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Tag Archives: economy

Meeting in the Middle: Attracting Talent to Cedar Valley Job Opportunities

– Britt Jungck, Director of Business Services & Workforce Development

Recruiting quality employees can be one of the most stressful and competitive tasks in any company.  We have jobs in the Cedar Valley and the job seekers have choices.

So who is winning this battle for talent?  Lately, almost every company that I talk to is hiring for at least one position or projecting a hire in the next six months.  Numerous Cedar Valley companies are adding dozens to their staff teams each year; some having an easier time than others.

The biggest factor in determining a company’s hiring success is their level of engagement with the community and potential job seekers.  If we are talking about recruiting the emerging workforce (young professionals and college graduates) then this is a vital ingredient to success.  Millennials rarely apply to an unknown company.  They want to work for an organization that meets their aspirations, and if they haven’t heard of your business, they probably aren’t dreaming of working there.

Usually when I start talking about community engagement, many HR Directors begin to roll their eyes.  I’m not saying you have to pass out frisbees to every college student or offer pizza and beer to every young professional you know.  But, thinking through your recruitment strategy and whether it represents what’s effective in 2013 might be a good idea.  In fact, there are many things you could probably do to connect with more people that cost LESS money.

Job Fairs-Starting with the obvious, job fairs are a great way to meet a large number of potential candidates in one day.  However, you have to carefully plot how your image plays to the attendees when planning your booth.  This does not mean simply dusting off the old bowl of butterscotch discs.  Today’s employers need to be engaging.  Props, displays, games, surveys, thoughtful giveaways( instead of consumables), music, computers, bright colors, and representatives that fit the same demographic as your potential candidate(s) are all a great start.

The Cedar Valley needs to have a greater, more active and engaging, presence at our local job fairs, especially those on college campuses.  Why?  Because rumors determine image.  If they see you and like you, they may want to be you.  If they see you and are bored with you, they may spread the word.  If they don’t see you at all, you’re invisible.  As a community, we have such a breadth of successful businesses, we should never settle with giving a lackluster impression of the Cedar Valley.  And other towns are showing up to compete!

Strategic involvement-What’s your market?  Go there.  If you need to hire 30 software developers and technical sales professionals, you can’t just put an ad on Indeed.com and hope someone stumbles upon your company.  Where do the best people come from?  Offer internships (that pay).  Where do software developers hang out?  Offer coupons or Groupons for their favorite coffee shop or bar.  Do they have kids?  Get your brand at all the soccer tournaments and talk about your flexible schedules.  You have to maneuver the market to be successful.

One local company is showing great promise with this, wanting to connect with college students, they decided to help on move-in day at the dorms.  Free labor?  That makes an impression!  Another had free cocoa available at the first, cold outdoor football game.  Yet another is using an “office decorating allowance” to cater to those who feel their work environment is important in their decision.  The point is, be unique.  Don’t be another empty table or desperate plea in an advertisement.  Be something positive that is going to inspire your future employee to apply.

The Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber is committed to both providing recruitment ideas to its investors through career fairs and panel discussions (see our event schedule!), but we are also working with young professionals to get to know their community.  We will be sponsoring five bus tours, featuring more than 60 companies and organizations, to help foster ideas for job seekers.  These events have an added bonus of being able to show off our gorgeous community to those who might not venture around as often.

The truth is, we have a lot to offer.  Hundreds of job opportunities.  Fast succession potential. Creative, growing employers.  We just have to reach out with new methods, as talent and as employers,  to connect the dots and get (people) hired.

Alliance & Chamber Seek Investor Input to 2014 Legislative Policy Agenda

As the Government Relations Committee begins deliberating on the 2014 GCVAC Legislative Policy Agenda, I want to extend a special invitation to an Investors’ Legislative Issues Forum on Monday, September 16, 2013 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Cedar Falls from 8:00-9:00 am. This year, the Alliance & Chamber is offering an opportunity for investor involvement in legislative priority identification through this forum. Please come to hear from other investors what is on their minds as we begin crafting our 2014 agenda. Our hope is that this forum will give us an important head start and strengthen our efforts in identifying and prioritizing issues important to business in the Greater Cedar Valley as we build the Alliance & Chamber’s legislative agenda for the next session.

The October 11 Friday Forum will be at the Five Sullivan Bros. Center and the November 8 event will be at the Waterloo Center for the Arts.

Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber Announces New Roles, Promotions

“It helps a very talented professional team do our jobs more effectively and increase the competitive stance of the Cedar Valley in a global economy.” This is how Steve Dust,  CEO of the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber describes his motivation for announcing recent promotions within that economic and community development corporation.

The announcement describes a realignment of existing staff. No new hires were made, and no compensation adjustments were included in the process, Dust emphasizes. “We did this to operate more efficiently as a combined economic development, redevelopment, and community development organization, he says.  Team members who do similar things are grouped by related functions, yet it allows us to remain flexible to very quickly attack any opportunity or issue in our economic area.”

In the new alignment, Dust is supported by four vice presidents, including Lisa Skubal, CEcD, who was named Vice President of Economic Development. Lisa oversees all business expansion and recruitment programs, marketing and project management, talent recruitment and retention, and business and economic information gathering. “Lisa enjoys a statewide reputation as one of the best in our field. Her professional growth has given her the skills to lead the team that helps wealth creating businesses and institutions locate and expand in the Cedar Valley of Iowa,” explained Dust.

Dust also named Cary Darrah as Vice President of Community Development. “Cary was brought into the Alliance & Chamber structure to manage the TechWorks Campus redevelopment, in large part because of the marvelous job she did in Cedar Falls Main Street organization, said Dust. “She has the Campus on a good trajectory with The Green @ TechWorks project getting underway in Tech II, and several good manufacturing technology-related opportunities exploring space commitments in Tech I. As I looked at the skills necessary to deal with our Competitiveness and Amenities work, which includes things like networking and events, local issues management, improving our infrastructure for business growth, and Leader Valley educational programs, it matched up nicely with Cary’s organizational skills and interests,” concluded Dust.

“In many regards, the Alliance & Chamber is a growing, entrepreneurial small business,” explains Dust. “We’re growth-oriented, and focused on doing what’s expected of us by our customers and clients, our investor-members, and this team faces the same kind of challenges our investor-members do in handling all the human resources, IT, facilities, and administrative tasks, and holding each other accountable for the wise use of our talents and resources. We take this very seriously, and to oversee the administrative components of the Alliance & Chamber, we have elevated Sandi Sommerfelt to Vice President of Operations. Sandi was in a similar VP role at another business, and she’s demonstrated that she can effectively lead and keep us well organized.”

At the same time, the CFO role held by Sue Hansen, CPA, becomes a part-time position. “Sue has worked very hard to bring us to an even higher level of management reporting and compliance with changing requirements. Sue will remain focused on our financial reporting and major HR issues, where she also has deep experience and knowledge, while having more time for family pursuits and personal interests.” said Dust.

“As we looked at the goals we expect to accomplish for  the Cedar Valley business community and economic area this fiscal year (which began on July 1), and the number of complex and sometimes new challenges we’ll face, it became obvious to the senior team a realignment was necessary to get it all done effectively. It also permits me to spend more time on strategic business development, regional issues, and investor relationships.  We’ll still be stretched, but this arrangement of duties and leadership will help relieve that challenge”, claimed Dust.

Dust concludes, “I think the most important thing to communicate to our investor-members, the business community in general, and all of the partners we rely on in accomplishing our work is that there is a team of highly talented, motivated and enthusiastic economic and community development professionals working every day in the Alliance & Chamber to increase wealth and economic vitality in the Cedar Valley economic area.”

The Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber is a private, not-for-profit corporation whose investors include businesses, institutions, local governments and professionals dedicated to continuously improving the economic environment and quality of life in the Cedar Valley.  The Alliance & Chamber works to increase wealth and economic vitality through collaborative economic and community development throughout the Cedar Valley economic area.


Lisa Rivera Skubal among members of Cedar Falls Community Main Street Board of Directors

Community Main Street Announces 2013-2014 Board

CEDAR FALLS, IOWA, June 19, 2013 – Cedar Falls Community Main Street has announced new Board of Directors members and the Executive Committee for 2013-2014.

Dawn Wilson and Pam Taylor are new members to the Community Main Street Board of Directors. Wilson and Taylor will serve on the board beginning July 1. On the 2013-2014 Executive Committee Ann Remmert will serve as President, Pam Taylor as President-Elect, Dave Deaver as Treasurer, Brent Johnson as Secretary, and Gretchen Behm as Past-President.

Additional board members are: Dave Schachterle, Ty Kimble, Sheryl McGovern, Julie Brunscheon, Lisa Rivera Skubal, Lea Ann Saul, Jodi Landau, Gregg Humble, Brandon Gray, and Ron Gaines. Liaison members are: John Miller, Jeff Sitzmann, Patrick Gibbs, Jane Messingham, Kim Manning, and Karen Smith.

The Community Main Street Board of Directors has the ultimate responsibility for the Main Street program. Their responsibilities are to educate, build consensus, stimulate the downtown economy through action, focus activity on the downtown, and maximize volunteer participation in the revitalization process. The board serves as a private sector advocate of downtown revitalization by promoting community involvement, acceptance, and commitment to the revitalization effort.

About Cedar Falls Community Main Street

Cedar Falls Community Main Street, Inc. is a volunteer, non-profit organization established in 1987. It is established to foster economic vitality while preserving and promoting the historic image and character of downtown Cedar Falls. Through the integration of business improvement, design, organization and development, and promotion into a practical management strategy, it creates a change in the downtown’s economic base. For more information, visit www.communitymainstreet.org or call (319) 277-0213.


Economic Indicators Steady Iowa Business Council Releases Second Quarter Results

DES MOINES, IOWA – June 3, 2013.  Expectations in sales, capital spending, and employment for Iowa’s largest employers over the coming six months moved very little as business leaders continue to express a positive, though cautious, economic outlook.  The 2013Q2 Iowa Business Council (IBC) Overall Economic Outlook Survey Index (OSI) remained at 64 – the same as three months ago (64) but four points lower than this time last year (68).  The 2013Q2 survey was completed by the corporate members of the Iowa Business Council during the second half of May, the results of which were released today.

The 2013Q2 Sales OSI is 70, one point lower than last quarter (71) and three points behind one year ago (73).  All of the CEOs expect steady or increased sales over the next six months – substantially higher (5%), higher (67%), or no change (29%).  None of the survey respondents expect sales levels to decrease – lower (0%) or substantially lower (0%).

The 2013Q2 Capital Spending OSI is 64, which is three points ahead of last quarter (61) but five points below the 2012Q2 survey (69).  Ninety-five percent of IBC corporate members expect steady or increased capital spending levels through November 2013 – substantially higher (14%), higher (33%), or no change (48%).  Five percent of survey respondents expect capital spending, i.e., investments in facilities and equipment, to decrease – lower (5%) or substantially lower (0%).

The 2013Q2 Employment OSI is 58, two points lower than three months ago (60) and five points behind this time last year (63).  Eighty-six percent expect hiring levels for the next six months to remain steady or grow – substantially higher (0%), higher (43%), or no change (43%).  Fourteen percent expect employment needs to decrease – lower (14%) or substantially lower (0%).

“Business leaders remain optimistic but guarded in their assessment of the economy,” said Stan Askren, the Chairman, President, and CEO of HNI Corporation in Muscatine and 2013 Chair of the Iowa Business Council.


NOTE:  Rounding may cause the addition of percentages in a measure to equal more or less than 100%.



* * * * * * * * * *

The quarterly Iowa Business Council Economic Outlook Survey incorporates a diffusion index, wherein each survey response falls on a 100-point scale.  Using weighted averages, an index number is then calculated that measures the sentiment of IBC executives projecting business activity six months into the future.  An Outlook Survey Index (OSI) of 50 indicates that the business sentiment of all survey participants is average; an OSI above 50, the sentiment is positive; below 50, the sentiment is negative.  This index generates a numeric measure going forward that attempts to more precisely estimate the economic condition of business activity in Iowa.

The Economic Outlook Survey is conducted quarterly by the Iowa Business Council to inform Iowa businesses and Iowans about projected trends in the state’s economy, which may prove useful for business and economic planning purposes.


Iowa Leading Indicators Index held steady for four consecutive months

The Iowa Leading Indicators Index held steady at 106.1 in April for a fourth consecutive month after remaining at 106.0 from October through December of 2012. The monthly diffusion index increased to 62.5 after holding steady at 56.3 for the two previous months reflecting widespread gains that were offset by large drops in just two components. The six-month annualized change in the index continued to be positive (0.2%) for the fifteenth consecutive month but dropped closer to zero while the six-month diffusion index fell to 56.3. The non-farm employment index increased for the 31st consecutive month, but the increase fell below 0.1 percent in April for the fourth time in the last 22 months. The ILII’s recent stability suggests that Iowa employment growth may continue to slow, but levels should remain steady through summer.

The two most positive contributors in April were building permits and the new orders index. The most positive contributor in April was building permits, with the 12-month moving average rising to the highest level since March 2008. In April 2013, the 12-month moving average for building permits increased 1.9 percent to 840 from 824 in March but remained 27.3 percent below the historical average for April (1998-2008). The new orders index was a positive contributor for the first time in six months, exceeding the value of 69.0 from one year ago. The monthly index value jumped to 77.9 from the March value of 69.5 after slowly rising from the low of 53.5 in November 2012.

The two largest negative contributors were the agricultural futures profits index and the national yield spread. The agricultural futures profits index was a negative contributor for the fifteenth consecutive month. The 12-month moving averages of expected profits for livestock fell again this month, while expected profits for both crop components also decreased. The last time that expected profits fell for all of the components in the same month was May 2012. Expected profits for corn fell in April for the first time in nine months while expected profits for hogs dropped for a tenth consecutive month. Although near futures cattle prices were up 6.1 percent over last year, expected cattle profits have been falling for the last two years. The national yield spread decreased to 1.70 in April from 1.87 in March as the long-term rate fell 20 basis points and the short-term rate fell 3 basis points. Long-term rates dropped throughout April after a disappointing national employment report raised concerns the economy was slowing.

Unemployment insurance claims, the Iowa stock market index, and manufacturing hours were all positive contributors in April. Unemployment insurance claims decreased in April for the 41st time in 42 months. Claims were 7.8 percent below the number of claims made in April 2012, but were 3.5 percent above the historical monthly average for April (1987-2008). Of the 34 stocks included in the Iowa stock market index, 17 had positive gains in the month of April, including 7 of the 11 financial-sector companies. On average, Iowa stock prices rose 1.8 percent in April. The monthly value of manufacturing hours increased to 41.5 hours which was 0.6 hours above the March 2013 level and 0.2 hours above the level reported for April 2012. Recent jumps in hours brought the monthly value from over an hour below historical levels in February to 0.4 hours over historical April levels (1996-2008).

The only other negative contributor in April was diesel fuel consumption. The 12-month moving average decreased to 55.34 from 55.37 in March after four months of increases.

The Department of Revenue Iowa Leading Indicators Index April 2013 Report is available on the Web: http://www.iowa.gov/tax/taxlaw/econindicators.html. Please contact Victoria Daniels at (515) 281-8450 or Victoria.Daniels@iowa.gov if you have any questions about the report.

Advanced Manufacturing Hub Step Closer with State Funding

The Cedar Valley TechWorks is one step closer to becoming the physical location of an Advanced Manufacturing Hub for the region and state thanks to legislation adopted this week.  Nearly $4 million was included in Iowa Economic Development Authority appropriations for the project.

The IEDA’s Iowa Invocation Council, which will administer the funds, has been working closely with the Cedar Valley TechWorks and Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber to establish the Campus as the designated site for the Hub.

The bulk of the funds will construct improvements in the Tech 1 building on the Campus. A portion of the funds will be used for the University of Northern Iowa to purchase a 3-dimensional (3D) printer to fabricate on-demand molds for cast components  to support  advanced manufacturing , in collaboration with TechWorks.

“With this funding, we can make the capital and infrastructure improvements to the Tech 1 building needed to attract more technology and bio-products related industrial operations and partners to the campus. The investment in building improvements and equipment will prepare space for new businesses and educational programs, and bring tremendous momentum and excitement to the Campus as these projects move forward alongside the previously announced anchor projects,” states Cary Darrah, General Manager of the Cedar Valley TechWorks Campus. “ We are grateful to the entire Cedar Valley legislative delegation for its bi-partisan advocacy for this funding, especially Senator Bill Dotzler who really went to bat for the Cedar Valley and the TechWorks Campus. His work for this and other economic development issues this year is recognized by legislators from both sides of the isle.”

Jerry Thiel, Director of UNI’s Metal Casting Center is also optimistic about the impact of the collaboration on the industry statewide, “The capabilities of having technology like this will undoubtedly increase the overall competitiveness of Iowa manufacturers by allowing them to deliver products to the market at an unprecedented rate.”

Randy Pilkington, Executive Director, UNI Business and Community Services adds,
“This is a substantial investment in advanced manufacturing not just for the Cedar Valley, but for the entire state of Iowa. It also shows UNI’s commitment to advanced manufacturing statewide.”

What this means to the Cedar Valley

“The Cedar Valley is known as Iowa’s center of Advanced Manufacturing,” states Steve Dust, CEO of the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber.  “With the high concentration of manufacturing in our economic area, and the manufacturing technology -related resources of UNI and our higher education partners, the Cedar Valley is the prime location to establish the state’s hub of leading edge applied manufacturing technologies. As businesses and entrepreneurs from all over the Midwest access our equipment and facilities to improve and produce innovative products, we take another step in innovation led economic development in the Cedar Valley economy, and toward fulfilling the original vision for the Campus. We’re proud to be known as the Advanced Manufacturing Hub,” concludes Dust.

The Governor is expected to sign the bill into law before the end of June.

The Cedar Valley TechWorks is a 30-acre advanced manufacturing and biotechnology research, development and education center, and business and manufacturing cluster. The campus is located in downtown Waterloo, Iowa adjacent to the John Deere operations. The Cedar Valley TechWorks is owned and managed by the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber.




The Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber Launches New Data Tool Resource

As part of its portfolio of business services, the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber, in partnership with Far Reach of Cedar Falls, introduces the Cedar Valley Data Portal.

Through the Cedar Valley Data Portal website, statistics and data about the Cedar Valley, from a multitude of sources, is collected and routinely updated in one convenient location. Data available on the site includes general demographic, economic, social, and housing statistics along with a variety of additional information regarding Cedar Valley cities, seven county economic area and the state of Iowa. The site offers data comparisons through easy to create, customizable reports.

As an economic development organization, the Alliance & Chamber is the primary agent for the demographic information on the entire Cedar Valley region. It is a priority of the Alliance & Chamber to distribute this information and business intelligence in the most efficient and effective way possible. The information provided in the data portal presents the Cedar Valley as one economic region, positioning the region competitively for new jobs and investment. Site selectors from outside the region will especially appreciate the comprehensive economic and talent information available through the data portal.

“ Most companies and site selection influencers are conducting community data and property searches 24/7 and look to organizations like the Alliance & Chamber as a source.   If this information isn’t readily available on our web site, we risk a lost opportunity,”notes Alliance & Chamber Economic Development Marketing Director, Lisa Rivera Skubal. “Companies and site selection influencers don’t call economic developers until they have already made a short list of potential sites.  This interactive data portal complements our available property data base, further setting us apart.”

The data portal is also an avenue to support retail and service business with access to current information for planning.

Project History

A survey to Alliance & Chamber partner organizations such as utility partners, the Iowa Economic Development Authority, and the Cedar Valley Regional Partners showed need for such a system. From there, Far Reach developed the system for the Alliance & Chamber.

The Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber is responsible for updating the information provided on the data portal. Alliance & Chamber staff  use national reporting sources, such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Census Bureau, Council for Community and Economic Research and Iowa Workforce Development to aggregate data. Far Reach Technologies will continue to providing reporting and analytics to guide the growth and enhancement of the site.

“The Alliance & Chamber works with these stats every day. The ability to collect, update, and distribute this kind of comprehensive business intelligence is bedrock to what our organization does. This is not only a value added benefit to our investors, the Cedar Valley Data Portal is a critical resource for attracting new business and talent to the Cedar Valley,” comments Steve Dust, CEO of the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber.

The Cedar Valley Data Portal can be found by going to www.cedarvalleyalliance.com,  http://data.cedarvalleyalliance.com/DataPortal.aspx. For more information on the Cedar Valley Data Portal and other information services provided by the Alliance & Chamber, contact Taylor King at tking@cedarvalleyalliance.com or 319-232-1156. Far Reach can be found on the web at www.farreachinc.com.


Dust Optimistic About Cedar Valley Economy – Part 2

View the three part video of Steve Dust, CEO of the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber on KWWL’s Steele Report.

Click Here.

Dust Optimistic About Cedar Valley Economy – Part 1

View the three part video of Steve Dust, CEO of the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber, on KWWL’s Steele Report here.

Click Here.

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