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Tag Archives: skilled workforce

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.

Hawkeye to Host Advanced Manufacturing Information Session on December 5

CEDAR FALLS–Hawkeye Community College will host an information session on short-term training in CNC Machining, Industrial Maintenance, and Welding on Monday, December 5, at 11:30 a.m., at the Cedar Falls Center, 5330 Nordic Drive, Cedar Falls. The session will include information about upcoming training opportunities, a tour of training areas, and the opportunity to visit with instructors.

The next CNC Machining training runs February 2-June 8, 2017, and meets Mondays and Thursdays from 5:00-10:00 p.m. CNC operators work in a variety of manufacturing environments and are trained to program, set up, and operate a CNC machine, inspect parts, perform production runs, and set up jobs. CNC machine operators are in high demand in the Cedar Valley. In four months, individuals completing the non-credit certificate may earn $28,000-$37,000 per year, not including overtime.

The next Production Welding training runs February 6-April 11, 2017, and meets Monday-Thursday, 5:00-9:00 p.m. The next Construction Welding training runs January 17-February 20, 2017, and meets Monday-Thursday, 8:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. Welding continues to be the principle means of fabricating and repairing metal products. Iowa Workforce Development forecasts more than 270 job openings each year for welders through 2022. Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers are some of the top occupations in Iowa with the most job openings. Starting wages average $28,500-$36,000 per year and many in this field work overtime.

Industrial Maintenance runs January 18-August 2, 2017, with classes held Monday-Friday from 7:00 a.m.-1:30 p.m. The Industrial Maintenance program prepares students for high demand entry-level employment. Industrial maintenance workers maintain, monitor, troubleshoot, and repair equipment used in the production of goods. Individuals completing the non-credit certificate may earn $31,500-$43,000 per year, not including overtime.

For more information, call 319-296-4290 or visit www.hawkeyecollege.edu/go/advanced-manufacturing.

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Diversity & Inclusion Partnership Presents 6th Annual Summit for Business Professionals

The Diversity & Inclusion Partnership of the Alliance & Chamber is presenting the 2016 Executive Diversity & Inclusion Summit. This is the 6th year for this educational event for owners and managers of businesses and organizations of all sizes. The Summit will be held on October 14, in Winter Hall Atrium and McKinstry Student Center at Allen College, 1990 Heath St, Waterloo, from 8:00 am to 12:30 pm, with registration beginning at 7:30 am.

Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare-Iowa is the premier sponsor for the event.

The Executive Diversity & Inclusion Summit is designed to strengthen the Cedar Valley Economic region by providing tools and information to implement effective inclusive practices. The Summit provides attendees a concentrated and focused experience with multiple activities including a keynote speaker and a dramatic presentation. Additionally, two workshops are offered: Generations in the Workplace, and Employing Immigrants – What Every HR Professional Should Know. Lunch, provided by Cedar Valley Society of Human Resource Managers (SHRM), will be served during the workshops.

Attendees include CEOs, Human Resource directors and upper management of businesses and organizations of all sizes.

Two keynote presentations will be given during the morning session. Diversity & Inclusion Strategist James Wright will present Moving the Race Conversation Forward.  Wright will explore the changing face of America and how this will affect our workforce and political climate; how to interpret US Census data and proactively begin discussing racial differences openly, honestly and respectfully; and will provide keys to introducing inclusive concepts that are useable by all leaders, managers and employees.

Theater instructor and director Andy Paris of the Tectonic Theater Project will introduce the company’s latest project, Uncommon Sense: An Exploration of Autism using Theatrical Form.  The project is rooted in Iowa stories about Iowa families and communities affected by life on the Autism spectrum.  This three-year collaboration began with interviews of Iowans. Their stories have been woven into a theatrical play. The play will premier January 21 and 22, 2017 at the Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center on the University of Northern Iowa Campus in Cedar Falls.

Andrew Duff is a theater major and recent college graduate and has been working with Tectonic Theater on the project.  Andrew, will share his employment experiences as an individual on the Autism spectrum.

Also during the Summit, the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber will announce the call for nominations and application processes for the Diversity & Inclusion Awards to be presented at the 2017 Annual Celebration, March 30, 2017 at the Park Place Event Center, Cedar Falls.

These awards will be given 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.  Deadline for nominations is November 15, 2016.  A nomination form can filled out online at cedarvalleyalliance.com.

Continuing education credits for human resources professionals are available for Summit attendees. There is no cost to attend, but registration is requested no later than September 30.  Workshops details, event agenda, speaker bios and registration can be found at cedarvalleyalliance.com, by contacting Danny Laudick, Director of Talent Solutions at dlaudick@cedarvalleyallaince.com, or by calling 319-232-1156.

REGISTER HERE

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 to 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 Danny Laudick, Director of Talent Solutions at dlaudick@cedarvalleyallaince.com, or by calling 319-232-1156.

 

GREATER CEDAR VALLEY ALLIANCE & CHAMBER TO HOLD FORUM ON WORKFORCE ISSUES

The Alliance & Chamber will host a forum to engage area business and institutions to address talent and workforce challenges in the Cedar Valley.  Addressing Workforce: Beyond the Numbers is for employers, educators, service organizations and other workforce partners to be held Thursday, September 29th from 7:30 -11:30am at the National Cattle Congress Pavilion, Waterloo.

Recent data compiled by the Alliance & Chamber projects that businesses in the Cedar Valley will need 12,000 additional workers in the next 10 years while, at the same time, the working-age population is expected to decrease.

During the forum, business leaders from a cross-section of industries will facilitate three separate discussion tracks. Human resource professionals, business managers from all industries, education leaders, and service providers who support business with workforce needs are encouraged to participate in the most relevant discussion track.

The three tracks include:

  1. Labor Force Participation (utilizing our existing population)
  2. Training & Education (training the future workforce)
  3. Talent Attraction & Retention (attracting new & retaining existing workforce)

The interactive format will provide opportunities for new connections, partnerships, peer-to-peer learning and a deeper understanding of how to collaborate in addressing our workforce needs for today and the future.

A light breakfast will be served at 7:30am.  The event is free. Registration is requested through the Alliance & Chamber website www.cedarvalleyalliance.com by September 16.

For more information on this event and the Talent Solutions initiatives of the Alliance & Chamber contact Danny Laudick by calling 319-232-1156 or by email to dlaudick@cedarvalleyalliance.com.

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GREATER CEDAR VALLEY ALLIANCE & CHAMBER TO HOLD FORUM ON WORKFORCE ISSUES

The Alliance & Chamber will host a forum to engage area business and institutions to address talent and workforce challenges in the Cedar Valley.  Addressing Workforce: Beyond the Numbers is for employers, educators, and workforce partners to be held Thursday, September 29th from 7:30 -11:30am at the National Cattle Congress Pavilion, Waterloo.

Recent data compiled by the Alliance & Chamber projects that businesses in the Cedar Valley will need 12,000 additional workers in the next 10 years while, at the same time, the working-age population is expected to decrease.

During the forum, business leaders from a cross-section of industries will facilitate three separate discussion tracks. Human resource professionals, business managers from all industries, education leaders, and service providers who support business with workforce needs are encouraged to participate in the most relevant discussion track.

The three tracks include:

  1. Labor Force Participation (utilizing our existing population)
  2. Training & Education (training the future workforce)
  3. Talent Attraction & Retention (attracting new & retaining existing workforce)

The interactive format will provide opportunities for new connections, partnerships, peer-to-peer learning and a deeper understanding of how to collaborate in addressing our workforce needs for today and the future.

A light breakfast will be served at 7:30am.  The event is free. Registration is requested through the Alliance & Chamber website www.cedarvalleyalliance.com by September 16.

For more information on this event and the Talent Solutions initiatives of the Alliance & Chamber contact Danny Laudick by calling 319-232-1156 or by email to dlaudick@cedarvalleyalliance.com.

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Alliance & Chamber Supports Upcoming Cedar Falls Schools Proposal

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

Cedar Valley Wide Impact

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

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

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

Vote “Yes” on April 5

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

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

Cedar Falls CAPS and Elementary School Construction Program

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

The mission of the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber is to increase economic vitality and wealth by leading collaborative economic and community development. Details about the many programs and initiatives of the Alliance & Chamber can be found at www.cedarvalleyalliance.com or by calling Steve Dust, CEO at (319) 232-1156.

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

 

 

For fourth year, UNI is a top 100 ‘Best Value in Public Colleges’

Contact:

Lindsay Cunningham, Office of University Relations, 319-273-2761, lindsay.cunningham@uni.edu

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa — For the fourth year in a row, the University of Northern Iowa is ranked in the top 100 “Best Values in Public Colleges” by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance for 2016.

The ranking cites four-year schools that combine outstanding education with economic value. UNI jumped from No. 86 last year to No. 58 on the 2016 list thanks to its high four-year graduation rate, low average student debt at graduation, abundant financial aid, low sticker price and overall great value.

“We start with a universe of 1,200 schools, so each school on our rankings, from number one to number 300, is a best value,” said Janet Bodnar, editor of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine. “Families can use this list as a starting point and then tailor it to each student’s preference for such things as size, location, campus culture and major.”

A full list of schools can be found at www.kiplinger.com/links/college.

Hawkeye Community College to Host Advanced Manufacturing Information Session

Hawkeye Community College will host an information session on advanced manufacturing on Wednesday, August 26, at 5:00 p.m., at the Cedar Falls Center, 5330 Nordic Drive, Cedar Falls. The session will include information about short-term training opportunities in CNC machining, industrial maintenance, and welding; a tour of the training areas; and the opportunity to visit with instructors.

The next Industrial Maintenance training runs October 20, 2015-June 23, 2016 and meets Monday-Thursday, 4:00-10:00 p.m. Industrial maintenance workers maintain, monitor, troubleshoot, and repair equipment used in the production of goods. This program prepares students for entry-level employment, where individuals may earn $27,000-$35,000 per year. Industrial maintenance personnel frequently work overtime. Starting wages do not include overtime compensation.

The next CNC Machining training runs September 21, 2015-February 8, 2016, and meets Mondays and Thursdays from 5:00-10:00 p.m. CNC operators work in a variety of manufacturing environments and are trained to program, set up, and operate a CNC machine, inspect parts, perform production runs, and set up jobs. CNC machine operators are in high demand in the Cedar Valley. In four months individuals completing the non-credit certificate may earn $27,500-$34,000 per year, not including overtime.

The next Production Welding training runs October 26-December 9, 2015, and meets Monday-Thursday, 8:00 a.m.-2:30 p.m.. Welding continues to be the principle means of fabricating and repairing metal products. Iowa Workforce Development forecasts more than 270 job openings each year for welders through 2022. Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers are some of the top occupations in Iowa with the most job openings. Starting wages average $26,500-$35,000 per year and many in this field work overtime.

For more information, call 319-296-4290 or visit www.hawkeyecollege.edu/go/advanced-manufacturing.

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Alliance & Chamber CEO Dust to Speak at Dislocated Worker Transition Center Opening

WATERLOO–A new center to assist displaced John Deere workers will open Tuesday, August 18, with a grand opening ceremony at 10:00 a.m. on the Hawkeye Community College Main Campus.

WHAT: Dislocated Worker Transition Center Grand Opening

WHEN: Tuesday, August 18, 2015, 10:00 a.m.

WHERE: Advanced Technology and Business Center, Buchanan Hall

Hawkeye Community College, 1501 East Orange Rd, Waterloo

Iowa Workforce Development received a National Dislocated Worker Grant for $3,058,322 from the U.S. Department of Labor to help displaced workers with job training and employment. More than 1,300 John Deere workers from Waterloo and Ankeny have been laid off since fall 2014, including more than 1,000 from Waterloo. The $3,058,322 grant will assist up to 650 workers with career services. The Dislocated Worker Transition Center will house staff representing IowaWORKS Cedar Valley, Iowa Workforce Development, and UAW Local 838, who can assist dislocated workers with career coaching and pursuing job retraining.

Speakers at the grand opening will include Dr. Linda Allen, president of Hawkeye Community College; Beth Townsend, director of Iowa Workforce Development, Mike Oberhauser, vice president of UAW Local 838, Steve Dust, president and CEO of the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber; and other representatives

The Cedar Valley Economy – Strong and Growing!

The Cedar Valley Economy – Strong and Growing!

The strong and growing Cedar Valley economy contains the right conditions for business and career success. Current economic growth and its demand for quality talent is benefiting manufacturing, business services, retail, housing, education, healthcare and other enterprises that contribute to the vitality of the region.

Strong Cedar Valley job market is creating opportunity and raising income.

According to Smart Solutions Group, employment in the Cedar Valley Region Labor Market grew by 7.4% from 2003 to 2013, slightly above the State of Iowa during the same period. As of November 1st, Iowajobs.org, the web-based job board of Iowa Workforce Development (IWD), shows 1,504 positions currently available in the Cedar Valley. Many of these jobs are in the advanced manufacturing sector. Welders and CNC operators are among the many positions available in advanced manufacturing operations in the Cedar Valley.

The Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber recently surveyed Cedar Valley employers regarding their immediate employment needs. “We’ve identified businesses in the Cedar Valley region with immediate openings,” reports Danny Laudick, Talent Solutions Coordinator with the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber.  “We are coordinating efforts to match available talent with these companies or with training in the fields where there is greatest demand.”
Connecting to training

The Alliance & Chamber collaborates with Iowa Workforce Development (IWD) and Hawkeye Community College (HCC) and other agencies to connect talent with employment and training opportunities through career and resource fairs, data collection and sharing.  There is ongoing collaboration between employers and agencies to design programs to stay ahead of shifts in demand and provide rapid response to immediate workforce needs. The Alliance & Chamber identifies the specific employment needs in the Cedar Valley business community and acts as the voice of business. The Alliance & Chamber develops innovative solutions to solve talent issues. They use their network of partners and affiliate to bring others into the process.

In response to local demand, Hawkeye Community College now offers short term certifications for industrial maintenance and CNC machining programs. The CNC Machining Program prepares students for high demand, entry-level positions as a CNC machine operator or general machinist, one of the most demanded skills by area employers in the Cedar Valley. Both programs are designed to create a pipeline of available talent with new skills to fill these high demand jobs in a short amount of time.

The Department of Industrial Technology at the University of Northern Iowa also offers undergraduate and graduate programs in the areas of: Construction Management; Electrical Engineering, Manufacturing Technology, Technology Education, and Technology Management. The UNI Metal Casting Center, offers students practical hands-on experience in concepts in additive manufacturing with modern well-equipped facilities and cutting edge technology. At the Additive Manufacturing Center, located at the Cedar Valley TechWorks, students operate a variety of 3D printers, including the ExOne, the largest of its kind in North America.  Students are producing products and part prototypes for manufacturing clients across state.  UNI students are ‘floor ready’ upon graduation having had real world experience working with private sector businesses on actual projects. The Center also provides manufacturers affordable access to research and development and rapid prototyping. The Department of Industrial Technology currently enrolls over 500 students annually.

K-12 Career Training

Cedar Valley school districts are making sure their students are prepare for success beyond graduation through a variety of initiatives and partnerships with the business community.

In the Waterloo Community School District, Career Academies give students the opportunity to choose an area of interest, such as construction, business and finance, marketing, engineering, healthcare, etc. Students then take a sequence of classes to prepare for the real world of work in that field. Waterloo also has an International Baccalaureate Program which is an intensive, two year academic program in the high schools that prepares students for success in higher education and for effective participation in global society. The program includes writing an extended essay (similar to a doctorate thesis, but at high school level), a focus on critical thinking as well as creativity, action, and service activities. Waterloo’s West High and East High are two of only three schools in Iowa to offer the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program.

Both the Waterloo and Cedar Falls school districts have embraced the Leader in Me initiative championed by the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber. The Leader in Me is based on Stephen Covey’s book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. The initiative teaches students 21st Century soft skills for success in college, career, and citizenship. Through authentic leadership opportunities and daily practice of the habits, participating schools are transforming their school cultures into proactive, leadership focused communities of learning and development.

Cedar Valley West’s School to Work program brings together students from four Cedar Valley school districts (Aplington-Parkersburg, Dike-New Hartford, Gladbrook-Reinbeck, and Grundy Center) to provide valuable career information and connections to area businesses. Businesses are asked to provide speakers, offer internship and job shadowing opportunities, give worksite tours and contribute financial support.

Through the School to Work program, students throughout the Cedar Valley are becoming more prepared for the local job market. Businesses are molding potential employees by creating hands-on ways for students to explore careers while still in high school. Business – education partnerships like these are helping to bridge the talent gap and produce individuals prepared for employers across sectors in the Cedar Valley.

Diverse Economic Base
The Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber and the Cedar Valley Regional Partners have placed diversifying the economic base as a top priority of business attraction . . . and it has paid off. The diversified economic base has created jobs and helped the region weather the last recession far better than most parts of the country earning the Cedar Valley the title “Recession Busting” by Area Development Magazine, a leading executive magazine covering corporate site selection.  The Cedar Valley is not reliant on one sector to maintain the health of the economy.

Since 1996, 76% of new jobs created in the Cedar Valley have not been tied to a single industry, specifically agricultural manufacturing. Likewise, 81% of the new capital investments in the Cedar Valley were equally diversified during the same time. This diverse industrial base provides increased opportunities for wealth creation and employment in the event of a downturn in one sector.

“Most new capital investment has come from companies who have expanded existing operations here or established new locations in a broad spectrum of industry sector. This is consistent with new construction and new jobs created,” notes Lisa Skubal, Vice President of Economic Development with the Alliance & Chamber.

Adding to the industry mix is the growing Information Technology (IT) sector. In the Cedar Valley, IT consists of local start-up web product and software companies, and is among the fastest growing sector in percentage of current workforce in the Cedar Valley market area. Enterprises also see internal IT operations increasing and contributing to the growing demand for highly skilled programmers, engineers, coders, and designers in the Cedar Valley.

Conversations with technology leaders in the Cedar Valley suggest that IT employers are increasing their employment by up to 50% or more over the next few years.  This makes availability of trained/educated individuals critical. The Alliance & Chamber, Kate Washut of Far Reach Inc., and Linda Allen of Hawkeye Community College (HCC) convened a discussion between Alliance & Chamber investors in the IT sector and HCC academic and career education teams. The group discussed courses, training, and programs available through Hawkeye, and the expectations of the employers. Dialogs like this, between business and education, are vital to better understand of specific skill demand in order to offer training programs that are most relevant to industry needs.

 

“The strong job market is creating opportunities for individuals to take advantage of an increase in training opportunities and raising personal income,” says Steve Dust, CEO of the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber. “We see growing demand across industry sectors. IT related fields, advanced manufacturing, higher education, healthcare, logistics, and business service markets make up the employment landscape of the Cedar Valley.  The competitive wage scales being offered go much further here than in most areas of the country thanks to our low cost of living.”

The cost of living in the Cedar Valley is 8.1% lower than the national average according to third quarter 2014 Cost of Living Index prepared by The Council for Community and Economic Research. Utility costs are an even greater value, at 10.4% below the national average – a key factor for companies looking to locate or expand their operations.

While the cost of living is low, prosperity is on the rise in Cedar Valley. According to the new US Cluster Mapping website launched by Harvard Business School and the U.S. Economic Development Administration, the Cedar Valley Region is one of a handful of regions with growth in prosperity from 1998 -2012. Our economic region ranks 7th among 170 economic regions in the country for prosperity growth. The scorecard is based on three categories of data: performance (the economic activities of the region), business environment, and demographics & geography. The Cedar Valley is also in the top 20 regions for growth in annual personal wages at 3.49%.  This outpaces the national average of 3.16% during the same period.

Low cost of living and strong personal wages may contribute to an increase in spending. In September of 2014, the latest Gross Domestic Product (GDP) numbers were released showing considerable growth in the Cedar Valley. The Waterloo/Cedar Falls Metropolitan Statistical Area (GDP) grew to $8.7 billion from 2012-2013. This is up 5.6% from the previous year, according to data released in September from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.  Collectively, real GDP for U.S. metropolitan areas increased 1.7% during the same period. The Waterloo/Cedar Falls metro area had the second highest percentage increase in GDP compared to other Iowa metros.

These gauges of economic health demonstrate the strength and continued growth of an already stable Cedar Valley economy and instill confidence both in consumers and business leaders. Recent announcements of business expansions reflect confidence and optimism in the region.

Business Confidence and Private Investment

Cedar Valley businesses across the region are making investments in their companies. Increasing exports, and hiring talented, productive people demonstrates their confidence in the strength of the Cedar Valley economy.

CBE Companies, with international locations, chooses to keep their corporate headquarters here in the Cedar Valley where their success started over 80 years ago. “We continue to tap into a rich talent pool in our own backyard to fill a variety of positions and levels – from contact center associates to fraud service representatives to IT, Analytics, Finance, Marketing and HR professionals,” says Mary Phillips, Chief Human Resources Officer for CBE Companies.

Based on a variety of regional data, CBE has determined that the Cedar Valley has the talent resources available to expand their staff considerably.  “We use information from both the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber and Iowa Workforce Development when considering expansion.  We evaluated unemployment rates, education levels, Spanish speaking population, underemployment, average wages, and average ages.”  Over the last year, CBE has had two major surges in hiring making them one of the top ten major employers in the Cedar Valley.

Mark Hanawalt is the CEO of United Equipment Accessories, Inc. (UEA) in Waverly, Iowa and the current chair of the Iowa Association of Business and Industry (ABI). He often shares with peers from around the state that the Cedar Valley is a great place to do business. “They know about the Cedar Valley and never disagree,” notes Hanawalt. UEA has found that being part of a regional economy driven by advanced manufacturing has contributed to their growth. “Because of the presence of very large manufacturers in the area, we can utilize a common vendor base with tremendous capabilities without having to go outside the area.”

UEA invests in training and development opportunities that contribute to the personal and professional growth of their employees.  UEA provides training for new hires, development opportunities with specifically designed skills enhancement training, job cross-training, as well as a Tuition Assistance Program for employees. Highly technical positions, such as CNC programmers, machinists, engineers and IT professionals regularly participate in training opportunities relating to technology advancements and developments, job knowledge enhancement, computer software and system developments and updates.

“United Equipment Accessories, Inc. has been a Cedar Valley manufacturer for over 60 years.  Even as we have grown substantially over the years, we have never felt the need to expand outside this area,” says Hanawalt. “Our pool of labor talent is very high.  Employees are well educated, trained, and motivated to be productive employees.”

Start-up Momentum

While long standing businesses continue to expand, the start-up community in the Cedar Valley is picking up momentum at a rapid pace. ‘Serial’ entrepreneurs and young visionaries are gathering in coffee shops, bars, and meeting rooms around the Cedar Valley to share ideas and connect with resources in hopes of launching the next big thing. Start-Up Drinks, Start-Up Weekend, BarCamp, One Million Cups, Cedar Valley Opencoffee, and Cedar Valley Makers are a few of the organized efforts to support a young and energetic start-up community.

Steve Dust, CEO of the Alliance & Chamber, believes that “the prosperity of the Cedar Valley still depends on fostering, growing, and attracting entrepreneurship in all types of businesses. We want to encourage more people to build on our history of successful entrepreneurship, and the Alliance & Chamber supports efforts to enhance the strong, growing start-up scene throughout the Cedar Valley economic area.”

The Cedar Valley is thriving

With an abundance of good paying jobs and access to higher education, the Cedar Valley offers a wealth of opportunities for individuals to grow their careers. Businesses are thriving and making significant investments in the region by expanding their operations through building projects, new processes, equipment, technology, and talent. The lower cost of living, excellent school districts, and overall safety make it a desirable place to live, work, and raise a family.

The mission of the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber is to increase economic vitality and wealth by leading collaborative economic and community development. Details about the many programs and initiatives of the Alliance & Chamber can be found at www.cedarvalleyalliance.com or by calling Steve Dust, CEO at (319) 232-1156.

Be part of something greater - The Cedar Valley of Iowa

The Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber is a regional economic community development corporation working to increase economic vitality and wealth in the Waterloo / Cedar Falls area and surrounding economic region. The Alliance & Chamber has approximately 800 members that represents over 40,000 employees