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Tag Archives: Advanced Manufacturing

5 on Friday: Fuel for Thought

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

image Fuel for thought graphic What's Steve Dust Reading this Week? October 20, 2017

John Deere Waterloo TV ad

John Deere has begun showing a terrific 30-second ad on TV in the Cedar Valley area. You have to watch it. Send it along to your colleagues and friends.

Building the best large tractors :30 TV spot

And here’s a nearly eight-minute version

Building the best large tractors

When Should The Firm Adopt Additive Manufacturing

The University of Northern Iowa’s amazing Additive Manufacturing Center and Design Lab in our TechWorks Tech 1 building continues to expand in size, industrial production scale equipment, and Iowa clients served. We know that additive manufacturing in the industrial setting will be an important growth sector for the Cedar Valley, in terms of our firms’ investment in the technology, as well as the opportunity to recruit the makers of the equipment. I am trying to learn more about how the firm makes that investment decision, as well as be better informed about the technology. Here’s a good article with a process and opinion on how the evaluation should be structured.

Courtesy of Supply Chain Management Review.

Is Your Supply Chain Ready for Additive Manufacturing? André Kieviet and Suraj M. Alexander, Supply Chain Management Review, October 16, 2017

Zappos Hsieh on Business Organization

Zappos’ top guy has been famous for risks and successes in e-commerce and flaming failures. Still, he has more than1,500 employees in one of the attention-grabbing e-commerce firms. And he’s a damned good organizational thinker. Here’s an interview he did with the McKinsey firm to make sense out of his “holocracy” approach to organizational management. It is a good, and thought-provoking read.

Safe enough to try: An interview with Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, McKinsey Quarterly, October 2017

China Strategy

This week, China commenced a session of its National Congress of the Communist Party. This Congress is held every five years. George Friedman, one of the best, objective observers of global geo-political/economic issues, republished a report with his analysis of the “grand strategy” employed by China. This nation that has seen extraordinary economic activity and growth, according to Friedman, may be operating in a different strategic framework than we might think.

In China, a Strategy Born of Weakness, Geopolitical Futures, October 18, 2017

Surviving the Merger

We haven’t merged again, but many of your firms are acquiring new operations or creating strategic partnerships of various kinds. No matter how small, these moves require thoughtful communications to all involved to ease anxieties about the post-agreement workplace. This is a good Harvard Business Review article on the topic that would be a good tool for individuals engaged in your growth program.

Surviving M&A: How to thrive amid the turmoil, Harvard Business Review, by Mitchell Lee Marks, Philip Mirvis, and Ron Ashkenas, March-April 2017

Steve Dust receives ABI’s Advocacy in Action Award

The Alliance & Chamber congratulates Steve Dust on being honored with the 2016 Advocacy in Action Award by the Iowa Association of Business and Industry.

The Iowa Association of Business and Industry is pleased to present its 2016 Advocacy in Action award to Steve Dust for his work to advance ABI’s public policy agenda. The award was presented during the Advanced Manufacturing Conference on Oct. 4.

Dust is the president and CEO of the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber. Dust has been a chief advocate and architect of the new Cedar Valley TechWorks campus, a 30-acre advanced manufacturing, research and development, innovation, education, commercial and manufacturing center in downtown Waterloo.

The Advocacy in Action award was created in 2014 to recognize ABI members’ commitment to ABI advocacy efforts.

Dust serves on the ABI Board of Directors and has been a vocal advocate for Iowa business issues. He frequently meets with area legislators and members of Iowa’s congressional delegation about issues important to companies in the Cedar Valley. In addition to his leadership at the Alliance, he takes part in ABI’s public policy committee process, hosts ABI members at his facility, attends ABI’s biennial Washington D.C. fly-in and many other ABI public policy events. He is a platinum level contributor to ABI’s Iowa Industry PAC.

“Steve Dust is the epitome of an advocate,” ABI President Mike Ralston said. “He tirelessly represents the greater Cedar Valley, his investors and all Iowa businesses to make Iowa a better place to live and work. We are grateful for Steve’s leadership and appreciate his collaboration with ABI.”

Dust ABI award 2016

Hawkeye to Host Advanced Manufacturing Information Session on December 5

CEDAR FALLS–Hawkeye Community College will host an information session on short-term training in CNC Machining, Industrial Maintenance, and Welding on Monday, December 5, at 11:30 a.m., at the Cedar Falls Center, 5330 Nordic Drive, Cedar Falls. The session will include information about upcoming training opportunities, a tour of training areas, and the opportunity to visit with instructors.

The next CNC Machining training runs February 2-June 8, 2017, and meets Mondays and Thursdays from 5:00-10:00 p.m. CNC operators work in a variety of manufacturing environments and are trained to program, set up, and operate a CNC machine, inspect parts, perform production runs, and set up jobs. CNC machine operators are in high demand in the Cedar Valley. In four months, individuals completing the non-credit certificate may earn $28,000-$37,000 per year, not including overtime.

The next Production Welding training runs February 6-April 11, 2017, and meets Monday-Thursday, 5:00-9:00 p.m. The next Construction Welding training runs January 17-February 20, 2017, and meets Monday-Thursday, 8:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. Welding continues to be the principle means of fabricating and repairing metal products. Iowa Workforce Development forecasts more than 270 job openings each year for welders through 2022. Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers are some of the top occupations in Iowa with the most job openings. Starting wages average $28,500-$36,000 per year and many in this field work overtime.

Industrial Maintenance runs January 18-August 2, 2017, with classes held Monday-Friday from 7:00 a.m.-1:30 p.m. The Industrial Maintenance program prepares students for high demand entry-level employment. Industrial maintenance workers maintain, monitor, troubleshoot, and repair equipment used in the production of goods. Individuals completing the non-credit certificate may earn $31,500-$43,000 per year, not including overtime.

For more information, call 319-296-4290 or visit www.hawkeyecollege.edu/go/advanced-manufacturing.

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TechWorks Campus Announces the Launch of the Green@TechWorks


$40M hotel and training center construction set to begin with Tech2 building sale to developer.

(Cedar Valley of Iowa) – The TechWorks Campus, announces the sale of the Tech2 building to Financial District Properties (FDP) and the start of construction of the highly anticipated Green@TechWorks mixed-use project.

Tech2, an 88 year old former John Deere tractor manufacturing building, is the starting point of the Green@TechWorks re-development project. The 180,000 square foot, six-story building will house a 191-room Courtyard by Marriott hotel; third-party restaurant; John Deere Regional Training Center and conference center. The Green is a principal feature of the overall $74M TechWorks Campus river-front re-development.

“It is gratifying to see The Green @ TechWorks become reality. The project will provide our Campus tenants with tremendous amenities just steps from their operations,” said Steve Dust, CEO of the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber and President of the TechWorks Campus. “Combined with the industrial 3D printing and design center, labs and shop in Tech 1, and the fantastic new John Deere Tractor and Engine Museum, the opportunities for the TechWorks building sites and the marina become clear. These new operations compliment the downtown Waterloo revitalization and anchors new Cedar Valley developments along the river from Waverly through Cedar Falls to Waterloo. This is a very exciting time in the Cedar Valley.”

Since The Green@TechWorks project was announced in 2012, FDP along with TechWorks has moved forward with steady determination, pursuing federal, state, and local re-development financing, and brokering agreements between the developer, the City of Waterloo, and others.

FDP Managing Principal Rodney Blackwell has significant experience with downtown real estate redevelopment and is recognized for successfully assembling complex financing structures for downtown projects. Earlier FDP projects include the Mississippi Plaza Center in downtown Davenport, IA, and the North American headquarters for KONE Corp. in Moline, IL. FDP is currently developing Machinery Row, a mixed use re-development area in downtown Racine, Wisconsin. FDP also owns the river-front building occupied primarily by the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier at 100 East Fourth.

“Despite the inevitable bumps in the road and some unexpected big challenges; creativity, commitment, and a lot of patience tied all the pieces of the financing puzzle together,” says Blackwell. “We are eager to start construction and look forward to delivering a venue that will compliment the Campus and delight the community.”

Helping to finance the project is $12 million from the Waterloo Reinvestment District.

A portion of the TechWorks Campus has also become the first designated Iowa Reinvestment District (IRD). The District, established by The City of Waterloo will provide up to $12M in new state hotel/motel and sales tax revenues generated within the district for capital projects. $8M will be used to pay off bonds financing The Green@TechWorks. $3M will go to the development of the Tech1 building, with $1M boosting a proposed marina development.

The projected economic impact of the District is significant. Up to 562 new permanent jobs will be created to accommodate the anticipated 275,000 annual visitors to the Campus. Visitors are expected to generate $2.9M in annual food, retail and other sales generated on Campus or in the vicinity.

Construction set to begin on The Green@TechWorks.

Interior pre-construction will begin in March with mobilization expected in mid-April. The target opening date for the project is May 2017. The Davenport office of contractor Ryan Companies US, Inc. has been named to complete the project. Ryan Companies’ Greg Lundgren, Midwest President is senior Project Executive Officer.

An estimated 130 people will be employed during the one year construction period. FDP is committed to use local trades and subcontractors to the greatest extent possible. Only when faced with a skill, schedule, or major price constraint outside trades would be sought, according to developer Blackwell.

Amenities for the business class traveler.

Business travelers to the Campus will enjoy the amenities of the 191-room Courtyard hotel, the newest Marriott property in the market. The hotel will be operated by Hospitality Specialists Inc. of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Hospitality Specialists Inc. has been operating hotels for over 30 years with properties in Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Florida.

The John Deere Regional Training Center will be constructed on the 2nd floor to address a range of skills upgrades for John Deere employees across its operations.

Consolidated Restaurant Operations, Inc. (CRO) of Dallas will expand its footprint to Iowa for the first time with a property in the Tech 2 building. CRO operates more than 91 full-service and 24 franchise restaurants in 17 states and globally. CRO manages brands ranging from the traditional steak house to Tex-Mex. The Green’s restaurant will be a new concept for CRO, consistent with Campus clienteles’ requirements.

$74.1 million TechWorks Campus mixed-use development offers unique opportunities.

The TechWorks Campus site and buildings, donated by John Deere to TechWorks in 2006 is located at the gateway to Downtown Waterloo at Highway 218 and West Commercial Street. The 30 acre TechWorks Campus is currently home to University of Northern Iowa Metal Casting Additive Manufacturing Center and Design Lab, Hawkeye Community College Design Lab, the Iowa Advanced Manufacturing Network Hub, John Deere Tractor and Engine Museum, and Cedar Valley Makerspace. TechWorks Campus is just steps to the Cedar Valley Recreation Trails, entertainment & museum districts, and a variety of Riverloop District amenities.

Four sites are available on the campus for light industrial, research and development, and retail. 100,000 sf remains in the six-floor Tech 1 building for build-to-suit space ideal for light manufacturing and R&D tenants. Six laboratories are also available. Plans for a marina and a riverfront restaurant along the Cedar River are part of the overall $74.1 million Campus development plan.

“Identifying and attracting the right tenant and development is the next priority for TechWorks,” says Cary Darrah, Vice President and General Manager of TechWorks Campus. “My job now is to work with the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber development team to help companies understand the tremendous value of locating on the TechWorks Campus. With access to University research and training, a wealth of resources, opportunities to make the right connections and create synergies, the amenities of The Green right outside their door, the Campus location shouldn’t be hard to sell.”

TechWorks Campus is a private non-profit corporation and subsidiary of the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber. More information can be found at www.techworkscampus.com or by contacting Steve Dust, President of TechWorks Campus by email sdust@cedarvalleyalliance.com, Cary Darrah, Vice President and General Manager at cdarrah@cedarvalleyalliance.com, or Wes James Facilities Manager at wjames@cedarvalleyalliance.com, or by calling (319)232-1156.

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TechWorks Bird’s Eye – Looking West (12.2.14) 24×36

Hawkeye Community College to Host Advanced Manufacturing Information Session

Hawkeye Community College will host an information session on advanced manufacturing on Wednesday, August 26, at 5:00 p.m., at the Cedar Falls Center, 5330 Nordic Drive, Cedar Falls. The session will include information about short-term training opportunities in CNC machining, industrial maintenance, and welding; a tour of the training areas; and the opportunity to visit with instructors.

The next Industrial Maintenance training runs October 20, 2015-June 23, 2016 and meets Monday-Thursday, 4:00-10:00 p.m. Industrial maintenance workers maintain, monitor, troubleshoot, and repair equipment used in the production of goods. This program prepares students for entry-level employment, where individuals may earn $27,000-$35,000 per year. Industrial maintenance personnel frequently work overtime. Starting wages do not include overtime compensation.

The next CNC Machining training runs September 21, 2015-February 8, 2016, and meets Mondays and Thursdays from 5:00-10:00 p.m. CNC operators work in a variety of manufacturing environments and are trained to program, set up, and operate a CNC machine, inspect parts, perform production runs, and set up jobs. CNC machine operators are in high demand in the Cedar Valley. In four months individuals completing the non-credit certificate may earn $27,500-$34,000 per year, not including overtime.

The next Production Welding training runs October 26-December 9, 2015, and meets Monday-Thursday, 8:00 a.m.-2:30 p.m.. Welding continues to be the principle means of fabricating and repairing metal products. Iowa Workforce Development forecasts more than 270 job openings each year for welders through 2022. Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers are some of the top occupations in Iowa with the most job openings. Starting wages average $26,500-$35,000 per year and many in this field work overtime.

For more information, call 319-296-4290 or visit www.hawkeyecollege.edu/go/advanced-manufacturing.

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Alliance & Chamber CEO Dust to Speak at Dislocated Worker Transition Center Opening

WATERLOO–A new center to assist displaced John Deere workers will open Tuesday, August 18, with a grand opening ceremony at 10:00 a.m. on the Hawkeye Community College Main Campus.

WHAT: Dislocated Worker Transition Center Grand Opening

WHEN: Tuesday, August 18, 2015, 10:00 a.m.

WHERE: Advanced Technology and Business Center, Buchanan Hall

Hawkeye Community College, 1501 East Orange Rd, Waterloo

Iowa Workforce Development received a National Dislocated Worker Grant for $3,058,322 from the U.S. Department of Labor to help displaced workers with job training and employment. More than 1,300 John Deere workers from Waterloo and Ankeny have been laid off since fall 2014, including more than 1,000 from Waterloo. The $3,058,322 grant will assist up to 650 workers with career services. The Dislocated Worker Transition Center will house staff representing IowaWORKS Cedar Valley, Iowa Workforce Development, and UAW Local 838, who can assist dislocated workers with career coaching and pursuing job retraining.

Speakers at the grand opening will include Dr. Linda Allen, president of Hawkeye Community College; Beth Townsend, director of Iowa Workforce Development, Mike Oberhauser, vice president of UAW Local 838, Steve Dust, president and CEO of the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber; and other representatives

Alliance & Chamber Launches New Website to Showcase TechWorks Campus

The Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber is pleased to announce the launch of a new website, techworkscampus.com. This new resource was developed to provide greater visibility and information about the TechWorks Campus, its properties, projects and partners. It is also a source for latest news and developments taking place on the Campus.

The site is a tool for businesses looking for a location where the latest tools, concepts and applications in manufacturing are being used and developed.

Visitors will also find information about the Iowa Advanced Manufacturing Network Hub (IAMNH) at TechWorks Campus, University of Northern Iowa Metal Casting Additive Manufacturing (3D printing) program, a virtual reality design center, Cedar Valley Maker’s club, and other emerging projects, and new tenants.

Construction progress for The Green @ TechWorks including the hotel, conference space, John Deere Training Center, and restaurant will be provided on the site as will updates for the proposed marina.

The website launch highlights a new logo for the TechWorks Campus, developed to reflect the advanced manufacturing focus of the Campus and its place in manufacturing history.

“The logo is based on a carbide, a highly specialized, precision tool used in manufacturing,” says TechWorks Facilities Manager Wes James who credits TechWorks Board Chair Tim Hurley with the concept. “Because each carbide has a unique geometry based on its application, it serves as a distinctive symbol of our mission to drive innovation and excellence in advanced manufacturing.”

Iowa Advanced Manufacturing Network Hub at TechWorks of First Projects to Receive Iowa’s New Strategic Infrastructure Funding – $2.7 Million for additional 3D Printers UNI Metal Casting Center

(Cedar Valley of Iowa) The Iowa Advanced Manufacturing Network Hub (IAMNH), at the TechWorks Campus in Waterloo, is one of the first projects in the state to be awarded funds through Iowa’s new Strategic Infrastructure Fund (SIF). The funding was approved by the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) Board at their June meeting. The project, Iowa Advanced Manufacturing Network Hub – Phase I, Additive Manufacturing Center, will receive $2.7 million to fund additional 3D printers for the UNI Metal Casting Center, building improvements, and a design center to be operated by Hawkeye Community College.

“With this financial support from the IEDA and Iowa Innovation Council, UNI is excited and anxious to move forward with creating a full-service additive manufacturing center to meet the innovation and technology needs of Iowa companies,” says Randy Pilkington, Executive Director of UNI’s Business and Community Services. “Thanks to support from IEDA, UNI is building on the momentum of the past 18 months of 3D printing success to create a full-service additive manufacturing center for Iowa manufacturers. Expansion into plastics, metals and ceramics will create one of the best equipped 3D printing facilities in North America.”

The Iowa Advanced Manufacturing Network Hub application for Strategic Infrastructure Fund (SIF) was completed by TechWorks staff and a team including UNI’s Randy Pilkington and Metal Casting Center Director Jerry Thiel; Hawkeye Community College President Linda Allen, and Vice President of Academic Affairs Jane Bradley; and TechWorks board chair Tim Hurley. The team worked with the State of Iowa and the Iowa Innovation Council’s Advanced Manufacturing Workgroup to finalize the application.

The IEDA funding will help to move Iowa to the forefront of technology in additive manufacturing and establish a premier center for support of its manufacturing base.  This funding is a critical step in advancing the state’s technology base and providing a central location for technology advancement.

Hawkeye Community College to host Advanced Manufacturing Information Session March 16

Hawkeye Community College will hold an information session on upcoming classes in Advanced Manufacturing on Monday, March 16, from 5:30-6:30 p.m. at the Cedar Falls Center, 5330 Nordic Drive, Cedar Falls. The session will include information about the CNC Machining and Industrial Maintenance programs, a tour of the training areas, and the opportunity to visit with instructors.

Industrial maintenance workers maintain, monitor, troubleshoot, and repair equipment used in the production of goods. The Industrial Maintenance program prepares students for entry-level employment in this field. Individuals may earn $27,000-$35,000 per year. Industrial electrical maintenance personnel work overtime frequently. Starting wages do not include overtime compensation.

Industrial Maintenance classes begin April 22, 2015, and run through October 15, 2015. Classes are held Monday-Friday, 10:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m., at the Cedar Falls Center. Students will earn a non-credit certificate of completion.

CNC operators work in a variety of manufacturing environments and are trained to program, set up, and operate a CNC machine, inspect parts, perform production runs, and set up jobs. The CNC Machining program prepares students for an entry-level position. CNC machine operators are in high demand in the Cedar Valley. In four months individuals completing the non-credit certificate may earn $24,000-$33,500 per year, not including overtime.

CNC Machining classes begin April 20, 2015, and run through August 24, 2015. Classes are held Monday and Thursday, 5:00-10:00 p.m., at the Cedar Falls Center. Students will earn a non-credit certificate of completion.

Manufacturers are hiring in the Cedar Valley and need skilled workers to fill high-demand positions. Individuals will be able to sign-up for classes at the information session, as well as learn more about potential financial assistance for qualifying individuals. For more information about either program, call 319-296-4290 or visit www.hawkeyecollege.edu/business-and-community.

The Cedar Valley Economy – Strong and Growing!

The Cedar Valley Economy – Strong and Growing!

The strong and growing Cedar Valley economy contains the right conditions for business and career success. Current economic growth and its demand for quality talent is benefiting manufacturing, business services, retail, housing, education, healthcare and other enterprises that contribute to the vitality of the region.

Strong Cedar Valley job market is creating opportunity and raising income.

According to Smart Solutions Group, employment in the Cedar Valley Region Labor Market grew by 7.4% from 2003 to 2013, slightly above the State of Iowa during the same period. As of November 1st, Iowajobs.org, the web-based job board of Iowa Workforce Development (IWD), shows 1,504 positions currently available in the Cedar Valley. Many of these jobs are in the advanced manufacturing sector. Welders and CNC operators are among the many positions available in advanced manufacturing operations in the Cedar Valley.

The Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber recently surveyed Cedar Valley employers regarding their immediate employment needs. “We’ve identified businesses in the Cedar Valley region with immediate openings,” reports Danny Laudick, Talent Solutions Coordinator with the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber.  “We are coordinating efforts to match available talent with these companies or with training in the fields where there is greatest demand.”
Connecting to training

The Alliance & Chamber collaborates with Iowa Workforce Development (IWD) and Hawkeye Community College (HCC) and other agencies to connect talent with employment and training opportunities through career and resource fairs, data collection and sharing.  There is ongoing collaboration between employers and agencies to design programs to stay ahead of shifts in demand and provide rapid response to immediate workforce needs. The Alliance & Chamber identifies the specific employment needs in the Cedar Valley business community and acts as the voice of business. The Alliance & Chamber develops innovative solutions to solve talent issues. They use their network of partners and affiliate to bring others into the process.

In response to local demand, Hawkeye Community College now offers short term certifications for industrial maintenance and CNC machining programs. The CNC Machining Program prepares students for high demand, entry-level positions as a CNC machine operator or general machinist, one of the most demanded skills by area employers in the Cedar Valley. Both programs are designed to create a pipeline of available talent with new skills to fill these high demand jobs in a short amount of time.

The Department of Industrial Technology at the University of Northern Iowa also offers undergraduate and graduate programs in the areas of: Construction Management; Electrical Engineering, Manufacturing Technology, Technology Education, and Technology Management. The UNI Metal Casting Center, offers students practical hands-on experience in concepts in additive manufacturing with modern well-equipped facilities and cutting edge technology. At the Additive Manufacturing Center, located at the Cedar Valley TechWorks, students operate a variety of 3D printers, including the ExOne, the largest of its kind in North America.  Students are producing products and part prototypes for manufacturing clients across state.  UNI students are ‘floor ready’ upon graduation having had real world experience working with private sector businesses on actual projects. The Center also provides manufacturers affordable access to research and development and rapid prototyping. The Department of Industrial Technology currently enrolls over 500 students annually.

K-12 Career Training

Cedar Valley school districts are making sure their students are prepare for success beyond graduation through a variety of initiatives and partnerships with the business community.

In the Waterloo Community School District, Career Academies give students the opportunity to choose an area of interest, such as construction, business and finance, marketing, engineering, healthcare, etc. Students then take a sequence of classes to prepare for the real world of work in that field. Waterloo also has an International Baccalaureate Program which is an intensive, two year academic program in the high schools that prepares students for success in higher education and for effective participation in global society. The program includes writing an extended essay (similar to a doctorate thesis, but at high school level), a focus on critical thinking as well as creativity, action, and service activities. Waterloo’s West High and East High are two of only three schools in Iowa to offer the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program.

Both the Waterloo and Cedar Falls school districts have embraced the Leader in Me initiative championed by the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber. The Leader in Me is based on Stephen Covey’s book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. The initiative teaches students 21st Century soft skills for success in college, career, and citizenship. Through authentic leadership opportunities and daily practice of the habits, participating schools are transforming their school cultures into proactive, leadership focused communities of learning and development.

Cedar Valley West’s School to Work program brings together students from four Cedar Valley school districts (Aplington-Parkersburg, Dike-New Hartford, Gladbrook-Reinbeck, and Grundy Center) to provide valuable career information and connections to area businesses. Businesses are asked to provide speakers, offer internship and job shadowing opportunities, give worksite tours and contribute financial support.

Through the School to Work program, students throughout the Cedar Valley are becoming more prepared for the local job market. Businesses are molding potential employees by creating hands-on ways for students to explore careers while still in high school. Business – education partnerships like these are helping to bridge the talent gap and produce individuals prepared for employers across sectors in the Cedar Valley.

Diverse Economic Base
The Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber and the Cedar Valley Regional Partners have placed diversifying the economic base as a top priority of business attraction . . . and it has paid off. The diversified economic base has created jobs and helped the region weather the last recession far better than most parts of the country earning the Cedar Valley the title “Recession Busting” by Area Development Magazine, a leading executive magazine covering corporate site selection.  The Cedar Valley is not reliant on one sector to maintain the health of the economy.

Since 1996, 76% of new jobs created in the Cedar Valley have not been tied to a single industry, specifically agricultural manufacturing. Likewise, 81% of the new capital investments in the Cedar Valley were equally diversified during the same time. This diverse industrial base provides increased opportunities for wealth creation and employment in the event of a downturn in one sector.

“Most new capital investment has come from companies who have expanded existing operations here or established new locations in a broad spectrum of industry sector. This is consistent with new construction and new jobs created,” notes Lisa Skubal, Vice President of Economic Development with the Alliance & Chamber.

Adding to the industry mix is the growing Information Technology (IT) sector. In the Cedar Valley, IT consists of local start-up web product and software companies, and is among the fastest growing sector in percentage of current workforce in the Cedar Valley market area. Enterprises also see internal IT operations increasing and contributing to the growing demand for highly skilled programmers, engineers, coders, and designers in the Cedar Valley.

Conversations with technology leaders in the Cedar Valley suggest that IT employers are increasing their employment by up to 50% or more over the next few years.  This makes availability of trained/educated individuals critical. The Alliance & Chamber, Kate Washut of Far Reach Inc., and Linda Allen of Hawkeye Community College (HCC) convened a discussion between Alliance & Chamber investors in the IT sector and HCC academic and career education teams. The group discussed courses, training, and programs available through Hawkeye, and the expectations of the employers. Dialogs like this, between business and education, are vital to better understand of specific skill demand in order to offer training programs that are most relevant to industry needs.

 

“The strong job market is creating opportunities for individuals to take advantage of an increase in training opportunities and raising personal income,” says Steve Dust, CEO of the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber. “We see growing demand across industry sectors. IT related fields, advanced manufacturing, higher education, healthcare, logistics, and business service markets make up the employment landscape of the Cedar Valley.  The competitive wage scales being offered go much further here than in most areas of the country thanks to our low cost of living.”

The cost of living in the Cedar Valley is 8.1% lower than the national average according to third quarter 2014 Cost of Living Index prepared by The Council for Community and Economic Research. Utility costs are an even greater value, at 10.4% below the national average – a key factor for companies looking to locate or expand their operations.

While the cost of living is low, prosperity is on the rise in Cedar Valley. According to the new US Cluster Mapping website launched by Harvard Business School and the U.S. Economic Development Administration, the Cedar Valley Region is one of a handful of regions with growth in prosperity from 1998 -2012. Our economic region ranks 7th among 170 economic regions in the country for prosperity growth. The scorecard is based on three categories of data: performance (the economic activities of the region), business environment, and demographics & geography. The Cedar Valley is also in the top 20 regions for growth in annual personal wages at 3.49%.  This outpaces the national average of 3.16% during the same period.

Low cost of living and strong personal wages may contribute to an increase in spending. In September of 2014, the latest Gross Domestic Product (GDP) numbers were released showing considerable growth in the Cedar Valley. The Waterloo/Cedar Falls Metropolitan Statistical Area (GDP) grew to $8.7 billion from 2012-2013. This is up 5.6% from the previous year, according to data released in September from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.  Collectively, real GDP for U.S. metropolitan areas increased 1.7% during the same period. The Waterloo/Cedar Falls metro area had the second highest percentage increase in GDP compared to other Iowa metros.

These gauges of economic health demonstrate the strength and continued growth of an already stable Cedar Valley economy and instill confidence both in consumers and business leaders. Recent announcements of business expansions reflect confidence and optimism in the region.

Business Confidence and Private Investment

Cedar Valley businesses across the region are making investments in their companies. Increasing exports, and hiring talented, productive people demonstrates their confidence in the strength of the Cedar Valley economy.

CBE Companies, with international locations, chooses to keep their corporate headquarters here in the Cedar Valley where their success started over 80 years ago. “We continue to tap into a rich talent pool in our own backyard to fill a variety of positions and levels – from contact center associates to fraud service representatives to IT, Analytics, Finance, Marketing and HR professionals,” says Mary Phillips, Chief Human Resources Officer for CBE Companies.

Based on a variety of regional data, CBE has determined that the Cedar Valley has the talent resources available to expand their staff considerably.  “We use information from both the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber and Iowa Workforce Development when considering expansion.  We evaluated unemployment rates, education levels, Spanish speaking population, underemployment, average wages, and average ages.”  Over the last year, CBE has had two major surges in hiring making them one of the top ten major employers in the Cedar Valley.

Mark Hanawalt is the CEO of United Equipment Accessories, Inc. (UEA) in Waverly, Iowa and the current chair of the Iowa Association of Business and Industry (ABI). He often shares with peers from around the state that the Cedar Valley is a great place to do business. “They know about the Cedar Valley and never disagree,” notes Hanawalt. UEA has found that being part of a regional economy driven by advanced manufacturing has contributed to their growth. “Because of the presence of very large manufacturers in the area, we can utilize a common vendor base with tremendous capabilities without having to go outside the area.”

UEA invests in training and development opportunities that contribute to the personal and professional growth of their employees.  UEA provides training for new hires, development opportunities with specifically designed skills enhancement training, job cross-training, as well as a Tuition Assistance Program for employees. Highly technical positions, such as CNC programmers, machinists, engineers and IT professionals regularly participate in training opportunities relating to technology advancements and developments, job knowledge enhancement, computer software and system developments and updates.

“United Equipment Accessories, Inc. has been a Cedar Valley manufacturer for over 60 years.  Even as we have grown substantially over the years, we have never felt the need to expand outside this area,” says Hanawalt. “Our pool of labor talent is very high.  Employees are well educated, trained, and motivated to be productive employees.”

Start-up Momentum

While long standing businesses continue to expand, the start-up community in the Cedar Valley is picking up momentum at a rapid pace. ‘Serial’ entrepreneurs and young visionaries are gathering in coffee shops, bars, and meeting rooms around the Cedar Valley to share ideas and connect with resources in hopes of launching the next big thing. Start-Up Drinks, Start-Up Weekend, BarCamp, One Million Cups, Cedar Valley Opencoffee, and Cedar Valley Makers are a few of the organized efforts to support a young and energetic start-up community.

Steve Dust, CEO of the Alliance & Chamber, believes that “the prosperity of the Cedar Valley still depends on fostering, growing, and attracting entrepreneurship in all types of businesses. We want to encourage more people to build on our history of successful entrepreneurship, and the Alliance & Chamber supports efforts to enhance the strong, growing start-up scene throughout the Cedar Valley economic area.”

The Cedar Valley is thriving

With an abundance of good paying jobs and access to higher education, the Cedar Valley offers a wealth of opportunities for individuals to grow their careers. Businesses are thriving and making significant investments in the region by expanding their operations through building projects, new processes, equipment, technology, and talent. The lower cost of living, excellent school districts, and overall safety make it a desirable place to live, work, and raise a family.

The mission of the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber is to increase economic vitality and wealth by leading collaborative economic and community development. Details about the many programs and initiatives of the Alliance & Chamber can be found at www.cedarvalleyalliance.com or by calling Steve Dust, CEO at (319) 232-1156.

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