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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.

Cedar Valley’s CUNA Mutual Group and Veridian Credit Union collaborate, fund implementation of Leader in Me in two area middle schools

Cedar Valley of Iowa – Two regional financial services organizations are collaborating to help ensure an effective leadership development initiative reaches the students of two more Cedar Valley area schools. CUNA Mutual Group and Veridian Credit Union have pledged to contribute a total of $105,000 to the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber’s Leader Valley initiative to further implement The Leader in Me program

The Leader in Me builds valuable 21st century personal skills that correlate to success in education and the workplace.  As students put into practice the principles of Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, they become more self-confident and take ownership for their lives. Schools where The Leader in Me is implemented successfully see higher academic achievement, fewer discipline problems, and increased engagement among teachers and parents.

CUNA Mutual Group, through its foundation, committed $75,000 to sponsor implementation of The Leader in Me at George Washington Carver Academy Middle School and Kittrell Elementary, both in Waterloo, Iowa. Veridian Credit Union committed $30,000 to Kittrell Elementary.   Veridian also participates with Kittrell Elementary in the Partners in Education program. The sum will be distributed over a three year term. Initially, the gift will provide extensive training and materials to the staff and educators at these sponsored schools.

The addition of Kittrell and Carver the total number of participating schools in the Cedar Valley is currently 14, with an anticipated impact of 6075 students and 842 educators during the upcoming 2013-2014 school year. This number represents more than one third of total students and educators in the Waterloo, Cedar Falls, and Cedar Valley Catholic Schools.

“At Veridian Credit Union, we believe that everyone is a leader,” said Jean Trainor, Veridian Credit Union’s CEO and Chief Inclusion Officer. “The Leader In Me program demonstrates that same belief and benefits our entire community as much as it does the students who participate.” Reid Koenig, Vice President of CUNA Mutual Group adds, “When one interacts with students who have been impacted by The Leader in Me, you quickly realize the effect the program is already having in transforming their lives. Our communities and businesses will reap the benefit of building great citizens and leaders for years to come.”

Steve Dust, CEO of the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber is encouraged by the additional participation of the business community, “One of the Alliance & Chamber’s primary goals is to develop a strong, highly talented and skilled workforce to help businesses of all sizes grow and prosper in the Cedar Valley. This significant investment by two of the Cedar Valley’s most engaged and visionary businesses, underscores the recognized value and effectiveness of the early results from The Leader in Me initiative. It is very important that businesses of all sizes, as well as individuals and other organizations join Veridian Credit Union, CUNA Mutual Group, and CBE Companies as Leader Valley sponsors. It is only through gifts like these that it will be possible to expand The Leader in Me throughout the region.”

The combined contribution of $105,000 will be presented Aug. 15 at the New Teachers Breakfast to be held at Hawkeye Community College, Tama Hall. To accept the check on behalf of the Alliance & Chamber is Board of Directors Chairman and Leader Valley champion Tom Penaluna, CEO of CBE Companies, Inc. , who said; “with this kind of forward thinking funding from Foundations and businesses such as CUNA and Veridian, The Leader in Me can change, in a very positive way, the results of education in the Cedar Valley!”  Representatives from CUNA Mutual Group, Veridian Credit Union, the Alliance & Chamber, and the Waterloo Community Schools will make comments.

 

About The Leader in Me

The Leader in Me incorporates leadership lessons into Cedar Valley school’s curriculum and everyday language. With reference to Dr. Stephen R. Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, The Leader in Me prepares students with key life skills, self-confidence, and accountability.

The Leader in Me, offered through Leader Valley, is an initiative of the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber.  Through Leader Valley, strong partnerships amongst Cedar Valley businesses, school district administrators and school boards, parents, and the community are being built to make the Cedar Valley a better place for students to excel and become well prepared for citizenship and their future careers.

 

ABOUT THE GREATER CEDAR VALLEY ALLIANCE & CHAMBER

The Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber is a private, non-profit corporation representing and advocating for the interests of business, industry and institutions operating in the Cedar Valley. The Alliance & Chamber was created to coordinate the resources allocated to economic development in the Cedar Valley, and provide a platform for shared services wherever possible. Alliance & Chamber programming includes Business Growth and Recruitment, Workforce & Talent Recruitment and Development, Downtowns, Districts, Tourism, and Chamber. This work is coordinated through more than 10 organizations, and in partnership with many other organizations whose purpose is to encourage economic growth in the Cedar Valley of Iowa. More information is available at www.cedarvalleyalliance.com.

ABOUT CUNA Mutual Group

CUNA Mutual Group insurance, retirement and investment products provide financial security and protection to credit unions and their members worldwide. With more than 75 years of true market commitment, CUNA Mutual Group’s vision is unwavering: To be a trusted business partner who delivers service excellence through customer-focused products and market-driven insight. More information on the company is available on the company’s website at www.cunamutual.com.

 

ABOUT VERIDIAN

Veridian Credit Union, founded in 1934 in Waterloo, Iowa, is a not-for-profit financial cooperative owned by its members. The credit union offers a full range of consumer financial services and employs more than 560 Iowans throughout 26 branches. For more information, visit www.veridiancu.org or call (800) 235-3228.

 

Links to media Coverage

KWWL

Courier #1

Cedar Falls Times

Courier #2

 

CONTACTS

Melissa Reade, Leader Valley Program Director, Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber
mreade@cedarvalleyalliance.om, (312)232-1156
Steve Dust, CEO, Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber
sdust@cedarvalleyalliance.com,(312)232-1156
Tom Penaluna, CEO, CBE Companies; Board Chair, Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber
nmhamer@cbecompanies.com, (319)234-6686
Reid Koenig – CUNA Mutual Group
Reid.koenig@cunamutual.com, (319)352-1000
Andrea Hudnut – Veridian Credit Union
AndreaLH@veridianCU.org, (515) 289-5561
Crystal Buzza – Waterloo Community Schools
Buzzac@waterloo.k12.ia.us, (319)433-1800

 

C. Gus Doulaveris Joins CBE Companies as CIO

Appointment bolsters CBE’s continued transition to BPO
by aligning people and technology

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa – May 29, 2013 – CBE Companies (CBE), a business process outsourcing (BPO) company, announced the addition of C. Gus
Doulaveris to its leadership team as Chief Information Officer (CIO). Doulaveris comes to CBE with over 15 years experience leading multi-million
dollar technology programs in both private and public sectors. His background includes both IT and engineering leadership roles, along with program
management. He most recently worked for General Dynamics, formally Vangent, Inc., for the last five years as Vice President, Engineering. Doulaveris holds a
Master of Science degree from Johns Hopkins University in both Management Information Systems and Telecommunication Systems.

“I am extremely excited to join an organization of CBE’s caliber. From my very first interactions with company leaders, I knew this was a place where people really
matter. I appreciate the level of commitment to do the right thing, be an innovative thought leader and deliver value for our customers. Capitalizing on this
commitment, I will utilize the latest technologies to springboard the organization to the next level in the BPO marketplace,” said Doulaveris. “The company’s Core
Values are in line with my background allowing for an environment where I can lead by example and help our employees reach their maximum potential by truly
fostering deep technical expertise within the organization,” he continued.

CBE Companies’ President and COO, Chad Benson, said, “Information technology is an ever-evolving discipline for all organizations in today’s competitive and changing global marketplace. Gus comes to us with a wealth of knowledge in the areas of strategic planning, enterprise computing, telecommunications and delivery of software solutions across multiple platforms
and industries. What impressed me most with Gus is his proven track record for building diverse, high-performing teams, passion for developing people and problem solving skills. When you combine those competencies with his deep technology experience there is no question Gus will play a significant role in our service delivery as a BPO,” Benson continued.

Creating The Place to Start A Business.

By: Steve Dust 

The Cedar Valley economic area thrives on successful businesses that began one day when its owner said, “I can do that – better.” Some of these former startups are still identified with the owner – while others have grown into international business powers.

All over the Cedar Valley there are examples of people who are passionate about something, determined that no one can do it any better than they, and opened a business to prove it – people like the Bertch family, the Far Reach Technologies partners, or Van Miller’s growing-every-day-into-something-different VGM, or the CBE Group, or Mudd Advertising, or….

As their business grew, each of them discovered the value of our government relations, information, education, and networking resources, the market growth spurred by ongoing promotion,  and all the other things your professional team does to make the Cedar Valley a vibrant place for business startup and growth.

An observer of business startup and growth trends in the US, Brad Feld, recently wrote, Startup Communities – Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City. Based on his decades of starting businesses, becoming an early stage venture capitalist, and now known for his highly (some would say outrageously) successful Foundry Group in Boulder, CO, Brad eloquently writes about the role of organizations like the Alliance & Chamber in creating and sustaining that Entrepreneurial Ecosystem mentioned in the title.

The very best role the Alliance & Chamber can play to foster a robust Startup Community – that encourages a faster rate of business startups and attracts more people with the desire to take the entrepreneurial plunge is: Cheerleader and Feeder. In other words, Support.

  • Work on economic vitality – grow the market! Create a place where startups have the best chance of success: work on infrastructure like broadband, and amenities to create a vibrant,  economic base
  • Make connections – directly, to new sales or service opportunities, or indirectly with exposure to customers and vendors and service providers through networking events, and to other feeder organizations – like UNI’s Center for Business Services and SCORE.
  • Inform them – with inexpensive access to high quality service providers in educational sessions on topics of interest to new businesses – like healthcare reform, social media tools, or the like – delivering info those new business owners will use to increase business results and avoid pitfalls.
  • Work with local and state government to keep them out of the way of business startup and success. Though almost always well intentioned, government gets in the way of startups and growing business with the increased cost of complying with or being constrained by this rule or that

policy/ordinance/statute.

  • Be the gathering place for startup community leaders. The leaders of our start up community must be people who have recently started their own businesses. As busy as they are, other owners of startup businesses are the best to relate to and offer actionable advice on the startup experience. The Alliance & Chamber is the platform – the roost – for emerging entrepreneurs to gather, and share their own experiences. It’s also great feedback for the Alliance & Chamber to build its Cedar Valley Start Up action agenda.

Believe me: there’s a lot of competition among places for business startup activity.  We, and they, understand the economic power of startups, and the culture it engenders for addressing social as well as economic issues. Your Alliance & Chamber is motivated and equipped and working to ensure that the Cedar Valley economic area is an attractive place to take that giant step – the one taken by every person when they’ve uttered the words, “I’m starting a business.”

 

 

 

 

 

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