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Tag Archives: Steve Dust

Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber CEO Steve Dust Is Resigning

Dust Will Continue to Run Alliance & Chamber Operations and Assist the Executive Committee with the Search for His Replacement in Interim

Steve Dust, CEO, Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber

Steve Dust, CEO Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber

Cedar Valley of Iowa—Steve Dust, Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber (GCVAC) CEO, announced he will be leaving the organization he helped bring together 14 years ago when he was recruited to the executive role of the area’s newly formed economic development entity. Dust made the announcement at the GCVAC’s regularly scheduled board of directors meeting today.

“I’m not retiring, I’m transitioning out of my role as CEO,” said Dust. “After thoughtful consideration, I’ve come to realize that the skills needed to unify, build and develop the Alliance & Chamber over the last 14 years are very different than the skills needed to move the Alliance & Chamber to the next level. Donita (Steve’s wife) and I have decided that the best way I could serve the organization that I’ve worked to create and advance, as well as pursue the type of work that I’m best at, and most interested in, would be to leave the Alliance & Chamber.”

Dust said he notified GCVAC’s executive committee of his decision last November and they worked together on a transition plan which may run through June 30, 2018. During this interim period, Dust will assist the executive committee with the search for his replacement, while continuing to manage day-to-day operations and conduct fundraising calls for the Alliance & Chamber’s ongoing campaign. He said he and his wife hope to stay in the Cedar Valley.

“I’m so very proud of the Cedar Valley and what we’ve built together, starting with merging the Cedar Falls and Waterloo chambers together, and then merging the chambers into the Alliance,” said Dust. “The Cedar Valley is now a recognized leader in regional collaboration and impactful economic development. And, the Cedar Valley is now known for its innovation and technology-based strategies, talent recruitment and retainment initiatives, and as the center of manufacturing in Iowa.”

Manufacturing Hub

According to Tim Hurley, TechWorks board chair, Dust was instrumental in re-establishing the Cedar Valley as the center of manufacturing, by securing funding for TechWorks and receiving legislative designation for TechWorks as the Manufacturing Hub.

“Steve pursued The Iowa Reinvestment District Program as a funding tool to execute the TechWorks vision,” said Hurley. “The program provides for new state hotel/motel and sales tax revenues to be re-invested within urban renewal areas—and with Steve’s leadership we received $12 million in funding.”

TechWorks Campus is an advanced manufacturing, research & development, innovation, education, commercial and manufacturing center located in downtown Waterloo, Iowa. The campus is comprised of 20 acres of development sites and 180,000 square feet of flex space for innovation and development.

The TechWorks Campus is home to many entities including the University of Northern Iowa Metal Casting Additive Manufacturing Center and Design Lab, Hawkeye Community College Design Lab, the Iowa Advanced Manufacturing Network Hub, John Deere Tractor and Engine Museum and the newly opened Courtyard by Marriott, soon to be joined by the John Deere Training Center and Blue Iguana Restaurant in what has been known as the Tech 2 building.

“Steve was honored by the Iowa Association of Business and Industry at its 2016 Advanced Manufacturing Conference largely for not only being a vocal advocate for TechWorks and the Cedar Valley, but for bringing Iowa business issues to the statehouse in Des Moines and to Washington,” said Hurley.  “And, Washington took notice of the Cedar Valley too.”

Technology Infrastructure

Dust created the Gigabit Valley concept, emphasizing that broadband is the infrastructure of the future. He worked with the City of Waterloo to conduct studies of business and institutional broadband use which led to the creation of the Waterloo Municipal Telecom Utility. Google also recognized Cedar Falls with a 2014 eCity Award which is given to the strongest online business community in each state – the digital capitals of America.

In 2015, President Obama visited the Cedar Valley to applaud broadband leadership.

“It was a very proud day when President Obama came to the Cedar Valley to recognize CFU and the City of Cedar Falls as Iowa’s first gigabit city—and a leading broadband city in the U.S.,” said Dust. “From gaming companies to the many IT firms that make up our economic base, we’re truly a region focused on innovation and technology.”

Talent Recruitment and Retention

Bob Smith, chairman of the GCVAC board and president of Lockard, noted several successful milestones under Steve’s leadership over the Alliance & Chamber’s first 14 years, including a regional alignment calling for one voice for the Cedar Valley and a well-known and well-marketed Cedar Valley economic area, supported by a strong economic base. According to Smith, with great progress toward these initial milestones achieved, the GCVAC shifted its focus in 2014 to developing and funding long-term programs for talent recruitment and retention.

“We emerged from a board planning session, knowing the Cedar Valley’s current and future growth was directly related to the GCVAC’s success as the connector between workforce needs and talent development, recruitment and retainment,” said Smith. “We needed to begin work right away to establish programs for lifelong learning, leadership development, diversity and inclusion, as well as enhance quality of life by developing attributes, including a strengthened retail and service sector. We must make the Cedar Valley an inviting place to enjoy life, enhance a career, operate a business and retire.

We saw Steve bring business, higher education and community leaders, as well as educators and students, together to collaborate in forming the Inclusion Partnership, #LivetheValley, #WorktheValley, Leader Valley Foundation and more. Steve has many talents including being a great builder, inclusive collaborator, and program and initiative developer—and the Alliance & Chamber board is most appreciative of his leadership.  We now need to find the next CEO for Steve to pass the baton to lead fundraising efforts, develop new funding mechanisms and champion our vision to make the greater Cedar Valley, even greater.”

About the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber

The Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber is a private, not-for-profit corporation working to increase wealth and economic vitality through collaborative economic and community development throughout the Cedar Valley economic area. Details about the many programs and initiatives of the Alliance & Chamber can be found at www.cedarvalleyalliance.com.

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In the Media: Waterloo renews contract to fund Alliance & Chamber

The City of Waterloo approved a new contract with the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber: $28,500 plus $56,500 in incentive payments.

“Lisa Skubal, GCVAC vice president of economic development, said those efforts landed $37 million in projects and 246 new jobs in the first six months of the fiscal year, primarily from expansions at Crystal Distribution Services and Tyson Fresh Meats…

Skubal said the city’s internal economic development staff is ‘transaction oriented’ and willing to work with prospects to get deals done. The challenge was Waterloo’s high property tax rate.

Alliance and Chamber CEO Steve Dust said the city is generally able to cover the property tax discrepancy through additional incentives to businesses.

‘You burn through incentives overcoming the property tax issue,’ he said.

Dust said one of the biggest issues on the horizon involves talent development, which is why the GCVAC is working on programs to recruit and train the work force businesses need to thrive locally.”

Waterloo renews GVCA contract, Tim Jamison, The Courier, November 28, 2017

In the Media: Cutting historic preservation tax credits

“There are a lot of buildings that would continue to sit empty or would have been demolished by now had that tax credit not been available to make the project economically sound,” said Steve Dust, president and CEO of the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance and Chamber. “And that’s repeated all over Iowa.”

Steve Dust is quoted in an article by Erin Murphy, State house reporter for The Courier/Lee Enterprises, about Iowa projects helped by federal historic preservation tax credits and the possible effect on Iowa projects if Congress’ tax reform proposal is approved.

Cutting historic tax credits could cripple economic development, officials warn, Erin Murphy, The Courier, November 13, 2017

5 on Friday: Fuel for Thought

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

image Fuel for thought graphic What's Steve Dust Reading this Week? October 20, 2017

John Deere Waterloo TV ad

John Deere has begun showing a terrific 30-second ad on TV in the Cedar Valley area. You have to watch it. Send it along to your colleagues and friends.

Building the best large tractors :30 TV spot

And here’s a nearly eight-minute version

Building the best large tractors

When Should The Firm Adopt Additive Manufacturing

The University of Northern Iowa’s amazing Additive Manufacturing Center and Design Lab in our TechWorks Tech 1 building continues to expand in size, industrial production scale equipment, and Iowa clients served. We know that additive manufacturing in the industrial setting will be an important growth sector for the Cedar Valley, in terms of our firms’ investment in the technology, as well as the opportunity to recruit the makers of the equipment. I am trying to learn more about how the firm makes that investment decision, as well as be better informed about the technology. Here’s a good article with a process and opinion on how the evaluation should be structured.

Courtesy of Supply Chain Management Review.

Is Your Supply Chain Ready for Additive Manufacturing? André Kieviet and Suraj M. Alexander, Supply Chain Management Review, October 16, 2017

Zappos Hsieh on Business Organization

Zappos’ top guy has been famous for risks and successes in e-commerce and flaming failures. Still, he has more than1,500 employees in one of the attention-grabbing e-commerce firms. And he’s a damned good organizational thinker. Here’s an interview he did with the McKinsey firm to make sense out of his “holocracy” approach to organizational management. It is a good, and thought-provoking read.

Safe enough to try: An interview with Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, McKinsey Quarterly, October 2017

China Strategy

This week, China commenced a session of its National Congress of the Communist Party. This Congress is held every five years. George Friedman, one of the best, objective observers of global geo-political/economic issues, republished a report with his analysis of the “grand strategy” employed by China. This nation that has seen extraordinary economic activity and growth, according to Friedman, may be operating in a different strategic framework than we might think.

In China, a Strategy Born of Weakness, Geopolitical Futures, October 18, 2017

Surviving the Merger

We haven’t merged again, but many of your firms are acquiring new operations or creating strategic partnerships of various kinds. No matter how small, these moves require thoughtful communications to all involved to ease anxieties about the post-agreement workplace. This is a good Harvard Business Review article on the topic that would be a good tool for individuals engaged in your growth program.

Surviving M&A: How to thrive amid the turmoil, Harvard Business Review, by Mitchell Lee Marks, Philip Mirvis, and Ron Ashkenas, March-April 2017

5 on Friday: Fuel for thought

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

Globalization is Evolving

Globalization is still about exports, imports, and investment. The link below leads to a good article from The Boston Consulting Group about bringing global market building thinking forward to include digital influences.

Shaping Your Own Growth in the New Global Era, Arindam Bhattacharya, Dinesh Khanna, Kermit King, and Rajah Augustinraj, BCG Henderson Institute, August 17, 2017

Spoofed: Did it hurt?

I don’t know yet: I’ve had a lot of things done to me over the years. Now, I’ve been spoofed, too. Here’s what to do when it happens to your email address.

What to do when your email address sends spam, Lincoln Spector, PCWorld, June 29, 2015

October Market Insights

I receive a number of commentaries on the financial markets. This one, courtesy of Financial Decisions Group, is a good, recent video commentary on the market, generally, and the retail opportunities at Halloween, specifically.

Monthly Market Insights: October 2017, Financial Decisions Group

Performance Evaluations Are Changing

Thank goodness! Here are more observations from PWC’s strategy+business blog that caught my eye. Good stuff.

Want to Kill Your Performance Rankings? Here’s How to Ensure Success, David Rock, strategy+business, October 9, 2017

Apple Incentives, Again

This is a link to a good advocacy article for the Apple incentives that I’ve mentioned here before. Our Lisa Skubal’s comments are highlighted in this piece by Lee Enterprises’ Des Moines Bureau Chief.

UPDATE: After Apple deal, tax incentives face scrutiny, Erin Murphy, The Courier, October 9, 2017

 

5 on Friday: Fuel for Thought

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

One: Cedar Valley on INC 5000 List

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

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

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

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

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

Two: Hurricane Harvey’s Impact

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

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

Three: Case and Kreske Foundations Project in Economic Inclusion

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

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

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

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

Four: Impact of Robots on Workforce Needs for Site Selection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Projected Economic Impact of Harvey

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

So, what happens to the U.S. economy when the fourth largest city in the nation — a major refining center — is shut down? There’s no way to tell yet, but here are some articles that help frame the estimates on how the United States may be impacted by this devastating natural event.

Harvey to Cause Several Months of Unsettled National Economic Data

Applications for unemployment insurance go up, and soaring fuel costs are two of the expected immediate economic impacts of Harvey.

These Are the Data Points That Will Show Harvey’s Economic Impact, Bloomberg, August 31, 2017

Business Conditions in Houston

Here’s an on-the-ground report of business conditions.

Harvey stalls Houston commerce, could cost $50 billion in damage and economic activity, Chron.com, August 29, 2017

Rebuilding Houston

This column by Chris Tomlinson lays the blame for much of the devastation on developers taking advantage of growing populations. Tomlinson also notes that Houston homeowners are dramatically underinsured – only 15 percent who live in a floodplain have flood insurance.

The columnist encourages the City of Houston to alter the form of reconstruction. At a time when people are seeing their belongings mired in mud and seeking a place to protect their families is not a time to debate economics. However, Houston has to come to grips with the balance between people rebuilding affordable, flood-protected homes and businesses and reactionary building requirements that push the investment critical to rebuilding.

Response to Harvey will determine economic impact, Houston Chronicle, August 29, 2017

How to Help

This piece lists some of the U.S. businesses that have stepped up to help with people, materials, and money. If you are affiliated with any of these companies, please consider adding to any funds that they have established to aid the recovery.

Companies are pitching in to help Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, CNBC.com, August 30, 2017

Did you know that your Cedar Valley colleague Joe Vich, in retirement, has become a go-to guy for the American Red Cross disaster recovery group? He volunteers weeks of his time to feed and shelter people who have been made homeless and resource-less due to disaster and also helps individuals in the Cedar Valley when personal disaster strikes. Pam Dowie is another selfless souls who pack a light bag and travel anyplace to help bring human support and essentials to those surviving and recovering. There are many other neighbors doing the same thing; I just happen to know Joe and Pam.

The people of Houston need your help. Here is a list of reputable places to help the recovery.

How You Can Help Victims of Harvey, The Weather Channel, August 29, 2017

5 on Friday: Fuel for Thought

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two: VGM Group Took My Blues Away

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

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

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

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

VGM shows off latest addition at Waterloo complex

Three: Editorial on Job Skills to Fill the Gap

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

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

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

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

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

Learning job skills is no game

Four: Critical Few Behaviors and Organizational Culture

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

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

Getting to the Critical Few Behaviors That Can Drive Cultural Change

Five: The Robot Apocalypse

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

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

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

Open, Economically Vital International Markets Are Essential

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a Day!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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