way street: please send me recommendations on books, reports, articles, blogs, videos, or anything you’re reading or watching that impacts business and the economy.

So, here’s Five On Friday, July 28, 2017.

ONE: Foxconn Promises Mammoth Wisconsin Plant

In these weekly blog posts, I won’t often comment on the successes of other cities, regions, or states, but this story out of Wisconsin is timely, extraordinary, and in the Midwest. Foxconn just announced this week that it will build a mammoth $10 billion plant employing as many as 13,000 cheeseheads to produce LCD panels. Wisconsin has promised up to $3 billion – that’s a three followed by nine zeros — in incentives. Watch this blog for a post we’ll write to put the Foxconn story in the perspective of the economic developer.

Meanwhile, you can read this article in the Capital Times, Madison, Wisconsin, covering Foxconn’s initial announcement.

TWO: Ernie Goss’ Mid-American Economy

Ernie Goss, a professor at Creighton University’s Heider College of Business, specializes in the Midwestern economy. He is an astute and business-knowledgeable — read “capitalism friendly” — economist. You’ve probably heard Ernie in the Cedar Valley during one of the Economic Update events sponsored by The Courier and Community Bank & Trust or perhaps your industry trade group meetings.

This month, it’s a real mixed bag: the June Mid-American Economy report shows high levels of optimism although the Rural Main Street Index describes the largest one-month drop since November 2008. Once you follow the link, roam around the Economic Outlook website to find areas that apply to Ernie’s Main Street Index and state-by-state observations. You can subscribe to his Economic Trends newsletters, too.

THREE: CNBC’s Top States for Business Ranking

There are a lot of rankings that gauge our nation, state, and metro in some category or another. All get noticed when released, but few survive over the years — or have a foundation of credible criteria. The annual CNBC state rankings are credible and are worth the time to review. Just don’t ask me to chant “We’re number 15!” That just doesn’t have the ring of “We’re number 1!” — especially when Indiana and Nebraska rank higher on the list. This will take you directly to the study summary page; for detail, click on the “Top States 2017” tab above the headline.

FOUR: US Needs a Functioning EXIM Bank

If your business exports, you may have been a customer of the EXIM Bank directly or via a consultant. Officially Export-Import Bank of the United States, EXIM has been in flux for some time because the U.S. Senator who chaired the committee charged with confirming appointments to the bank’s board wouldn’t consider any nominees. Why? The Senator cited the Bank as “corporate welfare” and crony capitalism. Things have changed and there’s an opportunity to get EXIM back into operation.

The bank is more important to smaller manufacturers than to the two or three big corporations who use it and get all the attention. Bottom line, EXIM is an important source of export and market growth assistance that makes a healthy profit margin for the Federal Government. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce makes the case well in this article from its Above the Fold newsletter.

FIVE: HBR on Neurodiversity as a Hiring Advantage

If you’re willing to go deep on the topic of workforce solutions, as we have in implementing our strategies to Win the Talent War, you will enjoy this Harvard Business Review article on the competitive advantage of neurodiversity. To explain, the article quotes a Psychology Today blog post: “Neurodiversity is the idea that neurological differences like autism and ADHD are the result of normal, natural variation in the human genome.”

The examples given are those larger firms that can wrap resources around an initiative to delivers business results. The struggle we have consistently with our inclusion initiatives is how to make such business- and human-smart hiring practices practical for the smaller business. It’s worth your time when the economy faces a growth constraint in talent.

What a Day!

By Steve Dust, President/CEO Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber

You have probably seen that commercial for an insurance company where, after a great day for a young woman receiving a new car and an equally dismal day for a man whose car tires have been stolen, both exclaim, “What a day!”

That’s how I felt on Tuesday, July 11 as spent four hours traveling to and from Des Moines to attend a three-hour meeting.

Usually, I wouldn’t attend a meeting outside the Cedar Valley on the day of an Alliance & Chamber board meeting, never mind our annual meeting. But I broke that rule for the Future Ready Iowa Alliance board meeting because it meets so infrequently, its planning work is nearing the end, and important implementation actions soon follow.

“What a day!” I repeated to myself the entire trip. Initially, I focused on missing hours of prep time for the Alliance & Chamber annual meeting. Then the people I encountered completely turned my day around.

  • Ben Allen, former University of Northern Iowa president and current interim Iowa State University president, was the first person I encountered. It was good to see an old friend and champion of the Cedar Valley. That was worth the trip, I thought.
  • Mike Ralston, President of Iowa Association of Business and Industry, and I walked in together. We always have a lot to compare notes on, but he emphasized that a recent ABI social media post attracted the largest number of views, interactions, and reposts his organization had experienced. The post featured the U.S. Chamber of Commerce presenting U.S. Rep Rod Blum with its Spirit of Enterprise Award; the Alliance & Chamber co-hosted the event at the TDS Automation/Doerfer plant in Waverly.
  • Hawkeye Community College President Linda Allen is one of eight on the board from various Cedar Valley sectors. As we were getting yet another cup of coffee, she talked to me about another potential partnership between Hawkeye and a local major employer, implemented at TechWorks Campus. She is pumped about the opportunity. (Now, all we need is money).
  • As the program began, Georgia Van Gundy, CEO of Iowa Business Council, gave a shout out to the Cedar Valley’s aggressive programming to retain, recruit, and prepare talent to fuel economic growth. Unexpected and appreciated. (IBC’s members are Iowa’s largest 20+/- employers, the three regent universities, and bankers’ association.)
  • While walking back to my table from the coffee urn, President Liang Chee Wee of Northeast Iowa Community College got up from his table to greet me with his characteristic smile. He told me, “I’m a fan of all you’re doing in the Cedar Valley!” That’s all of you: I just happened to be in the spot to catch the compliment.
  • It was good to see Iowa Economic Development Authority Director Debi Durham simply because of health challenges she has been managing – with her typical “I’m not getting beat” approach, of course. But then she highly complimented the work of the Alliance & Chamber Economic Development team working on a particular project. I thanked her for taking extraordinary steps to ensure the opportunity to win.
  • Governor Kim Reynolds’ Deputy Chief of Staff Tim Albrecht is a recent graduate of ABI’s Leadership Iowa, the same class for which Leader Valley‘s Melissa Reade was a co-director. Tim thanked me for the time given Melissa to fulfill that role. She said, “Without Melissa there, it would not have been the amazing experience we had.” That is quite a compliment.
  • During the meeting, I sat with UNI Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Jim Wohlpart. He has a goal to ensure the Future Ready Iowa initiatives to increase the percentage of Iowan’s with post-high school educational/career prep credentials are effectively implemented in the Cedar Valley economic area. Jim frequently moved our small-group discussion toward the need for local strategies to implement the statewide framework. His enthusiasm is contagious. I’m glad to have such a motivated leader making a difference for the workforce and employers of the Cedar Valley.

By the end of the meeting, I was saying, “What a day!” but for an entirely different reason than during my morning drive.

I had been reminded that the Cedar Valley generally, and our Alliance & Chamber especially, have many talented people effectively and proactively implementing meaningful projects to make our region even greater – and that effort recognized statewide.

Be part of something greater - The Cedar Valley of Iowa

The Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber is a regional economic community development corporation working to increase economic vitality and wealth in the Waterloo / Cedar Falls area and surrounding economic region. The Alliance & Chamber has approximately 800 members that represents over 40,000 employees