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Tag Archives: business expansion

5 on Friday: Fuel for Thought, November 17, 2017

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


Remember: 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.

ONE: Logistics Disruptors

Logistics is a big business in the Cedar Valley. Companies move materials in and products out to fulfill the needs of businesses and consumers — all over the globe. Just last night, Tesla unveiled an electric/battery-powered semi-transport. The PDF attached is a good, high-level research summary on the disruptors in the logistics space. These are things the Cedar Valley must pay attention to, from the perspective of current and future economic activity, and tax base for local government.

[PDF] THE TOP 5 DISRUPTIVE Trends Shaping Transportation and Logistics.September 2017, The Business Insider Research Team, September 2017

TWO: Will Iowa Grads Stay?

Here’s an overview of how Iowa is doing when it comes to keeping our grads at home. Use the Data Tool provided on this page to dig deeper into your industry.

Iowa College Student Retention, Iowa Workforce Development, 2017 Report

THREE: Economic Inclusion

This an excellent and well-documented, but lengthy, report from Brookings on how economic inclusion across sectors benefits the firm and the worker, as well as the overall regional economy.

A key point early in the report: One reason for this is that faster metro-level growth creates the tight labor markets that make broad-based wage gains more likely. One study found that a 10 percent increase in metropolitan employment raises average real earnings per person by around 4 percent. These gains are greater in percentage terms for African-Americans, lower-income individuals, and workers with less education.

Opportunity for growth: How reducing barriers to economic inclusion can benefit workers, firms, and local economies, Joseph Parilla, Brookings Institution, Thursday, September 28, 2017

FOUR: State of New Economy Index

Although this particular ranking only puts Iowa in the middle of the pack of states, you should be pleased with the progress made at the state level to accommodate the New Economy. This progress isn’t necessarily picked up in the Index.

The Index measures new economy activity, regardless of the particular focus of a regional or state economy. However, a defining trend of this era is the degree to which all have become more reliant on innovation as new technologies have become critical drivers of productivity and competitiveness.

The publisher of the Index, the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF), is one of the most credible and knowledgeable voices in tech and innovation policy and practice.

The Index measures the degree to which state economies are knowledge-based, globalized, entrepreneurial, IT-driven, and innovation-based. The report then discusses overarching strategic issues facing states, examines the role of large and small businesses in driving growth, and finally discusses a number of innovative models around the nation to spur workforce training and technology commercialization.

This message aligns very nicely with the second of three goals for our Greater Cedar Valley 2021 economic development initiative: Target Technology for Growth, recognizing that it’s the best allocation of our scarce talent resource, moving us farther, faster in creating wealth and economic vitality in the Cedar Valley.

The 2017 State New Economy Index: Benchmarking Economic Transformation in the States, Robert D. Atkinson and J. John Wu, Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, November 2017

FIVE: Irvine CA’s proposal to Amazon

I’ve become more curious about Irvine, California because our youngest son, Andrew, and his spouse, Emily, moved there this week. (She’s a data scientist with a United Healthcare-related firm.) Irvine has been known as the safest city in the nation since the early 1990’s.

Irvine is the home and playpen for billionaire Donald Bren, the wealthiest real estate developer in the nation. Starting as Irvine Ranch, then becoming The Irvine Company, it owns about 20 percent of Orange County. Recently, Bren proposed to Jeff Bezos that Irvine become the location of the new, second Amazon headquarters. Bren offers to bankroll the entire $5 billion project, building initial building space available immediately then constructing new space as necessary. The expected 50,000 employees would fit well in this city that is near, but not adjacent to, Los Angeles, where the mean income level is already above that anticipated for Amazon’s new employees (over $100,000).

The richest real estate developer in the US wrote a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos offering to pay for the insanely sought-after HQ2, by Tanza Loudenback. Business Insider, Oct. 19, 2017

5 on Friday: Fuel for thought

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

Globalization is Evolving

Globalization is still about exports, imports, and investment. The link below leads to a good article from The Boston Consulting Group about bringing global market building thinking forward to include digital influences.

Shaping Your Own Growth in the New Global Era, Arindam Bhattacharya, Dinesh Khanna, Kermit King, and Rajah Augustinraj, BCG Henderson Institute, August 17, 2017

Spoofed: Did it hurt?

I don’t know yet: I’ve had a lot of things done to me over the years. Now, I’ve been spoofed, too. Here’s what to do when it happens to your email address.

What to do when your email address sends spam, Lincoln Spector, PCWorld, June 29, 2015

October Market Insights

I receive a number of commentaries on the financial markets. This one, courtesy of Financial Decisions Group, is a good, recent video commentary on the market, generally, and the retail opportunities at Halloween, specifically.

Monthly Market Insights: October 2017, Financial Decisions Group

Performance Evaluations Are Changing

Thank goodness! Here are more observations from PWC’s strategy+business blog that caught my eye. Good stuff.

Want to Kill Your Performance Rankings? Here’s How to Ensure Success, David Rock, strategy+business, October 9, 2017

Apple Incentives, Again

This is a link to a good advocacy article for the Apple incentives that I’ve mentioned here before. Our Lisa Skubal’s comments are highlighted in this piece by Lee Enterprises’ Des Moines Bureau Chief.

UPDATE: After Apple deal, tax incentives face scrutiny, Erin Murphy, The Courier, October 9, 2017


State tax incentives programs are ‘important tool’

All of the projects we have, regardless of size, there isn’t one that I can think of that wasn’t a good deal,’ Skubal said.

Lisa Rivera Skubal, Vice President of Economic Development, Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber

Lisa Rivera Skubal

Read more of what Lisa Skubal, Vice President of Economic Development for the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber, and other experts have to say about state and local incentives to companies in this article in the Quad-City Times.

After Apple deal, tax incentives face scrutiny, Erin Murphy, Quad-City Times, October 6, 2017

Winnebago Completes Acquisition of Grand Design

The following information was submitted by our investor Winnebago Industries which has facilities in the Cedar Valley, located in Waverly, Iowa.

11/08/16 — Winnebago Industries, Inc. (NYSE: WGO) today announced that it has completed the previously announced acquisition of Grand Design RV, LLC (“Grand Design”), a manufacturer of towable recreation vehicles (RVs), for approximately $500 million in cash and Winnebago shares. The Company also entered into a seven-year $300 million term loan and five-year asset based lending facility for up to $125 million arranged by JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A.

“We are pleased to complete this transformative transaction. The acquisition of Grand Design positions Winnebago Industries as an immediately stronger player in the RV market and will provide long-term value for our shareholders,” said Michael Happe, Winnebago’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “We are excited to welcome Grand Design into our portfolio and look forward to working with their talented team to exceed the expectations of our collective dealers and end customers.”

J.P. Morgan acted as financial advisor to Winnebago and Lindquist & Vennum LLP acted as legal counsel. Baird acted as financial advisor to Grand Design and Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP acted as legal counsel.

About Winnebago

Winnebago is a leading U.S. manufacturer of recreation vehicles, which are used primarily in leisure travel and outdoor recreation activities. The Company builds quality motorhomes, travel trailers and fifth wheel products. Winnebago has received the Quality Circle Award from the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association every year since 1996. Winnebago has multiple facilities in Iowa, Indiana, Oregon and Minnesota. The Company’s common stock is listed on the New York and Chicago Stock Exchanges and traded under the symbol WGO. Options for the Company’s common stock are traded on the Chicago Board Options Exchange. For access to Winnebago’s investor relations material or to add your name to an automatic email list for Company news releases, visit http://investor.wgo.net.

About Grand Design

Grand Design was founded in 2012 and is one of the fastest-growing RV companies in the industry. Since its founding, Grand Design has shipped 26,850 units and has sold over 22,250 units at retail. Grand Design manufactures the market leading Reflection fifth wheel and travel trailer, flagship Solitude extended stay fifth wheel, luxury Momentum toy hauler and lightweight Imagine travel trailer product lines.

Forward Looking Statements

This press release may contain forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Investors are cautioned that forward-looking statements are inherently uncertain. A number of factors could cause actual results to differ materially from these statements, including, but not limited to increases in interest rates, availability of credit, low consumer confidence, availability of labor, significant increase in repurchase obligations, inadequate liquidity or capital resources, availability and price of fuel, a slowdown in the economy, increased material and component costs, availability of chassis and other key component parts, sales order cancellations, slower than anticipated sales of new or existing products, new product introductions by competitors, the effect of global tensions, integration of operations relating to mergers and acquisitions activities, any unexpected expenses related to ERP, risks relating to the integration of our acquisition of Grand Design including; risks inherent in the achievement of cost synergies and the timing thereof; risks related to the disruption of the transaction to Winnebago and Grand Design and its management; the effect of announcement of the transaction on Grand Design’s ability to retain and hire key personnel and maintain relationships with customers, suppliers and other third parties, risk related to compliance with debt covenants and leverage ratios, risks related to integration of the two companies and other factors. Additional information concerning certain risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from that projected or suggested is contained in the Company’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) over the last 12 months, copies of which are available from the SEC or from the Company upon request. The Company disclaims any obligation or undertaking to disseminate any updates or revisions to any forward looking statements contained in this release or to reflect any changes in the Company’s expectations after the date of this release or any change in events, conditions or circumstances on which any statement is based, except as required by law.

UNI Announces New SBDC Director

The following information was submitted by our investor, the University of Northern Iowa.

The Center for Business Growth and Innovation at the University of Northern Iowa is excited to announce that Amy Dutton has joined our team as the new Small Business Development Center Regional Director for the UNI center.

Originally from rural western New York state, Dutton moved to the Cedar Valley in 1996 and quickly settled in. Prior to becoming UNI’s SBDC Regional Director, Amy was the Community Outreach Manager for Lutheran Services in Iowa where she worked throughout Black Hawk and Grundy counties to promote LSI programs. Her experience also includes time at the Northeast Iowa Food Bank, College Square Mall and Martin Brothers, as well as current board positions on the Cedar Falls Tourism and Visitors Bureau Board and Cedar Valley Society for Human Resources Management Board.

We are excited to have Amy bring her knowledge, skill and passion for small business and entrepreneurship to our region.  Amy knows what it takes to succeed in today’s marketplace and is eager to share her experiences in building strong, vibrant and sustainable businesses.

As the Regional SBDC Director, Amy will provide one-on-one business consulting and assist entrepreneurs and small business owners in building and strengthening their businesses.  She will also be working alongside regional and state business service providers to build a more vibrant and thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem throughout Black Hawk, Bremer, Buchanan, Butler, Chickasaw, Fayette, Grundy, Howard and Tama counties.

The SBDC services include startup assistance, business planning, accounting, human resources, marketing, sales, information on local and statewide resources, and much more.  More information on the SBDC program can be found at http://www.iowasbdc.org/regional-center/waterloo-cedar-falls/.

We are also pleased to announce that Dan Beenken has been promoted to the position of Director of Advance Iowa, the Center for Business Growth and Innovation’s holistic consulting program.  Dan, who previously served in the role of SBDC Director, is responsible for helping Iowa’s Second Stage businesses become more sustainable, profitable and prosperous.

You can contact Amy at amy.dutton@uni.edu or by phone at (3189) 273-4328.  Feel free to share her contact information with any and all small business clients you think would benefit from her services.

Cedar Valley Grows as Logistics Hub with Addition of Furniture Mart USA

Located in the upper Midwest United States, the Cedar Valley of Iowa is strategically positioned and globally connected through multimodal infrastructure for companies with logistics needs.

The Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber is proud to have supported the City of Cedar Falls in securing Furniture Mart USA of Sioux Falls, S.D., to build a 150,000-square-foot, $6 million warehouse on 18 acres of land west of the Target Distribution Center perishable foods warehouse at the corner of Venture Way and Production Drive in the Cedar Falls Industrial Park. A retail project is also anticipated. The two projects will employ an estimated 60 people.

The Alliance & Chamber supplied labor and workforce and other information requested by the company.

Read more in the Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier.

Confidence High in the Cedar Valley


With building permits on the rise, new businesses opening, and investment being made in the Cedar Valley, Steve Dust, President and CEO of the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber says confidence is high in the Cedar Valley business community. Listen to Steve’s comments  in this June 21st interview with Tim Harwood on News Talk KXEL.



Learn more about the Midwest Supply Chain Managers Survey here.

Hydrite Chemical Company set to make $15.9 million capital investment in Waterloo

Hydrite Chemical Company 2013

Hydrite Chemical Company set to make $15.9 million capital investment in Waterloo. Hydrite Chemical’s proposed project would increase manufacturing capabilities in Waterloo by expanding its product lines in the food, agriculture and sulfur industries. The board awarded the company tax benefits through the High Quality Jobs Program (HQJP). The project is expected to create 11 jobs at a qualifying wage of $16.79 per hour. The proposed project includes land acquisition, site preparation, the construction of a 20,000 s.f. building, and installation of manufacturing machinery and equipment and will have a capital investment of $15.9 million.

The Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber provided assistance to Hydrite. The Alliance & Chamber identified appropriate resources and tools available through the City of Waterloo and State of Iowa, and monitored the project throughout the process. State and local incentives were integral in Hydrite siting this project at their Waterloo location.

The Alliance & Chamber has provided assistance with previous Hydrite expansions. Since 2012, Hydrite has made more than $15 million in investment at the site.

Hydrite Chemical Company is one of the largest manufacturers and distributors of chemical products in the United States.  The company provides expertise in chemical distribution, food and dairy sanitation, food ingredients, organic processing, liquid sulfur salts, water treatment, foam control, and compliance management. The company began its Waterloo operations in 1978 where they currently have 86 full-time employees.





CEO Mike Mallaro accepts the Business of the Year Award.

CEO Mike Mallaro accepts the Business of the Year Award.

The Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber presented their Annual Awards on Thursday, March 31, 2016. The VGM Group received the Business of the Year Award for companies with 51+ employees.  PDCM Insurance sponsors this award.

View the presentation video about the VGM Group, produced by Pyke Studios,  here.

With 25 years of success, The VGM Group includes more than 20 business units. The most recent $20m expansion adds 70,000 square feet of new offices to the San Marnan Ave. corporate campus and will be home to 300 employees.  The $2m renovation of the Alexandra Drive location accommodates growth of new tech based jobs.

VGM is a 100% owned by its 650+ employees through Employee Stock Ownership Plan “ESOP”, keeping wealth in the Cedar Valley and creating an employee focused culture and unique employment brand. VGM is one of Iowa’s 2015 Top Workplace in the Large Company category selected through an independent survey by Workplace Dynamics.

VGM’s annual Heartland Conference contributed an economic benefit of $1.1 million in the Cedar Valley in 2015 alone.

To help develop, strengthen, and retain talent in the company and the Cedar Valley, VGM participates in Iowa’s STEM Student Internship Program and has developed an internal professional development program for emerging leaders with in their company.


View a video of the entire event, including acceptance speeches, produced by Cedar Falls Cable is here.


Cedar Falls Mayoral Candidate Forum Recap

The Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber held a Cedar Falls Mayoral Candidates Forum on Friday, October 23st at the Cedar Falls Tourism Visitors Center to give investor businesses the opportunity to understand each candidate’s position on issues that affect the economy including business climate, workforce, and quality of life.

Specific topics raised included: University Avenue, the downtown waste water treatment facility, the use of Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) as an economic development tool, a part-time vs. full-time mayor, and more.

“The Alliance & Chamber serves as the one voice for business in the region. We advocate for the concerns of business at the local, state, and national level. We provide opportunities for education on issues, interaction with officials, and encourage our investors to participate in the process,” says Steve Dust, CEO of the Alliance & Chamber.

All three candidates participated in the Cedar Falls Forum including: businessman Jim Brown, incumbent Mayor Jon Crews, and retired railroad management employee Dave Halterman.

Each of the mayoral candidates made a brief opening statement. Moderator Steve Firman, Director of Alliance & Chamber Government Relations, then directed questions from the audience to the candidates.

In his opening statement Jim Brown shared his three-point platform of business development, good communication, and strong leadership. He pointed to his success launching a technology startup and in talent recruitment for John Deere as valuable experience that will help him market the city to new business and talent. Brown noted that the University Avenue project will likely move forward as approved by the current council.

Jon Crews bases his campaign on ‘facts and real numbers.’ He points to reduced residential and industrial tax rates, and quality of life and amenities as hallmarks of his tenure as mayor. Crews believes the use of roundabouts on University Avenue will reduce accidents and save lives.

Dave Halterman was a critic of the University Avenue reconstruction plan and outlined seven ways he believes the project could be handled more efficiently. He sees University Avenue as the ‘present and future of tourism and business development in Cedar Falls.” He believes the opportunity to increase the tax base is ‘bleak.’

Brown did not comment on the issue of the downtown location of the waste water plant. Crews commended the water treatment department for their efforts to mitigate the odor issue and noted that new development has continued despite the location of the plant. Halterman criticized the way EPA requirements for run-off into sanitary sewers are being addressed.

Brown supports the use of TIF. He believes it puts the City in a position of strength when negotiating with prospective businesses. Crews cited the City’s successful use of TIF and believes it should not be restricted. Halterman pointed out that residents should benefit from development in lower taxes or increased services.

Crews would support a part-time mayor position if the people voted for it, but believes a balance between strong elected officials and professional staff is best. Brown sees no reason to reorganize the structure of Cedar Falls government and believes the council should decide if the position of mayor should be reduced to part-time . Halterman voiced opposition to  a city manager position saying that the people have no recourse from the ballot box. He believes the mayor is the ‘elected CEO’ of the community.

A forum participant asked the candidates how they would make decisions when their own convictions differ from the opinions of constituents.

“If I can see something that save lives, save injuries, and saves tax payers money, then I think the elected officials need to vote their conscience.” responded Crews, “If you do what you think is right and you can sleep at night then that is what you should do.”

Halterman believes leadership should concede to constituents. “Anything else,” he stated, “is arrogance.”

“There is a responsibility of a leader to lead, to communicate, to let folks know where you stand, “said Brown. “ But you also have to respect the process, which in our city is the council. The council is the power behind the process. The decision makers have to come to a consensus. Consensus means you don’t get what you want, but you are both moving the ball forward”

Listen to a recording of the forum here.

For more information on the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber and their Government Relations activities, go to www.cedarvalleyalliance.com or contact Steve Dust at sdust@cedarvalleyalliance.com or by calling 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