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Tag Archives: Cedar Falls

Confidence High in the Cedar Valley

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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.

Manpower Receive 2016 Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber Diversity & Inclusion Award

Cedar Valley Manpower team celebrate their accomplishments.

Cedar Valley Manpower team celebrate their accomplishments.

The Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber presented their Annual Awards on Thursday, March 31, 2016.

Manpower creates customized programs to recruit and develop a workforce reflective of the Cedar Valley through effective partnerships with local agencies.

Access2Ability partnership with Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services (IVRS) provides job opportunities for those with a disability.

Collaboration with Iowa Workforce Development is putting formerly incarcerated candidates to work.  Department of Correction facilities have placed reformed job seekers from the Work Release program into jobs.

Manpower staff serves on the Refugee Resource committee led by Catholic Charities. The goal is to help integrate refugees from Myanmar into the Cedar Valley.  The Manpower team developed job opportunities and overcame language barriers by creating work teams of 3-4 refugees, with one member serving as translator.

Manpower provides job preparation advice to students at Waterloo West High and college students through Iowa Association of Business and Industry’s Leadership Iowa University program.

Regional Director Kathy Joblinski is an active member of the Alliance & Chamber’s Chamber Council, its Diversity & Inclusion Partnership, and she is also a member of the Chamber Council’s Workforce Committee.

View the video produced by Pyke Studios here.

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

 

 

HowFactory Receives 2016 Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber Harold Brock Innovation Award

Co-founder Trace Steffan accepts the Harold Brock Innovation Award.

Co-founder Trace Steffan accepts the Harold Brock Innovation Award.

The Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber presented their Annual Awards on Thursday, March 31, 2016. Howfactory received the Harold Brock Innovation Award.

HowFactory, a Cedar Valley startup business has developed software to better create, manage, and distribute knowledge documents, standard operating procedures, training, and other key documents for industrial manufacturing and other companies. The idea co-founder Trace Steffan started toying with in his home office in 2012 has become one of the fastest growing and most acclaimed tech startups in Iowa.

After developing their business model at the Iowa Startup Accelerator in 2014, HowFactory received a $50,000 investment from Built by IowaHowFactory was the first Iowa company to be selected to the national Tech Crunch Disrupt Startup Battlefield.  In 2015, HowFactory swept the Dream Big Grow Here awards at Entrefest , then was named the Silicon Prairie News’ New Startup of the Year.

HowFactory is a vital member of the Cedar Valley startup ecosystem. HowFactory is a founding member of Millrace, the Cedar Valley’s first subscription based tech co-working space. The firm supports and routinely participates in One Million Cups, Startup Weekend, and a host of other initiatives to nurture innovation in the Cedar Valley.

View the video here.

Jim & Cecelia Mudd Honored with 2016 Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber Legacy Award

The Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber presented their Annual Awards on Thursday, March 31, 2016.  Jim and Cecelia Mudd received the Legacy Award.

“Servant Leaders” Jim and Cecelia Mudd have a true American success story. The couple has built a strong business from the ground up while remaining true to their values. The Mudds believe in Friends, Family, and Faith made visible through their generous contribution of time, money, and wisdom to countless charitable organizations, especially those serving the underprivileged throughout the Cedar Valley and beyond.

Cecelia started her career as an airline flight attendant, and later worked alongside Jim in radio and at Mudd Advertising. She has been an active volunteer and supporter of the Sartori Festival of Trees, EPI, PEO, Catholic Daughters, and the American Heart Association Go Red Luncheon. Cecelia taught their children the value of hard work through helping with their paper routes and de-tasseling corn.

Jim is an unabashed promoter of free enterprise, personal responsibility, and civic involvement.

A graduate of Brescia University, Jim studied broadcasting at Northwestern University, spending 21 years in radio before starting Jim Mudd and Associates in the basement of their home in 1981. Today Mudd Advertising is a global marketing firm, serving over 3,500 clients primarily in the automotive industry. Clients also include Bridgestone Tires as well as 50 John Deere retailers.  Celebrating its 35th anniversary, Mudd employs 165 with offices around the country.

Jim maintains a personal friendship with Ken Blanchard and served on the board of Blanchard’s Lead Like Jesus, and incorporates his Gung Ho principles into daily business culture and practice at Mudd Advertising.

Jim has served on the Western Home board of directors, as co-chair of the Cedar Falls Library Capital Campaign, United Way Annual Campaign and others. He is currently a member of the University of Northern Iowa Foundation board. Together the Mudds support 80 different Cedar Valley organizations, including St. Patrick Church, UNI and countless others.

View the Video here.

 

Alliance & Chamber Supports Upcoming Cedar Falls Schools Proposal

(Cedar Valley of Iowa) Cedar Falls Community Schools proposes to fund upgrades at North Cedar and Orchard Hill elementary buildings and build a new elementary school in southwest Cedar Falls at a total cost of $32 million.  The board also reinforced the district’s and superintendent’s design of the programs to provide the benefits of the Career-Technical curriculum to students throughout the Cedar Valley. The Board of Directors of the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber voted unanimously during its January 5th meeting to endorse the proposal by the Cedar Falls school district.

Cedar Valley Wide Impact

The Cedar Falls’ CAPS program will easily transfer credit to Hawkeye and UNI degree programs. This is important to ensure the student can seamlessly continue work toward a degree, obtaining the most current knowledge in the field, and entering the career field at the most opportune time for the student. It also defines clear career pathways for the student, and a quantifiable pipeline of candidates for jobs in the Cedar Valley.

The Alliance & Chamber board believes the taxpayers should approve this proposal. Business and education must work together to ensure continuing growth in our economy, while preparing smart, knowledgeable, engaged citizens. This proposal, well executed, will do both. Plus, a smooth transition to Hawkeye and UNI is precisely what students need to minimize their cost and time spent preparing for a great career in the Cedar Valley.

Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber Chairman David Braton recapped the discussion of the board, stating, and “Workforce development is critical to the growth of the Cedar Valley. The Alliance & Chamber applauds Waterloo and Cedar Falls Schools staff and school board for taking these bold steps to give our students the best education in a changing world. Workforce development is the key to our economic success.”

Vote “Yes” on April 5

The Alliance & Chamber encourages all voters in the Cedar Falls School District to view these initiatives favorably, and as investments in the future generations of Cedar Valley citizens.

Please vote Yes on Tuesday, April 5 for Cedar Falls’ Elementary Construction & Upgrades Plan.

Cedar Falls CAPS and Elementary School Construction Program

Usually, the Alliance & Chamber would not publicly endorse proposals for specific elementary school construction and expansion programs. This time, however, it is important to underscore that modern education requires attention to facility upgrades at all levels of education. Cedar Falls’ student population is projected to increase significantly over the next decade, in contrast to many other locations that are projecting shrinking elementary populations. Cedar Falls’ growth has generated the need for additions onto some schools to eliminate trailer-like, temporary classrooms. The need to add flexibility in the use of the space and install advanced technologies infrastructure in all schools combines with District growth to be sound reasons to support this proposal. During the presentation, the Alliance & Chamber Board focused first on the implementation of the Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS) initiative, and immediately connected success in CAPS at the high school level with the need for modern elementary and middle school facilities.

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.

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For further information, contact Steve Dust, CEO, at SDust@CedarValleyAlliance.com or Wendy Bowman, Director of Communications at WBowman@CedarValleyAlliance.com or 319-232-1156; or Dave Braton, Chair of the Board, at 319-291-1400 or David.Braton@Lee.net

 

 

Alliance & Chamber Supports Upcoming Waterloo and Cedar Falls Schools Proposals

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Alliance & Chamber Supports Upcoming Waterloo and Cedar Falls Schools Proposals

(Cedar Valley of Iowa) The Board of Directors of the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber voted unanimously to endorse two proposals by Waterloo and Cedar Falls school districts. Waterloo Community Schools has a $47 million proposal to build a career center, expand career and technical education and renovate its high schools. Cedar Falls Community Schools proposes to fund upgrades at North Cedar and Orchard Hill elementary buildings and build a new elementary school in southwest Cedar Falls at a total cost of $32 million. The Board took the action following detailed presentations by the districts’ superintendents and questioning during its January 5 meeting.

Specifically, the Alliance & Chamber approved each proposal separately, though in characteristic manner, the actions were combined into one motion, displaying unity of the regional business community.

The board also reinforced the districts’ and superintendents’ design of the programs to provide the benefits of the Career-Technical curriculum to students throughout the Cedar Valley.

Cedar Valley Wide Impact

A compelling factor in the support for the two proposals is the ability for students from outside the host District to enroll in the Career-Technical Education programs, utilizing channels already in place to ensure the District is adequately compensated for the high-value curriculum delivered. Also, both Waterloo’s Academies and Cedar Falls’ CAPS programs will easily transfer credit to Hawkeye and UNI degree programs. This is important to ensure the student can seamlessly continue work toward a degree, obtaining the most current knowledge in the field, and entering the career field at the most opportune time for the student. It also defines clear career pathways for the student, and a quantifiable pipeline of candidates for jobs in the Cedar Valley.

The Alliance & Chamber board believes the taxpayers should approve these proposals. Business and education must work together to ensure continuing growth in our economy, while preparing smart, knowledgeable, engaged citizens. These proposals, well executed, will do both. Plus, a smooth transition to Hawkeye and UNI is precisely what students need to minimize their cost and time spent preparing for a great career in the Cedar Valley.

Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber Chairman David Braton recapped the discussion of the board, stating, “Workforce development is critical to the growth of the Cedar Valley. The Alliance & Chamber applauds Waterloo and Cedar Falls Schools staff and school boards for taking these bold steps to give our students the best education in a changing world. Workforce development is the key to our economic success.”

Vote “Yes” on February 2 and April 5

The Alliance & Chamber encourages all voters of the Waterloo and Cedar Falls schools to view these initiatives favorably, and as investments in the future generations of Cedar Valley citizens.

Please vote Yes on Tuesday, February 2 for Waterloo’s Career Center and High School Renovation Plan.

Please also vote Yes on Tuesday, April 5 for Cedar Falls’ Elementary Construction & Upgrades Plan.

Waterloo Schools Career Center

The Alliance & Chamber Board recognizes the outstanding research and planning by Waterloo Schools that included broad representation of the business community. The District included the entire community in the development of a plan that matches the needs of students and our businesses. The Waterloo District is focusing the use of this specialized building on implementation of a menu of academies that will begin a student’s preparation for a career in a well-paying and significant job, or even starting their own business. Waterloo plans to implement 15 Academies in school year 18-19, and fully implement the 30-Academy structure by school year 20-21. The first 15 Academies address areas of immediate impact such as Computer Science, Engineering & Robotics, and Bio-medical and Nursing; while others start students toward careers in needed trades and services such as Construction Technology, Computer Aided Drafting & Design, Automotive Technologies, and Manufacturing Technology. These address current and anticipated high-demand skills in the Cedar Valley.

Cedar Falls CAPS and Elementary School Construction Program

Usually, the Alliance & Chamber would not publicly endorse proposals for specific elementary school construction and expansion programs. This time, however, it is important to underscore that modern education requires attention to facility upgrades at all levels of education. Cedar Falls’ student population is projected to increase significantly over the next decade, in contrast to many other locations that are projecting shrinking elementary populations. Cedar Falls’ growth has generated the need for additions onto some schools to eliminate trailer-like, temporary classrooms. The need to add flexibility in the use of the space and install advanced technologies infrastructure in all schools combines with District growth to be sound reasons to support this proposal. During the presentation, the Alliance & Chamber Board focused first on the implementation of the Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS) initiative, and immediately connected success in CAPS at the high school level with the need for modern elementary and middle school facilities.

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.

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For further information, contact Steve Dust, CEO, at SDust@CedarVAlleyAlliance.com or Wendy Bowman, Director of Communications at WBowman@CedarValleyAlliance.com or 319-232-1156; or Dave Braton, Chair of the Board, at 319-291-1400 or David.Braton@Lee.net

GREATER CEDAR VALLEY ALLIANCE & CHAMBER NOW ACCCEPTING NOMINATIONS FOR ANNUAL AWARDS

 The Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber announces nominations will be accepted now through  January 8, 2016 for  business awards to be presented during the 2016 Annual Celebration on Thursday, March 31st at the Park Place Event Centre.

Do you know of an individual who should be recognized for their contributions in creating a strong business climate and enhancing the quality of life in the Cedar Valley by continued service and leadership?  Has an Alliance & Chamber business or organization made an outstanding contribution to the Cedar Valley and its citizens on a continued basis or with a specific project?  You are encouraged to nominate Alliance & Chamber investors for recognition of their contributions.

“The strength of the Cedar Valley is a result of visionary, innovative leadership – individuals, businesses and organizations who are investing capital, creating jobs and making things happen in the workplace and the community. It’s important to tell their stories and recognize them for their contributions,” says Alliance & Chamber CEO Steve Dust.

Nominations are being accepted through January 8th for the following awards:

  • Business of the Year Award -(Small companies 1-50 FTE’s,
    Large companies 51+ FTE’s)
  • Harold Brock Innovation Award
  • John Deere Treating Capital Well Award
  • Fulfilling the Vision of One Award
  • Cedar Valley Partner Award

*Full-time Employees (FTE)

Winners from the 2015 event include:

      • Business of the Year (Small companies 1-50 FTE’s) – Far Reach Technologies
      • Business of the Year (Large companies 51 + FTE’s) – United Equipment Accessories, Inc.
      • Harold Brock Innovation Award: OMJC Signal
      • John Deere Treating Capital Well Award:         Farmers State Bank
      • Fulfilling the Vision of One Award – Tom Penaluna
      • Cedar Valley Partner Award: Boy & Girls Club and Hawkeye Community College
      • Legacy Award – Ed Gallagher
      • Inclusion Awards (Small companies 1-50 FTE’s) – Cadillac Lane
      • Inclusion Awards (Large companies 51 +         FTE’s) – Hawkeye Community College

Nominations for Inclusions Awards has passed.

Descriptions of the awards and nomination forms are available at the Alliance & Chamber offices or online at www.cedarvalleyalliance.com/programsandevents . For additional information, please contact Bette Wubbena at bwubbena@cedarvalleyalliance.com or 319-232-1156.

 

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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.

World-renowned leaders to be featured in Leadercast Cedar Valley

Community and business leaders can access the knowledge and experience of world-renowned leaders by attending Leadercast Cedar Valley® at the Hilton Garden Inn in Cedar Falls on May 8, 2015.  The all-day event is being hosted by the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber.

The Leadercast event is broadcast LIVE from Atlanta, GA to hundreds of sites around the world, including the Cedar Valley. This year’s speaker lineup includes:

Andy Stanley – Leadership author and communicator

  • Malala Yousafzai – Nobel Laureate; Founder, The Malala Fund
  • Ed Catmull – President of Pixar & Disney Animation Studios
  • Seth Godin – Best-selling Author
  • Rudy Giuliani – 107th Mayor of New York City (1993-2001)
  • Aja Brown – Mayor, City of Compton
  • Bill McDermott – CEO of SAP AG
  • CMDR Rorke Denver – Navy SEAL Commander & Author
  • Bill & Giuliana Rancic – Award-Winning Personalities & Co-Hosts of Leadercast
  • And more!

Last year, over 130,000 leaders from 35 countries attended Leadercast. Now, in its 16th year, this full day, experiential conference is on track to reach its largest audience to date.

“Leadership development is a key imperative to building a quality workforce and community leaders.  Leadercast is one of those events that we’ve heard a lot of great things about and features some of the most outstanding leaders in their areas.” said Steve Dust, CEO of the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber “This is an exceptional opportunity not only for our current business leaders, but also for that group of emerging leaders and young professionals.”

Leadercast exists to positively change the way the world thinks about leadership. This year’s theme—The Brave Ones — challenges leaders to lead with a sense of Bravery, possessing a posture of unrelenting boldness. Bring your friends or team members to experience Leadercast and discover what it means to be a leader worth following.

For more information about Leadercast, visit www.leadercast.com.  For local ticketing information, call (319) 232-1156 or visit www.cedarvalleyalliance.com.

The Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber is a regional economic and 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 750 members that represents over 40,000 employees.

 

 

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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.

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