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In the Media: Darrah Is Alliance & Chamber Interim CEO

“WATERLOO — The head of the Cedar Valley TechWorks has been named interim CEO of the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber.

Cary Darrah, who has been with TechWorks since 2007, was named interim leader of the GCVAC as the economic development and business organization finishes a goal-setting process in its search for a new executive director.

Darrah also served 10 years as director of Cedar Falls Community Main Street from 1997 to 2007. She is the first woman to head the Alliance or any of its predecessor organizations since Kristi Ray headed the Cedar Falls Chamber of Commerce from 1997 to 2002.

The Alliance was created in 2004. The Waterloo and Cedar Falls chambers merged in 2007 and became part of the Alliance in 2008. TechWorks, a entrepreneurial campus of former John Deere buildings, is an Alliance subsidiary.

Darrah initially was TechWorks manager, then named Alliance executive vice president of community development in 2012 and TechWorks president in 2016.

‘Make no mistake, Cary is in the interim CEO position because she is very qualified,’ said Alliance board chairman Bob Smith Jr. of Lockard Cos.

Alliance and Chamber CEO Steve Dust announced last month he was stepping down after 14 years and would formally resign by June 30. His last day was Friday. Smith said it was easier to allow Dust to devote full attention to pursuing his next venture while the Alliance set its future course.

‘Cary was just the logical choice, very qualified,’ Smith said. ‘She’s well liked and trusted by the team there and the community.'”

Read the entire article here: Darrah named interim CEO as Alliance plans for future, by Pat Kinney, The Courier, February 22, 2018


5 on Friday: Fuel for Thought February 9, 2018

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

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 What’s next? You Have an Amazing Opportunity

By now, most of you have heard that I’m leaving the Alliance & Chamber soon.

I am so very grateful for your leadership and financial capital used to build the Alliance and deliver meaningful economic growth, a stronger business climate, and civic change since I arrived in mid-2004.

I enjoyed leading the effort to establish and grow what has become today’s Alliance & Chamber group of organizations. Now, it really is time for new leadership to guide the Alliance forward, and for me to find the next challenge.

Usually, a guy finds his new gig before leaving, but in this instance you are literally on the cusp of amazing new opportunities in new directions, and you need to act on these now. New partnerships; new, sustainable revenue models; solidifying and expanding work of the Alliance group; and more. And you need to guide it.

Many of you have been invited to a meeting next week to begin that evolutionary process. I hope you will accept Bob Smith’s invitation if it arrives. And after working to get us all this far, I do not want what we have done to achieve this to be a barrier to what Alliance & Chamber needs to become.

I’m searching for what’s next. Donita and I would like to stay in the Cedar Valley, if possible. I’d like to join a Cedar Valley or Eastern Iowa firm that needs someone to start and grow a new business unit or grow through acquisitions, and I’m open to other opportunities, too. Like anyone, I’m looking for fun work, meaningful to the enterprise, which can support my family. Here are some very kind words sent my way.

Dust never settled for status quo, The Courier, January 28, 2018

TWO Future Ready Iowa: Create an Educated, Skilled Talent Pool

Quite a bit of info has been delivered to 5 On Friday followers about Iowa’s Future Ready Iowa Alliance initiative. Its goal: 70 percent of Iowans possess post-secondary credentials by 2025. Is that worth $18 million? I bet you’ll think so when you read what that expenditure will deliver to Iowa. Many of the recommendations of the Future Ready Iowa Alliance Board, of which eight members were from the Cedar Valley economic area, require legislative action. NFIB Iowa summarized the recommendations currently in the legislature. This initiative will test the legislators’ commitment to preparing Iowan’s to fuel your growth.

Gov. Reynolds’ Future Ready Iowa Alliance Proposes Spending $18 Million, National Federation of Independent Business, January 31, 2018

THREE Which Industries/Business Sectors Optimize Talent?

This is an interesting string of conversation in a blog that asks, “Which industries or trades identify and make the best use of talent?” The blogger, Tyler Cowen, answers, which is followed by a string of comments containing thoughts on the topic. It spills into a second post, as well. It’s a wide ranging discussion, so you have to stay with the string. Tyler Cowen is also the author of the book I recommended to you earlier, The Complacent Class.

Where is talent optimized? by Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution, January 27, 2018

FOUR Midwest Ag ties to Global Economy

Ok, I hear the collective, “duh!” as you read the title. I reacted that way, too. This reaction is because, as we know, one of the things that binds our Plains States together is that more than one-third of each state’s exports is ag and food products. The Fed’s publication does a good job of framing and quantifying the importance of open international trade. It’s important for all business and civic leaders to know the foundations and facts of this economic dynamic as the US begins a “renegotiation” of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Sorry , it’s all text– no graphs or charts.

Midwest Agriculture’s Ties to the Global Economy, by David Oppedahl, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, 2018

FIVE Future of Real Estate

Following in the same track as the last recommendation is this blog post by Michael Beckerman on Commercial Real Estate. Beckerman likely doesn’t say anything new in this post, but he crystalizes what has been floating around in your head as you observe what’s going on in your industry, business district, the Cedar Valley generally, etc. Real estate developers will not (usually) lead in creating demand for new space. Instead, you will define the spaces you need and the real estate development industry will produce it to fill demand. I don’t know how that’s any different than what has happened over the last several years, but Michael does help us see the forces shaping what’s coming at us because of the disrupters like Amazon and Air BnB.

To See the Future of Commercial Real Estate Development Don’t Look to Real Estate Developers, Michael Beckerman, Michael Beckerman blog, January 29, 2018

In the Media: Steve Dust to leave Greater Cedar Valley Alliance after 14 years

“‘I’m not retiring,'” Dust said. ‘I think what made me successful here, to the extent that I was, was my experience and skills in helping organizations find that vision, refine it, and create the organization and build the organization. That’s what I’ve done. That’s what I enjoy and that’s what I’m successful with.’

‘Just as I arrived at a time when the community was trying to come together to create the Cedar Valley, now we have another generation of leadership that’s emerging,’ Dust said. ‘There’s a whole raft of new business owners and senior manager who are going to be making decisions about what this economy is going to be.'”

Steve Dust to leave Greater Cedar Valley Alliance after 14 years, Pat Kinney, The Courier, January 16, 2018

In the Media: Dust comments on possible ALO runway closing

“Steve Dust, an airport board member and director of the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance and Chamber, said he believes the airport property could be attractive to new employers.

‘We’ve got 300 acres around our airport that’s been planned for industrial development,” Dust said. ‘One of the things that’s becoming more and more important again is rail service.”

Potential Waterloo runway closure draws fire, Tim Jamison, The Courier, December 21, 2017

5 on Friday: Fuel for Thought December 15, 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: HowFactory.com – Manufacturer’s New Bestie

As a new part of 5 on Friday, I’m going to highlight a Cedar Valley product or firm from time to time. There’s no better place to start than HowFactory.

HowFactory should be the best friend of any process dependent enterprise. The brainchild of IT guru Trace Steffen, How Factory is blossoming into one of the Cedar Valley’s top new and scaling products. You may remember the HowFactory’s team won a 2016 Howard Brock Innovation Award from the Alliance & Chamber.

Trace and his team of knowledge documentation warriors describe HowFactory’s capabilities this way: HowFactory is the simple platform that allows users to manage the knowledge critical to your team’s success and growth. The company’s tagline: “We’re not your father’s How-To Manual.” I encourage you to take the HowFactory suggestion and sign up for a 14-day test drive of the platform at www.HowFactory.com. Give Trace and his team a call to get a better idea how to align your firm’s knowledge base with an exciting, visual way of communicating and monitoring. #CedarValleyMade

Start your 14 day free trial

TWO: What’s Next for 3D in Manufacturing

Additive manufacturing – 3D printing – is a big deal in the Cedar Valley. If you have not yet seen the Additive Manufacturing and Design Lab on the first floor of TechWorks Tech 1, you need to! We made a big deal in 2013 out of the first big sand casting machine that was delivered, but several more production scale printers and scanners have been delivered since then. The design lab is in Tech 1, too. This asset has brought business and attention to the Cedar Valley. What’s next for this technology? This article charts a probable course for industrial applications of 3D printing.

New frontier: Here’s where 3D printing is headed next in industrial manufacturing, Christine LaFave Grace, Plant Services (Putman Media), December 7, 2017

THREE: Pass-through Entities and the Tax Bill

This is an informative, brief piece on the potential impacts of the Fed Tax Reform on the important pass-through structure for business.

Pass-Through Rate In Focus As Congress Gears Up For Tax Vote, Patrick Gorman, Chief Executive, December 14, 2017

FOUR: Sales Growth Hacks

It’s all about knowing your customer.

10 Growth Hacking Strategies to Triple Your Sales, R.L. Adams, Entrepreneur, December 5, 2017

FIVE: George Friedman Forecasts 2018

There are many forecasts for 2018 from many different directions. Here’s one you need to read, from George Friedman of Geopolitical Futures. He’s one of the best informed, objective observers out there.

[PDF] 2018: A Year of Tenuous Stability, Geopolitical Futures, 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: Standard Distribution Announces Next Project

I can never say “thank you” often enough to the risk-taking capitalists in the Cedar Valley who see a need and fill it with a product or service. This week, I pass along the announcement of another new industrial sector investment by Standard Distribution. Thank you.

Standard Distribution planning large expansion at airport, Tim Jamison, The Courier, November 18, 2017

TWO: The Geopolitics of Thanksgiving

You thought it was about making it through a very bad year and Europeans building alliances with the indigenous people of North America. You were kind of right. This is a lengthy, but fascinating look at the global context in which that first Thanksgiving took place. It’s an eye-opening history lesson, courtesy of Stratfor.

Thanksgiving and Puritan Geopolitics in the Americas, Starfor, November 24, 2017

THREE: Classroom Tech Advances

Here’s a great look at how technology startups are impacting education. So, if the Cedar Valley has the University of Northern Iowa — the highly ranked institution that teaches to be teachers — how do we capture economic development value from this trend?

A Silicon Valley startup is quietly taking over U.S. classrooms, Kia Kokalitcheva , Axios, November 22, 2017

FOUR: Your 2018 Reading List?

If you’re looking for books to read during holiday travel or just to stock up for 2018, here’s what the Gates-Bezos-Buffets of the world are reading.

9 Recommended Books That Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Warren Buffett Think You Should Read, Marcel Schwantes

FIVE: Another Good News Source

Here’s another media source that I’ve included in my bundle, and I thought I’d refer it to you.


5 on Friday: Fuel for Thought November 10, 2017

ONE: Cedar Valley Brags

We have a lot to brag about in our Cedar Valley. We see it every day, and we love it when others recognize us. Here is a link to the web page where we collect those bragging points. But we don’t find them all. If you find a brag, we should be sharing with our talented workforce, business, and influencer targets, send it to us. We’ll add them to the list.

Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber website, Brags & Rankings

TWO: Computer Science in K-12 by 2019

This year, the Iowa legislature mandated the Iowa Department of Education complete a plan to offer instruction by July 1, 2019in the fundamentals of computer science in elementary schools, exploratory computer science in middle school, and at least one high-quality computer science course in high schools. The report linked below was issued November 1. Do you have comments on this? Let me know by email so I can collect your views, add mine, and send it along to the Iowa Department of Education and Governor’s Special Assistant for Education.

Computer Science Education Work Group, State of Iowa Department of Education, November 1, 2017

THREE: Eldorado Resorts

One of our newest Cedar Valley corporate names is Eldorado Resorts, Inc. (ERI). Eldorado purchased the Isle Hotel Waterloo along with other Isle of Capri assets this year. I’m still learning about the company, and its vision for the industry and the Waterloo property, specifically. Here’s a link to their October investor presentation.

Investor Presentation October 2017, Eldorado Resorts

FOUR: Iowa Taxes

The closer the calendar gets to January, the more we’ll read and hear about the priorities of associations and legislators about priorities for the 2018 session. Tax reform in many forms will be discussed, whether or not any (useful) action is taken. The Tax Foundation, a national think tank researches taxes of all classes at the federal and state level. One of the interesting takeaways is that their State Business Tax System Ranking places Iowa’s overall tax system as 40th in the nation, and our business tax system as 49th in the US. That isn’t good. Below is a link to their recommendations for Iowa. Follow the link below for details.

Iowa Tax Reform Options: Building a Tax System for the 21st Century, Tax Foundation, May 5, 2016

FIVE: International Trade in Solar Panels

The rules of the road for international trade and commerce is at the forefront – NAFTA, Brexit, and all that. But international trade impacts us at a granular level: the Cedar Valley exports a lot of ag commodities as well as equipment from tractors to winches, and we import components, ingredients, and more. But the rules of trade aren’t straightforward. Here’s an article that shows how complex, if not plainly goofy, the rules of trade get contorted. And there are a couple of links within the item that are good reads, too. (There’s advertising at the end that will allow you to sign up for the newsletter if you wish.)

Tariffs on Your Roof, Patrick Watson, Connecting the Dots(Mauldin Economics), November 7, 2017


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