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Tag Archives: Economic Development

Diversity & Inclusion Partnership Offers Seventh Annual Summit for Business Professionals

CEDAR VALLEY OF IOWA  — Business owners, managers, and human resource professionals from organizations of all sizes are invited to attend the 2017 Economic Inclusion Summit. Previously called the Diversity & Inclusion Summit, the event is designed to strengthen the Cedar Valley economic region by providing tools and information for businesses to implement effective inclusive practices.

The Summit will be held on October 20 in Tama Hall at Hawkeye Community College, 1501 E. Orange Road, Waterloo, from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Continental breakfast and networking are set for 8:00 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. The program begins at 8:45 a.m.

This is the seventh year the Diversity & Inclusion Partnership of the Alliance & Chamber is presenting the educational event, previously called the Diversity & Inclusion Summit.

Agenda

Attendees are provided a concentrated and focused experience with multiple presentations. This year’s keynote presentation is an interactive theater experience that addresses workforce and cultural difference in the workplace.

8:00 a.m. – 8:45 a.m. Continental Breakfast and Networking

8:45 a.m. – 9:00 a.m. Welcome

Steve Dust, President/CEO, Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber

Dr. Linda Allen, President, Hawkeye Community College

9:00 a.m. – 9:45 a.m. Presentations

Cedar Valley Data and Demographics, Danny Laudick, Program Consultant, Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber

Non-Traditional Methods for Finding and Keeping Talent in the Cedar Valley,  Kyle Roed, Sr. Human Resource Manager, Omega Cabinetry/MasterBrand Cabinets

Question and Answer following both presentations

9:45 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. Break

10:00 a.m. -11:45 a.m. Breaking Ice Presentation 

Introduction of Breaking Ice – Sharina Sallis, Community Relations Specialist, CUNA Mutual Group

Breaking Ice Pillsbury House Theatre Performance

Question and Answer

11:45 a.m. – Noon Introducing: Inclusion Toolkit Online Resource
Jean Trainor, Chair, Diversity and Inclusion Partnership

2018 Awards Nominations

During the Summit, the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber will announce the call for nominations and application process for the Diversity & Inclusion Awards to be presented at the 2018 Annual Celebration, March 27, 2018 at the Waterloo Convention Center, Waterloo. These awards recognize for outstanding contribution by a business or organization for leadership in creating and strengthening an environment of diversity and inclusion in the workplace culture, business practices and in the community.

To Register

There is no cost to attend, but seating is limited; register online at cedarvalleyalliance.com. Continuing education credits for human resources professionals are available for Summit attendees.

Veridian Credit Union and Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare-Iowa are the Premier Sponsors for The Summit. Hawkeye Community College is the Location Sponsor. Cedar Valley Society of Human Resource Managers (CVSHRM) is providing the continental breakfast.

Other sponsors include Cedar Valley Nonprofit Association, Courier Communications, Hy-Vee Food Stores, KWWL, Omega Cabinetry/MasterBrand Cabinets, and the University of Northern Iowa.

About the Diversity & Inclusion Partnership

The Diversity & Inclusion Partnership is a workforce initiative of the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber. The purpose of the Partnership is to strengthen the Cedar Valley economy by collaborating with businesses to promote inclusion and make sure all residents have the opportunity to benefit from a thriving Cedar Valley economy. The Partnership is led by a taskforce of volunteers dedicated to promoting the business case and positive impact of diversity and inclusive practices in the Cedar Valley workforce. More information can be found at cedarvalleyalliance.com, by contacting Lisa Rivera Skubal, Vice President of Economic Development at lskubal@cedarvalleyalliance.com, or by calling the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber at 319-232-1156.

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

 

5 on Friday: Fuel for Thought

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

One: Cedar Valley on INC 5000 List

This year, we celebrate the listing of BraceAbility from Cedar Falls coming in at number 753 on the strength of a 600 percent growth in this five-year old company. BraceAbility is operated by CEO Shaun Linderbaum, who came from another perennial INC 5000 honoree ClickStop, and COO Therese Stevens, who you may know as a partner in TargetClick Marketing, which became a part of another honoree, Mudd Advertising. My bet is that most have not heard of this fast growing Cedar Valley e-commerce firm that sells orthopedic braces. Take a look at www.braceability.com.

ClickStop, operated by owner/CEO Tim Guenther, made the list for the eighth time. Congrats to you, Tim, for making the list again. ClickStop was founded in 2005 and is south of the Cedar Valley metro area in Urbana just off Interstate 380. Tim has created a very cool workplace and also has several connections of interest in the Cedar Valley. As mentioned above, Shaun Linderbaum was CTO at ClickStop before joining the new BraceAbility. Also, Therese Stevens was an intern there.

Another move that will add to Tim’s chances of being on and perhaps higher in the 2018 INC 5000 is the recent acquisition of Clean Laundry Licensing started by Cedar Valley serial entrepreneur marketing guru Phil Akin. Phil joined ClickStop as CMO and his son, Ethan, is leading the growth of the laundry licensing unit. Take a look throughout www.ClickStop.com to get a glimpse of this successful firm 12 years after start up.

Takeaways: Tim knows talent. E-commerce has a bigger, growing impact on the Cedar Valley economy than you’d recognize. There’s a cluster of that knowledge base in our economic area which is adding to the economic base through that spillover impact that I keep talking about.

Inc. 5000 2017: The Full List: Our annual ranking of the fastest-growing private companies in America, Inc.

Two: Hurricane Harvey’s Impact

There’s so much to say about Hurricane Harvey and its impact on the City of Houston and potential impact on the nation’s economy that I wrote an entire blog post on the topic, with multiple links to informative stories.

The Projected Economic Impact of Harvey, Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber, September 1, 2017

Three: Case and Kreske Foundations Project in Economic Inclusion

Thanks to iGus Marketing founder Denita Gadsen for directing me to this article. It describes exactly what the Alliance & Chamber says as a part of our economic inclusion work: any business and economy that embraces its diversity through inclusive action will be stronger. While much of our work has been focused on being more inclusive in our workforce, this concept also applies to scaling overall business growth.

That’s the focus of these articles. Read the Governing article first, then the HuffPo coverage.

Can We Build Inclusive, Innovative Local Economies? Governing, August 15, 2017

Four cities learn how to create inclusive communities, Huff Post, August 18, 2017

Four: Impact of Robots on Workforce Needs for Site Selection

Randy Thompson is senior director of a commercial real estate services group that does site selection for clients. He has some interesting and reasonable views about the role of automation and robots in the shift of distribution to fulfillment and customized manufacturing. Thompson ponders how the site selection process differ if business is driven by direct to consumer fulfillment rather than bulk from wholesale to retail stores. He wonders if manufacturing can reduce the reliance on large supply of humans. It’s all about location and brainpower.

How Technology Will Overcome Demographics, Area Development Online, Q2 2017

Five: Apple, Again. Anatomy of a good deal for Waukee

This excellent analysis of the Apple deal in Waukee, from an incentives perspective, is penned by a fellow some of you have met – John Stineman, Executive Director of the Iowa Chamber Alliance (ICA). The Alliance & Chamber is part of ICA, which focuses on public policy to advance economic development in Iowa.

In this column, John does a good job breaking down the deal and its rationalization. He did this to counter the whiners who don’t understand what a win — even a heavily incentivized data center project — can be for a city government that can supply the energy, broadband, and other significant requirements.

On the other hand, as I mentioned last week, we were in the competition until site requirement jumped from 500 to over 1,000 acres. What these people are going to do with 2,000 acres is yet to be determined: it’s not likely to be covered in more data center space, but stranger things have happened.

Apple deal gets an ‘A’ for return on investment, The Des Moines Register, August 31, 2017

5 on Friday: Fuel for Thought

One: Yes, the Cedar Valley Was Considered for Apple’s New Data Center

So, I was walking through the office early Thursday afternoon, and Director of Communications Dorothy de Souza Guedes asks, “What’s your big item to accomplish the rest of the day?” “Getting over the depression of hearing the Governor and Tim Cook announce the Apple data center in [deleted] Des Moines,” was my immediate response.

The Cedar Valley was a strong competitor when this was a 300- to 500-acre project. When Apple discovered it could have a 2,000-acre site with similar features, the competition was, practically speaking, over.

The Apple project has spurred Vice President of Economic Development Lisa Skubal and our Economic Development team to work with our regional partners to discover and work to control two mega-sized sites — one with rail and one without. Why two? The data center mega site has much different requirements than, say, a Toyota plant.

These mega sites are not anomalies. Requests are returning to the market after a fairly long absence of demand with a few exceptions – mostly auto assembly plants throughout the United States and Mexico.

The link is to the article discussing the project and the embedded video reviews the incentive package offered.

Apple’s billion-dollar data center ‘puts Iowa on world stage’

Two: VGM Group Took My Blues Away

At the end of the day Thursday, August 24, my blues were chased away by an Alliance & Chamber’s ribbon cutting.

An open house and ribbon cutting celebrated the newest expansion of the VGM Group’s campus at Ansborough and US 20.  Wow! Thank you, Jim Walsh, Mike Mallaro, and team for delivering such a stunning new office building to the Cedar Valley market.

Designed to give new amenities to the growing VGM team that now numbers 760 in the Cedar Valley, the building is a $20 million investment that brought the complex to over 190,000 square feet.

Celebrating the opening of this amazing office with a ribbon cutting ceremony, I laughed through Jim Walsh’s “welcome and thank you” remarks. Talking with the VGM team and their VIP guests — many Alliance & Chamber investors — reminded me how grateful we should be for the loyal, growing, investing, employers we have in the Cedar Valley. Thank you, again, VGM.

VGM shows off latest addition at Waterloo complex

Three: Editorial on Job Skills to Fill the Gap

If you are an employer, you know the employability and job-specific skills gap is real.  If you’re not a hiring manager or owner, believe us, the issue is real.

It’s troubling when research expresses that vocational training is too specific and stymies older workers from progressing in or to a new career ladder. There are times when we must say “get over it.”

We cannot afford to have a valuable contributor leave the workforce just because they prefer not to be retrained. The incentives that permit that preference need to lead back into lifelong learning and retraining. That’s particularly painful for boomers who love what they’ve done for 30 years. We as a society can’t let these valuable workers slip out of the workforce: the incentive must be to keep learning and keep working through the reasonable career span.

And I almost refuse to give credence to the idea presented in the article below about young men with less than a bachelor’s degree working fewer hours each year because of video games. I know the data is real, but good grief.

This is an editorial of The Courier, which is absolutely on point with the issues of job skills to fill the gap. Thank you, Roy, Nancy, and The Courier team for a very good piece on a critical issue.

Learning job skills is no game

Four: Critical Few Behaviors and Organizational Culture

We’re all looking for ways to make our workplace a place where people are productive for the firm and our clients. There are a lot of people writing and saying stuff about culture. Strategy+Business is a good business journal and accompanying blog with solid content on a broad range of topics.

This short article helps employers and leaders identify keystone behaviors that will contribute to achieving our strategic and operational objectives. It is worth the time to read to get a start prioritizing culture-building activities in terms of implementation and impact.

Getting to the Critical Few Behaviors That Can Drive Cultural Change

Five: The Robot Apocalypse

Investment Advisor Kevin Wilson makes the case I have advanced since 1981: automation is an improvement in our careers and businesses, not a revolutionary challenge to our intellect. Yes, of course, we can conjure a Jetson’s and HAL-lific artificial intelligence tragedy. But let’s back up to where we are in advancing technology, how we’re using it, and how it can leverage our scarce American human capital. Instead, think about how we quickly ramp up from here. That’s what this lengthy, chart-rich SeekingAlpha.com article does.

Much Ado about Nothing: The Robot Apocalypse Is Actually an Economic Renaissance In Disguise

What are you reading that would help me do my job for you? Email me at SDust@CedarValleyAlliance.com.

Waterloo’s Crystal Distribution Approved for IEDA Award

CEDAR VALLEY OF IOWA (August 18, 2017) — The Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) today approved a tax credit award for Crystal Distribution Services, Inc. The company qualified for sales tax rebate on construction materials for a $5.5 million expansion project of its Waterloo facility.

IEDA application assistance was provided through the Alliance & Chamber’s business retention and expansion (BRE) services which focus on keeping and growing businesses in the Greater Cedar Valley. These services are provided to any business in the region, including investors in the Alliance & Chamber.

The Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber economic development team of Lisa Skubal, Vice President of Economic Development, and Cassie Evers, Business Services Coordinator, collaborated with the City of Waterloo and IEDA to assist Crystal Distribution owner Tom Poe with the application process. Their goal was to ensure that the company’s project qualified and was approved this month by IEDA to allow time for construction to begin this year.

On Monday, Waterloo City Council unanimously approved development incentives for Crystal Distribution’s expansion and agreed to serve as a sponsor for the IEDA application.

Today, the IEDA board today awarded this project tax benefits under its High Quality Jobs (HQJ) program which provides qualifying businesses assistance to offset some of the costs incurred to locate, expand, or modernize an Iowa facility. In addition to the capital investment, Crystal Distribution’s project will create one additional job at a qualifying wage of $17.29 per hour.

According to the company’s website, Crystal Distribution provides temperature-controlled warehouse and repackaging services to food processing companies around the world. The company began operation in the Cedar Valley more than 100 years ago by cutting ice from the local river and distributing it around the country. Crystal Distribution is a current investor in the Alliance & Chamber.

Read August 28, 2017, IEDA news release here: Economic Development Board approves awards to support over $48 million in capital investment in Iowa

Read August 15, 2017, The Courier article here: Incentives for Crystal approved

 

 

Five on Friday: Fuel for Thought

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

You’re changing the way you want to engage with your peers and neighbors, and we must shift with you. During the last week or so, I’ve focused on looking into the changing nature of the work the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber does for you. We have to reflect the conditions in your market and be cognizant of the influences on your business or institution and your customers. Your input on how we execute on these shifts is imperative.

One and Two good documents that summarize current thinking in our industry at the national level.

One: What’s Influencing the Future of Chambers

Horizon Initiative: Chambers 2025 — Eight Influences Shaping the Next Decade for Chambers of Commerce

This links to a summary document from the Spring 2015 issue of Chamber Executive magazine. For more detail, follow the included link to a website with more detail. Eight influences:

  • Belonging and Gathering
  • Communications and Technology
  • Scarcity and Abundance
  • Global Impacts
  • Population Shift
  • Political and Social Fragmentation
  • Resource Alignment
  • Catalytic Leadership

Two: What’s Influencing the Future of Economic Development

Looking Around the Corner: The Future of Economic Development

From the International Economic Development Council, this report examines the emergence of trends and how these can potentially change the economic development industry. Four themes:

  • Demographics
  • Climate change
  • Shifting global roles
  • Technology expansion

Three: Retaining Students is Imperative

Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay

The link above goes to a recent Vox article on a similar topic, regarding why people leave, stay in or return to hometowns of all sizes and the impact of leaving — or not– on the individual, not the town.

I included the article to encourage your consideration relative the strategies to first, retain students as they move through and emerge from Phase 1 higher education or training, and second, encourage former resident young professionals to return. We should recognize, strategically, that the influences and trends discussed in the article will have an impact on our results – and should impact thinking on both timing and description of benefits and opportunities for those coming back to the Cedar Valley.

Four: Millennials Want CEOs to Speak Publically on Social Issues

Millennials Really Want CEOs to Mount their Soap Boxes

The millennials want CEOs to speak up publicly, whether those business leaders like it or not.

There’s a lot to consider in what’s going on and being brought to our attention in the media right now. Here’s a recent article from Chief Executive on the expectations of one market and staff demographic segment for business leaders and owners to speak publicly on issues traditionally not addressed in business communications.

Five: Deere Third-Quarter Earnings

Deere Announces Third-Quarter Earnings of $642 Million

This is a link to the August 18 news release announcing Deere & Company’s third quarter results. Because the information is important to what’s happening in the Cedar Valley, I study these documents and various sources of third-party analysis to get a feel for the sales trends and expectations in the Agriculture and Turf part of the Equipment division.

Open, Economically Vital International Markets Are Essential

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

The importance of maintaining an adequate federal budget for International Affairs was the emphasis of an August 1 meeting between U.S. Rep. Rod Blum and representatives of the Iowa Advisory Board to the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition (USGLC).

quote from Steve Dust, CEO, Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & ChamberAppropriately, the meeting was held in Blum’s Cedar Falls office around a conference table featuring a revolving globe.

The Trump Administration’s budget proposed dramatic cuts to the account, while House and Senate FY18 proposals are closer to FY17 enacted levels. The International Affairs activities of the federal government are under the direction of the State Department and Executive Office.

Others in the meeting addressed the national security missions, accountability and transparency reforms underway in the U.S. State Department and USAID, and effectiveness of addressing humanitarian crises with International Affairs programs.

My comments were focused on the important role of the Development and Aid budgets to opening foreign markets for Cedar Valley of Iowa and U.S. exports and the importance of increasing private investment to secure diplomatic relationships.

The Alliance & Chamber pays attention to the customers of our existing businesses and what it takes to expand those markets. Foreign aid in development and economic empowerment creates new buyers for machinery and equipment of all kinds produced here and builds capacity to buy and consume commodities and value added agricultural products.

The concentration of manufacturing, food processing, and commodity production in the Cedar Valley is more evenly balanced than the rest of the state. About 97 percent of the world’s potential consumers are outside the United States. That means open, economically vital markets are essential to business growth here.

Demands for Cedar Valley services go well beyond machinery and food. A few years ago, a Chinese sister city group visiting Cedar Falls had specific interests. They wanted to obtain harvesting equipment, technology for food processing, and assistance to recruit an enormous number of English teachers. Ostensibly the goal was to advance their economic development in the South Central region of the nation. We had or could make effective, quick connections on all fronts that benefited us.

Well-placed and accountable development aid and trade assistance help establish and ensure the political stability in nations to be reliable trading partners and protect investments of Cedar Valley firms. U.S. aid also helps people around the globe to become consumers of our commodities and food products.

Open markets are good for us: effective aid programs encourage rule of law and enable a safe environment for investment in the developing world – often the location of some of the fastest growing economies today.

The International Affairs operations rely heavily on private agencies to most effectively deliver the services on the ground in these nations, and aid and diplomacy are so much better — and less expensive in all ways — than relying on a military presence.

What a Day!

By Steve Dust, President/CEO Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber

You have probably seen that commercial for an insurance company where, after a great day for a young woman receiving a new car and an equally dismal day for a man whose car tires have been stolen, both exclaim, “What a day!”

That’s how I felt on Tuesday, July 11 as spent four hours traveling to and from Des Moines to attend a three-hour meeting.

Usually, I wouldn’t attend a meeting outside the Cedar Valley on the day of an Alliance & Chamber board meeting, never mind our annual meeting. But I broke that rule for the Future Ready Iowa Alliance board meeting because it meets so infrequently, its planning work is nearing the end, and important implementation actions soon follow.

“What a day!” I repeated to myself the entire trip. Initially, I focused on missing hours of prep time for the Alliance & Chamber annual meeting. Then the people I encountered completely turned my day around.

  • Ben Allen, former University of Northern Iowa president and current interim Iowa State University president, was the first person I encountered. It was good to see an old friend and champion of the Cedar Valley. That was worth the trip, I thought.
  • Mike Ralston, President of Iowa Association of Business and Industry, and I walked in together. We always have a lot to compare notes on, but he emphasized that a recent ABI social media post attracted the largest number of views, interactions, and reposts his organization had experienced. The post featured the U.S. Chamber of Commerce presenting U.S. Rep Rod Blum with its Spirit of Enterprise Award; the Alliance & Chamber co-hosted the event at the TDS Automation/Doerfer plant in Waverly.
  • Hawkeye Community College President Linda Allen is one of eight on the board from various Cedar Valley sectors. As we were getting yet another cup of coffee, she talked to me about another potential partnership between Hawkeye and a local major employer, implemented at TechWorks Campus. She is pumped about the opportunity. (Now, all we need is money).
  • As the program began, Georgia Van Gundy, CEO of Iowa Business Council, gave a shout out to the Cedar Valley’s aggressive programming to retain, recruit, and prepare talent to fuel economic growth. Unexpected and appreciated. (IBC’s members are Iowa’s largest 20+/- employers, the three regent universities, and bankers’ association.)
  • While walking back to my table from the coffee urn, President Liang Chee Wee of Northeast Iowa Community College got up from his table to greet me with his characteristic smile. He told me, “I’m a fan of all you’re doing in the Cedar Valley!” That’s all of you: I just happened to be in the spot to catch the compliment.
  • It was good to see Iowa Economic Development Authority Director Debi Durham simply because of health challenges she has been managing – with her typical “I’m not getting beat” approach, of course. But then she highly complimented the work of the Alliance & Chamber Economic Development team working on a particular project. I thanked her for taking extraordinary steps to ensure the opportunity to win.
  • Governor Kim Reynolds’ Deputy Chief of Staff Tim Albrecht is a recent graduate of ABI’s Leadership Iowa, the same class for which Leader Valley‘s Melissa Reade was a co-director. Tim thanked me for the time given Melissa to fulfill that role. She said, “Without Melissa there, it would not have been the amazing experience we had.” That is quite a compliment.
  • During the meeting, I sat with UNI Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Jim Wohlpart. He has a goal to ensure the Future Ready Iowa initiatives to increase the percentage of Iowan’s with post-high school educational/career prep credentials are effectively implemented in the Cedar Valley economic area. Jim frequently moved our small-group discussion toward the need for local strategies to implement the statewide framework. His enthusiasm is contagious. I’m glad to have such a motivated leader making a difference for the workforce and employers of the Cedar Valley.

By the end of the meeting, I was saying, “What a day!” but for an entirely different reason than during my morning drive.

I had been reminded that the Cedar Valley generally, and our Alliance & Chamber especially, have many talented people effectively and proactively implementing meaningful projects to make our region even greater – and that effort recognized statewide.

Letter of Support for Convention Center, Hotel Agreement

In a letter to Mayor Quentin Hart and Waterloo Council Members, Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber CEO Steve Dust outlines several reasons why the city should approve an agreement with developer Leslie Hospitality Company. “This agreement is beneficial to the city’s taxpayers, and should be seen as enabling a significant benefit to the Cedar Valley economy and your city’s image,” Dust writes.

Waterloo City Council members approved selling the Five Sullivan Brothers Convention Center to Leslie Hospitality Company on July 17.

Read Dust’s letter of support.

ALLIANCE & CHAMBER PREPARES TO MOVE TO TECHWORKS CAMPUS

Cedar Valley of Iowa – “It only makes sense that our offices are located in TechWorks”, emphasizes Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber CEO Steve Dust, “we are inseparable partners in Cedar Valley economic development, and TechWorks is attracting tenants that we want to be near.” Dust shows his enthusiasm when talking about the new offices under construction, and to be occupied by the organizations he leads. The Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber is moving their office to the second floor of the Tech 1 Building on the campus operated by the Alliance & Chamber subsidiary, TechWorks Campus.

The 6,000 square feet of space will be occupied by the professional staff of 15 full-time, part-time, and contracted team members. The organizations located there include the Alliance & Chamber and its subsidiaries TechWorks and Leader Valley Foundation, as well as affiliated Cedar Valley Manufacturers Network and Cedar Valley Innovation Network.

Occupying space in TechWorks makes a lot of sense from a number of angles, and supports the work of the regional development, business promotion, and civic leadership organization. The Alliance & Chamber moves to space they have been deeply involved in for over a decade. The new space is immediately above the growing UNI Additive Manufacturing Center and the Design Lab collaboratively managed by Hawkeye Community College and UNI. The Alliance & Chamber space is one floor below the Cedar Valley Makerspace and offices available. And it is immediately next door to the new mixed-use Green@TechWorks project, opening a Courtyard by Marriott, conference center, and themed restaurant during mid-year. John Deere will open its new training center in The Green during the same time frame.

The growth of the riverfront and US 63 corridor fits nicely in the decision to build in Tech 1. “A decade ago when TechWorks began its redevelopment work,” Dust said, “the Campus was in the middle of nothing. Now, it’s central to one of the most active development districts in the Midwest.” He continues, “in addition to everything happening and about to happen on-campus, we’re next to the new Grand Crossing mixed-use project on the former Grand Hotel site, down the street from the new SingleSpeed brewery and restaurant; near all the riverfront amenities and new housing. We’re also right next to the new Hawkeye Urban Campus building. There will be as much collaboration between Tech 1 building users and the Urban Campus as there will be between the Marriott and nearby Cedar Valley SportsPlex, in my view.” concludes Dust.

The new space itself is a fresh change for the Alliance & Chamber. It’s designed in an open style, with minimal enclosed offices and a maximum of collaboration spaces. “We toured a lot of office layouts in new and old structures,” says Alliance & Chamber Vice President of Operations & General Manager Sandi Sommerfelt, “and it gave us a lot of guidance on best practices.” The new space includes huddle spaces for 2 to 5 people to congregate and meeting rooms of various sizes. It also includes some quiet spaces. “Sometimes, people do need to have a minimum of noise and privacy. For those not assigned to an office, we have provided small rooms for crunch time concentration and communications, and small, confidential meetings”, continued Sommerfelt.

The space features a lot of large windows, a part of the historical manufacturing building structure. “We designed the walls in such a way to use the natural light to its maximum,” says Sommerfelt. The project designers also worked to maintain the feel of the John Deere production environment that extended just into the 21st Century in this building. Sealed concrete floors, exposed brick walls, and open ceilings in most locations provides not only a modern “loft” feel, but pays homage to its history. “We make things in the Cedar Valley, and it’s only natural that we’d celebrate that heritage in the place dedicated to economic growth and improving the business climate,” Dust adds.

“The move-in date has been set at April 24”, says Sommerfelt, who has been the Alliance & Chamber’s project manager. Dust notes, “Sandi has a done a terrific job. I asked her to take on a major project, one she’s not been involved with in the past. She jumped in, assembling the team, acquiring the financing and negotiating the lease.” And as construction began, she shared project management with TechWorks Vice President & General Manager Wes James, who has managed the construction and maintenance in the Tech 1 building since it opened. “His knowledge and experience in working with this construction team, and this building has been absolutely invaluable,” Sommerfelt adds.

The design of the space was led by StruXture Architects, and the general contractor is Cardinal Construction, who utilized Young Plumbing & Heating, Shaw Electric, Hawkeye Alarm & Signal, Budget Blinds of Waterloo, Lindgren Glass Products, and Blackhawk Automatic Sprinklers. The furnishings contractor is Kirk Gross Company.  It’s no accident that all of the building team operate in the Cedar Valley. “It’s imperative”, says Sommerfelt, “It’s the point we make with our Value in the Valley initiative. We promote doing business in the Cedar Valley, and our work is funded by membership investments of our businesses. It’s our practice to do business with our investor-members, while watching the costs through competitive proposals in each area of cost”, says Sommerfelt. “We encourage everyone to do the same,” she concludes.

But they’re still not finished even when the group moves in. “We have a large meeting room that we’d like to finish adjacent to our offices.” It is designed to hold about 60 people in a classroom setting. It would be used by the Alliance & Chamber for board meetings, Leader Valley training seminars, and regional collaboration sessions, such as for the Manufacturers Network and Cedar Valley Regional Partnership.  It would also be available to other tenants of the Tech 1 building. “We invite businesses and individuals who would like to help make that happen through sponsorship to contact Steve or me. It’s a terrific way to recognize your family or business while providing a meeting room where thousands will meet each year,” encouraged Sommerfelt.

The Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber is a private, not-for-profit corporation working to increase wealth and economic vitality through collaborative economic and community development throughout the Cedar Valley economic area. 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.

The TechWorks Campus is a 30-acre advanced manufacturing, research and development, innovation, education, commercial and manufacturing center. Located in downtown Waterloo adjacent to the John Deere Drive Train Operations, the campus is comprised of sites for new development and 300,000 square feet space in two historic John Deere manufacturing buildings. More information about TechWorks Campus can be found at www.techworkscampus.com or by calling Cary Darrah, President at (319) 232-1156.

The Leader Valley Foundation, born out of the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber’s priority to develop a strong workforce and to strengthen business and education collaboration, has been formed to lead a business-education partnership to develop the leadership skills of Cedar Valley students to improve and close the skills gap over time, and prepare our students for a career, college and citizenship.  More information about Leader Valley can be found at www.leadervalley.org or by calling Dr. Melissa Reade, Director 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