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The Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber will host an Investor Legislative Forum to gain input from investors on legislative issues of importance to Cedar Valley businesses.  The Investor Legislative Forum will be held on Wednesday, September 21, 2016 from 8:00am to 9:00am at the Five Sullivan Brothers Convention Center, Waterloo.  State level issues requiring action in the upcoming session will be presented at the session by Alliance & Chamber.

Prior to the start of each Iowa legislative session the Alliance & Chamber establishes a legislative agenda.  The Cedar Valley Legislative Agenda for Economic Progress contains actions that will improve the Cedar Valley business climate and quality of life, and address specific issues for business.  Throughout the year, the Alliance & Chamber tracks and brings to the attention of its investors’ issues that have an impact on their bottom line. Investors in the Alliance & Chamber are invited and encouraged to help shape the Agenda by participating in the Investor Legislative Forum.

There is no cost to attend, but an RSVP is appreciated by contacting Sandi Sommerfelt at 319 -232-1156 or ssommerfelt@cedarvalleyalliance.com. The Alliance & Chamber offers this opportunity exclusively to its 800 investor businesses & organizations and community partners. Registration deadline is September 13, 2016.

The Alliance & Chamber provides One Voice for Cedar Valley businesses and institutions by advocating for economic growth policies and business climate improvement at the local, state and federal levels.  For more information on advocacy initiatives of the Alliance & Chamber, contact Steve Dust at 319-232-1156 or sdust@cedarvalleyalliance.com.

Alliance & Chamber Investors to attend Cedar Valley Legislative Reception

The Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber will host its annual Cedar Valley Legislative Reception on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 from 5:00-7:00 PM, in the Terrace Ballroom, Renaissance Savery Hotel, 401 Locust St., Des Moines.

Investors in the Alliance & Chamber are invited to attend and share the story of the Cedar Valley and discuss issues of importance to Cedar Valley businesses with Legislators and other key administration officials. Legislators from 12 Iowa counties, along with the Governor Branstad, Lt. Governor Reynolds, Debi Durham, Director of Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA), and Ed Wallace, Director of Iowa Workforce Development are expected to attend.

There is no cost to attend, but an RSVP is appreciated  by calling the Alliance & Chamber at (319)232-1156.

Legislation to Require Taxpayer Notice Introduced

A subcommittee was held on Wednesday, January 22 to discuss HSB 508. HSB 508 requires county assessors to notify taxpayers when the Department of Revenue issues an equalization order. Currently the assessor must publish notice in the newspaper. The Chairman of the subcommittee, Representative Chip Baltimore, stated his support of the bill as a way to provide additional transparency to taxpayers. The legislation also eliminates the public notice provision since every taxpayer would be notified. The Iowa League of Cities and Iowa Newspaper Association are opposed to the bill. All other parties, including ABI, are currently registered “undecided” or “neutral” on the legislation. If you have feedback on this legislation, please contact Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber Director of Government Relations, Steve Firman, sfirman@cedarvalleyalliance.co.

TechWorks proponents forge ahead

September 30, 2013 12:00 pm Editorial – Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier


That’s why proponents of the Cedar Valley TechWorks should not lose heart.

TechWorks, the agri-industrial research complex being developed on portions of John Deere’s former Westfield Avenue facilities, is now 10 years in the making. It was jointly proposed in 2003 by then-University of Northern Iowa president Robert Koob and Barry Shaffter, then general manager of Deere’s Waterloo operations.

Part of the project appears to have hit what proponents call a financial “speed bump.” An application for historic designation through the U.S. National Parks Service has been turned down. At stake is some $10 million in historic preservation tax credits toward the $50 million project.

Proponents are forging ahead.

Bryce Henderson, chief financial officer and chief operating officer with Davenport-based Financial District Properties, the project’s developer, said, “This decision was largely subjective, and we’re going back next week to present our case again,” he said last week.

Darn right. With all due respect to the Park Service, we don’t understand how preserving and enhancing a complex that was the industrial heart of Waterloo for most of the 20th century cannot have historic significance. We areapproaching the 100th anniversary of John Deere’s entry into Waterloo with the purchase of the Waterloo Gasoline Engine Co. in 1918,  which was located on that very spot.

Henderson said the project will continue, and that there are backup financing plans. “You never go into a redevelopment project like this without a Plan A, Plan B, Plan C and Plan D,” he said.

Developers have not given up on securing the historic designation for the Tech 2 building, which is scheduled to open in the winter of 2014 with a Radisson business-class hotel with a ground-floor restaurant, John Deere training facility, showroom and office space and a location for education programs of Hawkeye Community College.

“Part of our discussion was how to get started on the west end of the campus around the museum (Deere Tractor and Engine Museum, now under construction) and Tech 1 while we’re still putting all the pieces together for the Green project,” said Steve Dust, president and CEO of TechWorks. “It was important to understand that we continue to move ahead, even though this is a very important part of the project.”

We appreciate and applaud that undaunted approach. We would ask Park Service officials to consider the alternative. Longtime Cedar Valley residents have seen many industrial buildings fall victim to the wrecking ball, which subsequently resulted in aesthetic eyesores and environmental cleanup headaches.

The TechWorks project is a responsible, systematic re-use of a major industrial site in this city, preserving the site’s heritage with a look to future technologies. That’s a plan worth pursuing, and fighting for.



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.

Iowa Property Taxes Reduced for Commercial & Industiral Tax Payers

The persistence of Iowa commercial and industrial property owners finally paid dividends in a reduction in your property tax burden! After several tries over the last decade, the legislature and Governor came to agreement on the start to property tax reform, and provided modest tax reduction at the same time.
We appreciate those of you who contacted your legislators, encouraging them to finally act on an inequity in the tax system that has persisted – and has been an impediment to economic growth –  for far too long.

While not all was achieved that we were looking for – the rate of rollback is much less than the original proposal –  it is a start. Beyond this, it may provide the motivation for a reform of the entire system in years to come.

The Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber, through its Government Relations Committee and our director of governmental relations Steve Firman, collaborated with a coalition that included the Iowa Chamber Alliance, Iowa Association of Business & Industry, Professional Developers of Iowa, and Iowa Taxpayers Association to continually impress upon our elected officials the need for this change.

Conference Committee Report for SF 295 – Property Tax


Division I—Business Property Tax Credit (“Senate Plan” element)

  • Creates a Business Property Tax Credit for property taxes due and payable in fiscal  year 2015.
  • $50 million is appropriated in fiscal year 2015 to the Business Property Tax Credit  Fund
  • $100 million is appropriated in fiscal year 2016
  • $125 million is appropriated in fiscal year 2017
  • $125 million every year thereafter
  • Each person who wishes to file a claim will obtain a form from the County Assessor.
    The  form does not have to be filed again until the property is sold or transferred.
  • The state will use the money appropriated into the Business Property Tax Credit Fund to reimburse local governments the amount of credits issued.
  • When fully phased in, at least $145,000 of property value on every business would   be equal to the residential rollback
  • Total Fiscal impact to local governments is $16 million when fully phased in.


Division II —Property Tax Assessment Limitation and Replacement (“House Plan” element)

  • Assessment growth limitation moves from 4% to 3% on Ag and residential immediately.
  • Commercial and Industrial will assessed at 95% of valuation starting January 1, 2013; at 90% starting January 1, 2014; and is frozen at 90% thereafter.
  • The State will appropriate money for replacement of the lost revenue. Payments will be made by IDR to county treasurers:

FY 15 $78.8 million (includes multi-residential)

FY 16 $162.8 million (includes multi-residential)

FY 17 $154.1 million (does not include multi-residential and capped at this level

going forward)


Division III—Multi-residential Property Classification

  •  Creates a new property classification: Multi-residential
  •  Multi-residential will include apartments, nursing homes, assisted living facilities , and  certain other rental property
  •  The existing classifications are Residential, Agricultural, Commercial, Industrial
  •  Multi-residential properties will eventually equal the residential rollback after 10 years.
  •  Total fiscal impact to local governments is $85.3 million when fully phased in.

Assessment Year 2013 95%

Assessment Year 2014 90%

Assessment Year 2015 86%

Assessment Year 2016 82%

Assessment Year 2017 78%

Assessment Year 2018 75%

Assessment Year 2019 71%

Assessment year 2020 67%

Assessment year 2021 63%

Assessment year 2022 and thereafter: Residential rate


Division IV —Telecommunications Property

  • Determining the taxable value of each company stays the same
  • Each telephone company will receive a partial exemption from taxation on the value of the company’s property. This is phased in, with half in assessment year 2013 (FY 15), and the remainder being added in assessment year 2014 (FY 16)
  • Department of Revenue is directed to complete a comprehensive study of the telecommunications industry and report recommendations for change to the General Assembly

Assessed value        $0-$20M        $20-$55M        $55-$500M        >$500M

Exemption                    40%                    35%                    25%                     20%


Division V – Iowa Taxpayers Trust Fund Tax Credit

  •  Each year, beginning July 1, 2014, the balance of the Taxpayers Trust Fund exceeds $30 million a tax credit will be issued to Iowa taxpayers
  •  The tax credit will be issued to Iowans with a tax liability
  •  $60 million is the maximum amount that can flow into the taxpayer trust fund each year
  • $60 million equals a $27 credit per filer. $120 million would equal $54


Division VI -Property Assessment Appeal Board

  • Five year sunset – July 1, 2018, lower salaries, adding another appraiser to the   board (replacing the finance profession with state and local tax policy experience, allowing for a speedier hearing process.)

Division VII—Earned Income Tax Credit

  • Increases the Earned Income Tax Credit from 7% to 14% in tax year 2013; 15% in tax year 2014
  • The credit remains refundable.
  • The increase is effective retroactively to January 1, 2013.
  • Fiscal impact: $30.8 million in FY 14 , increasing to $34.5 in FY 15


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.




Clock Runs Out on Iowa Legislature

May Update from Professional Developers of Iowa Lobbiest

Friday, May 3rd was the 110th day of the 110-day 2013 legislative session.  Pay for legislators officially stops after Friday.  Any days spent doing legislative work after that are on their own dime. 

This 16th week of the session has been the busiest in many ways as the final pieces of the legislative session are put into place.  The goal of this past week for legislative leaders has been to move all remaining contentious issues – and there are a lot of them – into conference committees for further negotiation.  Typically, legislation rarely advances to a conference committee, the format used when the House and Senate are not able to find compromise language through the typical amendment process.  This year, they will have at least 9 bills in conference committee. 

 The beauty of the conference committee is that the final product that comes out is not amendable (unless it’s voted down, and then the process gets uglier).  Each chamber will simply have a yes or no vote on each of the conference reports.  In situations where the majority party in each chamber has a very small margin (like this year’s 26-24 in the Senate and 53-47 in the House), a small group of majority party members in a chamber could hold out for their own specific priorities.  By using the conference committee process, they can bypass that possibility.


Currently in Conference Committee:

Education Reform, Property Tax Reform, Justice Appropriations,Economic Development Appropriations, Education Appropriations, Ag/Nat Res Appropriations, Admin/Reg Appropriations, Medicaid Expansion, Health Appropriations, Heading to Conference, Standing Appropriations, Infrastructure (RIIF) Appropriations.

Another benefit to using conference committees to enact legislation, and particularly the budget, is that a chamber cannot add a provision into a conference committee discussion that was not in either the House or the Senate’s bill.  This year, the House and Senate each passed essentially their wish lists for each budget bill and will negotiate which portions of each bill to accept.

Unlike previous conference committees in previous sessions, this year’s conference committees will need to wait until the House, Senate and Governor can agree on an overall spending number for the next fiscal year.  This will require first knowing whether property tax reform will advance to enactment or fall short like it has in so many sessions past, and whether or not Iowa will expand Medicaid or pursue a different option.

Once the legislative leadership and the Governor reach overall agreement, the conference committees will convene and each come to agreement on their individual bills.  Then, at long last, the Legislature will adjourn sine die for the year.


IEDA Funding – Still In Jeopardy  

As the Legislature officially starts the overtime period, it is absolutely critical that you don’t let up on your emails and phone calls.  They are working!  Whether final adjournment occurs this week (there IS a chance) or not for over a month, PDI members’ efforts to weigh in can greatly affect the outcome.

The Economic Development Budget is currently in conference committee.  They will negotiate, among many other things, the IEDA Administration Budget and the IEDA Incentives Fund (which the House funded out of the Infrastructure Budget bill).

  •   The Governor and the Senate provide roughly $18 million for IEDA Incentives and $16 million for IEDA Administration. 
  •  The House proposes $15.1 million for IEDA Incentives and $13.2 million for IEDA Administration.

In the days ahead, PDI members should CALL OR EMAIL legislators and ask them to support $18 Million for IEDA Incentives and $16 Million for IEDA Administration. Then, find 2 or 3 other people on your board, in your office or elsewhere in your work arena and ask them to email as well.  If each legislator gets a handful of emails on this issue, it will make a HUGE difference.  Do this TODAY!

A full update on all bills can be found using the BILL TRACKER



The Business Case for Education Reform

By John Stineman, Executive Director, Iowa Chamber Alliance

The 2013 legislative session presents many opportunities for business —  property tax reform, economic development incentives, transportation infrastructure to name just a few issues that perennially top the agenda of Iowa’s businesses and economic development community.  Standing atop these important issues is education reform.


Yes, business considers education reform to be at least as important as the other core issues within our policy agendas.

The fact of the matter is that Iowa’s once vaunted public education system is no longer as competitive as it was just half a generation ago.

It’s not so much that Iowa has gone backward as much as it is that the rest of the country has improved at a far greater pace.  We used to be at or near the top and now dwell in the lower end of the middle of the pack.

From a strictly business perspective, we must address education reform because of Iowa’s growing skills gap.  Today in Iowa about 18% of available jobs are considered to be “low skill,” but about 38% of the available Iowa workforce is classified as “low skill.”  Middle skill job openings represent half of all open positions in Iowa, but only one-third of available workers are considered to be middle skill.

The skills gap is real, it is growing, and, unfortunately, our education system today is not geared to address it.

Beyond the immediate workforce needs, consider our education outcomes today.  36% of the “Class of 2012” that went on to higher or vocational education after high school required some sort of remedial education after high school.  This is stark evidence we are not systematically equipping our kids with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed after high school.

Of course, it’s not just about the skills gap or what kind of access employers need to qualified workers.

It’s about Iowa’s kids.  It’s about our kids and grandkids.

We’ve all chosen to live in Iowa, to raise our families here.  Making sure our kids have access to a quality education that will help prepare our kids to compete in a global economy and pursue their dreams is among our most important duties.

That’s why education reform is so important.

The reforms proposed by the Governor and now being vetted by the Iowa House of Representatives are a solid start on turning the tide for Iowa’s schools.  The reforms bring with them substantive changes that will fuel teacher leadership from mentor teachers and teacher leaders to drive innovation and energy into subject matter teachers.

The proposal elevates the profession of teaching – increasing first year pay and providing a longer student teaching period so new teachers can hit the ground running when given their own classroom.

The reform proposal expands online learning opportunities by bringing students from across Iowa together to learn online from Iowa teachers in districts that offer subjects not offered in other districts.

Teacher accountability is also important.  A statistic often cited at the Capitol is that 98% of Iowa teachers receive favorable reviews.  While there are many, many quality teachers across Iowa, it is simply not realistic to believe that only two in every 100 are in need of improvement.  Evaluations must include student performance as well as peer reviews and other measures.

The Iowa Chamber Alliance is supportive of the reforms proposed and interested in other ideas that will help improve Iowa’s schools as well.  We are hopeful partisan differences and political arguments can be set aside so that meaningful reform can be achieved.

There is simply too much at stake for us not to succeed in improving our schools.  It truly is the most important thing we can do this session.

For more information, please contact Iowa Chamber Alliance Executive Director, John Stineman, at (515) 226-1492 or john@iowachamberalliance.com.

The Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber is an active member of the Iowa Chamber Alliance. Alliance & Chamber CEO Steve Dust is the current Chair of ICA board of directors. Steve Firman, Alliance & Chamber Director of Gov’t Relations is also on its board.




Digging in . . .Two Weeks In.


Week two is now behind us, and the Legislature is settling into the hard work of the session.  Budget work has begun in earnest and major policy proposals, like the Governor’s education reform package, have begun to be deliberated in committee.

New legislators are beginning to find their routines and the Capitol is abuzz morning, noon and afternoon with the many groups and associations coming to Des Moines to educate policymakers on their issues and jockey for support.

Yes, it is late January in Des Moines.

So far the 85th Iowa General Assembly has been relatively smooth.  But now they are starting to dig into the big issues and the new Assembly will be tested quickly on whether or not it will be different than the past two years where bipartisan agreement was hard to come by.  Only time will tell.

There are, of course, a lot of issues for legislators to come together and support.

Education reform is at the top of the Governor’s list and has the attention of legislators from both chambers and both parties.  Iowa’s schools have not kept up with the rest of the country.  Our time on top has passed, and now we dwell in the middle of the pack.  Real reform is critical, and the proposals coming out of the reform task force are a very positive step forward to help our children be prepared for the future and to help ensure Iowa’s workforce is strong and relevant.

Property taxes are again a major topic – as they should be with the past two sessions seeing much discussion, but no agreement on reforming Iowa’s uncompetitive commercial/industrial property tax system.  The Governor has a new proposal on the table that will guarantee local governments will not lose revenue as a result of rolling back business property taxes.  2013 may well be the year to address this important issue that has been a hindrance to Iowa businesses and economic growth for decades.

Economic development issues are always lively under the Rotunda.  Last year there was a fight over tax increment financing (TIF).  This year, tax credits are under scrutiny as a response to some of the larger tax credits awards in Iowa history being involved in securing two of the biggest capital investments in Iowa history.  Iowa’s economic development activity is on a major upswing, creating thousands of jobs.  The Legislature needs to restore tax credits to their previous level of $185 million, rather than being critical of them.  Direct incentives warrant proper funding as well.

There are several opportunities for the Legislature and the Governor to come together to help advance Iowa’s economy.  The Iowa Chamber Alliance will be in the mix, advocating for economic growth and sound public policy.  Check www.iowachamberalliance.com for updates.

For questions, please contact Iowa Chamber Alliance Executive Director, John Stineman, at john@iowachamberalliance.com

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