CEDAR VALLEY REGION O F
N O R T H E A S T
I O W A
B L A CK HA W K n B R EM ER n B UC H ANAN n BU TLER n CH I CKASAW n GRU NDY n TAM A
CREDITS PUBLICATION PRODUCED BY Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber Cedar Valley Regional Partnership PUBLISHED BY COURIER COMMUNICATIONS PRINTED BY PIONEER GRAPHICS PROJECT COORDINATORS David Braton, Courier Communications Sheila Kerns, Courier Communications Lisa Skubal, Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber COURIER GRAPHIC ARTISTS Michelle Houlgrave Brenda Northey COURIER WRITER Jim Offner
PHOTOGRAPHERS Greg Brown, Rick Chase, Courtney Collins, Dennis Magee, Brandon Pollock, Matthew Putney, Tiffany Rushing Front Cover Left to Right: Cedar Valley Sportsplex, UNI 3D printer at TechWorks, STEM Festival. Back Cover Left to Right: George Wyth Park, STEM Robotic Competition, John Deere. At Left: Sunrise Fishing, George Wyth Park. Photo by Brandon Pollock
CONTENTS INTRODUCTION Welcome To the Cedar Valley! CHAPTER 1 Culture Gary Kelley Jason Weinberger CHAPTER 2 Development CHAPTER 3 Education Dwight Watson Tom Penaluna CHAPTER 4 Entrepreneurship Mark Kittrell Schumacher Elevator CHAPTER 5 Health Care CHAPTER 6 Agriculture Rob Faux CHAPTER 7 Health & Well-Being CHAPTER 8 Veteran Workforce CHAPTER 9 Recreation Dan Gable At Left: Bluebells in bloom (Greenbelt). Photo by Brandon Pollock 5
You come here to visit; you stay here to live
hat follows are random comments heard from recent visitors to the Cedar Valley: “I never thought a place like this still existed.” “This is the best of both worlds – rural and urban.” “Kids can play in the yard and up the street, and you don’t have to worry.” “Everyone is so friendly. Total strangers wave greetings.” “Housing is so affordable here.” “There seems to be a great pride in the area’s heritage here.” Indeed, there is. And, for good reason. Places like the Cedar Valley still do exist, as you’ll find as you leaf through the following pages. But, you may not find any place that combines as much of the essence of the good life in all of its forms as you will find here. Welcome to the Cedar Valley. You may be here for a visit, but once you learn what we have grown here, it’s quite likely that you won’t want to leave. Indeed, this is a region that blends a deep reverence for its heritage and an eager embrace of its future, where cultures cross, a strong work ethic binds and dreams become reality in a vibrant, growing and educated community cluster of a more than 200,000 people in the middle of rich, rural and fertile Northeast Iowa. Our home is not an easy region to pigeonhole into a singular category, and we prefer it that way. There’s an educational system anchored by one of Iowa’s three major state universities, several innovative, results-oriented school systems and a business community committed to developing young minds and talents for an expanded workforce of tomorrow. The Cedar Valley boasts of one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country because it applies laser-like focus on growth in multiple areas. Our region was built on an agricultural heritage that complements a well-developed and balanced manufacturing base. It’s a region in which key corporate citizens like Deere & Co. take their civic roles seriously. Deere, which has building world-class agricultural equipment in the Cedar Valley community for nearly a century, plays an active, conscientious leadership role in building a region that will be
competitive globally in the years and decades to come. Deere’s commitment to the Cedar Valley’s vision for the future is no less apparent than its 40-acre donation to the Cedar Valley TechWorks project that blends our region’s agricultural past with a high-tech future in the renewable and alternate fuels business. John Deere is based in Moline, Ill., but it turns out all of its industry-leading tractors right here.
Starting a business The Cedar Valley demonstrates every day a determination to succeed with an attitude no less evident than the scores of successful enterprises launched right here. One example among many can be found in the can-do attitude of Bob and Gary Bertch, who, with the help of some friends, transformed a cabinetry business in a barn into two thriving Waterloo companies – Bertch Cabinet Mfg. and Omega Cabinets, which today have a combined workforce of more than 2,000 employees. It is said that the Cedar Valley is “too big to be small and too small to be big.” Waterloo and Cedar Falls combine for a metropolitan population of more than 163,000. We are within a day’s drive of all major Midwest markets – only 180 miles south of the Twin Cities, 263 miles west of Milwaukee, and 265 miles west of Chicago. We are at the midpoint of the Avenue of the Saints, a network of north-south four-lane roads connecting St. Louis and Minneapolis-St. Paul. Our central location puts us in an ideal spot for building a business and raising a family. And plenty of our major employers and residents have done just that. In addition to John Deere’s sprawling network that employs more than 6,000 residents, the Cedar Valley is home to two major hospital systems, which employ another 5,000 workers; Tyson Fresh Meats, with 2,600 employees; the University of Northern Iowa, with a workforce of 1,850 and an enrollment of more than 13,000 students; CUNA Mutual Group, with 700 workers; Unverferth Mfg., with 300 workers; and ConAgra Foods, with more than 200 workers, to name just a few. Viking Pump, a major employer in Cedar Falls, has been operating now for more than 100 years.
We don’t just build better products; we also are transforming our region into a high-tech hotbed. Many area entrepreneurs have taken advantage of our region’s ground-breaking high-speed Internet and fiber-optic grids to build communications businesses that are the envy of the world. Beginning in the 1990s, Cedar Falls constructed on of the first municipal fiber-optic networks. The city’s industrial park has grown to accommodate more than 150 companies employing thousands of people. Emerging high-tech firms like data-storage expert TEAM Cos. and software developer Banno took root there before they joined global companies and continued to evolve. Team Technologies, an outgrowth of one of the Cedar Valley’s first ventures into the technology sector in the 1950s enjoyed explosive growth from the time founders Mark Kittrell and Mark Stewart launched the company in the early 1990s. In December 2010, the founders sold the company to Madison, Wis.-based Telephone and Data Systems Inc., parent company to TDS Telecommunications Corp., for $47 million based on annual revenues of $10 million. The company remains a fixture in the Cedar Valley under its new ownership. As the country looks to expand its energy portfolio, the Cedar Valley is leading the way through the $50 million Cedar Valley TechWorks, an enterprise over 40 acres adjacent to downtown Waterloo donated by Deere & Co. that is attracting entrepreneurs who focus on biofuels, alternative energy technologies and advanced manufacturing. The University of Northern Iowa’s National Ag-Based Lubricants program became the campus’ first tenant, moving into “Tech I,” one of two six-story former Deere manufacturing buildings that are being retrofitted to accommodate research, manufacturing and training on the Westfield Avenue campus. In 2013, UNI’s Metal Casting Center moved into the space and brought in one of the largest 3-D printers in North America.
A blend of agriculture and hightech TechWorks, beginning in 2014, is the home of the Iowa Advanced Manufacturing Center,
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of the richest agricultural land in the world. Agriculture always has been the foundation of the Cedar Valley economy, and now, with new outlets for crops, including renewable fuels, farming is leading the economy in new, heretofore unexplored, directions. All of which is not to say we’re all work. The region also is home to some of the finest cultural amenities in the Midwest, including the one of the state’s newest jewels -- the Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum, an interactive, state-of-the-art tribute to Iowa’s military past, located in downtown Waterloo; and the Cedar Valley SportsPlex, a gleaming new facility that provides a downtown home to everyone who wants to get and stay fit, participate in team sports or watch some of the finest displays of athleticism anywhere in the Midwest. Cultural attractions abound in scope and variety. The University of Northern Iowa, in addition to fielding consistent championshipcaliber teams, also plays host to a nationally recognized collegiate wrestling tournament in the UNI-Dome, the state’s only major domed stadium. The UNI Panthers basketball team is a perennial playoff contender and made it to the NCAA Sweet 16 in the 2010 men’s tournament. UNI also has served in recent years as venue for a visit by the Dalai Lama and a concert by Bob Dylan. Most recently, the dome hosted a concert by pop country singer Luke Bryan.
Cedar Valley - Midwest Map
a joint venture of the Des Moines-based Iowa Innovation Corp. and TechWorks. Planners say the center will lead the way as TechWorks will turn the Cedar Valley into the flashpoint for development of a full portfolio of manufacturing processes for companies big and small, as well as new sources of energy. A $10 million John Deere Tractor & Engine Museum was to open in 2014 on the TechWorks campus. The museum showcases Deere innovation in the region from the earliest two-cylinder tractors of the Waterloo Gasoline Engine Co. in the early 1900s to the current generation of Deere machines that are shipped from the Cedar Valley all over the world. Butler County, one of a cluster of vibrant counties in the Cedar Valley, is home to a state-of-the-art ethanol refinery. Flint Hills Resources acquired the facility late in 2010 from Hawkeye Growth. The plant has produced more than 100 million gallons of ethanol a year since its 2008 launch. Butler County has also opened several industrial parks attracting a strong base of businesses. At the same time, our region has developed vibrant, diverse business base that has kept construction humming, downtown renovation proceeding and real estate selling. A common observation from financial experts inside and outside the Cedar Valley is that the region’s multi-dimensional vibrancy has helped it to weather some of the worst financial times that have enveloped the country in years. The region’s unemployment rate has consistently checked in 3 to 4 points lower than the national average and is typically among the lowest in the nation. In 2013, the Cedar Valley averaged a jobless rate of 4 percent, compared to a national rate of 7.8 percent. This is an area with such growth that there are ever-increasing needs for skilled workers in a variety of construction, technology and manufacturing fields. Hence, the development of Skilled Iowa, a partnership between the state of Iowa and private business designed to develop a new generation of workers for skilled trades and advanced manufacturing positions, which will be plentiful in the coming decades. Organizers launched the program formally in Waterloo in 2012. It will provide the latest training to young workers, who will gain practical onthe-job training at employers, with assurance of high-paying, steady employment that is focused on career, not just good wages. Helping to protect the region’s economic base is its location in the middle of some
An entertainment mecca Downtown Waterloo is an intensifying magnet for major concerts, as well, with the Riverloop Amphitheatre, on the western bank of the Cedar River, hosting everything from pop-music to symphonies under the stars. If concerts matter, the Cedar Valley has the best of everything from the symphony to rock, blues and jazz. New venues seem to spring up every year. Cultural opportunities run the entire spectrum, from yearly events that celebrate our region’s rich ethnic tapestry to community-centric celebrations, such as My Waterloo Days and the Sturgis Falls Festival in Cedar Falls. Other diversions are plentiful, both indoor and outdoor. Camping, hiking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, canoeing on one of the many streams and rivers in the area and golf on some of Iowa’s most challenging courses are just among the surface possibilities. The Cedar Valley has a vast network of walking and bicycle trails that weave the region ever closer together. The Cedar Valley region boasts of the best of everything, whether urban charm of Waterloo and Cedar Falls or the rural serenity of neighboring Bremer, Buchanan, Butler, Chickasaw, Grundy and Tama counties. There’s much more to our story, as the following pages illustrate. Read it all, because the more you learn, the more you will want to become part of it.
Culture thrives across Cedar Valley region
The local theater scene takes on added depth, when the University of Northern Iowa and Hawkeye Community College are added to the mix. UNI has plays, musicals, theater for youth and opera presented by UNI drama students and visiting artists. Hawkeye offers an array of musical and performing arts in the intimate setting of Tama Hall.
Cache of museums continues to grow A cultural district is taking shape in downtown Waterloo, with the opening of the Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum, which is the latest link in the Grout Museum District’s network. The Grout Museum District also features venues that are dedicated to science and history. In early 2007, the Dan Gable International Wrestling Institute and Museum opened its doors. The museum is named for renowned Waterloo native and Olympic gold medalist, NCAA champion and longtime University of Iowa wrestling coach Dan Gable. The Gable Museum is a flashpoint of activity during the area’s numerous regular state, regional and national wrestling events. “There may be no area that is more attached to wrestling than the Cedar Valley, and this museum is a fitting tribute to that devotion,” said Aaron Buzza, executive director of the Waterloo Convention & Visitors Bureau. “It’s part of a growing museum district in downtown, and they’re all close to each other in one convenient location. The wrestling museum outlines the history of the sport, acknowledging both amateur wrestlers, as well as professionals who worked their way up from the top of the amateur ranks. The Gable Museum has both displays and interactive exhibits. Nearby, the Waterloo Center for the Arts, which features works by Grant Wood, Marvin Cone and Thomas Hart Benton, plus the largest public collection of Haitian art in the United States, now has the Phelps Youth Pavilion, which showcases youth art education and activity programs. The center’s Grant Wood Schoolhouse is modeled on the celebrated Eastern Iowa artist’s “Arbor Day” painting, which is depicted on the
Courier file photo
classical, chamber and family performances. Among recent headliners were The Hitmen, comedian Tom Cotter, the Boston Brass & Enso String Quartet and the Tony Awardwinning “Memphis the Musical.” But Gallagher-Bluedorn is just one piece in a complex cultural tapestry in the Cedar Valley. The newest jewel in the Cedar Valley’s cultural crown is the Riverloop Amphitheatre. The Riverloop Amphitheatre, which opened in 2012 as part of a massive renaissance in downtown Waterloo, is just west of the Waterloo Center for the Arts along Cedar Street. The steel-frame structure along the Cedar River, with its unusual design, fabric cover, sound and lights, offers a unique performance space with spectacular views. The amphitheatre can hold about 600 people in the general seating area and can accommodate groups of up to about 1,000 people. The Waterloo Community Playhouse and the Cedar Falls Community Theatre also produce regular shows that draw participation from across the region. The Waterloo Community Playhouse, which has been a regional institution for a century, puts on regular shows at the Waterloo Center for the Arts in downtown Waterloo, features a regular schedule of shows that run the spectrum, from comedies, to lavish musicals and dramas from some of the most renowned playwrights. Participation from amateur actors from across the region is one of the program’s strengths. That includes kids, too. In fact, that is no more apparent than at the Black Hawk Children’s Theater, which puts on a regular schedule of children’s shows and has a long list of awards to its credit. The local theater pulses in Cedar Falls, as well, where the completely restored 100-yearold Oster Regent Theatre hosts regular local productions. The ornate turn-of-the-20thcentury building, which has served as an opera house and movie theater in its long tenure, also is home to the Sturgis Youth Theatre. The Cedar Falls Municipal Band, established in 1891, continues to perform every week during the summer in the bandshell in the city’s Overman Park.
Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center
ultural preservation and education comes in a variety of forms across the Cedar Valley. It cascades from public and private enterprises alike and paints a comprehensive picture of the aesthetic, historic and artistic values of an area loaded with crosscultural venues. Perhaps the crown jewel of the Cedar Valley’s cultural amenities in the $23 million Gallagher-Bluedorn Performing Arts Center, which opened in 2003 on the campus of the University of Northern Iowa. The modern, acoustically unsurpassed building serves as home of the WaterlooCedar Falls Symphony and serves as venue for performers of national and international stature. The Gallagher-Bluedorn, which was funded by a combination of public and private monies, also serves a key role in local theater and music shows. It is considered to be one of the finest theater facilities of its kind in the region. The three-tiered, oval-shaped Great Hall seats 1,600, while the Davis Recital Hall is a 300seat acoustically unparalleled facility with a Steinway concert grand piano. The 125-seat Jebe Organ Hall, with more than fleeting resemblance to a cathedral, features a $500,000 hand-crafted pipe organ. The center is not only home of the WaterlooCedar Falls Symphony Orchestra and UNI’s highly regarded music and drama programs, but it has more than 30 teaching studios and practice rooms to support the programs of the UNI School of Music. The theater has been host to some renowned visitors, including Bill Cosby, Smokey Robinson, B.B. King, Grammy-Award winner Robert Cray, Hal Holbrook as Mark Twain and “Lord of the Dance’s” Michael Flatley. The center hosts a regular schedule of performances, ranging from interpretive dance and jazz to Shakespeare. Some of Broadway’s biggest shows have been on stage at the Gallagher-Bluedorn, including “Cats,” “Stomp,” “Miss Saigon,” and “Fosse,” as well as international touring companies. Guest artists such as the famed cellist YoYo Ma have accompanied the metropolitan symphony orchestra. The facility also hosts holiday and spring pops concerts, as well as
Photo by Tiffany Rushing Cinco de Mayo, River Loop Expo Plaza, Downtown Waterloo
Iowa quarter. Inside are desks from that period, a digitized teacher and digital blackboard. A Paint Perfect exhibit allows visitors to paint pictures and hear sections of a symphony corresponding to the colors. A Digital Arts Learning Center showcases a computer-driven environment mixing art, music and video for older students and young professionals; a ceramics studio; new classrooms and an enlarged permanent gallery drawing from a collection of nearly 3,000 works.
Renaissance in downtown The pavilion is just part of a massive downtown riverfront renovation known as the Riverfront Renaissance, which now includes pedestrian art mall adjacent to the youth pavilion, the Riverloop Amphitheatre and a riverwalk recreational trail “loop.” Near the area is an elevated pedestrian plaza known as the Riverfront Renaissance. Mark’s Park, named in memory of the late Mark Young, the son of local benefactors Rick and Cathy Young, is on top of the flood levee. The park boasts water features, including a splash pad, and a large play area for children.
“It’s a beautiful venue,” Buzza said of the amphitheatre and surrounding plaza. “It’s an opportunity, a venue, a place for people to gather.” It also draws visitors, he said, to one of downtown’s natural assets – the Cedar River. “It’s something we needed along the river, and we’re seeing more people want to get toward the river,” Buzza said. “It certainly is a venue that accommodates a lot of people and variety and is a beautiful spot for whatever it is you’re going to do there, whether it’s a band or the U.S. President speaking. I’ve never heard anybody say it’s not a great place.” Thanks to such development projects, crowds are gathering along the riverfront in abundance and with regularity, Buzza said. That’s good for everybody, he said. “In the development of downtown as a whole, it brings business,” he said. “It gives people a place to go on the weekends that they can walk or bike to. It really ties in the entire river. You’ve got the trail system and the bridges and river and east side and west side, but this ties it all together. It was designed really well. You can go to an event there and just be overtaken by what you see. If you’re at a concert, you
can see the sunset or the reflection off the water and it makes for something that’s very unique.” Visitors will quickly note that the projects are valuable investments, Buzza said. “It’s a great spot and very appealing to the eye,” he said. One of the newest crown jewels in the downtown museum district is the Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum, which was designed to honor Waterloo’s five Sullivan brothers, who lost their lives in World War II while serving on the USS Juneau in the South Pacific. The nearly $12 million museum and research center features interactive exhibits ranging from exploring the inside of a tank to donning military gear of soldiers from various eras or even getting a soldier’s perspective of battle from inside a trench or tent. Visitors pick up “dog tags” that allow them to assume the identity of a soldier or civilian and follow that person’s routine through wartime. Special displays visit the museum, providing a deeper insight into some aspect of the military. Visitors to the Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum are greeted at the entrance by a reconstructed bow of the USS Juneau. The exhibits draw attention to stories of ordinary Iowans who, like the Sullivans, were called to do extraordinary things in the military and at home during times of war. The museum is a regular draw for tourist buses, military reunion groups and individual visitors, Buzza said. “I think having the two together as anchors in the market have helped us tremendously,” he said. “We had a really great offering before, but we’ve got an even better offering now and one that not a lot of communities our size, certainly, have and not a lot around the state have.” The Grout Museum District – named for benefactor Henry Whittemore Grout, an early 20th century financier and state legislator – is a cluster of museums that collect, preserve and interpret the cultural and natural history of the region. Exhibits trace the development of the region from the first settlers to the present. Astronomy buffs can enjoy the Grout Planetarium as the star projector recreates beams the night sky onto a 170-foot high dome, while more scientific insights unfold nearby at the Bluedorn Science Imaginarium, a hands-on science center with demonstrations of how science affects everyday life. The past is preserved, as well, at the Rensselaer Russell House Museum, one of Black Hawk County’s oldest homes and an example of
American mid-Victorian architecture. The interior features original Russell family possessions. “Between the Grout Museum District and the wrestling museum, the center for the arts and the Phelps Youth Pavilion, we’ve got a tremendous asset for people who want to come in, park their car and get between the three of them easily,” Buzza said. “They all offer a wide variety of activities, quite a difference in what you’re going to see and experience, as far as the stories are concerned. But in a lot of cases, it carries forward the history of the region.” That applies to the Center for the Arts, as well, Buzza said. “With some of the regional artists at the center for the arts, Dan Gable being a huge part of Waterloo, and the Sullivan Brothers being a huge part of Waterloo, it tells our story in a lot of different ways.” That the network of museums have “onestop-shop” proximity to one another is certain to enhance their attraction, Buzza added. The Riverloop Expo Plaza, at the corner of Park Avenue and Jefferson Street in downtown Waterloo, has hosted numerous outdoor public events associated with holidays and other civic celebrations, including John Deere’s massive festival marking its 75th anniversary in Waterloo. Planners designed the space to offer a long list of possibilities for both public and private events. “The proximity helps tie it all together and helps continue that story very easily, rather than getting in the car and driving 15 minutes,” he said. “It’s a nice continuation between the three. And they all offer a wide variety for different ages. The Phelps Youth Pavilion, being a Nickelodeon Parents Choice award winner, gives moms and dads and
kids something to do. The stories that the wrestling museum, the veterans museum, the Imaginarium and the Russell House can touch a wide variety of age ranges and give us that family atmosphere.”
Deere museum the newest asset The newest addition to the lineup of museums in downtown Waterloo is John Deere’s Tractor & Engine Museum, which went up on the campus of Cedar Valley TechWorks and was scheduled to open by the fall of 2014. Planners said the museum likely would l attract more than 100,000 visitors in its first year alone. “No doubt, the museum will add attention and traction to the TechWorks campus,” said Cary Darrah, general manager of Cedar Valley TechWorks, a manufacturing, research and development hive springing up from property that Deere & Co. donated to the city of Waterloo. “It will generate the attention and recognition as a real and viable place to visit and/or do business. It is fitting that the Iowa Advanced Manufacturing Center will be located next door to the world’s largest agricultural equipment manufacturer – no better staging facility for innovations in advanced technology of the future to learn from the past.” The National Cattle Congress grounds, featuring its McElroy Auditorium, is the site for rodeos, monster trucks, horse shows, ballroom dancing, BMX races, concerts, craft shows and the annual John Deere Two-Cylinder Tractor Show, as well as weddings and other private events. Cedar Falls puts its own historical and cultural heritage on display in numerous venues, as well.
The Ice House Museum is a circular facility, built in 1921, which once housed a flourishing ice business. It displays ice-harvesting equipment and photos depicting ice farming operations. Early farming, homemaking and business memorabilia also are on display. The Little Red Schoolhouse Museum is a charming 1909 structure equipped with blackboards, books, a pot-belly stove and turnof-the-century furnishings. The Behrens-Rapp Tourism Information Station is a restored gas station that also serves as an information center for visitors. Nearby is the Victorian Home & Carriage House Museum, a 1863 Italianate-style home featuring furnishings, fashions and memorabilia documenting the area’s early history. The Carriage House contains the Cedar Falls Historical Society’s research library and permanent and changing exhibits, including the William J. Lenoir O-gauge Model Railroad exhibit. Also nearby is the George Wyth House & Viking Pump Museum – another treasure of the Cedar Falls Historical Society. Built in 1907, the former family home of a prominent Cedar Falls businessman was restored and decorated with the influence of the Art Deco period of the 1920s and 1930s. The third floor is a small museum dedicated to the Viking Pump Co., which Wyth co-founded and which turned 103 years old in 2014. Not far from the University of Northern Iowa is the Hearst Center for the Arts – the former home of renowned poet James Hearst. It contains a permanent collection of works by local and regional artists. The center also has hosted special exhibitions of works by Picasso, Dali and Rembrandt. Also of interest at the center is the Hearst Sculpture Garden.
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Across the campus, the UNI Museum has natural history exhibits of birds, animals and human history from around the world. The many exhibits from African antelope to Peruvian textiles or wood carvings of the Asmat culture to geology specimen spans millions of years. The Henry W. Myrtle Gallery carries an array of works of different media by various artists around the country. The UNI Gallery of Art in the Kamerick Art Building has permanent and temporary exhibitions providing an opportunity to view a range of artwork. The Waldemar A. Schmidt Gallery at Wartburg College in Waverly within the Fine Arts Center has exhibit by local, national and international artists. Visitors to rural Cedar Falls can take in Antique Acres, where the history of agriculture is told through an extensive collection of restored memorabilia and displays. Visitors also can go back in time in Hudson, south of Waterloo, where Heritage Farm recreates a bygone era with a horse-drawn hayride during the spring, summer or fall months or a scenic sleigh ride during the winter months.
History in the present One of the more ambitious projects recalling the history of the region is called Heartland Acres Agribition, in Independence, in nearby Buchanan County. Agribition is a 225,000-square-foot convention hall and renewable energies laboratory that is readily visible from U.S. Highway 20. The main complex includes two 1800s-style barns capped at the ends with glass silos: a blend of old and new. Many exhibits
will offer a hands-on approach to how life was in the Midwest and how it has evolved. Each year, Argribition’s display of antique farm equipment, automobiles and farm implements grows. In the past, it has housed “Big Bud,” which, at 100,000 pounds, is the world’s largest tractor. As an agriculture-focused center, Agribition approaches the field from numerous perspectives. “Big & Small Tails,” a highlight for many visitors, features native farm animals – including sheep, goats, cows, pigs and chickens. Visitors can see, feel and smell what a barnyard is like every day. The facility also has a bird hatchery and plenty of livestock. In the Agribition’s Hall of Time interpretive display, visitors can journey back to what farming practices were like when the first settlers arrived in Iowa. Also in Independence is the Wapsipinicon Mill, considered one of the 10 most-important historic structures in Iowa. Visitors to the 1867 gristmill can view the architecture of the mill interior, burr stones, grain bins, mill machinery and pulley systems. Tourists also can experience the Amish way of life and observe 19th-century farming practices. Shops for quilts, furniture and harness supplies, and baked goods are available on Fridays and Saturdays. In Buchanan County’s first settlement, Quasqueton, visit the Cedar Rock home, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. In fact, Wright not only designed the home but also the grounds, furniture, drapes, upholstery, carpet, china, silver, crystal, pottery and pots and pans. It is one of seven signed buildings. The Richardson-Jakway House in Aurora is a restored 1851 house which was a stagecoach
relay stop and also served as an inn and post office. The Fontana Interpretive Nature Center in Hazelton features hands-on displays and a diorama that interprets woodland, wetland and grassland ecosystems. Just outside Nashua in Chickasaw County is the famous Little Brown Church in the Vale, organized in 1855 as the First Congregational Ecclesiastical Society of Bradford and built in 1864. William Pitts, a music teacher, was passing through Nashua and saw an empty lot he thought would be idea for a house of worship. He wrote a song, ‘The Church in the Wildwood.” Years later, Pitts returned to the area and saw a church had been built in that exact location by volunteers during the Civil War. Pitts sang the song he wrote at the church’s dedication in 1864. The Weatherwax Brothers made the song popular in the early 1900s. The Little Brown Church has been a popular spot for weddings ever since. Ray Charles sang at a wedding at the church in 1962. Between 40,000 and 60,000 people visit the church every year, including couples who show up at the church’s regular wedding reunions to renew vows they had taken there. It retains much of its historic charm with century-old furniture – pews installed in 1870 and some chairs that have been there since at least 1883. History also comes alive at the Bremer County Historical Museum in Waverly, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The museum occupies a roadside inn, built in 1864 from native timber and brick from a local kiln.
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The Cedar Valley’s ‘artist in residence’
ary Kelley has illustrated stories ranging from Washington Irving’s “Rip Van Winkle” to Guy de Maupassant’s “The Necklace.” He also has created his own picture books. As the Cedar Valley’s “artist in residence,” Kelley and his drawings, pastels, oil paintings, monotypes and other works turn up almost everywhere in the region, at one time or another. Kelley, an Algona, Iowa, native who earned a degree in art from the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, launched his career as a graphic designer and art director before becoming an illustrator in the mid1970s. He has received awards from the New York Society of Illustrators, including the Hamilton King Award in 1992, National Booksellers Association, Print Magazine, New York Art Directors Show, Los Angeles Society of Illustrators, Bologna (Italy) Book Fair, and others. His clients include New Yorker magazine, Rolling Stone, Playboy, Atlantic Monthly, Time, Newsweek, GQ, Franklin Library, CBS Records, the National Football League, Santa Fe Opera, and many major publishers and advertising agencies. Kelley recently completed two 70-foot murals for the renovated Barnes & Nobel bookstore in New York. In addition to his professional work, he has lectured widely, including the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.; Society of Illustrators; San Francisco Academy of Art; Ringling School of Art; and Syracuse University, among others. Like many successful artists and entrepreneurs who have reaped success in the outside world, Kelley says he lovingly calls the Cedar Valley home. He says he came to the region to study art at UNI and assumed he’d move on once he had his degree in hand. As it turned out, he said, he learned quickly that he would never want to leave. “I guess I always assumed I would move on to maybe a bigger market somewhere to do my work, which was design and illustration,” he said. “I guess in the process I realized I didn’t need to do that. I took advantage of a couple of opportunities with a couple of employers and built my own ‘brand,’ as they call it nowadays.” Kelley, who met his wife of 40-plus years, Linda, while studying at UNI, became a freelance artist and illustrator in 1986. That, he said, gave him the enviable option of living anywhere he chose. Linda was a native of Waterloo, and the couple chose to stay in the Cedar Valley. “Ever since then, I’ve been pretty much a one-man show,” he said.
The couple didn’t have a definitive plan, other than their desire to stay in the Cedar Valley, Kelley said. “As things unfolded, I realized I could do what I wanted to do from here,” he said. “Back in those days, the fax machine was a hot new item. Overnight couriers like FedEx were taking off. That enabled me to work from here.” The couple started a family in the 1970s. That cemented their love of the area. “This was a good place for them,” Kelley said of his children. “It’s just about the right size -- not too big, not too small.” At first, clients and other outsiders would ask Kelley why he continued to stay in the Cedar Valley. They don’t ask anymore. “I’m doing a book now for a publisher in Barcelona, and I’m doing an ad piece for an agency in San Diego,” he said. “People don’t ask that as much anymore because of my situation.” Kelley has developed a standard response to anyone who wanted to know why he maintained his loyalty to the Cedar Valley. “I guess what I’d always tell them, especially in the (19)80s and ‘90s, when I was working for myself, if I can do the kind of projects I want to do here, why not?’” he said. “Living my life is not one of those projects. I don’t have to deal with commuting; I don’t have to wait in line everywhere I go. The schools are great for my kids.” The Cedar Valley has all the cultural amenities of the biggest cities, thanks, in large part, to the presence of UNI, Kelley said. “One thing that’s very important to me, and I always made a point to make to anybody from New York or California or anywhere, was it’s a university town,” he said. “That’s probably a major reason we stayed, because of all the things the university brings to town.” Art museums abound, whether it’s UNI’s GallagherBluedorn Performing Arts Center or the Waterloo Center for the Arts, Kelley said. But, there are other assets, even some that, perhaps longtime Cedar Valley residents take for granted, Kelley said. “One of the amenities I appreciate and still use a lot is the library,” he said. “I have a card at Cedar Falls and UNI libraries. I struck out everywhere I went, including online, to get a copy of a video of the book I’m illustrating. It’s “Don Juan.” UNI had a Spanish language, made-for-Spanish-TV video of a production of “Don Juan.” I’m sure if I was in New York or somewhere, I could find it.” The art museums in Cedar Falls and Waterloo are key resources, Kelley said.
Gary Kelley on Culture “I don’t feel isolated,” he said. He said there was one other important point to make about the Cedar Valley: “The variety of friends I’ve made, whether they’re business people or educators or artists or musicians. I have made a lot of different friends in a lot of circles, and that’s very important. I’d say my wife and I have a pretty supportive social network, and it covers a lot of ground.”
Photo by Brandon Pollock
“The university, the gallery of art at UNI, just the activities, whether it’s sports or entertainment, I use them all. I can’t imagine life without it,” he said. “The other thing, too, I remind people, is with the money I save in cost of living, I can travel, and we travel quite a lot, sometimes for business and sometimes for fun.” The cultural attractions available to Cedar Valley residents would make anyone feel at home, Kelley said.
Maestro of the Cedar Valley
here are many musical soundtracks to the Cedar Valley, due primarily to the mélange of cultures in the area. However, if there is one individual resident who personifies the region’s musical culture, it may be Jason Weinberger – a Los Angeles native who visited the area as a young man, fell in love with its cultural tapestry and possibilities and stayed to conduct its symphony orchestra. Weinberger is artistic director and CEO of the wcfsymphony, which altered its brand from its old identity, the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Symphony, in September 2013. Weinberger, who has attained renown for a wholly contemporary approach to programming, presentation and performance, also proclaims himself a “tireless advocate for music among audiences of all backgrounds” and an emerging orchestra executive and entrepreneur. In 2014, Weinberger marked 10 years as director of the local symphony orchestra. During that time, he made major strides, performing a wide variety of new and recent American music by up-and-coming composers, including Chris Thile, Miguel AtwoodFerguson, Timo Andres and Gabriel Kahane and hosting such guest artists as Yo-Yo Ma, David Shifrin, Peter Schickele, Brandi Carlile, Matt Haimovitz and Edgar Meyer. More recently in his first year as CEO of the rebranded wcfsymphony, Weinberger stabilized the organization’s finances and refocused its agenda as both a community asset and potential industry leader. Weinberger is a dynamic proponent of the arts across the Cedar Valley and spearheads wcfsymphony’s wide-ranging community engagement initiatives. As likely to be found in an elementary school classroom as onstage or in a boardroom, Weinberger brings his natural ease with young people to wcfsymphony’s captivating concerts for kids. Weinberger has considerable stature beyond the Cedar Valley. He is the regular conductor for acclaimed singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile, with whom he recently appeared at the Seattle Symphony, Oregon Symphony and Nashville Symphony, and has partnered with a host of artists and bands, including Cedar Falls resident artist Gary Kelley, as well as Mochilla and Calexico.
Long road to Cedar Valley Weinberger began his musical training there on both piano and clarinet, pursuing studies on the latter instrument with Yehuda Gilad at the Colburn School for the Performing Arts. He attended Yale University, first receiving a bachelor’s with academic distinction in intellectual history and then completing a master’s
degree in clarinet performance under the tutelage of David Shifrin. After leaving Yale, Weinberger attended the Peabody Conservatory as a master’s student of Gustav Meier and was a recipient of the Graduate Conducting Fellowship and a Peabody Career Grant. Weinberger was resident conductor of the Louisville Orchestra for four seasons and was awarded a national Bruno Walter Career Grant for his work there. Jason began his professional career as a cover conductor with the National Symphony Orchestra and performed with the NSO several times in addition to leading the Kennedy Center/National Symphony Orchestra Summer Music Institute. While in the mid-Atlantic region, Weinberger directed the orchestra program at the Baltimore School for the Arts, where he founded an adventurous chamber orchestra and conceived and led a number of new initiatives for teaching and presenting music to urban youth. Weinberger says it was his good fortune to land in the Cedar Valley. “My first encounter with Waterloo-Cedar Falls was my audition to become music director of wcfsymphony,” he said. “I was pretty young for a position like this one and didn’t have much experience visiting different communities and getting a feel for both life and the arts landscape in unfamiliar places. I guess I was lucky to have that first opportunity here in the Cedar Valley -- my audition week with the orchestra musicians and patrons, all of whom were so welcoming and generous, was much more than enough to convince me that this was a perfect place to pursue my work and personal path.”
Quick decision to stay That’s what drew him to the Cedar Valley. He said it didn’t take long to decide to stay. “After the initial shock of our first Iowa winter, both my wife and I fell in love with life here in the Cedar Valley,” he said. “On the one hand, support for the arts here has always been quite strong and that tradition has helped to make my work more productive and meaningful. But the nature of daily life in WaterlooCedar Falls has played at least as much of a role in making us feel so much at home here. My wife and I both spent our pre-Iowa lives living in large cities, and while we do travel quite a bit we appreciate the more sane pace of life offered by Iowa.” After the Weinbergers had children, they got to see first-hand why so many other families chose to stay in the Cedar Valley, Jason Weinberger said. “Now that we have kids, we also see first-hand the many benefits of living in a community that so clearly
Photo by Rick Chase
Jason Weinberger on the Arts
values education and family life,” he said. A devoted bicyclist, Weinberger said the area’s trail systems are irresistible. “As an avid cyclist who has ridden all over the country, I can say without reservation that the rural roads of Northeast Iowa offer some of the best -- if windiest -- riding anywhere,” he said. The Weinbergers still maintain ties to Southern California and go back there periodically, but they continue to call the Cedar Valley home, Jason Weiberger said. “We do spend time in Southern California regularly, but that’s primarily for family reasons,” he said. “Given the nature of my work, it would actually be quite difficult to transition to a place like L.A. -- in any large city there are only a handful of professional opportunities that would suit my talents and interests.”
Refreshing change of seasons The warmer weather is a lure to California, but the change of seasons that the Cedar Valley offers is more seductive, Weinberger said. “We enjoy the variety that seasonal change brings, even if Iowa winters can seem a bit long at times,” he said. “And we definitely prefer the traffic situation here in comparison with a place like L.A.” The Cedar Valley is a strong cultural, -- and, specifically, music – center, Weinberger said.
And, it is continually evolving, he said. “Obviously, I have some strong opinions on these questions, given my work in the community,” he said.” In general, I believe that Iowans value and prioritize the fine arts and music. At the same time, we’ve seen not only an explosion of entertainment opportunities around the Waterloo-Cedar Falls area but also major changes in technology over the past decade, which have impacted arts organizations worldwide.” Keeping residents “engaged” in music is a challenge, as well as a compelling opportunity, Weinberger said. “I see it as one my greatest professional challenges -and potential contributions -- here in the Cedar Valley to ensure that the arts continue to have a meaningful and impactful role in the lives of our communities and their citizens,” he said. Music is a major contributor to a high quality of life in the Cedar Valley, Weinberger said. “Naturally I’ll highlight wcfsymphony as a key exponent of our excellent quality of life here, as I believe the orchestra to be among the cultural treasures of our area,” he said. “More broadly, I believe the people of Iowa are our region’s biggest asset. I’ve not been anywhere else where people are as welcoming, level headed, thoughtful, patient, tolerant and kind as the friends and colleagues I have been lucky to make in my time here.”
in the marketplace are reacting favorably,” he said. “They feel this may be historically a very rare opportunity.” Gale Shinkle, a broker with Trapp Realtors and president of the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Board of Realtors, said shifting demographics – led by aging baby boomers – may create a hot new market for condominiums. “I saw young people wanting to buy homes,” Shinkle said. “There were plenty of people who wanted to size down to a condo.” It could be the next booming niche in the local housing market in the years to come, Shinkle said. Units that bring plenty of amenities will move quickly, Bonsall said. “We’ve had some success with condo developments both in upscale and moderate and that probably will become more and more robust,” he said. Agents say they see more new houses going up. Steve Knapp, managing broker with Lockard Cos. in Cedar Falls, said his numbers continue to trend upward. “I’m tickled with how busy we are,” he said. New construction of all varieties seems to be perking, too, Knapp said. “We’ve got several people out there with spec homes,” he said.
Commercial activity percolates On the commercial side, numerous developments were percolating. Some had just opened for business; others were seeing the first earth movers clear ground for future building. Either way, activity was palpable. Perhaps no commercial area in the Cedar Valley was flashing more signs of impending life than the Crossing Point development – a retail development of local entrepreneur Ben Stroh. Stroh, who also is president of A-Line Environmental Decommission Service in Waterloo, consolidated 17 1/2 acres with the purchase of a former shopping plaza that once housed a Kmart and, later, Hobby Lobby and, most recently, Big Lots stores, across heavily traveled San Marnan Drive from Waterloo’s largest mall, Crossroads Center. Stroh bought
the property from Black Equities Group, which is based in California, for $1.05 million. Stroh knocked down some of it and reconfigured the rest. In January 2014, the first tenant of Crossing Point, Planet Fitness, opened for business. Stroh hired Single Source, an architecture firm based in Waterloo, to design a “vertical concept” mall called Crossing Point Plaza. The heart of the project emerged from the shell of the old Kmart structure. When it’s done, the mall’s main area may house as many as 12 retail businesses, Stroh said, though he added the number is not firm. Stroh had commitments from several tenants right away, including Planet Fitness, which has 18,000 square feet and was attracting “full parking lots” of clients in its first months of business, Stroh said. Real estate broker Jim Sulentic of the Sulentic Fischels Commercial Group, which is developing the Crossing Point project, estimated the mall project’s cost at $6 million, though Stroh backed away from any projection. “Who knows? I imagine this will develop into $15 million or $20 million or $25 million,” Stroh said. In addition to the mall core, there are other “out lots” under development, with construction underway beginning in 2014. “The real exciting part about this development is the pads that we’re going to have for restaurant sites out on San Marnan,” Sulentic said. “That’s what makes this really unique.” The Crossing Point project further enhances a renaissance around the nearly 50-year-old mall, which is Waterloo’s largest hive of commercial activity. “From our standpoint, nothing ever materializes fast enough,” Stroh said. Construction on another 12,000- to 13,000-square-foot building near the main project, was scheduled to get underway in the spring of 2014. “I think it’s gonna shock you,” Stroh said. There are other visible developments going on in the Cedar Valley. Perhaps most obvious have been changes around the downtown districts of Waterloo and Cedar Falls.
Pinnacle Prairie, Cedar Falls
hey keep building houses, shops and other developments across the Cedar Valley. Construction in the region continues to defy national trends, maintaining even-keel employment levels and playing key roles in the growth of the area with some sizable commercial projects. Across the U.S., a rebounding housing industry has made headlines; in the Cedar Valley, the housing market remained steady, with no dramatic peaks or valleys other areas saw, real estate agents note. “It’s a strong housing market,” said Cheryl Smith, executive officer of the WaterlooCedar Falls Board of Realtors, an Indiana native who made a decision to move back to the Midwest and took up her new job after years as a broker and manager in the up-anddown Las Vegas real estate market. Smith said she noticed the Cedar Valley’s stable housing market from the beginning, noting that it provided a stark contrast to the volatility found in Nevada’s largest city. “I was looking through sales data and said, ‘Wow that didn’t even move,’” she said. “You have had a steady growth.” Housing starts in 2013 outpaced figures from 2012, according to the real estate board. “The demand keeps coming, and there’s no letup,” said Craig Fairbanks, owner of Cedar Falls-based homebuilder Craig Fairbanks Homes. “Both in Waterloo and Cedar Falls, people are looking and buying lots to build on.” As it turned out, 2013 proved to be a vigorous year for the housing market, according to real estate agents and industry leaders. The reasons likely are various, they said. One linked the area’s ongoing low unemployment rate with the healthy housing business. “I think the reason we have a good housing market is because we’ve been able to sustain our jobs, whereas nationally, the unemployment figures have not been as good,” said Gale Bonsall, a broker with Oakridge Realtors in Cedar Falls. Cheap money also have played a key role, Bonsall said. “The attractive interest rates are higher but they make housing so affordable that buyers
Photo by Brandon Pollock
Building a Valley in which to live, work
-- The $27 million Cedar Valley SportsPlex opened to much fanfare in January 2014. The fitness/recreation center and indoor field house complex, which covers most of a square block on the western edge of downtown Waterloo, was four years in the planning and construction phases. The facility is outfitted with a field house and gymnasium, along with pools for leisure and competitive swimming, as well as cardio and weightlifting areas. There are racquetball courts, locker rooms, conference space, a child care facility and numerous other amenities. “There’s a tremendous amount of excitement about what it looks like, what is it, what’s going on inside, how big is it,” said Dan Watters, division head of U.S. Bank in Waterloo and president of the nonprofit downtown Waterloo Development Corp., which was involved with the facility’s development and construction. The 140,000-square-foot complex is seen as a strong draw to workers across downtown Waterloo and beyond, Watters said. Companies are de facto partners, said Mark Gallagher, recreation services manager with the Waterloo Leisure Services department. “It’s nice for us because we can kind of utilize them to market it to their employees,” Gallagher said just before the facility’s grand opening. “They want a healthy workforce.
Every business we’ve talked to has been really excited. It means less missed days, better morale and better performance, so businesses are very excited about that part.” -- In 2014, Deere & Co. completed a renovation of its Waterloo foundry that involved an investment of about $100 million. The company also was scheduled to open a Tractor & Engine Museum at a cost of more than $10 million on the campus of the Cedar Valley TechWorks, on the western edge of downtown Waterloo. -- On the eastern edge of Cedar Falls, growth continued at a seemingly unbridled pace. A growing retail development area features new Target and Scheels All Sports stores, a Culver’s restaurant and a new McDonald’s. Additional stores were on schedule to open in the development by the end of 2014. Developers said in June 2014 they were getting close to completing a strip mall with over 58,000 square feet of retail space. That’s at the same time they are gearing up to break ground for five more storefronts in a separate building near the Culver’s. The new McDonald’s was the third in Cedar Falls but the first to open since 1984. Michael’s Arts & Crafts, Ulta Cosmetics, Old Navy, and Lane Bryant were two store banners that were scheduled to open.
Remaining spaces were expected to be snapped up in short order. Not far away is Target Corp.’s 425,000-squarefoot perishable foods distribution facility, next door to Target’s established 1.3-millionsquare-foot dry-goods distribution center. The side-by-side distribution centers are the only complex of its kind in Target’s nationwide system. Across Viking Road, home-improvement retailer Menards opened its second store in the Waterloo-Cedar Falls market, in 2013. -- Pinnacle Prairie in Cedar Falls, is known as the region’s first self-contained “Town Centre” project – different elements of work, shopping and recreation. You could be working here, living here and using trails and other amenities for recreation without actually leaving, said John Flint, executive vice president at Cedar Fallsbased Lockard Cos., the project’s “master developer” for property owner Merrill Oster. Commercial development in the center began with a number of medical and financial facilities. Allen Hospital has an urgent care facility. Covenant Hospital’s Arrowhead Medical Park is operating. Dr. Thomas Strube – the first one to build -- has a dental practice. MidWestOne Bank opened a branch there. And Lockard itself has its worldwide
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headquarters in Pinnacle Prairie. BioLife is next to WalMart. In terms of living, you have Whispering Pines, a townhome community; and Southern Pines, which is a single-family home development, Flint said. “There is more to come.” The Village Co-op, a 55-and-up residential community, has opened there, with about 50 condominiums. “We’re optimistic; we’ve had a lot of activity over there in the last year and a half, starting mainly with Menards,” said Dustin Whitehead, director of sales and leasing/ Midwest at Lockard. Pinnacle Prairie covers about 780 acres and has the potential for up to 1,500 dwelling units, equal to one-tenth of the city’s households, by some estimates. It could hold commercial development worth hundreds of millions of dollars, city officials say. Western Home Communities, which has an expansive system for all levels of senior living, also is expanding into Pinnacle Prairie, with “memory cottages” and condos, as well. “They’re doing quite a bit over there, frankly,” Flint said. The project has been growing slowly since about 2003, Whitehead said. Signs of growth were everywhere:
The completion of Prairie Parkway, a northsouth arterial between Greenhill and Viking roads, should accelerate the development’s growth, Whitehead said. “The Prairie Parkway construction is going to help drive traffic through the development, so people understand it a little bit better,” he said. “We’re hopeful that will help commercial growth on south end residential growth in the middle section of the development. The walking/biking trail system will tie in with Prairie Parkway, Flint said. Developers and city officials agree completion of Prairie Parkway will be the catalyst for significant commercial development. It should ease traffic congestion in the busy Walmart-Target-Menards area. It is seen as a safer alternative to Iowa Highway 58 for motorists trying to access the big-box retail stores on East Viking Road east of Highway 58, and it more directly connects residents in Pinnacle Prairie and neighborhoods to the north, like the Briarwood Hills addition, to the stores along East Viking. There could be ancillary growth in the area, too, Whitehead said. “Hopefully, there will be an addition of an elementary school out there when we see more homes go up,” he said.
Whitehead said in 2014 it could take another decade to completely develop Pinnacle Prairie. “As you know, it depends on the housing growth,” he said. He said “a couple of thousand” housing units already were being planned for the development. “We are working with some multifamily developers, but single-family housing is also in need and we’re hoping a developer will come in and add to the development,” he said. A vibrant local economy has attracted newcomers from far and wide. One example is Zuidberg Frontline Systems BV, based in Ens, The Netherlands, which manufactures tractor hitches, transmissions and heavyequipment parts. In July 2014, the company opened a North American base of operations -- Zuidberg North America Inc. -- in the Cedar Falls Industrial Park. The company opened its first U.S.-based distribution center in a new 40,000-squarefoot building at 3105 Capital Way in the industrial park. Zuidberg -- pronounced “Zideberg” -- hired six employees to start as it occupied 10,000 square feet of the new building initially, said Rudolf de Jong, president of Zuidberg North
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America Inc., which was born as a U.S. corporate entity Jan. 1, 2014. The local business climate – and proximity to John Deere’s tractor operations – proved too compelling to resist, de Jong said. “We find a very good workforce here, so people are well educated and absolutely well motivated, as well,” de Jong said. “People are professional and what we found is the support we got from the (Greater Cedar Valley) Chamber & Alliance was fantastic in regards to finding locations for our properties as we work with developer Brent Dahlstrom. That made it easy for us to come here.” Observations of the national economy tend to fall in the middling range, but the local business climate is healthy, de Jong said. “What I see is the Cedar Valley is in the middle of a lot of our potential customers, and there’s a lot of production of ag and production machinery,” he said. “That’s why we chose this central location for Zuidberg. It’s very important for us to be close. We’re close to our main customers in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois.” Zuidberg officially opened its Cedar Falls branch July 1, but the company started building its inventory weeks in advance, de Jong said. The buildup also was a shot to the local economy, de Jong said. “We hired as much as possible local companies to do the work and we hired Cedar Valley ITs for our computer network. We hope to, of course, have a stable base in this year and hope to add additional product lines. We have a focus on growth.” --In Waterloo, Farmers State Bank bought Tower Park in 2013 and was renovating the
facility, which was first built in the early 1990s. “They’re really dressing that place up,” said Flint, whose company built the complex. “We’ve always looked at that as a really nice asset for the community in terms of office space, and it’s kind of a landmark because of that tower. They’re really getting it fixed up, and it’s going to have some great office space. They’re really making a great investment in this community by getting it into shape. That’s a phenomenal investment in the city of Waterloo. Everybody knows where that tower is.” Nearby, the Cedar Valley’s largest retail corridor, around the Crossroads Center mall, growth is ongoing. In mid-2014, the central mall announced its plans for upgrades and “aggressive” marketing. “The whole Crossroads corridor is just an engine; there’s a lot of building going on over there,” Flint said. “It continues to be a hotbed of activity over there; it’s really the center of gravity for the Cedar Valley’s retail.
Bremer County chugs along with development Economic vibrancy and Bremer County have walked hand-in-hand in recent years, and officials there say they are building on that momentum. Then, there’s quality of life: In a study released by The Upshot, a New York Times data analysis venture, Bremer County ranked 51st out of 3,135 counties in the U.S. for quality of life. The study compiled six basic metrics – educational attainment, household income, jobless rate, disability rate, life expectancy and obesity rate.
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Bremer County has consistently turned in some of the lowest unemployment rates in the state, and it intensified efforts to build on its accomplishments – starting with new leadership in its economic development efforts. Bill Werger, a partner in a Waverly law firm who has served as Waverly’s city attorney on a contract basis, became Waverly’s community development director in the summer of 2014. Connie Tolan, who had been handling economic development leadership responsibilities on an interim basis, filled a new position as economic development specialist. “In short, what we’re trying to do is give a little more spotlight and elevate our development area,” City Administrator Phil Jones said. Bremer County’s balanced business portfolio has held unemployment at bay, Tolan said. “Diversity of businesses – agriculture and those businesses that support agriculture, education, insurance, banking, manufacturing (large and small), medical centers and hospitals,” she said. Also helping is a “climate of support,” she said. “The Waverly Area Small Business Incubator and Consultation Center is an example of creating a supportive group of mentors and coaches to support entrepreneurs as they attempt to create and build something new,” Tolan said, noting that retail businesses also support each other. Agriculture is, by far, the strongest driver, Tolan said. “Bremer County has a very strong ag-based economy that drives the underlying economic
Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber Building Business Building a Career Building a GREATER Place Whether you are building a business, a career, or acting on a new idea the Alliance & Chamber is the go-to resource for business growth assistance in the Cedar Valley of Iowa. It’s the place where ideas, information, economic development services and get-itdone leadership connect to build our economy. Whether you’re interested in the vibrant urban center, eclectic cultural districts, flashy suburbs, or quieter small city settings, the powerful Cedar Valley economy will propel your vision, career, or growing operation to success. And what a place to enjoy life!
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foundation for the county, but it also has a very broad spectrum of industrial and commercial businesses that cover several business sectors,” she said. “This combination allows the area to weather a downturn in any one or more of these sectors with minimal impact.” That makes for a diverse employment base that keeps joblessness low, Tolan said. “We have been fortunate not to have the economic downturn affect our employers in the county like other areas,” she said. Waverly, the county’s largest city, has been able to foster a tremendous local business environment, Tolan said. “Our economy benefits from hard-working people who want to succeed,” she said of Waverly. “It’s a regional draw for residents of smaller communities.” County residents are accustomed to working hard, and that further feeds the economic health of the country, Tolan said. “Bremer County has a very strong ‘hardwork’ ethic, and many employees have farm backgrounds that foster this,” she said. Bremer County has hundreds of small- to medium-sized businesses, which enhances the balanced business climate, Tolan said. Many of those businesses, including welding shops, veterinary business, seed and fertilizer suppliers, equipment sales and service and
others, cater to ag-industry participants, and provide basic needs of residents, at retail stores, barber shops and other purveyors of goods and services, she added. “But we also have national and international corporations that have sizable operations in the area and growing medical services providers,” Tolan said. “All of these employers provide opportunities from minimum-wage, entry-level positions, to skilled technicianlevel positions, all the way up to senior level management/CEO opportunities. Having this scope of opportunities helps ensure all segments of the economy have continual stimulation and growth.” Waverly also is home to centers of education – Wartburg College – and healthcare – Waverly Health Center, as well as a regional center for insurance and manufacturing. “For a community of Waverly’s size that is a broad diversification of industry that keeps the community going when macro-economic forces affect one of its industries,” Tolan said. The 25-bed critical-access hospital, Waverly Health Center, is a major asset, Tolan said. “A high quality medical center is critical to the health of a community and a growing health center brings more jobs, some very high paying, to the community,” she said, noting that the hospital is one of Waverly’s
largest employers, at 430 workers, with a payroll over $26 million. Jim Atty took the reins as CEO of WHC in September 2014. Atty had been CEO at Humboldt County Memorial Hospital in Humboldt, Iowa. Atty said he wasn’t looking for a job, but the situation in Waverly was too compelling to resist, from both a personal and professional standpoint. “I think most importantly, from the outside looking in, Waverly has all the things you’d want to raise a family,” he said. Professionally, it fits nicely, too, Atty said. “Luckily, I had some professional guidance in what takes place there; a mentor confirmed some of the great things happening at that hospital. We all have people we respect and he’s one of those people for me and he said it was gold.” Atty said he liked what he saw at the hospital. “Professionally, you know that culture is one that’s not made up; people are there for the right reasons,” he said. The Waverly-Shell Rock School District opened a new school in 2010, but development continues. On the commercial side, new stores have opened in recent years, and downtown Waverly was rejuvenating itself. Indeed, the city is trying to be more efficient in its
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Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum
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downtown renewal efforts, having moved to combine two downtown urban renewal areas into a single unified entity. Combining the areas allows tax increment financing from either to be used for development projects anywhere in the larger unit, Jones said.
Grundy County, along southern and western borders of Black Hawk County, has been working to focus on its traditional role as agricultural and manufacturing center, as well as emphasize small-town life with easy access to the area cities. “We are in a time of transition for the Grundy County Development Alliance,” said Jeff Kolb, who heads up economic-development efforts in both Grundy and neighboring Butler counties. “Agriculture was always our backbone and will continue to be. We’re working to become more progressive in creating employment opportunities. Our goal is, people are going to hear more about us.” Much of the effort is focused on working with established industries in the county, Kolb said. That would include Richelou Foods, a manufacturer of food products in Grundy Center, the county seat and its largest town; Reinbeck-based Peterson Contractors Inc.,
Waverly Health Center, Waverly
Grundy County makes statement
whose iconic red-and-yellow work vehicles are common sights long major highway construction projects; Grundy County Memorial Hospital, in Grundy Center; Pioneer Hi-Bred Seed, Reinbeck; Total Source Molding, Reinbeck; Easton Technical Products, a Dike-based manufacturer of archery and other sport recreation products; Conrad-based Green Products, a global
supplier of milled corncob products, with a separate division that serves the pet bedding and bird litter markets; and Grundy Centerbased Heavy Equipment Manufacturing, which produces slip form paving equipment shipped around the world. “Most growth you see is with existing employers,” Kolb said. “We want to work with them to provide them with an environment to
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grow. The first step is to talk with them. That was not happing regularly in the past; that’s our main focus now. Expansion of U.S. Highway 20, from two to four lanes through Grundy County has been a boon, Kolb said “It’s a huge attribute for the county,” he said. “Another unique component is the location. We can pull workforce not only from Cedar Falls and Waterloo but Marshalltown on the south side. That’s a huge asset.” There have been setbacks, Kolb said, citing as an example the closure of Bacon Veneer, a Grundy Center-based manufacturer, in the fall of 2012. Most of the employees affected by the shutdown latched on elsewhere, and stayed in the area, Kolb said. “On one side, timing, I guess, was in our favor that when Bacon Veneer had their layoffs in October 2012,” he said. “Things were turning around for employers and they were looking for people. But it has provided opportunities for people so they didn’t have to leave the area. And our communities do a lot of investment in their communities to provide amenities and quality of life, attractions. A lot of our communities in Grundy County have invested in aquatic centers and other things that they realize the value of having that
community that has the amenities that young families want.” Dike, a town of 1,231 people about 10 miles west of Cedar Falls, along Highway 20, has benefited from the highway’s expansion. The town is transforming into a “bedroom community,” having seen a new golf course, surrounded by new housing, spring up on its eastern edge. “The location to the Waterloo-Cedar Falls area and the strong investment there in creating housing is a huge attraction,” Kolb said. “I give credit to the leadership of the community. They saw that, when Highway 20 was being expanded, they took advantage of that. Not everybody wants to live in a larger community. A lot of people want the smalltown quality of life but have the opportunities of being close to a larger area.” Grundy County Hospital recently completed a major renovation and expansion, Kolb noted. The hospital also has a new CEO, Brian Kellar, who relocated to Grundy Center from out of state.
Butler County storming back Agriculture also continues to be the economic heart of Butler County, just to the north of Grundy County, Kolb said.
But, he also noted, the county is looking to diversify. Kolb and Butler County are working with the Butler County Rural Electric and Corn Belt Power cooperatives to develop and market Butler Logistics Park, just west of Shell Rock. Those partners put plans in place for a building and helped finance a rail spur, all of which resulted in success when two businesses chose Butler Logistics Park for their expansions. When Shell Rock Ethanol Plant was built in 2008, it needed only half of the 150 acres available in the industrial park. Dan Sabin, whose holding company, Zephyr Rocket, owns Iowa Northern Railway, moved to purchase and develop the remaining 77 acres. Iowa Northern Railway is a short-line rail service that creates options for competitive shipping rates by offering connection to several large railroad companies. Corn Belt Power Cooperative was ready to assist Sabin by sponsoring a $740,000 pass-through loan from USDA Rural Development. The Butler County Board of Supervisors served as another partner and set up the industrial park as an urban renewal tax increment financing -- or TIF -- district. That designation channels future tax revenues back into development of the industrial park.
Courtesy Photo City of Gardens, New Hartford
Next, the partners worked together to plan a 30,000-square-foot speculative building, essential for encouraging businesses to locate in the park. The railroad provided the land, which did not have to be paid for until the building sold. Butler County REC applied for and received a $300,000 grant from USDA, which was matched with a $60,000 loan from Butler County REC, a $150,000 loan from Corn Belt Power’s revolving loan fund and a $150,000 loan from Butler County REC’s revolving loan fund. Butler County REC also installed underground infrastructure for no additional fee. Other partners played roles as well. Central Iowa Water Association installed sewer and water at a discounted cost and the city of Shell Rock agreed to accept the sewer discharge. Butler-Bremer Communications put fiber optics in at no charge. Through TIF, the Butler County Board of Supervisors bonded the $1.6 million cost for adding natural gas to the site. Eighty percent of the cost of a new road was covered through a Revitalize Iowa’s Sound Economy grant, and the county picked up the remaining 20 percent of the cost. The rail spur is a “deal-maker” for the Butler County Logistics Park, Kolb said. “We have several industrial parks, but none are served by rail,” he said. “Ten years ago that was not a big deal. Now, a much larger percentage of leads we get are looking for rail service. We were leaving opportunities on the table. This park allows us to take advantage of those opportunities.” Zinpro Corp., a company that mixes and bags feed additives, picked a location in the Butler Logistics Park because of the speculative building and the rail spur. “The area is really an ideal location for us to expand the manufacturing part of our business; it has much to offer,” Zinpro CEO Michael Anderson said. Zinpro’s plans included adding 39 new jobs at wages higher than the county median wage, plus benefits when the operation got going in 2014. The company already also plans to add another building to the site. As the Butler County partners were working on the park development, they heard that a company needed a new facility. They traveled to company headquarters in Chicago to call on AMCOL International, a metal products manufacturer. AMCOL chose the Butler County Logistics Park primarily because of the services offered by Iowa Northern Railway. The company will
move eight jobs to the location and plans to grow employment. “This is a unique, marketable park because of what Iowa Northern Railway brings to the table,” Kolb said. “It is locally owned and operated, and customizes service to what the customer wants.” Developers of the Butler County project point to several benefits the industrial park brings to the community. “This project provides a $2.5 million economic impact to the community from the wages alone, Jim Vermeer, vice president, business development with Corn Belt Power, said. Kolb said the expansion was timed perfectly. “There has been a loss of population in Butler County and the only way to reverse that trend is to provide employment opportunities. People go where the jobs are,” he said. Kolb said there has been considerable new activity on the manufacturing side in Butler County. Almost all our manufacturing employers in the country came out of the recession or are
coming out of it very well,” he said. “A lot of them have expanded employment base, invested in new equipment. Those are existing industries. We have two more coming in 2014. I really see us continuing to expand on our manufacturing base.” The idea is to position Butler County to be better-prepared to grow the manufacturing sector, Kolb said. “We’ve got communities onboard with some industrial parks that are developed, and several communities are investing in roads and other logistics.” Butler Logistics Park will have two tenants in 2014. That park was developed to fill what we saw was a need, and that is a rail-served industrial park. Iowa Northern Railway serves it. Butler County has a number of other sizable employers, too, including Unverferth Mfg. in Shell Rock, which makes tillage and other agriculture field equipment; Allen Industrial Coatings, which has facilities in Allison and Greene. It’s all about diversifying, Kolb said.
“Butler County was always an out-commute country, with the exception of agriculture,” he said. “With that said and the changes going on in agriculture, we’re trying to diversify that. The only way rural towns and counties have a chance to retain talent and young families is to provide employment opportunities, and we have had some success, hands-down. None of it happens overnight. You have way more misses than hits and the hits are the only ones people notice. “We’re just looking to grow on that.”
Chickasaw County industry, healthcare
Chickasaw County has built a strong agricultural and manufacturing infrastructure, and it’s planning for more businesses to settle there in coming years, officials say. Central to the county’s business vibrancy has been its growing hospital facility, New Hampton’s Mercy Medical Center, which has undergone a massive renovation and expansion program in recent years. For one thing, the hospital has obstetrics care for the first time in years, having recruited no less than six obstetricians/gynecologists. Mercy, a member of Mercy Health Network, offers a full range of services in an inpatient and outpatient setting as well as 24-hour
emergency care, surgical services, obstetrics and family health, therapy and rehabilitation, diagnostic services, home health and hospice. It offers convenient access to 17 different specialties from a 55-member medical staff. Mercy has been a pioneer in telemedicine --one of eight sites in Iowa to first give patients access to specialists in remote locations via two-way interactive video equipment. In a recent year, the hospital treated 7,203 different patients, 39 percent of whom came from the outlying area, according to officials. “I know the hospital is a big draw to our community,” said Tammy Robinson, director New Hampton Economic Development. There’s much more to the community, too, Robinson said. “The hospital has been a strong asset to the community, but we’re also building for the future in our industrial park,” Robinson said. New Hampton, the county’s urban center, has prime industrial/business parks available totaling nearly 150 acres ready for business development and an available modern manufacturing, warehousing and cold storage facility, Robinson said. Educational and vocational training opportunities abound in Chickasaw County, with Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC) in nearby Calmar and four four-year
colleges or universities less than an hour’s drive away. But, that’s just the beginning. The 150-acre South Industrial Park has all utilities and road connections it needs, and it’s starting to fill up with occupants, Robinson said. “It’s in a TIF district, so there’s obviously local and state incentives,” she said. Recruitment efforts are ongoing, she said. The park is divided into 1-acre plots, which is “easier to make the process faster,” Robinson said. ATEK Precision Technology -- formerly Progress Casting -- and one of New Hampton’s larger employers, took 13 acres shortly after the park opened in 2000. ATEK supplies all motor head castings for Milwaukee-based Harley-Davidson. Zip’s Truck Equipment Inc., a company finished a $3.5 million expansion in recent years, retrofits trucks into tow vehicles. Among the improvements made in its upgrade, Zip’s added a new video system that provides instant communication with customers. The more-established West Industrial Park is full, with seven tenants, Robinson said. “We built the new one because the old one was filling up,” she said. New Hampton, and Chickasaw County are in growth mode, due, in part to their rural
ATEK Precision Technology, New Hampton
setting and proximity to Waterloo and Cedar Falls, Robinson said. “I think (U.S.) Highway 63 helps; you can be in Waterloo in 30 minutes,” she said. “A good transportation system absolutely makes a difference, and I think transportation is good here because you can get on the Avenue of the Saints and Highway 63, as well.” A quick permitting process also helps make it easy for businesses to locate there, Robinson said. ATEK was able to break ground and 11 months later were ready for full production,” Robinson said. “Typically, companies will look for an old building they can fix up; in our community, you’re able to build the way you want it in the same timeframe. That was one key selling point for the last few industries we’ve recruited. An ethanol plant, Homeland Energy, opened on the edge of town in 2011, perhaps a product of New Hampton’s easy access, Robinson said. “Our highway system is set up so we’ve very accessible,” Robinson said. Cost of living is not a problem, Robinson said. “With our housing, utilities and our taxes, it’s much cheaper than a lot of places,” she said. “We’re very competitive when it comes to electrical, because we have our own municipal utility and two Rural Electric Cooperatives. It keeps our rates low and supplies a backup electrical, which is sometimes a big selling point for industries.” New Hampton boasts 1,500 manufacturing jobs in a town with a population of 3,700, Robinson said. “A few of our larger industries have their largest number of employees ever,” she said.
Main Street in New Hampton had only two vacancies in mid-2014, Robinson said. “So, it’s virtually full most of the time,” she said. There’s a grocery store, hardware store and a general retailer, Shopko, in New Hampton. “We have two flower shops, a clothing store – for a town our size, clothing stores usually are not an option, and we have a very nice one,” Robinson said. Main Street is vibrant, Robinson said. “We have a lot of local building owners, and that helps. We have our own incentive program to help keep those full, where a lot of communities do not,” Robinson said. “We have, like, 27 second- and third-generation businesses,” she said. Employment opportunities are available, Robinson said. “Our wage scale here is very competitive, so I feel there are very good jobs available,” she said. “We’re working closely with the community college and state of Iowa to try and use the programs they’re making available, like the Skilled Iowa program, so we are staying on top of it as much as possible.” Company-paid job training is available in some cases, Robinson said. “That’s one of our stronger incentives we offer to companies, to help them pay for that,” she said. NICC will provide training, whether inhouse or somewhere else. We hear nothing but good things about our community college. TriMark Corp., an employee-owned manufacturer of vehicle hardware products, is the largest employer, at 375 workers. “They have taken advantage of a lot of our incentive programs,” Robinson said. “They have expanded 19 times.”
That’s typical, she said. “Once we recruit a company, we don’t forget them; we help them expand, and there are incentives in place to help them do that,” she said. Local industries work well together, too, Robinson said. “When we recruited Progress Casting, their largest client was Harley Davidson, and we now have three companies that now do work for Harley,” Robinson said. Quality of life is a strong asset in New Hampton and Chickasaw County, Robinson said. “We’re like any other small town; our school system is good and our hospital is good,” she said. “There seems to be a friendliness, a safety thing there. Some people might want a little larger shopping area, but you can drive 30 minutes to drive to them. It’s available within a short distance, so I feel we have as much to offer as larger cities do, and it’s a lot nicer drive.”
Coming home to Buchanan County Buchanan County, home to more than 20,000 residents, has been blessed with proximity to Waterloo-Cedar Falls, as well as Cedar Rapids, and the county in 2014 turned its economic development program over to a new leader who is working to allow residents to work closer to home. George Lake, a former U.S. Army medic, started by setting an example himself. The Independence resident had endured a long daily commute for seven years to serve as president of the Marion Economic Development Co. He left that job early in the summer of 2014 to be executive director of Buchanan County
Economic Development in Independence. It’s Lake’s second stint with the Buchanan County office. He was the county’s secondever economic development director and served for three years until moving into marketing and sales positions in industry . This time, he’s home for good, he says, and he said he would like others to follow his example. The county has demographics – and a large population of skilled workers – that would be a strong draw to any company looking to locate there, Lake said. “That’s a benefit for Buchanan County from the standpoint in terms of new businesses being established, because one of the biggest concerns is being able to find qualified workers,” Lake said. Lake and other economic development leaders in the county have a simple message about their home: Opportunities for a high quality of life abound, thanks, in large part, to an expanding manufacturing sector that has deep roots in their communities. Lake said his priority is to ensure that all needs of already-established businesses are met. “The reality of it is those folks have already invested in the communities of Buchanan County,” he said. “We have an obligation to
support them to ensure they are successful.” As a current resident, Lake said, he has bit of a head start in reaching that goal. A number of firms head up Buchanan County’s long-established business base. Among them are Geater Machining and Manufacturing in Independence. The company has developed an innovative recruiting program. “Geater has created an education outreach program that reaches out to area schools, to educate the students, teachers and administrators about careers in advanced manufacturing,” Lake said. Wapsie Valley Creamery Inc. in Independence, a four-generation company, has invested millions of dollars in the last few years in technology improvements. Other large employers include the Independence Mental Health Institute; Tyson, which makes pet treats; Pries Enterprises, an aluminum extrusion manufacturer. Water-management-focused Prinsco Inc. and Bertch Cabinets operate plants in Jesup. Agriculture, of course, is a central economic component, and Monsanto has opened a research center in the county. But, there are ample opportunities across Buchanan County for other businesses to build or relocate, with multiple zoned
industrial sites available in Independence, Jesup, Winthrop and Fairbank. In recent years, the city of Independence has invested in a former Fareway store building to create Rivers Edge Sports Complex, a recreation facility downtown that offers indoor golf and hunting simulators and indoor baseball and softball batting cages, plus more. Schools are a priority in the county, too, with the new Independence Junior/Senior High School. Jesup, a nearby town, also is focused on building its schools. New elementary and middle school buildings were finished in Jesup in 2005. In the fall of 2014, a new early-childhood center was scheduled to open, with daycare and preschool services, plus new space for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten classes.
Worlds come together in Tama County
Officials in Tama County, Black Hawk County’s southern neighbor, say they have the best of all worlds: Small-town life, bigcity accessibility and a world of cultures that live, work and play together. In addition to 17,767 residents, Tama County now is home to major employers in the agricultural, transportation, manufacturing,
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and entertainment fields, according to Tama County Economic Development. The county boasts a number of “entrepreneurial success stories,” a $1.6 million county lake and park expansion, a $1.3 million 100-year old opera house restoration, “and industry leaders at every turn,” according to a 2014 report from the county’s economic development office in Toledo. “Recent regional infrastructure improvements are positioning Tama County as the place to set up shop, being centrally located amid regional metropolitan areas, and attracting innovators and entrepreneurs,” officials said. Recent investments in facilities and infrastructure among some of Tama County’s largest manufacturers point to job stability and growth in the more traditional industries to our communities. Tama County’s 470,000 acres contain some of the richest soil in Iowa, officials say, but they also note the southern part of the county also is lushly forested. Tama County is home to artists with expertise in media ranging from wood, barbed wire, scrap metal, fabrics, beads, glass, paper, and matchsticks. Various events serving Indian Tacos, frybread, kolaches, rohlicky, kuchen, milkweed soup and farmers markets create
opportunities for unique traditional food experiences, officials note. The county also features a number of attractions that bring in visitors from across the U.S.: -- The Meskwaki Bingo, Casino and Hotel is the largest full-service casino in the Midwest, with slot machines, video poker, bingo, racebook, keno, table games, and live poker. The amenities in its hotel of more than 400 rooms include an indoor pool, exercise area, whirlpool, full service spa, and boutique gift shop. A 50-spot RV Park includes electricity, showers, laundry facilities, dump station, restrooms, and water. The Convention Center has an 11,000 square foot meeting/conference room space and 3,000 square foot breakout rooms. The Winding Stream Spa offers massages, facials, nails and hair services. Meskwaki Nation also hosts an annual powwow with unique ceremonial dances, colorful native regalia, authentic arts/crafts and historical exhibits. -- Matchstick Marvels Museum in Gladbrook showcases the creativity of master craftsman Patrick Acton, who turns ordinary wooden matchsticks into incredible works of art. Millions of matchsticks have been painstakingly glued together to represent models of planes, trains, ships, etc. Many
are featured in Ripley’s Believe It or Not museums in the U.S. and around the world, -- The Traer Salt & Pepper Shaker Gallery houses the Midwest’s largest collection of salt & pepper shakers, with more 16,000 different sets. It has been designated an Iowa Great Place by the State of Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. The gallery features the amazing collection of Ruth Rasmussen, which was begun in 1946. It contains examples of Shawnee, Rosemeade, Black Americana, nodders, huggers, kissers, go-withs, hangers, minis, nesters, longboys, tallboys, condiment sets and many other types of shakers in porcelain, glass, ceramic, metal, plastic, and wood. Additional attractions within Tama County are the Dysart Agricultural Museum and the historic Wieting Theatre in Toledo, each also being designated an Iowa Great Place. Dysart’s Main Street district is filled with unique artisans and craftspeople. Designer Inn & Suites in Toledo has seven fantasy suites in additional to conventional hotel rooms. Rube’s Steakhouse has given guests the opportunity to cook premium steaks over open-hearth grills for over 40 years. John Ernest Vineyard & Winery in rural Tama and Fox Ridge Winery in rural Traer produce award-winning wines made right here in
A friendly, progressive community of over 10,000 residents.
Home of Wartburg College
A College River Town with a Rich Heritage WAVERLY ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT • 319-352-9210
Sports and wellness complex, miles of paved trails, two elite 18-hole golf courses, Cedar River fishing, boating, kayaking and canoeing.
Vibrant business presence including CUNA Mutual, Nestle, Terex, GMT Corporation, TDS Automation, United Equipment Accessories, Rada Manufacturing and others.
First rate K-12 education known for strong academics, sports and the arts.
Waverly Health Center, Waverly Light and Power and Waverly Public Library.
Tama County and offer banquet facilities as well. Also located in Tama County is the Meskwaki Indian Settlement, which is home to the Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa. The county’s diverse ethnic tapestry also has deep roots in Bohemian and German cultures and also warmly embraces Hispanic and Latino residents. The Sac, or Sauk -- an Algonquin word meaning “yellow earth people” -- and the Fox, or Meskwaki -- meaning “red earth people” -- originated in what is now Illinois and Wisconsin, but like most other tribal nations, were forced to move from their original ancestral homes. At the time of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, the Sac and Fox nations steadily lost land they had owned until they held only a few hundred acres of land in Tama County. In July 1857, they became private landowners, free from federal supervision, when a farmer in Tama County sold the Meskwaki 80 acres. Throughout the second half of the 19th century, the Meskwaki added to their acreage and paid taxes to the State of Iowa through work as farm laborers, the leasing of land, the sale of furs, and the occasional cultural performances for neighboring whites. In 1867, when the federal government restored recognition to the Meskwaki people, the tribe began adding to their acreage through treaty annuities and proceeds from the sale of their former reservation lands in what is now Kansas. By 1900, the Meskwaki had amassed nearly 3,000 acres of privately owned land. Because this land had not been granted to the tribe through treaty, federal jurisdiction over
the settlement was extremely limited. Under the law, the Meskwaki were treated as private residents of the state of Iowa. They held an anomalous position, as a sovereign, private community with federal recognition. Today, the Sac & Fox Tribe is a federally recognized Indian Tribe entitled to all rights, privileges and immunities in the relationship with the U.S. government and all federal, state, and county agencies. It is independently governed by its own elected tribal council. The tribe owns more than 7,000 acres near the Iowa River in Tama County. In 1992 the Tribe opened its original casino, and underwent several major expansions in order to create what is today known as the Meskwaki Bingo Casino Hotel. In 2014, ground was blessed for a planned Meskwaki Travel Plaza just off the U.S. Highway 30 Expressway west of the entrance to the casino. There have been other notable Tama County residents, including Abraham Lincoln, who owned land in Tama County as a result of his service in the Black Hawk War in 1832. Congress rewarded Indian war veterans with land grants in 1850. Lincoln took title to 40 acres in Tama County and 120 acres in Crawford County, holding both parcels until his death. Business success has its own rewards, but Tama County ensures success entrepreneurs get some extra recognition. In 2009, economic development officials established the Edies awards to annually recognize business owners and entrepreneurs across the county and herald their accomplishments to regional peers.
One such business is Dysart & Petersen Trucking. Dysart Trucking was founded in 1953 and Petersen Trucking was incorporated in 1985. Both companies transport oversized wind energy towers throughout the United States and Canada. Randy Winkelpleck of Dysart Trucking designed a specialized trailer to haul towers and now that design is used by many carriers in the industry. They also have a storage area to store wind components for Iowa and other Midwest farms. Dysart & Petersen Trucking employs a large team of heavy haul drivers from all over the U.S., and their pilot drivers, mechanics, and office staff are local employees, bringing their combined employee base to around 60 people. The annual recognition evolved into quarterly Pitch & Build events in 2012, wherein business owners and entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas to peer CEOs, business development experts and industry professionals, and receive constructive feedback and financing options. An example of ideas aired at these events is county resident Jon Kriegel’s dream of creating a motocross track. With co-founder Mark Kouba, Oakridge Motocross LLC was created in 2013 with a goal to provide a facility that speaks to motocross endeavors, fans and riders. Schaefer Tracks created the track amongst the rolling hills of Tama County near Garwin. The facility accommodates all skill levels and includes one large track for 65cc to 450cc and two small tracks, a 50cc JR and a 50cc SR track complete with starting gates and separate racing. Their first official practice in 2014 attracted more than 600 riders.
University of Northern Iowa
Every year, thousands of students, faculty, staff and visitors from the Cedar Valley positively impact and are positively impacted by the University of Northern Iowa. UNI is proud to call the Cedar Valley home and its people our family.
• Current UNI students from the Cedar Valley: 2,930
• UNI alumni educators in the Cedar Valley: 2,552
• UNI employs nearly 2,200 faculty and staff and 2,900 students, most of whom live in the Cedar Valley
• 91% of UNI graduates are from Iowa and 4 out of 5 UNI students stay in Iowa after graduation
• UNI Business & Community Services programs have served 3,158 clients in the Cedar Valley
• UNI graduates have the lowest indebtedness of any four-year public institution in Iowa
• UNI’s College of Education placed 1,312 students in field experience and student teaching positions across the Cedar Valley this year • UNI’s Kaleidoscope program enabled 25,790 Cedar Valley youth to experience live theater performances at a minimal cost through the “A Buck a Kid” program last year
• UNI alumni in the Cedar Valley: 11,868
Current UNI Students Student Teaching Placements from the Cedar Valley
ON CEDAR VALLEY COUNTIES:
“the learning more applicable, more applied, more hands-on. We believe two to four years from now that will lead to much higher graduation rates; we believe that will lead to growing student enrollment.” Jane Lindaman, Waterloo’s associate superintendent for educational services, said the district is moving toward “personalizing (education) and giving a variety of options for all of our kids.” She called that the district’s “biggest mission” right now. Universities are recognizing a shift in the culture of education, that a baccalaureate degree is not the right choice for everyone. “We told too many people in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s that everybody should go to college; what we should have talked is postsecondary opportunity,” said Bill Ruud, president of the University of Northern Iowa. In Ruud’s opinion, universities should run a “parallel track” to the demands of the workforce, allowing students to drop in and out of school and their job, and provide smoother transitions for technical students to complete their bachelor’s degree. He noted that a lot of Iowa-based companies are in the manufacturing business, and those employers want someone with both technical and managerial skills who can one day take a supervisory position. “Would you rather have someone who got C’s in computer science in a four-year degree program or someone with a two-year degree who’s got 12 Microsoft certificates?” he said, alluding to a central function of Skilled Iowa, which assures potential employers that a candidate has necessary certification in highly-sought skill sets. The educational establishment in the Cedar Valley is prepared to adjust to the changing needs of students and is working to provide students with a broad knowledge base, said Stephanie TeKippe, assistant dean for academic affairs at the private Wartburg College in Waverly. “We won’t know what students need five years from now, so our goal is to offer experiential learning (and) diverse backgrounds,” she said. “So students are not just getting courses in history, but they also get chemistry.”
Hudson Community Schools Superintendent Tony Voss emphasized the growing importance of technology in schools and how it can play a role in engaging students. “I think we’re right on the edge of seeing perhaps the biggest change in education in our country in over 100 years,” he said. He noted that many districts, including Hudson, are moving toward a 1-to-1 model, or providing a digital device for every child. “We’re in a position here (at the Hudson Schools) in the next six to 12 months to see that shift from the device to what you’re doing with the device,” he said. “So we’re starting to talk about connected learning.” Voss said ensuring all students can learn in an environment connected to the Internet helps level the playing field and “raises the bar for all our learners.” James Hoelscher, a member of Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad’s STEM Advisory Council, said the business and educational communities are working more closely together than ever, and they should. “The business community will be a huge partner in the next three to five years,” he said. Another way to keep students excited about their education is to offer students opportunities to study at the college level. Dan Conrad, director of secondary education for the Cedar Falls School District, said the district offers a growing number of concurrent courses through Hawkeye Community College and the University of Northern Iowa and works with the institutions on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) initiatives. “We’ve really expanded our partnerships with UNI, as well as with Hawkeye, over the last several years, and we just see that continuing to grow year in and year out,” he said. About 75 percent of Cedar Falls students are graduating with college credits, said Andy Pattee, Cedar Falls superintendent. “Our goal is in the next two to three years to have 100 percent of our kids graduate with at least some college credit,” he said. Norris said Waterloo has also built good relationships with Hawkeye and UNI, who have been excellent partners.
Lego League Competition
here educating the next generation of young workers is concerned, the Waterloo-Cedar Falls area is where the work begins. The learning process takes many forms, and it often leads directly to employment. Sometimes, the process is capped by onthe-job training at countless firms that offer internship and apprenticeship programs for either a two-year or bachelor’s degree – or beyond – at one of several area colleges and universities. With the Cedar Valley playing a major leadership role in Iowa’s burgeoning manufacturing sector, perhaps it made sense for the state to launch its Skilled Iowa program here. Skilled Iowa, in essence, focuses on training a new generation of workers for the advanced manufacturing and technical professions that abound in the area. With the baby boom generation giving way to a younger wave of workers, Skilled Iowa already is developing a young workforce with the necessary credentials to keep the local economy growing well into the future. Randy Pilkington, executive director of business and community services at the University of Northern Iowa, says companies are now paying close attention to what’s happening in schools. Employers are looking to the innovative thinking young people provide, and Skills Iowa helps to address that need. “We’ve done a good job of educating students to go and work for somebody, but we haven’t talked too much about creating your own opportunity,” he said. Community colleges have stepped up, attempting to fill in those gaps with a concerted emphasis on technical education. Hawkeye Community College plans to train 2,400 high school students for technical jobs in construction, transportation, health care and advanced manufacturing jobs by 2020. “We’re going to grow that pipeline very aggressively and very rapidly,” said Linda Allen, president of Waterloo-based Hawkeye. Gary Norris, who announced his retirement as superintendent of Waterloo Schools in 2014, said the district was working to make
Photo by Matthew Putney
A place to learn
“I’ve been in six different schools districts, four different states,” he said. “I’ve never been in an area where the collegiate post-secondary partnerships were stronger. It was almost breathtaking for me the last few years to see how much integration there is between UNI and the Waterloo schools, and the same with Hawkeye.” The district plans to partner with UNI’s new Center for Educational Transformation and is already working with the university through its Center for Urban Education and a professional development school set up in one of its elementaries for education majors. Hawkeye has also worked closely with the Waterloo district to create its career pathways system. “What I’m seeing now is a better alignment between higher education and K-12 with regard to resources, curriculum, working to help students set those career goals early and have resources and opportunities in cue for them,” Allen said. Waterloo’s task force is looking at further bolstering those post-secondary relationships plus strengthening partnerships with business and industry. Among the ways task force members saw other schools doing that in visits they made around the country was by getting businesses directly involved in training
students through apprenticeships. The Rev. Brent Cantrell, a task force member, said apprentice opportunities could be designed for students, whether they plan on work or college after graduation. “The schools that we looked at that were highly successful were schools that were engaging students and engaging those apprenticeships while they were in school in applicable ways,” he said. Jessica Miller, another task force member, said the Cedar Valley already has resources available for such an initiative along with many other ideas culled from the school visits. “We have everything we need to integrate and collaborate and take it to the next level,” she said. “I think on the task force that’s what we’re really excited about.” Dwight Watson, dean of the UNI College of Education, said he thinks measuring students not by their credit hours but by their mastery of certain skills -- often called “competencybased education” -- is the “new wave” in education. “We’ll have students who will be finishing up (school) early because they have mastered all these competencies but they will be somewhat underage,” Watson said. “That’s where the apprenticeship comes in. Now, what they need is that work-based experience.
Somehow, we have to get these puzzle pieces that are all around this table and make sure they fit,” he said. Gwen Bramlet Hecker, president of Kaplan University in Cedar Falls, said the biggest growth she has seen in terms of “interest areas” are in healthcare-related fields, particularly nursing, where increasingly advanced degrees and new skills are required by employers. She noted Medical Office Management and Healthcare Administration also are very popular. “Nationally, the nursing profession is expected to add more 1 million jobs by 2022, significantly more than any other profession,” she said. “Another reason is Kaplan’s increased offerings in nursing is that many of our nursing students are working full-time, raising families and trying to make ends meet and schedules work. So, the convenience of attending Kaplan University is a big plus with these students -- adult learners.” Additionally, business-related degrees – she listed accounting, management and business administration as examples -- as well as information technology, also are very popular in both undergraduate and graduate sequences. UNI is a major teacher training center in Iowa, and local school districts work closely with the university, Pattee said.
Hawkeye Community College More Than YOU Can IMAGINE . . . Hawkeye Community College is committed to serving the needs of the community and has earned a reputation for delivering high-demand, quality education and training.
Hawkeye is instrumental in economic development - helping to create new jobs and working to keep jobs in our community. Many businesses cite Hawkeye as a factor in selecting the Cedar Valley in their expansion or relocation plans. Hawkeye has administered more than $15 million in new job training.
Quality of Life Linda Allen, Ph.D. Individuals look to Hawkeye to continue their Students President More than 5,800 education or to learn new work skills. Hawkeye students will choose Hawkeye to pursue their college education. Approximately half of these students will transfer to a four-year college and the other half will choose a high-demand career in healthcare, information technology, engineering and manufacturing, agriculture, power technology, police and emergency services, and arts and communications. Economic Development Businesses in the Cedar Valley turn to Hawkeye to acquire customized training programs as well as to deliver general training services. 36
is working to improve the quality of life with programs such as a high school completion program and English Language Learning (ELL). For more information about Hawkeye Community College, call 319-296-4000 or 800-670-4769.
Photo by Brandon Pollock STEM Tour of 3D Printer
“We have a tremendous collaborative relationship with UNI,” he said. “We work a lot with their Level 2 and Level 3 teachers. We have the Professional Development School people that work collaboratively to provide the best opportunities for aspiring teachers. STEM is another major educational focus, Pattee said. “It’s extremely important,” he said. “We understand the importance of educating all students to be successful, understand importance of STEM and really focus on that in all levels of every building. We want to make sure our students have the training and are excited about some of the soft skills. They’re coming out with training component for soft skills, one of those areas we always try to work on, the work ethic, time allotment, all those measures that aren’t directly related to skill sets. Can you speak well, add appropriately. That’s also a measure.” He said newcomers to the area would be pleased to note the accomplishments of the educational system available. “What I always say is we are an award winning district that focuses on excellence and clearly promotes a broad range of course offerings, very much on the cutting edge of technology,” Pattee said. “We pride ourselves on trying to ensure that all our students
graduate ready to go onto the next level.” The physical learning environment also is crucial, too, and the Cedar Falls district, in 2014, was working through a 10-year master plan to systemically look at all of its buildings, Pattee said. “We’re looking at either a major remodeling or new building at the high school,” he said. “We have six elementary schools that have had major remodeling or new buildings. Our focus is how to provide the best learning environment and that includes flexible spaces, making sure we have more creative – tinker – spaces within our schools, making
sure we focus on collaboration with our students in small and large groups, as well as individually.” Pattee said the Cedar Valley’s educational focus in general gets extremely high marks. “I think there’s a great amount of support; it’s a very positive environment,” he said. “We have so many strong partnerships, when you look across our educational and business communities, as well as parents and staff. Everybody is here to take part in building a comprehensive program for a successful, sustainable community.”
Waterloo Schools Fostering global thinking and limitless choices The Waterloo Community School District is the seventh largest public school district in Iowa. It serves over 10,000 students and employs over 1,600 staff members. Beginning fall 2014, Waterloo Schools became the only district in the state to offer International Baccalaureate® district-wide. After a five-year certification process, the rigorous international education program is now at East and West High Schools. Waterloo Schools was the first public school district in Iowa to hire a privately-funded PreK-12 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) Coordinator. The STEM push in the district led the Waterloo Schools Foundation to pay for the position initially and to support on-going STEM projects and pursuits.
Millions of dollars in college scholarships are awarded each year to our graduating seniors. Their academic achievements have resulted in National Merit and Presidential Scholars along with ivy league university acceptance. Each year many of our student athletes secure athletic scholarships nationwide. Our JROTC and AFROTC at East and West, respectively, help land high-dollar military scholarships for students who participate in these Army and Air Force programs.
Our career-infused curriculum starts long before high school, offering hands-on career and technical education in our four middle schools. 21st century skills are reinforced through Leader in Me being implemented across the district. The leadership model is based on Dr. Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People®. 37
Photo by Rick Chase
He said his company looks for attributes in candidates that Leader In Me emphasizes. “We’ve hired 200 so far, and to get 200, we have to interview in excess of 1,000 people,” Penaluna said. “Out of those thousand, maybe we’ll narrow it down to 400. Out of those 400, when we run all the checks on them, we end up with 200 people. From our perspective, there’s a void in the marketplace.” Leader In Me, he said, is designed to help fill that void. “The Alliance did an interesting study at businesses in the area and jobs they had open,” Penaluna said. “If you look at that study, you’ll notice that there are businesses in the Cedar Valley that have had openings for up to two years because they couldn’t find qualified people. From our perspective and as chairman of Alliance & Chamber, that’s a problem. So, I see the opportunity to take a program like Leader In Me, and we’re making kids – maybe kids that were at-risk – and turning them into leaders and seeing what they can actually accomplish.” Leader In Me’s arrival in the Cedar Valley was timely, Penaluna said. “Say, four to five years from now, we’re going to be graduating people into the workforce that businesses in our area want to hire,” he said. “They’re really
Tom Penaluna, President of CBE
Program develops Leaders for tomorrow
om Penaluna knows about leadership. He wants to pass that on to Cedar Valley young people in the Leader In Me program. An initiative that had taken root in 2010 as a pilot program – focusing primarily on enabling students to reach down and find their leadership potential – at two Cedar Valley schools has taken hold and spread. By the fall semester of 2013, 12 more schools had launched Leader in Me programs in the Cedar Falls and Waterloo districts and Cedar Valley Catholic Schools. The youth leadership initiative introduces students and educators to the principles of Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” The Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber piloted the program at North Cedar Elementary and Dr. Walter Cunningham School for Excellence in the fall of 2010. Tom Penaluna, chief executive officer of the Waterloo-based CBE Cos., and a board member of the Alliance & Chamber, has been a vocal supporter of the program from the beginning. “You look at the number of people we have to interview here to hire a person,” said Penaluna, whose company announced late in 2013 that it would be hiring more than 400 new employees by mid-2015.
Tom Penaluna on Leadership kind of enthused about what they’re going to do. That just didn’t exist before. They weren’t getting those core values.” The program is especially helpful to kids who yearn for structure and guidance in their lives, Penaluna said. “The K-7 ages are the most impactful years on their psyche, determining who they are going to be,” Penaluna said. “Their values are coming from their churches and primarily their parents. If they’re coming from a broken or difficult home, they don’t have the ideal principles. But if they come to school, they’re going to get good solid principles that are going to be tools they can use that will launch them into careers that will make them great people.” Leader In Me could very well produce “the next governors, senators and CEOs” in the area, because of the leadership and self-reliance skills it promotes, Penaluna said. Teachers benefit, too, which is another asset of Leader In Me, Penaluna said.
“There are 14,000 students in the Waterloo-Cedar Falls schools, but we also have another 2,500 teachers, and we’re teaching the teachers the 7 Habits,” he said. “They embed that in their teaching. They teach the academics in the 7 Habits language. It’s intertwined into the culture of the school. It’s not like you’re teaching 7 Habits; it’s a core piece of the program and it becomes a tool in mind.” In Cedar Falls, Lincoln, Orchard Hill and Southdale elementary schools are also part of the program. St. Patrick School, a Catholic preschool-through-eighthgrade school, started the program in 2013. In Waterloo Schools, Fred Becker and Orange elementaries and Hoover Middle School have been a part of the program, along with Cunningham. Poyner and Kittrell elementary schools and George Washington Carver Academy joined in 2013. Among Catholic schools in Waterloo, St. Edwards Elementary School started the program this year, joining Blessed Maria Assunta Pallotta Middle School. It also is beginning to expand in the Waverly-Shell Rock School District.
CBE Companies is a global business process outsourcing (BPO) organization that partners with top national brands to provide call center solutions that support customer care and accounts receivable management. Since 1933, CBE has been proud to call the Cedar Valley its home. Now a global organization with six offices and over 1,200 employees, CBE has experienced the beginning of significant growth. Led by CEO and Chairman, Tom Penaluna, and supported by a leadership team of tenured industry experts, CBE’s mission is to make its customers better through: • A focus on the deepest understanding of its customers’ business • Innovative solutions that provide clear value in solving specific business challenges • A unique culture and investment in employee engagement
A strong commitment to employees’ personal and professional growth is evident in the culture experienced at CBE. The organization is consistently recognized as a top Employer of Choice in the Cedar Valley and has also been recognized by Workplace Dynamics as one of Iowa’s Top Workplaces. It’s employees proudly support the community through philanthropy and fundraising efforts that make a true difference in the Cedar Valley.
Photo by Matthew Putney
talents can be crystalized. The dispositional stance we want our teachers to possess is that all learners should be prepared for post-secondary opportunities and have access to these opportunities if they opt to go this route. All learners may not want to attend college; but if they do not want to attend, then this should be their choice and not because they are not prepared.” Another major emphasis is Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). Watson says it’s not too early to start students on these skills. “We believe that the propensity for science begins in kindergarten,” he said. “A learner’s interest in the
Dr. Dwight Watson
Dr. Dwight Watson:
s dean of the College of Education at the University of Northern Iowa, Dwight Watson, sees his program is the ultimate guide for a new generation of teachers. He says his students are well versed on some of the most innovative educational programs extant, including the Leader in Me, a youth leadership initiative that introduces students and educators to the principles of Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” “Our mission at UNI is to prepare teachers to educate, serve, and lead,” Watson said. “One of the major drivers in PK-12 education is the achievement gap amongst the races,” Watson said. “This has caused an onset of remedial interventions for some learners that in many cases are highly prescriptive and measured by standardized tests. We want our teachers to recognize the gaps, but also to recognize the brilliance and talents of all learners. We want them to view their learners’ assets and not deficits. To counter this prescriptive/ standardized driver, we are preparing our teachers to be culturally, linguistically, developmentally, and technologically confident and competent.” But Leader in Me is only one of several initiatives that help students develop a laser-like focus on their future success. Skilled Iowa, a statebacked initiative designed to produce a new generation of talented young workers for a growing advanced manufacturing sector, is another, Watson said. “We want our teachers to recognize that all learners have innate talents and skills,” he said. “In many cases, these skills lie dormant until a teacher captivates a learners interest so that these
Dr. Dwight Watson on Workforce Education sciences must be piqued early and inquiry practices should happen early.” He noted that, in addition to the elementary methods course in science education, UNI’s elementary “preservice” teachers must take four inquirybased science courses that focus on earth, physical, biological, and chemical sciences. “We are in the process of hiring an Endowed Chair of Elementary Science Education as part of the $15 million we received from Richard Jacobson,” he said. “We want this endowed chair to focus on research, grant writing, program development, and preservice and inservice teacher preparation.” UNI’s teacher training program works hand-in-hand with area schools, Watson said. “Our preservice teachers are immersed in field placements throughout their program at UNI,” he said. “They start with Level I -- tutoring and observations, Level II -- small group instruction and whole-group co-teaching, Level III -- a weeklong
side-by-side experience with a teacher, and Level IV -- 16 weeks of student teaching. In order to maintain these early and often field experiences, we must have collaborative partnerships with districts throughout the state.” UNI has 10 student teaching coordinators who are placed in key geographical locations throughout the state, Watson said. “They are our liaisons to local schools and provide placement and supervision of our student teachers,” he said. “Our field-based coordinators provided the Level I, II, and III supervision. We could not maintain the quality and authenticity of our field intense program without the partnerships with our local and statewide school districts.” Watson describes the academic environment of the Cedar Valley as “constant” and “vigilant”. “We are focusing on the individual needs of learners and are providing them a quality education that is rich with knowledge, skills, and values,” he said.
Cedar Falls Schools EVERY CHILD, EVERY DAY Cedar Falls Schools’ primary focus is reflected in the words of its mission statement, “Educating each student to be a lifelong learner and a caring, responsible citizen.”
Points of Pride
• Average ACT Composite 2013: 23.9 • Graduation rate 2013: 97.6% • Graduates pursuing post-secondary education/training 2013: 88%
The district provides a world-class education for all students and prepares them for the future by:
• All high school and junior high students have own laptop, 1:1 ratio; grades 3-6 ratio 1:2; grades PK-2 ratio 1:3
• Hiring the finest educators; Cedar Falls teachers are dedicated and model lifelong learning with over 55 percent holding advanced degrees
• Providing quality professional development
• 2014 Robotics Team traveled to China to mentor a Chinese high school team
• Investing in quality facilities to create a
• 2013 US News and World Report and Newsweek: One of the top high schools in the state and nation
• 2013 AP Annual Honor Roll Award: Cedar Falls High School
time for staff to improve practices and increase student achievement
positive, safe environment for students
relationships with local businesses and community partners, as well as actively involved families
• District-wide digital learning initiative; 7400 devices for 5200 students
• 2013 Iowa Department of Education: Breaking Barriers Award - Cedar Falls High School • 2012 Project Lead the Way, a high school technology program - Partnership Response in Manufacturing Education (PRIME) Award
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A place to start a business
University of Northern Iowa. Far Reach subsequently helped launch Hired Hand Software, a joint venture between Far Reach and Traer, Iowa-based Moco Creative. The company offers a management system for Texas longhorn breeders. Another startup Far Reach helped to get going was Nu Squared, a management system for vision therapists. -- Entrepreneur Wade Arnold started T8 Webware in 2008. Only six years later, Arnold sold the firm to a recent collaborator, Monett, Mo.-based Jack Henry & Associates Inc. Arnold, who renamed his company Banno in 2012, remained with the company, as do all of its 82 full- and part-time employees, he said. “If anything, they get incredible benefits
and be part of a national company listed on NASDAQ, so that’s exciting,” said Arnold, 35, a 2001 graduate of the UNI. Banno, which also has an office in Des Moines, now is part of ProfitStars, one of Jack Henry & Associates’ three primary brands, which serves domestic and international financial institutions. Arnold’s company specializes in mobile app financial transaction technology. Those are three examples of what Dan Beenken sees as a rapidly growing segment of the Cedar Valley Business community: startups. Beenken is director of the business incubator at UNI and has had a hand in steering startups in the area for years. The incubator is just a way to help facilitate a process that has been evolving in the Cedar Valley for years, Beenken said.
Right Page: Far Reach, Cedar Falls
Photo by Brandon Pollock
he Cedar Valley isn’t just a place to do business; it’s also a prime spot to start one. Some of the most successful companies in the regions were mere startups in the early 2000s. -- Scratch Cupcakery was launched in 2010 as single storefront in 2010 in downtown Cedar Falls. Within two years,owner Nataiie Brown had five locations in Iowa with more than 150 employees. -- Four employees at CUNA Mutual in Waverly, Iowa, who had their eyes on starting their own enterprise, launched Far Reach in 2007. The founding partners, Chad Feldmann, Kate Washut, Jason Nissen, Chris Rouw and Lana Wrage, spent a year or so drawing up a business plan and then launched Far Reach in 2007 in the Business and Community Services Building at the
Banno Intern Program
Photo by Brandon Pollock
“I think the main thing there is by bringing entrepreneurs together,” Beenken said. “When they collaborate and build on each other’s ideas, very cool things happen. If you are working in the vacuum of your garage or your mom’s basement, you miss out on the groupthink that can really take your idea to reality.” To that end, the incubator runs numerous programs to make that happen, he said. One is called Connect the Valley. “We have about 200 folks from across the Cedar Valley signed up for our email that goes out monthly highlighting all of the entrepreneurial networking events happening in the area and statewide,” Beenken said. Then, there’s TechBrew, which serves as fertile ground for the Cedar Valley’s flowering technology sector, according to participants in the monthly discussion and networking program. TechBrew brings together some of the most motivated technology minds in the Cedar Valley on the first Thursday of every month. It draws some of the most innovative thinkers in the area’s tech fields to swap ideas, form partnerships and meet with and recruit young up-and-comers in the business, according to Banno’s Arnold, who started the program about a year ago by gathering
about 20 participants at Bourbon Street/ VooDoo Lounge in Cedar Falls. The event generally draws upwards of 100 people. “There’s something so cool about having people from all over who have knowledge to share,” Arnold said. Regional business planners say they saw instantly the value of a concept like TechBrew in terms of adding more muscle to the Cedar Valley’s technology bona fides. “People of all stages of business, ownership, investment and potential investment gather to talk about nothing but technology, either the business aspect or the technical aspect, and it’s exciting to see young guys who have just graduated working with some of the most respected people in their fields,” Steve Dust, CEO of the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber, said just after TechBrew’s launch. “Now, we have a bunch of young people who are very excited about the opportunities to grow a business here. This kind of resource is, well, you can’t put a price on it.” Arnold says he firmly believes in the idea of getting young minds into a still-evolving sector. “I’ve seen partnerships form at TechBrew sessions,” he said.
Young talent is recruited locally that, otherwise, probably would have gone away, Arnold said. “There’s people that were ready to leave the Cedar Valley and they found out there’s five other companies they can work for they didn’t know existed,” he said. The Cedar Valley has begun to develop a national reputation for its technical expertise, but it’s a relative secret, locally, Arnold said. TechBrew helps to address that problem, he said. “We do a tremendous job in Iowa of tooting our own horn,” he said. “If you service national customers but not the local marketplace, it’s possible for no one to know about you. TechBrew is a great way for companies to connect with the local talent pool at UNI and Hawkeye (Community College).” Established companies also benefit from TechBrew, Arnold said, citing, for example, work his company has done with Far Reach, which also develops software. “They do stuff we don’t do, so we’re using them for things,” Arnold said. “It’s not like we’d get into the yellow pages to look for a super guru. You really need that face-to-face social aspect.” Far Reach’s Washut said TechBrew helps
Waterloo Warehousing Co., Inc. The right product To the right place At the right time! Waterloo Warehousing and Services is a leader in the logistics management industry providing the highest quality and lowest cost solutions. WWSC’s expertise circle the globe with satisfied customers with full service warehousing, transportation, fulfillment and returns, hazardous materials handling, packaging, cross docking plus inspection/ sort and reclaim. Since 1983 we’ve proven to be vital to on-time supply chain solutions.
Chris Hemmen-Accounting Manager Jason Hemmen-Property Manager Tom Peverill-Vice President of Warehouse Administration
Waterloo Warehousing is committed to meet or exceed customer expections of quality and timeliness. • ISO9001:2008 Certified, Intertek Certified and ANAB Accredited.
w w w.w wsc u sa.co m • 319-236-0467 Five Cedar Valley locations with headquarters at 324 Duryea Street, Waterloo, IA 50701 44
Kryton Engineered Metals Kryton Engineered Metals takes what was learned from 4th century craftsmen and an early American Revolutionary to become the most advanced metal spinner and fabricator.
Metal Spinning can be dated back to early 4th Century artisans who crafted bowls made of stone, wood and metal from crude lathes. Paul Revere, who is best known for alerting the Colonial Militia during the Revolutionary War, was himself a master at metal spinning and one of Americaâ€™s first Industrialists. It is from this ancient beginning and the work of a creative revolutionary, who rolled copper into sheets, which was the foundation for Kryton Engineered Metals. Now in our 34th year, Kryton Engineered Metals in Cedar Falls is a state-of-the-art manufacturer of spun metal and fabricated components. Kryton provides solutions for hi-strength components using technology, innovation, and reliable service that allows Kryton to be competitive around the world. Kryton components can be found in products around the Cedar Valley and beyond customizing parts for vehicles, bases for tables and chairs, and even housings for storm sirens.
As an innovator in the industry, Kryton Laser Cutting is always on the leading edge of technology.
Kryton Engineered Metals has expanded over recent months to add two laser cutting machines and precision robotics for handling and polishing. Safety, quality, speed, and timeliness has positioned Kryton as competitive and reliable. The combination of a professional team, the latest technology available, and a drive for excellence has made Kryton products and services recognized as a leader in the metal fabrication and spun metal industry.
We know metal spinning and can offer creative solutions to spin your part to your specifications competitively.
Using the latest technology and equipment, our team of metalsmiths can handle all types of specialty fabrication.
7314 ChAnCElloR DRivE, CEDAR FAlls, iA KRytonMEtAls.CoM | 1-800-728-1771 iso 9001:2008 Certification 45
Photo by Matthew Putney Williams Interactive, Cedar Falls
Viking Pump, Inc.
Global Leader in Positive Displacement Pumping Solutions Viking Pump is dedicated to providing engineering expertise to deliver innovative pumping solutions to our distributor partners globally. For over 100 years, Viking has made its home in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Our manufacturing experience, as well as our local captive foundries contribute to our global sales and service support. Viking pumps can be found in over 200 countries and on all 7 continents.
WORLD HEADQUARTERS CEDAR FALLS, IOWA
What sets Viking Pump apart are the people that contribute to the Engineering, Manufacturing, Sales and Service expertise that we are known for. Innovative thinkers, solution driven results, and a dedication to core values allow Viking Pump to grow year after year. Viking Pump, Inc. • A Unit of IDEX Corporation • 406 State Street • Cedar Falls, Iowa 50613 • (319) 266-1741 • vikingpump.com 46
even the experts find fresh approaches to time-tested concepts. “One of the keys to growing technology companies, I think, is getting and keeping people excited about the possibilities,” she said. “People have never really thought about the Cedar Valley as a tech hub. It’s a manufacturing town or a college town, but definitely not a tech town.” She said anyone -- not just “geeks” -- interested in technology can attend a TechBrew. “Maybe they just have an idea and want some feedback,” she said. Following the template established by TechBrew is a program called Startup Drinks. Every month, Startup Drinks organizers sponsor a happy hour at the Octopus nightclub in Cedar Falls to bring together entrepreneurs to get them talking and networking about their startup ideas. “It’s a very cool event,” Beenken said. Startup Drinks gives would-be entrepreneurs a similar chance to get together and swap ideas about finding a market for their product or get insights on how to run a business. Far Reach’s Feldmann and Beenken saw a need for such a program, having seen how an
IT-focused social program called TechBrew had flowered in the last couple of years. “We kind of recognized there’s a great technology happy hour at TechBrew, which we continue to advocate for,” Beenken said. TechBrew’s necessarily narrow focus on technology, however, was less than ideal for entrepreneurs whose ideas often went beyond that realm, Beenken said. “There are entrepreneurs that are interested in other things, so we were more interested in a catch-all, for people from all types of backgrounds to share ideas,” he said. Organizers decided to invite would-be business owners to get together at 5 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of each month at Octopus. It’s a chance for novices to glean key insights from experienced business owners, Beenken said, adding that it’s also a chance for the latter to get some fresh perspectives. He said attendance grew to almost 70 in about a year’s time. A third program is BarCamp Cedar Valley, which was launched in 2014. The inaugural BarCamp drew about 100 entrepreneurs, “creative and techie-types” all under one roof -- talking, networking, and collaborating about topics they have in common, Beenken said.
“We had folks from Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, and all over Iowa there, and the feedback was amazing so we’ll be doing it again next year,” he said. The business incubator’s “coworking” program is another key to bringing entrepreneurs together, Beenken said. “With coworking, they can be working a day job and check us out at night or on the weekend, or they might be a traveling employee or mobile worker looking for a place to hang out,” he said. “Coworking is definitely becoming more popular and we have put this together to continue to broaden the scope of the type of entrepreneurs we can touch with assistance.” The business incubator also keeps busy consulting with entrepreneurs and connecting them to one another, Beenken said. “Our main service is still our consulting piece and remains the central focus of what we do,” he said. “We serve more than 300 entrepreneurs from the area annually through one on one consulting and coaching. A large percentage of those clients are long-term clients coming back to us repeatedly to refine their strategies, get help with expansions and pivots, and make their business stronger.”
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Local entrepreneur brings region into business lead
Mark Kittrell: 48
ocal entrepreneur Mark Kittrell hasn’t forgotten his roots. Indeed, he maintains them, even though he has taken his business acumen to a statewide level. Kittrell, a Cedar Falls entrepreneur, real estate developer and IT consultant, took that step when, in October 2013, he became the new president of the Des Moines-based Iowa Innovation Corp. Kittrell replaced Jack Harris, who left to work on the creation of an advanced manufacturing and materials center. “We could not be happier to have Mark on board,” Cara Heiden, vice chair of the IIC’s board said at the time Kittrell accepted the position. “His experience in technology startup companies and his service to the state as an officer or director of numerous industry, state and regional economic development organizations makes him the perfect candidate to move the organization to the next level.” Kittrell, who still spends part of each week in the Waterloo-Cedar Falls area, said his new position is a kind of statement that the Cedar Valley has plenty to contribute to the advancement of the state’s business community. “The Innovation Corp. is really statewide, and one of the first things I’ve been telling people as I’ve been stepping into the job is I want to make sure we do get past this emotion that what happens in Des Moines is for Des Moines,” Kittrell said. “I’m devoted to eastern Iowa and the Cedar Valley specifically, so I’m really excited to bring that perspective.” Kittrell has been involved with multiple tech startups, real estate development and community/economic development initiatives including: Founder of TEAM Technologies, a regional information technology consulting/services firm specializing in IT and Internet services. Kittrell led the firm from modest beginnings to more than 100 employees through engagements with many of the Midwest’s leading companies, including John Deere, Meredith Publishing and Principal Financial Group. TEAM Cos. is a specialist in mission-critical IT facilities. The company operates three data centers in Iowa and Wisconsin specializing in health care, financial services and other industries. The firm was honored three times with the Inc. 500 award for rapidly growing private companies and was acquired by TDS Telecom in December 2010. Kittrell also is co-founder and CEO of Eagle View Partners developing River Place, a $70 million mixeduse real estate project situated along the Cedar River in downtown Cedar Falls. Holding a bachelor of science in physics from the University of Northern Iowa and an advanced management development designation in
real estate from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, Kittrell has served in numerous industry and economic development organizations. “I feel like there’s an awful lot of effort that’s being put into statewide initiatives from people in the Cedar Valley, and my hope is I’ll be able to coordinate those things and deliver some amazing results,” Kittrell said. One of the newest projects the IIC is involved with is the Iowa Advanced Manufacturing Center at the Cedar Valley TechWorks. “That’s going to be a very high-visibility project, with the Iowa Innovation Corp., Hawkeye Community College, UNI and John Deere all involved,” Kittrell said. “That’s a high-visibility initiative that can deliver a big impact not only for the Cedar Valley but also to the state.” It also likely will provide a nice spark for the TechWorks project, Kittrell said. He offered a couple of examples in his reasoning. “First, what we’re trying to do is coordinate a lot of state activity through TechWorks,” he said. “No. 2 is if we put smart people and state-of-the-art equipment someplace, we’re going to get a lot of interest from industry. We think people will want to put staff there, develop their own labs, and we may see new development around there and inside the building.” Also hopeful for the TechWorks’ project, Kittrell said, is a “large federal push” behind state, private and local economic-development initiatives, such as TechWorks. “That can have a move the needle quite a bit in manufacturing,” Kittrell said. “We think the Iowa Advanced Manufacturing Center can be a real magnet for that.” The IIC is the “private” portion of the state’s privatepublic partnership for economic development, Kittrell said. “As a not-for-profit organization, we have flexibility that the state does not have,” he said. “Working with private venture and angel funding folks is a priority with us.” Local programs that encourage entrepreneurship and the development of tech-related businesses – Cedar Valley TechBrew, for example – get considerable statewide attention, Kittrell said. “TechBrew is one of the most vibrant programs in the state,” he said of the program that brings tech specialists together regularly for networking and industry discussion. “We’re really pleased to see a lot of entrepreneurism there. UNI has a ton of entrepreneurship activity. We’d like to try and bring a lot more private funding opportunities to those kinds of entrepreneurial ideas. So. if we could get more angel (funding) activity and more venture capital in this area, that’s another big priority.”
Mark Kittrell on Entrepreneurship The ICC is a nonprofit launched in 2011 to build public/private partnerships to build Iowa companies. Kittrell started River Place in partnership with the Western Home Communities, to build multi-family residential units and nationally branded hotel and 55+ active lifestyle housing. The project completed its first 21 units in 2014 and broke ground on an additional 30 units and more than 20,000 feet of commercial space, most of which was pre-leased before construction began. Kittrell has served in numerous industry, state and regional economic development organizations including the Iowa Innovation Council, Technology Commercialization Committee, Technology Association of Iowa, Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber, Cedar Valley TechWorks, the University of Iowa Research Foundation and the University of Northern Iowa’s College of Natural Sciences Advisory Council and the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center (JPEC).
Photo by Matthew Putney
The outlook for such funding is bright, Kittrell said. “Last year, we were able to put together the state tax credit for incenting a fund manager for what’s called an ‘innovation fund,’” Kittrell said. The goal is to put together $100 million in innovation funding, he said. “We’re also working with a group in Des Moines called Plains Angels, who are interested in increasing their footprint in the eastern half of the state,” Kittrell said. There is reason to expect good things on the entrepreneurial front, Kittrell said. “The state is in very good shape, financially; that’s wonderful,” he said. “I would say the question that is going to be in front of an awful lot of people is with a good economy, do we have the wisdom to make some smart investments. We are the kind of state that understands you have to plant and tend and harvest. The best time to do that sort of planting is now, when we have a good solid budget.”
Photo by Brandon Pollock
“We’ve developed a pretty good niche in the market,” he said. Through decades, Schumacher Elevator has maintained its presence in Denver, although in 2000 it consolidated six locations there in a new building. But the company also has a long reach, with contacts in or near key marketplaces, Schumacher said. “We have service branches all the way up to Minnesota, Wisconsin, South Dakota, Illinois and Missouri, so we’ve kind of grown our location,” Schumacher said. “We manufacture elevators for installation around the Midwest and also manufacturer them for other companies across the U.S. We feel being centrally located, relatively close to the interstate system, there’s a lot of good trucking companies, it’s been a good location.” In recent years, the company has grown, generally, at a 10-percent annual rate, regardless of the caprices of external economic factors, Schumacher said. The secret to the company’s success sounds like a cliché, Schumacher acknowledged. “We have great people in the talent pool; it’s one of our biggest strength,” he said. Indeed, if there’s a challenge to meet in the coming years, it will involve replacing good people who are reaching retirement age, Schumacher said.
Still rising after 80 years
n elevator company in Bremer County, Iowa, has been riding the top for nearly eight decades. Schumacher Elevator, a family-owned operation in Denver, Iowa, was founded in 1936 by William Schumacher and son Elmer. Jeff Schumacher, William’s great-grandson, says the company is sounder than ever, as it has navigated national economic highs and lows. “I think we’ve always changed with the times,” Jeff Schumacher said. “When new technologies come out in the elevator industry, things change and we’ve had to make big decisions when to bring something inhouse and when to outsource certain things.” Schumacher Elevator isn’t a giant in its field, compared to, say, Otis, Jeff Schumacher said. It doesn’t have to be, he said. “A company our size, we don’t necessarily have the revenues to support the R&D the bigger ones have, but when new technologies come out, we can assess them and determine how we proceed with it,” Schumacher said. “When it makes sense to manufacture in-house, we have.” He said the company always has been an active participant in its industry, which has fed its longevity.
Schumacher Elevator on Opportunity “Like a lot of businesses, we have a lot of folks nearing retirement age that are going to have to be replaced,” he said. “It’s a strength and a weakness, because we have some key positions we’re going to have to replace.” The company had 200 employees across all locations, including 100 in Denver in 2014. Fortunately, the Cedar Valley’s educational systems are churning out young talent who will land at Schumacher, he said. “With Wartburg, the University of Northern Iowa and Hawkeye Community College in the area, it’s been a blessing,” he said. “The unemployment rate here is very low, and it’s a competitive environment, but most people we’ve got in key positions have grown internally within the company. There are opportunities here.” And, he said, the company loves to promote from within. He describes that as a key to its long-term success, as well as being a core philosophy of William Schumacher. The company also operates on a “managed-growth” philosophy, Jeff Schumacher said. “When we move into a new area, typically, we’ll look for a larger service contract so we can move a person into that area,” he said. “We’ve grown by moving our people into new areas. They know our company culture and philosophy. We’ve been able to maintain our corporate culture by hiring good people and promoting from within.”
Schumacher specializes in large-capacity elevators. “We’ve got a unit we’ve done for Disney in Orlando, and BMW has a facility in North Carolina that uses one of our elevators,” he said. “Quaker Oats in Cedar Rapids has one.” Many Midwestern hospitals have Schumacher units, too, he said. “Those aren’t typically your standard two-stop elevators you’d see in hotels,” he said. “Our niche is larger-capacity, non-standard elevator applications. We typically do better at the large. Anytime something becomes less standard, we become more successful.” The company has evolved with the times and found new markets as circumstances dictated, Schumacher said. “I think the biggest change we’ve seen in recent years is there’s definitely been a dip in new construction,” he said. “Brand-new buildings and elevators has grown less than other areas of our business. What we see more of is what we call elevator modernization, upgrading existing elevators. The things we do here in Denver, we’ve been able to shift our resources toward that and our people doing installations in the field can also do modernization.” Schumacher Elevator services nearly 6,000 elevators across the Midwest, Schumacher said. “That has continued to grow,” he said., noting that the company services all makes and models. “It’s really helped us. We’ve been able to self-fund a lot of that growth.”
Schumacher Elevator Company Schumacher Elevator Company Established in 1936, Schumacher Elevator Company is a fourth generation family– operated business. From its Denver, IA facility, Schumacher Elevator custom engineers and manufactures complete el-
evators and components for customers worldwide. Schumacher Elevator Company also services thousands of elevators and escalators and installs, repairs, and modernizes passenger and freight eleva-
tors throughout the Midwest. With 200 employees in five states, Schumacher Elevator prides itself in high–quality elevators, friendly and knowledgeable professionals, and superior service.
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www.SchumacherElevator.com One Schumacher Way – Denver, IA
Double-dose: Region covered by twin hospital systems
f accessibility to primary health care facilities is a prerequisite to choosing an area in which to live, the Cedar Valley has it covered. And, then some. The area’s two largest hospitals – Covenant Medical Center and UnityPoint-Allen Hospital – have established areas of nationally recognized expertise in health care as they continue to grow and serve multiple counties surrounding Waterloo and Cedar Falls, where they’re based. Each year, both hospitals heap more technology on their growing foundations of improvements. Both UnityPoint-Allen – formerly Allen Hospital, before a corporate identity change in 2013 – and Covenant Medical Center have been expanding their physical plants and reach in recent years, and that continued in 2013. Allen has instituted a number of recent initiatives, according to spokesman Jim Waterbury. Among them: • A change in model from fee-for-service to care coordination; • A renewed emphasis on primary care, prevention and early intervention; • Growth of wellness care rather than just illness care; • Growth in home, palliative and hospice care; • Increased emphasis on the patient and family experience; and • Growth of technologies and digital applications to make healthcare more convenient, transparent and affordable. Allen’s newest addition is a family clinic at the hospital. It’s part of the hospital’s effort to reach residents who might not otherwise get the care they need, said Dr. Tim Corrigan, who, along with nurse practitioner Marti Hall, staffs the clinic. “I think there are an awful large number of patients out there who often go un-doctored or are not very doctored because they may have felt burdened by the finances, so they just restrict their own system,” he said. “Having more people in the system means that we will
need more providers.” Allen attempts to be proactive in its approach, Corrigan said. “We expect to see more patients in the system,” he said. “Some of them will be not very ill. Some will be young people that just need a physical exam or checkup once in awhile. Other people will be more complicated, but our system is able to handle those people.” The dynamics are changing, as a baby boomer population ages, Corrigan said. “I think the baby boomers are used to a certain level of service from other places they go, whether it’s a car dealership or grocery store, so they’re used to having certain needs met and the medical community is part of that mentality of customer service,” he said. “The medical community brings a lot of expertise to the fact that these are older people who have healthcare needs that have to be anticipated.” Patients are used to being active, and part of the health care industry’s mission is to help them stay active, Corrigan said. “We have a generation now of people who have been active exercisers or active sportsmen and now have orthopedic problems,” he said. “It used to be they wouldn’t have those orthopedic problems until they were 75 or 80; now, they have them when they’re 50 or 55. So, the medical care of those people has changed considerably.” Needs have changed, too, he said. “It used to be, we’d say, ‘Well, you’re 75 or so, we’ll get you a knee replacement and it may last 10-15 years and that’s good enough,’” Corrigan said. “Well, you can’t do that to a 50-year-old. You have to think more longterm about what am I going to do to help you keep your joint healthy, help you make sure your weight doesn’t overload that new joint? We probably can give you a little more direct advice that maybe you shouldn’t be running; maybe you should be swimming. Anticipating people’s needs when they’re active middleaged or elderly person, medical care is going to change.” Pam Delagardelle, Allen’s chief executive officer, said the UnityPoint approach to health care is part of a system-wide “holistic”
philosophy. “UnityPoint Health is taking a system approach to trying to have statewide, Midwestern coverage,” she said. “We’re working in geographic regions now, working on a strategy with Cedar Rapids and Dubuque to provide a full complement of services within a quick drive,” she said. “We’re working on partnerships in Illinois, in Peoria and Proctor. We have a new partnership in Madison Wis., with Mariner. It’s our way to coordinate the care better and reduce the cost of healthcare.” Allen’s approach includes “value-based” contracts,” which involve close coordination among all facilities in the system and are designed to reduce the costs of care, Delagardelle said. “We have to do things differently in order for healthcare to be sustainable for all of us, so we are actively working on improving quality, improving access and addressing the cost of care and thereby improving value,” she said. UnityPoint expected 30 percent of its business to be value-based contracts in 2014 and, perhaps, 70 percent in 2015, Delagardelle said. “So, we are actively working on improving quality, improving access and addressing the cost of care and thereby improving value,” she said. UnityPoint-Allen Hospital operates two cardiac catheterization laboratories updated in recent years with the latest technology. Allen doctors and nurses can see hearts and blood vessels faster, easier and clearer than ever. The new Allen cath labs mean patients get better results with less radiation. Allen surgeons have performed thousands of open-heart procedures. Allen’s Heart Center also offers HeartAware, a free seven-minute cardiovascular risk assessment to evaluate one’s risk of developing heart disease. The program also has interactive animations that visually walk patients through nine conditions or procedures and has information related to more than 100 cardiovascular conditions and procedures, as well as preventative measures. It recently has been paired with its established StrokeAware program.
da Vinci Si Surgical System, UnityPoint-Allen, Waterloo
Allen also was one of the first Iowa hospitals to offer an angina treatment called enhanced external counter-pulsation, or EECP, a noninvasive procedure with a seemingly simple concept: increase the pressure of blood flow back to the heart to allow for maximum blood flow in the coronary blood vessels. The effect is what researchers call a “physiologic coronary bypass.” In its cardiac rehabilitation program, Allen guides patients through a 12-week course in heart-friendly living, diet and exercise to stress management. UnityPoint-Allen has exceeded all 22 national quality indicators and brought in an advanced CT scanner – the most powerful in Iowa – as well as introduced the da Vinci surgery system. The hospital also has a new emergency department and new centers for heart/vascular treatment and neurology. Covenant, which is part of the Wheaton Franciscan system that also includes Sartori Hospital in Cedar Falls, also has been building its outreach, said Jack Dusenbery, CEO. Perhaps the most visible change, from the public’s perspective, he said, is Covenant’s
new emergency room. “We’re setting volume record after volume record every month,” Dusenbery said. “It’s pretty amazing how our ERs have grown, volume-wise.” He said the facilities are seeing 5,000 to 6,000 more patient visits than five years earlier. The new ER treated more than 100 patients on its first day in September 2013, Dusenbery said. “We turned the switch and we were busy,” he said. Covenant also is developing its first interventional radiology suite, as well, Dusenbery said. “We have a dedicated interventional radiologist for the first time,” he said. “We’ve developed a dedicated suite and they could pretty much access any part of your body to help you with vascular disease. It has really exciting capabilities.” A new radiology clinic opened in February 2014, with a full radiology suite operational a few months later. Covenant recently brought in robotic surgical system and was scheduled to launch the
Photo by Tiffany Rushing
robotics program in January 2014 Dusenbery said. UnityPoint-Allen already had a robotic system in place. Officials in both local hospital systems note the versatility of their tools allow for dramatically quicker recovery times. Robotics have been used in hundreds of procedures in recent years. “We continue to upgrade and advance our info technology in electronic health records, etc. and that will continue over the next few years,” Dusenbery said. Covenant also recently “completely rebuilt” its in-patient psychiatric facility, Dusenbery noted. “That was a challenge because the unit is always full and we had to accommodate that,” he said. “But, we got through it.” The revamped center opened in the fall of 2013, he said. Health care leaders in the area note that the Cedar Valley has become a mecca for medical advancements and treatment. “Last year we also moved our cardiac rehab unit from our Kimball Ridge facility to
Covenant in the spring of 2013,” Dusenbery said. “It’s a brand new unit as we added office space and rehab, etc.” The space at Kimball Ridge, a midtown location in Waterloo, is now an expanded wellness center. “What we try to do is analyze people that have to leave the Cedar Valley and then we try to recruit physicians and have proper facilities,” Dusenbery said. “ There’s a lot of keeping existing services current or adding new services. Dusenbery cited, as an example, Dr. Greg Brandenberg, a neurosurgeon who joined Covenant’s Iowa Spine and Brain Institute last year. “That gives us three,” Dusenbery said. “We try to recruit and build programs.” Covenant also works closely with the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, Dusenbery said. “We have a wonderful relationship the U of I,” Dusenbery said. “I think in 2014, we’ll even share expertise more than we have before. We have some pediatric specialists. We have a dedicated gastroenterologist. We’re working to see how we can bring University of Iowa physicians to this community whatever the need is instead of making people drive to the university.”
Covenant’s neo-natal intensive care unit likely will be expanding with the University of Iowa, “trying to tap into some of the expertise they’ll have at their new children’s hospital,” Dusenbery said. “That’s exciting for our health system and our community.” Convenant also has made a $10 million investment in renovations at Sartori Memorial Hospital. A big change in recent years was the addition of a new magnetic resonance imaging unit, replacing mobile equipment that had been in use at Sartori four days a week. The new system has a larger opening, making it easier for patients to get in and to undergo scans. The new unit is used to scan head, neck, spine, breast, heart, abdomen, pelvis, joints, prostate, blood vessels and musculoskeletal regions. Sartori was named as one of the nation’s top 100 hospitals by health-care solutions consultant Solucient for achieving excellence in quality care, operations efficiency, financial performance and adaptation to the environment. Sartori’s focus is on primary care, eyes, orthopedics and general surgical procedures, as well as being an emergency responder for the community.
Covenant combined its occupational health program with Sartori’s initiated gastroenterologist and endoscopy programs and added the eye program with Wolfe Clinic and other ophthalmologists. Also in Cedar Falls, both Allen and Covenant have added health-care facilities at Pinnacle Prairie, an evolving planned community development. Waterloo-based Cedar Valley Medical Specialists, turned 20 years old in 2014. The organization, which focuses on providing specialty surgery and medical care to all area hospitals, continues to build its roster of physicians, said Gil Irey, chief executive officer. “We had a great year recruiting extremely high-quality, world-class physicians to the Cedar Valley,” Irey said of the organization’s work in 2013. “We have maintained a great working relationship with all the payers with all the hospitals in the area. We continue to see that moving forward into 2014 and beyond.” As 2014 dawned, Cedar Valley Medical Specialists had 58 member physicians, including 18 specialists, Irey said. He noted that the group, by comparison, had 21 physicians and six specialists when it started in 1994. Irey said his organization has a retention rate of about 80 percent.
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“Most clinics have about a 30 percent retention rate,” he said. “Our process is really to match candidates with the area and make sure they have a solid reason they want to stay in the Cedar Valley and practice.” CVMS added a new specialty – urology – in mid-2014 when it brought in the first of three specialists in that area from the University of Iowa who are trained in robotic surgery. All three – along with a physician’s assistant – were scheduled to be in place by the fall of 2015. “It’s an area that has had a national shortage, and this is an important addition to the Cedar Valley,” Irey said. “Now, there are many people who can get this particular type of care without having to travel to another market.” The Cedar Valley has a strong pull for physicians, Irey said. “Our process in recruiting is really to match candidates with the area and make sure they have a solid reason they want to stay in the Cedar Valley area and practice,” he said. The organization finds many who do just that, he said. Cedar Valley Medical Specialists, which works closely with medical facilities in West Union, Oelwein, Independence, Sumner, Waverly and Grundy County, in addition to Waterloo-Cedar Falls, started with six
specialties in 1994; now, it has 18, and it has the potential to add two or three more in the near future, Irey said. In June 2014, Cedar Valley Medical Specialists opened a new eye clinic in Cedar Falls, to complement an existing facility in Waterloo and provide easier access to patients in the western and northern outskirts of the Cedar Valley. Medical care in the Cedar Valley is setting the pace for the region, leaders at both hospital systems said. “From my view, things that are priorities for us today, I don’t think we would have talked about 10 years ago,” Dusenbery said. “You try to look at three four things you want to make better. The list keeps getting more exciting. We always want to improve the care with the safest environment. Now, we have the pieces that we can talk about the space we can provide for specialists to come up and for us to require new specialties. I think it is exciting. What I find is when we do bring in the right talent, I always talk to them three years later and they just seem to be very happy to be part of our community. “The Cedar Valley just keeps getting shined up year after year and it’s fun to be part of progress.”
Across the Cedar Valley The region also has seen recent major renovations at other hospitals. The Waverly Health Center, which in recent years had $16.8 million in hospital improvements, continues to grow. The hospital in 2004 added 90,000 square feet – a 75 percent increase – including 25 single-patient rooms, a retail pharmacy, four additional operating rooms, expanded radiology areas and new birth rooms. Late in 2013, WHC launched a fundraising campaign to help finance a 3,500-foot expansion of Christophel Clinic and relocate its cardiac center. According to John Johnston, the hospital’s foundation chairman, it was decided the expansion was needed to meet growing demand for family medicine and will increase the hospital’s exam room space and health care providers. WHC is one of Waverly’s largest employers offering a variety of career opportunities with 430 plus employees and an annual payroll over $26 million. The health center is Iowa’s second-largest critical-access hospital with a fiscal year 2014 net revenue of about $49 million, according to Connie Tolan, business retention and expansion specialist with Waverly Area
Photo by Brandon Pollock Allen College of Nursing, Waterloo
Economic Development. WHC employs 34 health care providers who practice in family medicine, pediatrics, general surgery, orthopedics, psychiatry, obstetrics, gynecology, anesthesia, and emergency medicine. In addition to WHC providers, providers from other health systems in the Cedar Valley and Northeast Iowa have clinics and care for patients at the health center. In June 2012, Waverly Health Center was granted re-designation as a Planetree PatientCentered Hospital. “WHC earned this title by sustaining and improving its patient-first culture,” Tolan said. In 2009, the hospital was among the first in the world to get Planetree Designation. Today, it is the only hospital in Iowa -- and one of only 18 hospitals in the U.S. -- that has received the designation since the program started in 2007, Tolan said. “The Planetree award is the only one that highlights greatness in patient-centered health care,” Tolan said. “Created by a patient, the Planetree Model is committed to enhancing health care from the patient’s view. It empowers patients and families through information and education. It also encourages ‘healing partnerships’ with doctors and nurses. The model crafts healing environments in which patients can be active team members and caregivers are able to thrive.” Every year WHC invests $1 million in new equipment and technology, and in 2013, invested in more than $325,000 in new surgery equipment, Tolan said.
“The new colonoscopy equipment and scopes benefit patients through higher-quality images and a more comfortable exam,” Tolan said. In 2014, the health center installed $820,000 in new radiology equipment and expanded its Christophel Clinic from seven to 12 exam rooms. WHC is very active in the community through participation in community groups including the Waverly Area Partnership for Healthy Living, Bremer County Community Partners, Waverly –Shell Rock CSD wellness committee and a variety of other service organizations, Tolan said. WHC has been designated as one of the nation’s top 35 Critical Access Hospitals in LarsonAllen’s “Critical Access Hospital Gold Standard Performance Summary,” recognizing its overall economic vitality through attention to physician relations, cost-management and market share for a mix of medical and surgical services. It was chosen among more than 750 other critical access hospitals. As of September 2014, WHC was under new leadership, as Jim Atty took the reins as CEO. Atty had been CEO at Humboldt County Memorial Hospital in Humboldt, Iowa. “I wasn’t looking for a job, but I was well aware of what they were doing in Waverly, and it was just too good to pass up,” said Atty, a native of Cedar Rapids. Also in Bremer County, Sumner’s Community Memorial Hospital has an affiliation agreement with UnityPoint-Allen, which is designed to help it attract additional services and health
care providers. A survey by Press Ganey, the health care industry’s leading satisfaction measurement and improvement firm, found Community Memorial Hospital patients ranked it in the 99th percentile against 275 hospitals of similar size and in the 99th percentile against 1,136 hospitals across the country. The county-owned Grundy County Memorial Hospital, also part of the UnityPoint network, completed a $6 million addition in 2005. It expanded its services with 42 new medical personnel and 26 new specialty clinics. Physical therapy, which includes cardiac rehabilitation, found a home in remodeled space. The expansion also included a specialty clinic area for doctors traveling from Waterloo, Cedar Falls and Marshalltown. The hospital got new leadership in 2013, when Brian Kellar became president and chief executive officer. Kellar, who had been health administrator in South Dakota, said one of his first orders of business was to intensify the hospital’s already-strong focus on customer service and hospitality. He took a personal approach to that task, he said. “Those first three days are always about understanding what we do and how we do it,” Kellar said. “I’m getting to know people and making time to sit down with as many of our associates and groups as possible and just hear them.” For the previous 10 years, Kellar was health administrator, as well as a regional manager of an upper-level retirement development management company. He said that background prepared him for his responsibilities in Grundy Center. Kellar replaced Pam Delagardelle, who took a similar position at UnityPoint-Allen Hospital in Waterloo. Luckily, Kellar said, standards previous leadership had built at the hospital make his new job easy. “Really, the direction I’m steering is, I want to have as good of an understanding as possible on how we got to be this exceptional gem in the cornfield and how we can make the next 10 years exceptional,” Kellar said. Kellar’s goals include helping all 220 employees at the hospital “feel important” and continuing to provide high-quality “hospitality” to patients. “It’s treating your patient -- not just someone who’s there with a clinical affliction, but truly is a customer,” Kellar said. “Treating them
Photo by Brandon Pollock New MRI Scanner, Covenant Hospital
with dignity and respect and coming up with some better ways to do that, and to create an experience for them.” Kellar said it didn’t take him long to feel at home in Grundy County. “After they announced I got this position, there were people in the community who found my number in South Dakota and called me up,” Kellar said. “They didn’t need anything; they didn’t want anything; they just wanted to say, ‘Welcome to Grundy County.’ Who does that? We do that.” Buchanan County Health Center in Independence added a $2.5 million wellness and therapy center in the last decade. It included a walking track, exercise equipment and a fourlane lap pool, among other amenities. Besides helping cardiovascular patients and those with other injuries recover, the hospital plans to sell memberships to the public to encourage prevention of serious health problems. Mercy Medical Center in New Hampton, a member of Mercy Health Network, offers a full roster of services in an inpatient and outpatient setting, as well as 24-hour emergency care, surgical services, obstetrics and family health, therapy and rehabilitation, diagnostic services, home health and hospice. It offers convenient access to 17 different specialties from a 44-member medical staff. Mercy has been a
pioneer in telemedicine – one of eight sites in Iowa to first give patients access to specialists in remote locations with two-way interactive video equipment. Mercy Medical is a completely renovated 18-bed critical-access hospital with annual admissions of 850 and 20,000 outpatient visits annually. In recent years, Mercy has enhanced its strength in the medical arena, said Tammy Robinson, director New Hampton Economic
Development. “We recently got six new, young doctors who do mission work,” she said. “They recently built a new clinic and they’re in the process of redoing our hospital.” For the first time in years, babies are delivered in New Hampton, Robinson said. “We didn’t have that service before, but several new doctors are ob-gyn,” she said. “It’s been unbelievable what the hospital has brought into the community.”
Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare For all your health care needs, at every time of life Taking great care of our community is what Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare associates, medical staff, volunteers and auxilians strive to do each and every day. It is our Mission and it is the very fabric of what makes us Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare. We are very proud of the work that we do for you and your family - it is a commitment that we have continually made to the communities we serve. Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare’s family of care includes Covenant Medical Center in Waterloo, Mercy Hospital in Oelwein, Sartori Memorial Hospital in Cedar Falls, and Covenant Clinic’s 22 locations throughout Northeast Iowa. Ours is the area’s largest provider network, made up of 60 Primary Care physicians in Family Practice, Internal Medicine and Pediatrics plus more than 40 specialists. Our family of care means you have access to knowledgeable, dedicated, and neighborly health care experts who are among the nation’s best, practically right next door.
Areas of expertise offered by Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare include: • Comprehensive and accredited cancer care at Covenant Cancer Treatment Center • Level II Trauma Facility at Covenant Medical Center • Level II Regional Neonatal Intensive Care Unit • Premiere Acute Inpatient Rehabilitation Center • Comprehensive center treating spine and brain conditions at the Iowa Spine & Brain InstituteTM • Bariatric Surgery Center of Excellence at the Midwest Institute of Advanced Laparoscopic SurgeryTM • State-of-the-art Cardiac Care • Orthopedics • Occupational Medicine and Wellness • Covenant Home Health • Comprehensive Inpatient and Outpatient Behavioral Health Services • Nurse On Call physician referral and health
information community resource • Women’s & Outpatient Center Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare is committed to continued investments in technology and human resources. We continue to be thankful for our exceptional and dedicated associates and physicians. Thank you to our patients and families for making the choice to receive health care services right here in the Cedar Valley from Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare. For more information about Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare services visit www.WheatonIowa.org.
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UnityPoint Health – Waterloo The point of unity is you. UnityPoint Health – Waterloo
UnityPoint Health – Waterloo is the collective name for UnityPoint Health services throughout the Cedar Valley. Our vision is to provide the best outcome for every patient every time. Fulfilling that promise means providing care in the appropriate setting. We are working together to coordinate care in our hospital, our clinics and our patients’ homes. Here are some of the services we provide.
UnityPoint Health – Allen Hospital
Allen Hospital is a not-for-profit, 204-bed community hospital serving the Cedar Valley of Iowa. Our hospital-based facilities also include United Medical Park in southwest Waterloo; Prairie Medical Park in Cedar Falls; the Allen Digestive Health Center in Waterloo; and the Allen Pain Center in Waterloo. Our two rural hospital affiliates are Grundy County Memorial Hospital in Grundy Center and Community Memorial Hospital in Sumner. Our areas of expertise include:
Pam Delagardelle President and CEO
Allen Memorial Hospital was founded in 1925, with gifts of cash and land from Henry B. Allen, honoring his late wife Mary. During our first 70 years, we grew with the community, gradually expanding our inpatient, outpatient and emergency services. Our growth accelerated in 1995, when we affiliated with Iowa Health System and expanded our ambulatory and urgent care facilities and physician clinics. In 2013, we began a second phase of rapid growth that is already redefining what we do and where and how we do it. We jump-started the process by changing our corporate name. We did so for several reasons. As a healthcare system serving three states, Iowa Health System had outgrown our Iowa borders and Iowa name. As a system of 32 hospitals and 301 clinics, we needed a strong, single name to help people identify and find us, everywhere we serve. And as a system embarking on a new journey, we wanted our name to have breadth and scale to match our ambitious aspirations and tell our new story. We found it in UnityPoint Health. UnityPoint Health is both our name and our brand promise. It underscores our strategy to work together as a team for each patient. It reinforces our clear intention to move away from fee-for-service reimbursement and toward value-based payment. Where fee-for-service reimbursement has emphasized the volume of services provided, value-based payment emphasizes quality outcomes. It focuses on how well we work together as providers, coordinating patient care. It rewards delivery of the right services to the right patients at the right time. And it stresses the long-term value of improving community health through prevention, early detection and treatment of disease. We believe our communities and the people we serve deserve no less than the best outcome for every patient every time. We are reinventing ourselves to provide it. 58
• • • • • • • • • • • • • •
Acute inpatient care Ambulatory surgery Cardiology and open-heart surgery Digestive health services Emergency services and Urgent Care centers Home health services Laboratory services Mental health inpatient and outpatient services Neurology Obstetrics and gynecology Occupational health services Radiology Rehabilitation and therapy services Wound care
Eighteen UnityPoint Clinic offices in nine communities serve the Cedar Valley with family medicine, internal medicine and urgent care. Care coordination starts with great primary care. UnityPoint Clinic – Family Medicine physicians specialize in preventing, diagnosing and treating a wide range of symptoms and diseases in children and adults. Primary care physicians and mid-levels provide quality care to every member of the family through every stage of life with services like: • • • • • • •
Routine checkups Immunizations Screening tests Health risk assessments Pregnancy planning education Family development education Family counseling
UnityPoint Clinic – Internal Medicine providers diagnose and treat conditions and disease in adults. Patients often stay with our internists throughout their adult lives because we provide such comprehensive care. However, our internists also lead care teams when patients need the services of other internal medicine subspecialties, including: • • • • • • •
Cardiology Endocrinology Gastroenterology Pulmonology Nephrology Hematology Oncology
UnityPoint at Home
UnityPoint at Home helps Cedar Valley patients leave the hospital sooner and helps keep them from returning. Most people would rather recover from illness or injury or manage chronic disease in their home, and we help them do that. We make an average 965 home care visits a week, providing nursing care, rehabilitation, respiratory and infusion therapy and palliative care. We make another 90 virtual home care visits every week, using TeleHealth technology to bring patients and providers face to face online. UnityPoint at Home also provides both home and inpatient hospice care. Our hospice services include pain and symptom control, spiritual care, respite care for care givers, family conferences and bereavement support.
Recent UnityPoint Health – Waterloo Awards
• Truven Health Analytics – 100 Top Hospital Award – 2014 • Truven Health Analytics – 50 Top Cardiovascular Hospital Award – 2014 • Hospitals and Health Networks – Most Wired Health Systems Award – 2014 • National Committee for Quality Assurance – Patient-Centered Medical Home Award – UnityPoint Clinic, Oelwein and Cedar Falls – 2014
• Truven Health Analytics – 100 Top Hospital Award – 2013 • Truven Health Analytics – Everest Award – 2013 • Truven Health Analytics – 50 Top Cardiovascular Hospital Award – 2013 • The Joint Commission – Primary Stroke Center Certification – 2013 • Action Registry – Platinum Performance Achievement Award in Cardiology – 2013 • Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care – Accredited Chest Pain Center with PCI – 2013 • Center for Excellence Designation – Minimally-Invasive Gynecology – 2013 • American Hospital Association – Circle of Life Award for Hospice Care – 2013 • Press Ganey – Success Story Award – Clinical Improvement in Emergency Care – 2012
UnityPoint Health – Allen Hospital 1825 Logan Avenue Waterloo, IA 50703 319-235-5157 unitypoint.org
Farming: Cornerstone of region’s past, future
Environmental Lubricants Manufacturing, Inc., Grundy Center
hen one discusses agriculture as one of the foundational components in the U.S. economy, Iowa likely enters the conversation. And, the Cedar Valley boasts the richest soil in the state. Name it, and it’s grown here: beef, pork, sheep -- even alpacas, buffalo and camels -- thrive in the region. Apple orchards dot the landscape, on farms and even backyards, across the region. Greenhouses producing year-round supplies of vine-ripened tomatoes, peppers and herbs are popping up. In-season, farmers markets occupy prime spots in virtually every town square. Downtown Waterloo’s Riverloop Expo Plaza features one of the largest farmers markets in the region, with an array of fresh produce on hand every week for six months each year. “We see continued growth in small farms and farmers markets,” said Bill Northey, Iowa’s Secretary of Agriculture. “That’s very small part, acreage-wise, but it can
be significant for a family. There are folks making a decent living selling products at a local farmers market and selling directly to consumers or restaurants. I think we’ll see that side grow.” “Buy-local” homegrown food businesses have taken off in recent years, as consumers have voiced a preference for buying from farmers who live in their own communities. Northey said that trend will continue to grow. “There’s a lot of interest in local food production,” he said. “Our soils are so productive; they can grow lots of stuff. They grow soybeans and corn, but also other things. I think we’ll have people try to produce those other things and find their niches. There are reasons we can produce local celery and sell it in a way that can be profitable.” The area’s most notable products, however, are corn and soybeans, used for everything from feed to fuel. Farming is as basic to the Cedar Valley, and Iowa, as any industry. Even when it comes to harvesting the finished product, growers need look no further than locally built John Deere equipment for help in clear their fields. Northey, who grows corn and soybeans in Spirit Lake, Iowa, says farming is as important to Iowa and the Cedar Valley as any industry anyplace else. “Obviously, the reason we blend agriculture and manufacturing and when agriculture is going well, manufacturing is doing well, especially with John Deere,” Northey said. “But ag itself -- this is a great area to be able to farm, with great soils, great producers and livestock.” Farming offers plenty of opportunities for success, especially when it works with other business sectors, Northey said. “Often, these industries blend into each other a little,” he said. Technology is looking into agriculture -- How do we make GPS work? We’ll have all kinds of new tools to make us better farmers. That will affect our ability to do things at other times of the year to make sure the crop has just the right amount of nitrogen,” Northey said.
They go together Agriculture and manufacturing, natural partners, come together in the Cedar Valley. Northey noted it’s an important marriage. “Certainly, ag manufacturers, you have major things going on with Deere and certainly others,” he said. “Agriculture is often a fairly stabilizing force. Economically, it’s important, but I try to make sure I say culturally, its’ also important. It creates longterm residents and it creates residents with a history and a future where they’re committed to their community where their grandfather came 40 years ago.” Residents care about the land and about each other, he said. “There’s an identity you have with your areas and your region that causes folks to care, feel that sense of responsibility for folks that are now gone and hope for kids yet to grow up or who aren’t even born yet,” Northey said. “That, culturally, is very important.” He pointed to numerous farms around the region that have been earned the Heritage – for 150 years of continuous operation – and Century – for 100 years – designations. There are numerous such award winners in the Cedar Valley. “The emotion of that day, when those awards are presented, you’d love to hear them talk about their ancestors and why they love that area and talk about the generations. I think there’s an identity. Ag is somewhat unique, and it’s kind of long-term view.” And the devotion to the farm is handed down from generation to generation. “Suddenly, you’re moving on and handing it to someone else. It’s hard to articulate sometimes, but sometimes people can capture that in conversations, whether it’s directly or indirectly said. It adds a whole other layer of value,” Northey said. That’s not to say there isn’t room for further growth and the chance of success for newcomers, Northey said. In the years to come, agriculture’s key growth opportunity will pop up in new ways that will complement “traditional agriculture,” Northey said.
Hawkeye Renewable, Fairbank
“I think we’ll see technologies that will allow us to produce greater yields in a way that’s more environmentally friendly,” he said. “We’ve got some cool different technologies.” Northey pointed to robotic milkers as an example. “The cows decide when they want to be milked,” he said. “Most of us thought that would be the last thing handled by a machine, but it frees the farmer up. You figure out what their production is because the machine keeps track of things like that. I think there’s going to be increased technology about how we process stuff.”
Leading to biotechnology Agriculture has spawned other industries across the region, too, including biofuel plants. Flint Hills Resources, as an example, produces ethanol at area plants in Shell Rock and Fairbank. “Certainly, there’s grain processing in the ethanol plants and different streams coming off the ethanol plants,” Northey said. But, he said, that’s only the beginning of what is possible in the biofuel area. “I think we’ll have a potential for cellulose at ethanol plants,” Northey said. “There’s no
reason to believe those won’t be copied in other areas of the state.” The region’s landscape has been sprouting something new in recent years, as well: Wind turbine towers. As of 2014, Iowa was the No. 2-ranked state – trailing only Texas – for wind-generated electricity. “It’s a different kind of economic opportunity out there,” Northey said. “Most of the folks with wind turbines on their farms have rented that area out to a company that’s paying them an annual payment that’s certainly more than they could have made if they were farming it. There’s a road built to that turbine. You can’t use cover crops or spray around those, so there are some inconveniences. Many folks will say it’s a very good thing.” There also are on-farm smaller wind turbines that are used to create electricity for that farming operation itself, Northey said. “Those are opportunities to cut the ongoing cost of electricity, be able to have some reduction in expenses,” he said. “If there’s a profit there, that’s money spent within a community.” That can translate into additional economic opportunity, Northey said.
Photo by Brandon Pollock
“It can offer jobs, as well,” he said. Certainly, when they build them, it takes people to put them up, technicians can bring a family to a community, as well to take care of things. There are opportunities, as well, as they’re structured in a way that they’re happy about it and chose to do it.”
Enter Cedar Valley TechWorks Finding new ways to invest in an industry as old as the land itself is one of the inspirations behind Cedar Valley TechWorks, a blend of manufacturing and agriculture innovation that is taking shape on the western edge of downtown Waterloo. It may not be apparent from a casual glance at the Cedar Valley TechWorks campus, but the process of molding the region’s agricultural past and its technological future into a vibrant business center is humming along in high gear. In February 2014, the Iowa Innovation Corp. and TechWorks leaders announced the start of the Iowa Advanced Manufacturing Center, which brings manufacturers large and small into laboratory and test-site settings. The University of Northern Iowa’s Metal Casting Center, which features one of the
largest 3-D printers in North America, opened in TechWorks’ “Tech I” building – of the two six-story former John Deere manufacturing buildings on the 43-acre site that Deere & Co. donated to the project. Deere is planning to open its Tractor & Engine Museum on the campus. The TechWorks project has been years in the planning, and, after years of fits and starts, it has begun to gain dramatic traction, said Cary Darrah, TechWorks’ general manager. “We have worked hard to stay the course with the TechWorks business plan – to revitalize the 43 acres campus in order strengthen the region’s employment base and catalyze investment in the surrounding downtown sites,” Darrah said. “Since receiving the donation (from Deere), there have been many unexpected hurdles and amazing opportunities – with each we position ourselves to deal with and gain from them.” Davenport, Iowa-based developer Financial District Properties got involved with a $50 million project called The Green@ TechWorks in 2011. The finished product will feature an upscale business travel hotel and fine-dining restaurant, along with a training center and higher education center in the “Tech II” building, Darrah said.
The Tech I building has been gaining attention with the $4M appropriation by the Iowa legislature last session (2013). Those funds were specifically directed to purchase equipment and provide capital improvements to the building in preparation for the Iowa Advanced Manufacturing Center. Using the newly created economic development tool, the Iowa Reinvestment District designation, the Iowa Economic Development Authority’s board gave preliminary approval for a $12 million investment in TechWorks. The Metal Casting Center was the start of a burst of growth at TechWorks that began in 2013, Darrah said. “Within three months, we purchased and installed one of the largest 3-D printers in the country, programmed and operated by the University of Northern Iowa’s Metal Casting Center,” she said. “MCC has been supporting Iowa manufacturers with their projects non-stop ever since installation with the plan to install another one to two printers in the upcoming year.” TechWorks’ original tenant, also with roots at the local university, the National AgBased Lubricants Center, closed up in 2013, making way for the Metal Casting Center. Funding ran out for NABL, but its
TechWorks legacy continues, Darrah said. “NABL was our first tenant and helped put TechWorks on the map as a progressive and innovative industrial environment,” Darrah said. “As NABL transitioned out of their space, it was ideal to move the Metal Casting Center in without skipping a beat.” The shop area is home to the additive manufacturing discovery process while the many labs are an attractive investment for other lab operations in the region, Darrah noted. “The NABL industrial labs were described as second to none in the country and the private sector has shown serious interest,” she said. “These third-floor opportunities, along with the investment from the state for capital improvements, is helping speed up the tenant interest that we had hoped for before the recession of 2008 hit the market. Thankfully we were able to tread water until the market gained traction again.” TechWorks now is giving a muchanticipated dose of reality to officials who dreamed of building an innovation center for manufacturers, Darrah said. “We have always been dedicated to manufacturing -- given the facilities and the resources -- and we still are, although given the market trend identified as Advanced
Tyson Fresh Meats A Worldwide Leader in Protein, Cedar Valley Strong Tyson Fresh Meats is the world’s leading provider of protein, including pork, chicken and beef. The Waterloo facility produces fresh cuts of pork such as boneless loins, tenderloins, hams and cuts of ribs, all of which are sold to retail, wholesale and foodservice customers throughout the world. Construction on the plant began in spring of 1988 and plant operations began May 3, 1990, under the IBP brand. Tyson Foods, Inc. purchased the plant in 2003. The facility currently has an annual payroll of more than $76 million. Our company and our team members are active in the community,
donating food, time and financial support to many Cedar Valley nonprofit organizations and events. We partner with the Northeast Iowa Food Bank, United Way and the Salvation Army by raising funds annually through Tyson’s philanthropic effort, Powering the Spirit, which aims to end childhood hunger. Beyond Tyson’s many community contributions, our greatest asset are our 2,500 team members and the diversity they bring to the community. The many cultures found in our halls enrich the lives of everyone on the Tyson team, and in the Cedar Valley.
501 North Elk Run Road | 319-236-2636
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Manufacturing we have aligned our focus and language to synchronize with the direction of the local, regional, and national economy,” Darrah said.
Waverly Light & Power’s Wind Turbine
Tangible evidence of progress at the project took hold early in 2014, with the first earthmovers on the grounds. Site work around the Deere Tractor & Engine Museum began in the spring. Construction on The Green mixed-use project will begin immediately after the financing package is approved, Darrah said. “Engineering and design work has been ongoing since the developmental agreement was signed with the city and the developer has worked hard to keep the other project pieces together while pursuing the designation.” The Green@TechWorks is a centerpiece of the project, Darrah said. “The Green is the connection and expansion piece to downtown Waterloo,” she said.” The hotel is needed both functionally as a desired facility and attraction for the museum and physically to attract additional investment in the surrounding developable areas.” Deere’s Tractor & Engine Museum, is another key piece, and its opening brings added attention to TechWorks, Darrah said. “No doubt, the museum will add attention and traction to the campus,” she said. “The expectation of 100,000-plus visitors the first year alone will generate the attention and recognition as a real and viable place to visit and/or do business. It is fitting that the Iowa Advanced Manufacturing Center will be located next door to the world’s largest agricultural equipment manufacturer – no better staging facility for innovations in advanced technology of the future to learn from the past.” John Deere has been involved in the TechWorks project from its origin, starting with donation of the property. Darrah noted the tractor manufacturer’s key role. “Obviously, the donation would not have occurred without their generosity and vision, but they have been involved whenever we have asked for guidance while at the same time respecting this is a unique entity trying to blaze new paths of development,” she said. “With regard to the Iowa Advanced Manufacturing Center, Deere corporate has taken a lead in overseeing the IAMC task force discussions around the state with small and medium sized enterprises to discuss
Photo by Matthew Putney
their needs and expectations of the center.” TechWorks’ value to the region transcends its 40-acre corner in downtown Waterloo, Darrah said. “As a regional influence, it will be even stronger as (the Iowa Advanced Manufacturing Center) is launched and effectively helping grow new and existing business in a very competitive economy,” she said. Taken as a whole, TechWorks is a key tool that will fuel future growth of the region in employment, tourism, education and commerce, said Aaron Buzza, director of the Waterloo Convention & Visitors Bureau. “One of the things that we’ve found here
in Waterloo especially but throughout the state is we have a really cool story to tell and it’s about agriculture,” Buzza said. “People are visiting here because they want to see how people farm, milk cows, put tractors together. The Deere museum and the TechWorks campus, already tie in beautifully to the story we’re already telling, which is history and the present and the future, too. We’re showing people who are visiting what the future of agriculture manufacturing is. This is unlocking a market for us, for people who are going to want to visit. As the world evolves, people are going to want to know what’s next. Because we can tie past and future, we can tell the whole story.”
Photo by Matthew Putney
Now he is, as owner of Genuine Faux Farms, which the couple launched in 2005. It’s a growing operation that specializes in vegetables certified as organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Faux says his farm, which has utilized a 2,200-square-foot high-tunnel system that protects some plants from pests and weather, focuses on heirloom vegetables, whenever possible, including tomatoes, eggplant and peppers. Faux said there’s enough variety to keep customers supplied with something from the operation from May through December and vegetables from June through October. The Fauxes also raise poultry. The couple started by selling vegetables at area farmers markets in 2005 but later offered subscription-based “shares,” or regular deliveries, to customers who signed up in the Community Supported Agriculture program. Customers are called “shareholders.” The farm has several distribution points in Tripoli, Waverly and Waterloo-Cedar Falls. As of 2014, the farm was serving about 120 families in the area, which was about its limit, the Fauxes said. But they were expecting additional growth, thanks to a $5,000 grant the farm won in the 2013 Cedar Valley Dream Big Grow Here contest for entrepreneurs and small businesses in the area.
Change of pace: Professor finds success in farming
Rob Faux: 64
ob Faux has gone from cultivating minds to cultivating crops. It’s not the standard origin story for a farmer, he acknowledges. Faux (pronounced like “fox”) and his wife, Tammy, both had earned doctorates some years back. In 2004, Tammy Faux landed a position as a professor of social work at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa. “When you’re a two-Ph.D. family, it’s not always possible to find two teaching jobs,” she said. “So Rob tried to decide what he was going to do.” Rob Faux, a Newton, Iowa, native who earned a doctorate in computer science and adult education at Union Institute in Cincinnati, where Tammy Faux also had earned her Ph.D., put in a couple of two-year teaching stints at the University of Minnesota-Morris and Minnesota State University-Mankato. The couple had purchased 14 acres near Tripoli, Iowa, and had pondered its farming potential. Having looked around and found no post-secondary teaching opportunities for himself, Rob Faux started to look at the farm in more practical, entrepreneurial terms. “To begin with, we knew one of us would have to find something else to do,” he said. “We always loved to garden, and our gardens just kept getting bigger and bigger. And I like to be my own boss.”
Rob Faux on Agriculture Dream Big Grow Here, an annual event, draws entrepreneurs from across the region and state. They compete in “pitch” contests and online balloting. A panel of regional business owners and experts from the fields of law, technology, finance and manufacturing chose Faux from a field of five finalists in a “pitch-off.” The regional Dream Big Grow Contests will become a statewide competition starting in 2014. Faux applied the grant money toward construction of a second high-tunnel system, at a total cost of about $17,000, which should protect crops from the elements and, in turn, increase his production volume. The project was completed in April 2014, Faux said. The award was a kind of validation of Faux’s career change, Tammy Faux said. “I was really proud of the work that Rob does as a full-time farmer,” she said. “He made a major career shift from being a professor to being a farmer. It’s nice to see other people recognize that. It’s exciting to see that recognition, but so much has to be driven by internal desire. You don’t go into farming vegetables
without a great deal of internal drive. It’s nice to have an bit of external push to say what you’re doing is the right thing and we have confidence in you. “It’s cool, too, to think maybe we can expand and get more product to more people.” Together, the high tunnel systems cover only about one-tenth of an acre. “It doesn’t seem like a whole lot of space, but the amount you can grow in one of these buildings is pretty amazing,” Rob Faux said. It makes things easier in what can be a challenging enterprise. “Part of the issue with that is the simple fact that we grow lots of different kinds of crops. It’s tomatoes, peppers, lettuce and a wide variety, and every one has their things you have to do for them,” he said. “So that’s a huge challenge because they all have their needs and you have to respond to them now. There are times you almost have to do a triage and say, ‘What am I willing to give up on?’ You have only so many hours to the day.”
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Health & Well-Being Health-focused culture in a Blue Zones Project-certified community
Cedar Falls and Waterloo were both selected to be Blue Zones Project demonstration sites. Related projects have been implemented in both cities. Cedar Falls met multiple thresholds to become certified as a Blue Zones Community. Blue Zones Project leaders said they weren’t surprised Cedar Falls achieved the status. “I saw how quickly you came together and how passionate you were, even before you knew what you were going to be doing,” said Laura Jackson, executive vice president of health insurance company Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield. Lawyer echoed the sentiment, recalling her first Cedar Falls site visit. “We pretty much knew that you were (a Blue Zones Project community),” she said. To reach certification, Cedar Falls implemented several public, private and individual initiatives. The threshold the community exceeded the goals include: 50 percent of the top 20 identified worksites became designated Blue Zones Project worksites. 25 percent of schools became designated Blue Zones Project schools. 25 percent of restaurants became designated Blue Zones Project restaurants. 25 percent of grocery stores became designated Blue Zones Project grocery stores. 20 percent of citizens committed to the Blue Zones Project and completed at least one well-being improvement action. The next steps won’t be as clearly outlined. They are up to the citizens to define, Jackson said. “We didn’t want to tell people what to do and how to do it,” Jackson said. Ongoing initiatives will create more social walking groups called moai, certify more workplaces and design city streets to standards that promote walking and socializing instead of car usage.
A healthier region Full commitment to the Blue Zones Project has numerous healthy implications, said Sue Beach, who managed the project in Waterloo and Cedar Falls at its outset. “It certainly means our community as a whole embraces better well-being and allows us to move more naturally and allows for easier health access,” she said. It’s easy to do, too, Beach said. “It’s just as easy to go get your hands on the healthy choice, when you’re shopping, for example. There are more opportunities to have more gardens, fresh produce, wider vending-machine options. Our community has embraced the fact that they’re supporting the idea of doing all of that. You have worksites that allow us to continue with our healthy habits at work, as well as home. Blue Zones Project-designated grocery stores provide information on healthy food choices. Participating schools have nonsugared drinks and bottled water available to anyone who would prefer those products to standard soda pop. “I think so many times people take for granted we all know what being healthy means, but having access to information and healthier choices reinforces that concept,” Beach said. Schools are getting involved, and kids are bringing healthier messages home to parents, Beach said. “We’re seeing that by teaching kids how to grow a garden, and being able to have a start at how to plant, nurture and have healthy produce in your diet, we’re seeing
Photo by Matthew Putney
“This is only the beginning,” said Marabeth Soneson, Blue Zones Project “Power 9” principles committee leader. “We need to make the blueprint a reality.” The Blue Zones Project has taken Iowa by storm, with nearly 200,000 residents signed up to participate, along with nearly 1,000 businesses and more than 111 schools. The Cedar Valley, as the first community to commit to the project, has led the way.
and aren’t eating as healthy,” said Mary Lawyer, Healthways vice president. “It’s going to take a long time to change it.”
Cedar Valley Trails Festival
major focus on healthy lifestyles at work and play places the Cedar Valley at the forefront of communities across the U.S. The region, which clusters some of the most bicycle-friendly communities anywhere, is all about fitness. Farmers markets boast an array of the best locally grown fruits and vegetables in-season, and greenhouses are popping up across the region that make a growing list of food items available to consumers year-round. The Cedar Valley’s 200 miles of bicycle trails are widely known – a June 2014 survey of area bike trails found many users came from out of the area. Golfers take on the challenges that the countless local courses offer. Ubiquitous walkers are daily sights year-round, either along the trails or, in the colder months, around indoor sanctuaries, such as Young Arena and the Cedar Valley SportsPlex in downtown Waterloo. Hardier souls can be found snowshoeing and cross-country skiing along trails in George Wyth State Park, which has 5 1/2 miles of paved multipurpose trails, which are great for biking, in-line skating and walking. These trails are linked to a 80-mile trail network within the cities of Waterloo and Cedar Falls. George Wyth also has 6 miles of grass hiking trails. In winter, sports such as cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling are also popular. Perhaps the region’s most glittering achievement in recent years is its widespread participation in the Blue Zones Project, beginning in 2012. Cedar Falls and Waterloo now are fully certified Blue Zones Communities. “This is just part of the step,” Cedar Falls Mayor Jon Crews said. The Blue Zones Project by Healthways is a series of initiatives outlined in a book by Dan Buettner that analyzed communities in the world that have the happiest, healthiest and longest-lived citizens. “It’s taken a long time for our environment to change where we aren’t moving as much
Cedar Valley Sportsplex
Photo by Matthew Putney
cities working on this. Others are looking to us to help them. We’ve been kind of the trailblazers.” There are other benefits to the community, as well. In February 2014, for example, Waterloo and Cedar Falls were recognized as national leaders in making streets safer and more convenient, according to the National Complete Streets Coalition, a program of national nonprofit Smart Growth America. The Waterloo and Cedar Falls policies tied for a rank of 14th nationwide, each scoring a total of 80 points out of 100. The assessment was based on the Complete Streets policies both communities passed in 2013, which encouraged planners and engineers to design and build streets that are safe and convenient for everyone, regardless of age, ability, income or ethnicity, and no matter how they travel.
Safe streets a part of program
kids are actually teaching parents,” she said. “You have wellness nights at schools. We’re making a whole family impact by being in schools.” It’s all about being proactive, Beach said. “By being more proactive at an earlier age, maybe these kids will start off differently and understand what is good for you,” she said. “Then, you get to the bottom line: What does it mean for a community as a whole? If I’m looking at job opportunities in different
cities across the U.S. and in Waterloo and Cedar Falls, I see the community takes an interest in being healthier, if that’s something I choose for my family, we feel it’s a piece of economic impact, being a place people want to live, play and work.” The Cedar Valley’s Blue Zones Project is getting the Cedar Valley a lot of positive attention, Beach said. “There’s a lot of watchful eyes on this,” she said. “We are actually two of the first
The National Complete Streets Coalition reviewed every policy passed in the U.S. in 2013 and scored each according to 10 elements of an ideal Complete Streets policy. City officials credited involvement in Blue Zones Project as a major factor. “Our new Complete Streets policy was adopted as part of Cedar Falls’ effort to become a Blue Zones Project Certified Community-a statewide community wellness and health program in the state of Iowa,” Cedar Falls’ Crews said. ‘But our overall intention is to help make Cedar Falls more walkable and bikeable for all our citizens.” He pointed out that the city had spent more
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than $1.2 million between 20012 and 2014 on constructing bridges, trails, bike lanes, and sidewalks to improve walking and biking. “Our projects have focused on improving safety and health of all citizens with special emphasis on elementary school children,” Crews said. In Waterloo, the city also has embraced the Blue Zones Project and “welcomed the expert assistance we have received as a Blue Zones Project demonstration site, said Waterloo City Planner Aric Schroeder. Waterloo has adopted a complete streets policy and Bicycle Master Plan. As of mid-2014, a total of 610 jurisdictions in 48 states had Complete Streets policies in place. Blue Zones Project programs even reach the pews in local houses of worship. For instance, First Congregational United Church of Christ in Waterloo completed the Blue Zones Project organization checklist early in 2014. First Congregational members demonstrated their commitment by creating a healthier environment within their organization, forming a Blue Zones Project committee. The committee participated in training with Blue Zones Project staff in order to educate other church members and walk them through the personal pledge process. These changes, as well as offering opportunities for members to improve their well-being, were made over several months late in 2013. Some of the completed pledge items include creating a walking team to promote moving naturally, offering healthy
meals and church snacks and encouraging more water consumption. The committee is working toward adding a bike rack to encourage alternative transportation, making the facility a smoke-free campus and promoting volunteer opportunities throughout the Cedar Valley and beyond.
Healthiness a team sport Two of the Blue Zones Project’s Power 9 principles are “Moving Naturally” and “Right Tribe”, surrounding oneself with people who support positive behaviors. “The tie-in is not just physical; we’re looking at the social and emotional wellbeing, as well,” Beach said. “We know if you are around the right tribe of people, it improves your well-being.” Opening of the Cedar Valley SportsPlex in downtown Waterloo in January 2014 fit perfectly with the focus on health, Beach said. “The SportsPlex is so much more than just an exercise place; it’s a place for community and involvement,” Beach said. A collaboration between the project and the SportsPlex began when Waterloo’s Leisure Services Director Paul Huting and Sports Manager Mark Gallagher worked on providing 50-percent healthy vending machine policies and concessions for youth city-sponsored events. The Waterloo City Council has adopted the healthy options resolution for city sponsored youth events. “We know there is value in this community -- the sports functions, as well as the social aspects,” Beach said. “Leisure Services and the city of Waterloo make a difference for
the entire community.” The SportsPlex is a natural venue to put Blue Zones Project habits to work, Beach said. “Since the Blue Zones Project began in the area, we have worked from Day 1 to collaborate with other organizations and businesses to make it sustainable,” she said. “We’re not telling people something new. The SportsPlex takes advantage of this to help the Blue Zones Project be sustainable. We are partnering with them to embed the Blue Zones Project into the community.” Beach said the plan is to incorporate programs at the SportsPlex focusing on nutrition education and health snacks. “Another principle is helping people develop their purpose,” she said. “We’re nudging people toward a better well-being.” Black Hawk County, which includes Waterloo and Cedar Falls, also was the first county government in Iowa to earn designation as a Blue Zones Project Worksite. The diverse scope of work performed by employees at multiple locations and limited financial resources were unique challenges the county overcame in order to implement a comprehensive wellness initiative. The courthouse, health department, sheriff’s department, conservation and Country View completed actions to improve well-being, through adding bicycle racks, walking routes and stairwell signage, healthy vending options, and a monthly wellness newsletter that provides education on chronic disease prevention, active living, healthy eating and links employees to additional wellness
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Courtesy Photo Blue Zones Project Kick-off, Downtown Waterloo
resources and community events. “Black Hawk County’s participation in the Blue Zones Project initiative is fully supported by the Board of Supervisors,” said Frank Magsamen, Black Hawk County Supervisor. “County employees are the most valued asset that we have as a county, so it is important to safeguard those assets by providing the tools that enable employees and their families to lead healthy lifestyles.” In March 2013, the Board of Supervisors passed a comprehensive employee wellness policy that described the role Black Hawk County shall assume in creating, promoting, and maintaining a supportive environment and social context for employees to make healthier personal lifestyle choices. It also established and sustains an employee-led wellness committee to communicate and oversee wellness program activities. “We want our employees to be happy, happy, happy,” said Vern Fish, executive director of the county’s conservation board. “The Blue Zones Project model provides a few simple steps to improve both our mental and physical health. If our employees incorporate these guidelines into their
daily life, they will be healthy, happy and productive employees.” The county’s support for the Blue Zones Project embraced all departments. “The sheriff office’s participation in the Blue Zones Project initiative was an easy decision,” Sheriff Tony Thompson said. “Most of our employees are already dedicated to a healthy lifestyle, and we consider it our obligation to model a manner of conduct in our daily lives to the citizens we serve. The Blue Zones Project gave us an opportunity to recognize these individual efforts and contribute to the County’s overall health and wellness improvement goals.” County employees launched a Blue Zones Project Walking Moai challenge, in which seven teams have tracked minutes walked together, logging a combined 7,010 minutes of physical activity over 10 weeks. Private employers are involved in Blue Zones Project, too. As an example, Waterloo-based Bertch Cabinet Manufacturing earned Blue Zones Project Worksite designation in 2013. Blue Zones Project Worksite designation requires employer actions to be coupled
with employee participation and enthusiasm. Working through the certification process allowed Bertch to reflect on the provisions already in place to assist employees with developing healthy work/life balances, while providing motivation and support for on-going improvements. Bertch provides a wellness center on campus for their associates. Gary and Becky Bertch built the center in 1995 to help promote healthy lifestyles, and this remains an important part of the corporate philosophy. Providing stretch-and-bend exercises during the workday was introduced in 2006 and has become part of the normal daily routine. The Bertch Wellness Center operates leagues, exercise classes, family activities, a weight room and gymnasium and hosts blood drives, 5K walk/runs and screenings to maintain healthy lifestyle for all employees. Bertch also is a pioneer in the Cedar Valley for wellness screening as it relates to healthcare premiums. Employees participate in Bravo Screening to help reduce insurance premiums.
People you can bank on. Serving the community we call home. Virtually every bank claims to be a “community bank” and many create a definition to support their banking model. At Community Bank & Trust, we believe that the definition of a true “community bank” is quite clear – and that it is based on the needs of the community and customers we serve. Each of our customers needs something different from their banking relationship. Our people have the experience and talent to build strong relationships with our customers, to understand their unique hopes, dreams, challenges and opportunities as well as they do, and to bring them decisions and solutions that help them succeed. Our local bankers are empowered to tailor products, services and decisions to their customers, fulfilling our motto of ‘People you can bank on.’ Serving the needs of our customers and the community in which we live and work by developing strong relationships and using these relationships to help our customers thrive and our community flourish, is what we do each day. Since the founding of our institution, our success has been about genuinely connecting with our customers. While the way in which we connect is ever evolving, we haven’t lost focus on making those connections significant. Whether a customer is in the bank lobby or accessing their account on their computer, smart phone or tablet, we are committed to providing the same high quality experience. Exceptional service from a “community bank” has defined us from the very beginning and will continue to be our top priority. The reinvestment into our community through charitable contributions, sponsorships and volunteerism is an expression of our longstanding belief in being
not just a business presence, but also an active participant in the community we call home. We have assembled a team of dedicated and exceptionally knowledgeable bankers and each and every one of our valued team members have helped drive our “community bank” success in the Cedar Valley. As a true “community bank”, our employees not only work to build great relationships with their customers, but also with members of our community. Our employees work very hard to serve the community by volunteering in over 40 organizations. Through strategic partnering, we have been able to increase our resources, allowing us to take advantage of the technology, products and services to advance in today’s market and serve a wider range of our customer’s needs. In addition, building relationships with our employees propels the achievement in building relationships with our customers and our
Stacey Bentley President & CEO community. This combination is a strong foundation for growth and success and will drive tangible results not only for us, but for those we serve. After all, that is what being a “community bank” is all about.
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Veteran Workforce A home for returning heroes
or veterans returning from activeduty service, coming home to the Cedar Valley takes on a deeper meaning. The metropolitan area has built a nationwide reputation for honoring its military, from both the past and present – and not just from the numerous Honor Flights that volunteers organize to enable area veterans to visit monuments that honor them in Washington, D.C. The Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum, which opened in 2010, is a monument to the past, but it also hosts regular programs designed to help returning veterans today. Veteran-focused job fairs, networking events and expos are regular fare on the Cedar Valley calendar. Both the University of Northern Iowa and Hawkeye Community College have centers dedicated to servicing the employment, educational and readjustment needs of veterans who are returning to civilian life. Indeed, a study commissioned by veterans’ advocacy groups in November 2013 ranked Waterloo-Cedar Falls fourth among small-sized metro areas across the nation for the ability of veterans to find civilian employment, according to the study commissioned by USAA and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes program. “More than 1 million service members and their families are expected to leave the armed forces over the next five years,” said Eric Eversole, executive director of Hiring Our Heroes and Navy Reserve Judge Advocate Commander. “We must remain vigilant to help these men and women find employment, and this list highlights the top places where veterans can put their skills to work.” USAA, a financial services provider focused on serving military families, and Hiring Our Heroes, commissioned Sperling’s Best Places to develop lists of small and large metro areas that offer the best job opportunities to returning veterans.
Researchers reviewed variables for 379 metro areas. Those variables include employment opportunities, overall job climate, presence of colleges and universities and access to Veterans Affairs hospitals and health resources. The report shows that area employers have been supportive of veterans in their hiring practices. Recently, UNI was selected as a militaryfriendly university by Military Advanced Education’s 2013 Guide to Military Friendly Colleges and Universities. That year, UNI opened a new Veterans Association Office of Military and Veteran Student Services on campus. One of the first missions of that office is to develop a social network for veterans on campus so they can easily find people with similar experiences and backgrounds for camaraderie and support. The university has about 300 veterans attending classes. Hawkeye Community College, based in Waterloo, also had about 300 veterans enrolled in 2014. The college hosts two job fairs for veterans each year and offers support groups and career counseling services for returning military. The veteran’s coordinator position at Hawkeye was expanded to full time in 2013. “There’s a significant number coming off active duty to pursue some education; of course, we’ve always been sensitive about the job market’s needs and employer expectations,” said Robin Knight, veteran services coordinator at Hawkeye Community College. “In that light, as veterans come to Hawkeye, I work with them to make sure they’re getting all the pieces put together to see how their military credits are going to transfer into the programs they’ll be attending.” Knight and Rachel Evans, coordinator of Hawkeye’s Career Services Center, have developed a number of veteran-specific programs, with more coming each year, Knight said. “Rachel and I have been working on things we can do to continue to provide
better services for veterans,” she said. “I think there’s a need for it.” The school also has webinars designed to help veterans translate their military experience to their resumes, Knight said. The reverent attitude toward veterans should come as no surprise, Knight said. “We’re Iowa. We are very supportive of our veterans and that complements so many other things that organizations and Hawkeye is trying to do to make sure they’re employed and getting the services they need,” she said. “I’ve heard only positive things, that there’s a recognition that they bring valuable assets to the job, the maturity, initiative and also be able to follow instructions. They can be leaders, too.” Hawkeye formally opened its new Veterans Resource Center in March 2014. “They are really excited about it; it’s kind of a USO feel,” Knight said. “We’ve got computers they can use and CAC Readers, which help them access their records. We’ve got a TV and a few games, so they can kind of decompress. There’s coffee and a microwave. That will be area where I’ll put up all kinds of resource information. They use it as a place to study.” There’s also a “peer-service specialist” who comes in once a week, and the school has regular visits from the Veterans Administration to help returning soldiers with claims or assist them in getting questions answered or paperwork started. “So, rather than going clear over to the VA office, they can just take care of things here,” Knight said. In 2014, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad announced a new effort to recruit military veterans to live and work in Iowa. “Through their service, veterans have already shown that they share our values, the values that are held dear by Iowans: hard work, leadership, patriotism, among others,” Branstad said. “These are the kind of people that we want in Iowa.” New programs tailored for veterans keep coming. In March 2014, the Cedar Valley
Photo by Tiffany Rushing Homecoming Surprise
hosted its first resource fair for military veterans, designed to help vets like Sean O’Connor find their post-service path. The 20-year-old Air Force veteran from Waterloo clutched a Hawkeye Community College flyer in his hand. After 2 1/2 years of active duty, O’Connor said he wanted to pursue a criminal justice degree and possibly join a police force -- familiar work for this former security force member on his base. “I joined right out of high school and haven’t really gotten any education except what the military gave me,” he said. He heard about the fair from a fellow veteran and came to see what it was all about. After visiting with a Hawkeye representative face to face, O’Connor had information in hand on how to pursue a civilian career. Active-duty military personnel, veterans of all eras and their families visited the Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum for the informational fair dubbed “Homefront Connections.” Its organizers, the Cedar Valley Veterans Committee, said they were planning to make it an annual event. “There are so many different service providers out there. This is a way to have them all in one spot so people can see what’s out there, what’s available,” said Julia Heuer, UNI’s military and veterans student services coordinator. “We’re really trying to help these nonprofit and government resources come together and say, this is what’s real, this is what’s out there that’s false and this is what we can help you do.” More than 30 groups, including Black Hawk County, UNI and Hawkeye, were represented. Visitors sat in on a variety of presentations suited to educate veterans on home buying, education opportunities, health and job hunting. There are other free programs available locally, too. Green Iowa AmeriCorps, for instance, offers veterans free weatherization audits which can save $50 to $350 on energy costs each year. Field of Yoga in Cedar Falls also offers free yoga classes to military veterans. Retrieving Freedom in Waverly trains service dogs for veterans and autistic children. That’s where Eric Eastman, an Iraq war veteran from Cedar Falls who volunteers with the organization, got his PTSD service dog.
133rd Infantry Homecoming Ceremony, Cedar Falls
“Paws-up,” he commanded his black lab named Trump. Trump jumped on his hind legs and hugged Eastman with his front paws, a move that quells anxiety. “It’s been night and day ever since I started working with Retrieving Freedom,” he said. “My mood, attitude and everything has kind of changed for the better. (Trump)
Photo by Brandon Pollock
doesn’t judge me if I’m having a bad day. He’s that support that’s always there.” Eastman was working on a degree in psychology at UNI early in 2014. For some veterans, like Gene Foster and Martin Kasischke of Eldora, the Homefront Connections fair was an opportunity to reunite with old friends and peruse the
Grout’s exhibits on Iowa service men and women. “I’ve always wanted to come here and see this,” Foster said, who was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge as part of U.S. Army Company B, 11th Armored Division during World War II.
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Cedar Valley life abundant in adventure
edar Valley residents embrace all seasons with gusto. Snowmobilers plying trails across the rolling hills and along roadsides are common sights in winter. Another sign of winter is the innumerable ice-fishing tents planted on the frozen ponds and lakes in the area. As soon as the snow disappears for the winter, golfers hit the links with a passion, and bicyclists try out the miles of trails that tie the rural and urban landscapes together like the ribbon on a gift package. Inside or outside, summer and winter, the Cedar Valley keeps the entertainment options coming. And, more seem to come our way each year. Every year, it seems, something new and special comes along to punctuate the long list of intriguing distractions in our area, whether it’s one of the many big-name concert tours that come through town participation in the annual RAGBRAI bicycle tour across Iowa, which comes through the Cedar Valley every couple of years, including 2014.
A lot of “fore” sight For many inside and outside the Cedar Valley, golf is their game, and our region’s numerous nine- and 18-hole golf courses are their destination. The Cedar Valley consistently ranks among Iowa’s top golfing destinations. And, why not? The area, in both its urban core and its outer fringes, is stocked with championship-caliber courses that challenge both novice and veteran. The area boasts of 18 public and private courses that attract golfers from across the region. Based on the number of courses, their quality and the low prices charged for play, Golf Magazine once called the Waterloo-Cedar Falls area one of the 65 “golfiest” places in the U.S., while Golf Digest magazine honored Waterloo in 1998 as the fourth-best city in the nation for golf. The junior golf program in Waterloo also is nationally noted. Waterloo has the Irv Warren Memorial Course at Byrnes Park, plus the Gates Park Course and South Hills, for the general public. There
also are private links open to the public at Red Carpet Golf and Metro Golf & Sports, plus the 18-hole Sunnyside Country Club course. Cedar Falls has the private Beaver Hills Country Club, which recently remodeled its clubhouse and course; and public courses adjacent to Birdsall Park at Pheasant Ridge (18 holes) and Walter’s Ridge. There’s a nine-hole course at Washington Park. There are options in the outlying area, as well, with a new 18-hole Fox Ridge Golf Course in Dike; an 18-hole Centennial Oaks Golf Club and 18-hole Waverly Municipal Golf Course in Waverly; and nine-hole courses in Hudson, Reinbeck, Fairbank and Denver. It’s not a stretch to say that more towns in our area have golf courses than don’t. In fact, the sight of residents of our area towns riding around in golf carts is not unusual. Every July since 1933, the Cedar Valley has hosted the Waterloo Open -- Iowa’s largest professional golf tournament and the state’s largest Jaycee event. “It’s a golf haven – inexpensive and courses for all levels,” said Aaron Buzza, executive director of the Waterloo Convention & Business Bureau. Cedar Falls entrepreneur Wade Arnold said accessibility of top-tier golf courses is cause for envy among his friends across the U.S. “I have friends in San Francisco who can’t wait to come here because they know they don’t have to wait hours to get a tee time,” Arnold said. Buzza pointed out that golfers from more northern climes have the opportunity to come to the Cedar Valley early in the season to play, rather than venture to some resort further south. “There’s recognition around the area that we can be a big golf destination,” Buzza said. He also said he and others whose job is to promote the Cedar Valley as a golf haven have spread the word, with positive results. “We’ve been to shows to make sure people know who we are and what we can offer golfers,” Buzza said. “There’s a certain time of year you have room availabilities and costs, but at the right time of year, you can play golf, get a room and have dinner for, sometimes, not much more than you’d play for a single round
of golf in some of the bigger communities. That’s definitely an asset we have, and people recognize us for that and travel here for that.” The recreational amenities the Cedar Valley offers only begin on the golf course, though. There are plenty of other options available to the active – or even the passive – fun seeker. The area offers a complex web of biking and hiking trails. Swimmers can find aquatic havens both large and small, both man-made and in nature. The region’s abundant rivers and streams offer outdoors enthusiasts an array of boating, fishing, canoeing and kayaking opportunities. There are even plenty of attractions for those who like to watch as much as take active parts in activities.
A new SportsPlex is here The newest addition on the Cedar Valley’s sports horizon opened in January 2014. The Cedar Valley SportsPlex has been dubbed a “crown jewel” to an ongoing Riverfront Renaissance initiative in downtown Waterloo. The new facility includes a large field house, a gymnasium with basketball courts, a walking/ running track, and both a leisure pool for family use and a 25-meter pool for competitive swimming. There are weightlifting and cardio areas, and space for racquetball, personal fitness studios, a mat room, child care, locker rooms, meeting rooms and many other amenities that will accommodate individual needs as well as youth sports opportunities. The $27 million center is a veritable centerpiece for a downtown area that has the entire region excited, and it was constructed through private funding. The SportsPlex went up on land the city had purchased in recent years for the purpose of renewal. Recognition of the importance of the project was widespread, and support came well ahead of construction. Some of the biggest early contributors to the project indicate a community spirit that has long embraced the Cedar Valley and its quality of life: McElroy Trust, $4 million; The John Deere Foundation of Moline, Ill., $3 million; The Young Family Foundation of Waterloo, $2 million; the estate of Carlton and Thelma Winter, who operated
Lost Island Water Park, Waterloo
local Ben Franklin stores for many years, $2 million. The nonprofit Waterloo Development Corp. set aside $5 million in gaming revenue. The Max and Helen Guernsey Charitable Trust gave $550,000 and an anonymous donor contributed $500,000. “There’s a tremendous amount of excitement about what it looks like, what is it, what’s going on inside, how big is it,” Dan Watters, division head of U.S. Bank in Waterloo and president of the nonprofit downtown Waterloo Development Corp., said just before the facility opened. The 140,000-square-foot complex proved early to be a strong draw to workers across downtown Waterloo and beyond, Watters said. “I think what they’ll find is a first-class facility that is more than what the community expects,” he said. Mark Gallagher, recreation services manager with the Waterloo Leisure Services department, said it’s an impressive facility. Among the first things to catch their notice is a large field turf area that can be used for a number of purposes including soccer, flag
football and indoor baseball and softball batting practice. There’s also a leisure pool with a slide, zero depth entrance with water features for younger kids, a current channel and three lanes for lap swimming. Visitors in town on business will be impressed, Gallagher said. “We really think it’s a good way to show off Waterloo,” he said. “It’s not something a lot of places in Iowa have.”
UNI provides venues The SportsPlex is only the latest in an enviable network of sports and entertainment venues in the Cedar Valley. In recent years, the University of Northern Iowa built the McLeod Center, a $26 million, 6,700-seat arena serving UNI and special events. In 2010, the McLeod was host venue for a visit by the Dalai Lama and a rare concert by rock music legend Bob Dylan. During the 2009-2010 NCAA basketball season, fans crowding into the McLeod Center got to watch one of the top men’s teams in the country play, as UNI’s Panthers made it all the
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way to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA postseason tournament. The McLeod Center also was built entirely with private donations and opened in November 2006, adjacent to the UNI-Dome, the 16,000-seat home of UNI’s perennial NCAA championship-contending football team. The UNI-Dome is the only domed stadium in Iowa. Just a few miles up the road, in Waverly, Wartburg College competes in one of the nation’s top small-college athletic facilities – the $30 million Wartburg-Waverly Sports and Wellness Center, which the college shares with the community. “The W” houses Wartburg’s indoor sports programs and provides Waverly’s first indoor swimming facilities. The natatorium offers a zero-depth entry recreation pool, water slide and six-land competitive pool. The center also includes a state-of-the-art fitness center with climbing wall; a sports arena; an auxiliary gym with jogging tracks; and a field house featuring a 200-meter competitive indoor track and space for four basketball or tennis courts.
Photo by Rick Chase George Wyth Park, Waterloo
Wartburg’s Knights teams also regularly bring competitive teams against their NCAA Division III rivals, with the college’s wrestling team having won several national championships in recent years and a women’s track-and-field title in 2005. Young Arena is the premier spectator sports venue in downtown Waterloo, serving as home arena for the Waterloo Black Hawks, who won the United State Hockey League’s Clark Cub Championship in 2005. The Black Hawks long have been a training ground for future collegiate and professional hockey stars.
Every December since 2010, Young Arena has hosted the “Battle of Waterloo,” a wrestling invitational featuring some of the top high school athletes in the region. “I think that aside from just a few internal things where you could maybe make a few changes, it couldn’t have been any better,” Buzza said of the first Battle of Waterloo. “We had a team ask, ‘How could we be included permanently? What’s it going to take for us to never lose our spot in this tournament?’ Everybody was very complimentary of everything that went on throughout the event.
We saw people all over town in their school colors. You do see that direct support for those high school teams and as they look at the future, they’re probably going to look at keeping it the same -- maybe they’ll expand.” Spectator sports continue through the warmweather months, as the Waterloo Bucks take on Northwoods League baseball rivals at refurbished Riverfront Stadium., a short distance from downtown. The Dan Gable International Wrestling Institute and Museum also is a fixture in downtown Waterloo, located just across the
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street from the SportsPlex. The museum is named for the Waterloo native who won an Olympic gold medal and an NCAA championship. Gable coached the University of Iowa’s nationally dominant wrestling team for years. For kids with interests in athletics, there are almost countless outlets for active participation, both within the school systems and in amateur leagues. The most popular is the Cedar Valley Youth Soccer Association, which oversees a 115-acre complex with 11 soccer fields, including some that are lighted. Since 2007, the Isle Casino Hotel Waterloo has brought visitors from across the area and the region. The operation has been so successful in drawing tourists and generating income for projects and programs that benefit the entire community. In accordance with state law, voters periodically go to the polls to vote on continuing the Isle and its allied enterprises. The voters repeatedly have supported renewal overwhelmingly. Buzza has noted that the Isle has been a business boon to the area. But, it has contributed in other important ways, as well. The Black Hawk County Gaming Association, the nonprofit license holder of the Isle Casino Hotel Waterloo, distributes funds through revenues the casino generates.
“Since our founding, the Black Hawk County Gaming Association has strived to fund projects that benefit the Cedar Valley,” said Beth Knipp, the association’s executive director. “From grants to fund public safety, parks, trails, recreation and sports related projects to libraries, museums and the arts revenue from the Isle casino has been used to enrich and strengthen communities across the Cedar Valley.” The association began receiving revenue from the Isle in mid-2007. In its first 61/2 years, Knipp said, the association funded or committed monies to 288 projects in a sevencounty area totaling about $29.61 million. “On average our awards represent just under one third of any project cost, so the $29 million invested in projects leveraged another $60 Million in partnering investment in new facilities, new programs or equipment,” Knipp said. About one-quarter of casino-generated funds have been directed at redevelopment of downtown Waterloo, Knipp said. “The Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum at the Grout, Phelps Youth Pavilion, the Expo exhibition site and market place, the new boathouse, improvements at Young Arena, Mark’s Park, renovations at Riverfront Stadium, the Amphitheatre and the newly
opened SportsPlex all are projects funded in part by BHCGA,” she said. “These and our other projects are impactful, sustainable and improve the quality of life in the Cedar Valley.” Grants approved by the association’s board “have strengthened the Cedar Valley, making it a better place to live,” Knipp said. “Particular emphasis has been placed towards projects that enhance public facilities; create, replace or upgrade substantial capital items; or create new opportunities where none now exist.”
Region trails no one in trails Perhaps one of the most popular recreational features of the Cedar Valley is its growing network of trails. At the confluence of several recreational trails in Peter Melendy Park in downtown Cedar Falls stands the 18-foot-by-12-foot “Gateway to the Trails” sculpture by artist Bruce White. The sculpture serves as a gathering spot for bicyclists, joggers, strollers and roller-bladers who use the popular 80-mile network of paved recreational trails that weave their way through and around city, county and state parks. The trails have been given some credit for the revitalization of downtown Cedar Falls. The Riverfront Renaissance trail to Waterloo is said to have the same allure. From Peter Melendy Park, trail enthusiasts
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Photo by Brandon Pollock Waterloo Black Hawks
can head northwest through Tourist Park – of disc golf – to Island Park, past its boathouse and the boat ramp where skiers take to the water. The trail then heads through the woods to the county’s Black Hawk Park with hiking trails, canoe and motor boat areas and campsites. In the winter, it also is a popular cross-country skiing venue. Directly north of downtown is the trek to the city’s Big Woods Lake Recreation Area, which has two boat ramps for its 65-acre man-made lake with fishing allowed. The lake abuts a 10acre natural prairie. Going south transports trail users into picturesque George Wyth State Park, a National Urban Wildlife Sanctuary with fishing, swimming, camping, picnicking, hiking, boating and playground equipment. In the winter, it’s a cross-country skiing and snowmobiling haven. The park has boating access at East Lake (120 acres, power boating), George Wyth Lake (75 acres, no-wake lake with handicap-accessible fishing pier), Fisher Lake (40-acre natural lake), Alice Wyth Lake (60 acres, electric motors only) and the Cedar River. Sailboating and windsurfing are popular in the park. As part of a six-mile loop, the Riverside Trail crosses over the Cedar River on the majestic Krieg’s Crossing bridge (for non-motorized traffic only) and passes Pfeiffer Spring’s Park – ball diamonds, basketball court and play equipment – en route to Hartman Reserve Nature Center, a 288-acre undisturbed natural area for deer and other wildlife with an osprey nesting area.
Hartman Reserve has a series of ponds, vernal depressions, a small remnant prairie, an open meadow and the largest tract of upland forest in the county. An interpretive center is perched on a bluff above the Cedar River and houses displays and exhibits to help explain the local flora and fauna. If bicyclists choose to go through Pfeiffer Park, they can make their way to the Prairie Lakes Park, which has two lakes, a handicapped fishing dock, nature trail and passive areas with wetlands and prairie grasses. It’s also home of the Cedar Falls Visitors and Tourism Center. The trail through Cedar Falls took on a major safety feature in 2013, when the city built a picturesque bicycle-pedestrian overpass over Iowa Highway 58 between Greenhill and Viking roads. At the suggestion of former city staffer and mayoral candidate Judi Cutler, it was named the Mayors Bridge, in honor of current Mayor Jon Crews and former mayors Doug Sharp and Ed Stachovic. All of them held office during the massive reconstruction of the Waterloo-Cedar Falls metropolitan highway system over the past 30 years, which boosted the metro economy. That stretch of Highway 58 was the scene of 10 fatal accidents and 13 deaths between 1994-2005. Some of the accidents involved pedestrians or bicyclists. The bridge, was a move to address that, in addition to providing an aesthetically pleasing addition to the metro recreational trails system. The project was part of a nearly $2.9 million initiative to create safer pedestrian and bicycle routes in southern Cedar Falls. An underpass beneath Greenhill Road in Cedar Falls, completed earlier, was part of
the same work as was a series of new trail connections and improvements to adjacent neighborhoods. “Something that was just a theory, something that was just a hope, is now in completion,” Sharp said at the bridge dedication. Trail segments also head into Waterloo and go along U.S. Highway 63 to Hudson. Evansdale is the jumping-off point for the 60-mile Cedar Valley Nature Trail link to the Cedar Rapids metropolitan area. The Cedar Valley network is part of the American Discovery Trail stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans. The Prairie Pathways project has posted a network of signs on routes in Waterloo, Cedar Falls, Hudson and Evansdale that tell the history of specific sites. Waverly’s Rail Trail is a converted stretch of railway that goes through downtown to the Cedar River in the north end, while traversing the countryside on the south to just above Denver, where it connects with the city’s trail. In Butler Country, bicyclists have their choice of 5-mile trails -- the Butler County Nature Trail and the Rolling Prairie Trail, both starting on different ends of Clarksville. The Rolling Prairie Trail is paved; the Butler Country Nature Trail is not. Grundy County also boasts a paved trail system, connecting Reinbeck and Grundy Center, 11-miles to the west. In Fayette, County, a 5,500-acre area has been set aside to provide for a recreational trail linking Fayette with the Volga River Recreation area in Fayette County. The area offers boating, fishing, hiking, cross-country skiing, equestrian trails and campgrounds.
Photo by Tiffany Rushing
The trail area includes 35 feet of right of way through hilly terrain that rises to a point offering a 360-degree view to the horizon. It passes through a savanna where 75 to 100 species of plant life were seeded into what had been a cow pasture for many years.
The Cedar Valley is known for the amenities in its scores of public parks, large and small. Byrnes Park in west Waterloo and Gates Park in east Waterloo both boast 18-hole golf courses, swimming pools, playgrounds and ball areas. South Hills has the third municipal golf course in Waterloo. Cedar River/Exchange Park is the home of Riverfront Stadium, where the Bucks play, a women’s softball complex, a disc golf course, boat ramp, football field, sand volleyball and a skateboard park. The wide-ranging Katoski Greenbelt along the Black Hawk Creek is popular for trails and prairie reconstruction. The Riverview Recreation Area on the Cedar River offers fishing, all-terrain vehicle trails and motocross areas and hiking. Some of the best softball in the state is played at Waterloo’s Hone-Rice Softball Complex men’s softball complex. In addition, Waterloo has more than 20 other
Accel Triathlon, George Wyth Park
Endless menu of outdoor venues
neighborhood parks larger than two acres with playground and picnic facilities. Cedar Falls takes great pride in its recreation center with two gyms, an indoor track, stateof-the-art exercise equipment and racquetball courts. Gateway Park, on the Cedar River near downtown, has an outdoor ice and roller blade facility. Nearby Island Park has boat ramps and four playground areas and three sand volleyball courts. Across the street is Tourist Park with its 18-hole disc golf course. Birdsall Park in west Cedar Falls boasts
lighted softball diamonds. Across the street is the Robinson-Dreser Sports Complex, owned by the Cedar Falls Community school District, with ball diamonds, tennis courts and a soccer field. The school district also opens its 25-meter indoor pools at Holmes and Peet junior high schools to the public when school is not in session. Besides Black Hawk Park in northern Cedar Falls, the county parks system includes Hickory Hills Park, 2 miles south of Waterloo, with hiking and mountain bike trails, lake
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Photo by Brandon Pollock Snowshoeing at Hartman Reserve
access and camping facilities. Winter activities include cross-country skiing, sledding and ice fishing. McFarlane Park, east of la Porte City, has trails, campsites and access to the Cedar River, as well as cross-country skiing. Thunder Woman Park, south of Janesville, has trails, ice fishing and river and pond access. Washington Union Access northwest of Cedar Falls has trails, river access, camping and cross-country skiing. “We’re known for camping, hunting, boating, fishing, and we’re starting to be more recognized with bicycling,” Buzza said. “We have a bike trail system that’s relatively unique for its size. It’s a loop system, which means you’re not going to see the same thing twice and you don’t have to worry about getting back to where you started from by using nontrails. You get the downtown experience; you get the along-the-river experience; you get the through-the-woods experience at George Wyth and through great parts of the community and this area along that trail system. People are recognizing for that and know they can park their car, stay at their hotel and bicycle for the entire weekend and oftentimes not hit the same piece of pavement twice.”
Making a splash Take your choice between large and small slide rides. The ever-expanding Lost Island Adventurepark has major water slides and rides – along with two challenging miniature golf courses and a go-cart track – that draw visitors from across Iowa and neighboring states. Lost
Island went through its latest expansion in the summer of 2010. Los Island is open from June through August. For a scaled-down version of water-park thrills, the $6.2 million Cedar Falls Aquatic Center, which opened in 2006, has three water slides, a lazy river, lap pool, zero-depth entry and spray features. You can take to the water in kayaks and canoes across the Cedar Valley. Besides the aforementioned parks, Cedar Falls has a downtown kayak run, and Waterloo has a Riverfront Renaissance Course. Waterloo also uses an inflatable dam to elevate the downtown Cedar River Dam to restore upstream recreational boating. The Butler County Shell Rock Recreational Area west of the city hear the Ray and Marie Mason Memorial Lake and Henry Woods State Park in Clarksville both are popular kayaking and canoeing spots. The Wapsipinicon River from Independence to Quasqueton is renowned as a nice, easy ride for families, with two-hour and six-hour trips.
Full calendar of annual events The Cedar Valley has a wide-ranging annual fare of events. The Fourth Street Cruise in downtown Waterloo is a nostalgic flashback featuring more than 500 classic cars. An evening sock hop at the National Cattle Congress grounds follows. My Waterloo Days offers a citywide postMemorial Day festival of fun for all ages, with hot air balloons, parade, fireworks, cultural village and top-notch musical entertainment.
In late June, crowds gather for the Strugis Falls Celebration and Cedar Basin Jazz Festival at Overman Park, Island Park and Tourist Park in Cedar Falls. Free concerts offer jazz, country, rock-and-roll and the blues. There are carnival rides, entertainment and activities for children of all ages. Cities, towns and counties across the Cedar Valley area offer similar experiences at annual fairs and festivals throughout the summer months. In mid-July, the College Hill Arts Festival showcases juried original works of Midwest artists and demonstrations in various media. Waverly Heritage Days has food, games, concerts, a parade, fireworks and other events. In early August, the Cedar Trails Festival features an array of bike rides, including a candlelit night excursion. The National Cattle Congress Exposition in Waterloo in September is a four-day fair with carnival rides, midway, livestock shows, PRCA rodeo and exhibits. The Cattle Congress grounds also serve as venue for an annual two-cylinder tractor expo, which draws enthusiasts from across the country and beyond. In November, the Festival of Trees at Gallagher-Bluedorn Performing Arts Center features an enchanting display of decorated trees, wreaths and other holiday exhibits. Downtown Lights for Night and Downtown Unwrapped brighten the holidays in Waterloo with a lighted parade, Santa and holiday specials provided by downtown merchants. In December, the Grout Museum District has a night of holiday festivities, including
hose-drawn trolley ride or a candlelight walk through the museum district with activities at the various stops. The Historical Society Christmas Walk in Overman Park in Cedar Falls features several historical buildings, all decorated for the holidays, with free tours and special activities. A special December treat is Waverly’s Christmas Greetings on Main – as seen on the Arts & Entertainment cable network. Thousands of white lights hug street lamps, dance off ornate decorations on downtown storefronts, while luminarias light the way along Bremer Avenue. The show, though, is inside the windows. Penguins dance in the windows, Santa gives hugs and store displays literally come alive in scenes described as if falling out of a Christmas snow globe. For Denver’s Festival of Trees, civic organizations decorate trees downtown and businesses transform storefronts into oldfashioned holiday scenes.
Hotspot for wintertime activities
The tourism offices in both Waterloo and Cedar Falls have taken note of the wintertime activities available in the Cedar Valley and are actively promoting “Vacation in the Valley,” with the cooperation of area hotels.
“We want to make sure people know that while there are some activities that are summer-based, we have wintertime activities, too,” Buzza of the Waterloo Conventional & Visitors Bureau said. “Trails work for crosscountry skiing and walking and snowshoeing. We’ve got the Black Hawks and museums are there. We have spectator sports. And there’s a wide variety of music and theater that we offer.” There are plenty of activities to keep residents and visitors busy across the Cedar Valley all year, Buzza said. “I hear from friends in Minneapolis or Chicago or St. Louis or Minneapolis that they can’t find things to do,” he said. “If we’re hearing that from people in bigger cities, we certainly have a leg up on them because we can find things to do. We help people find things to do, and you’re only 15 minutes away from whatever it is to do, whether it’s a rock band playing or some other event. We’re in a compact area and you don’t have to sit in rush-hour traffic in doing whatever you want to do.” For entertainment, there likely is no better variety available that what is found regularly in the Cedar Valley. Every weekend, local and regional acts compete for time at one of the several venues in Waterloo and Cedar Falls, and every couple
of weeks, national acts compete for attention, too. Country music star Luke Bryant kicked off 2014 with a concert at the McLeod Center. Cedar Valley residents had a rare treat in 2013, when actor Gary Sinise’s Lt. Dan Band put on a show during Cedar Falls’ annual Sturgis Falls Festival to benefit area resident Taylor Morris, who lost portions of all four limbs in a May 2012 bomb blast while serving with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan. The benefit show, which 2,000 people attended, raised $95,000. All this close to home No matter what you’re into, organizers and venue operators say you’re likely to find it without having to drive for hours. At the Gallagher-Bluedorn Performing Arts Center in Cedar Falls, booking first-run Broadway shows and attracting big-name artists and concerts is the name of the game. “Success breeds success,” executive director Steve Carignan said, talking about the consistently top-draw shows at the GallagherBluedorn. “I think we do diverse presentations; we have lots of audiences,” Carnigan said. “We’re not just playing to one crowd, which you have to do in a smaller market.”
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those things for the future that you can feel pretty good about.” The presence of the museum likely has led to numerous key wrestling competitions coming to Waterloo and Cedar Falls on a regular basis, Gable said. “Quite a few events have come in,” he said. “You get kids’ nationals in every year, and it’s very good for the community, very good for the economy.” Gable said the Cedar Valley is an appropriate home to Iowa – and national – wrestling competition. “I think we have a lot of great people that I know and can go to and can help and point you in the right directions,” he said. “But there’s also a variety of people and interests, and everyone has a chance to fit right in. You’ve got tough people, hard workers. You’ve got John Deere as a glue.” Gable got started with wrestling at a young age and developed his skills at the YMCA, among other venues. He accomplished much through wrestling, but he is quick to credit others for helping him to succeed. He said the same spirit thrives in the Cedar Valley today. “It’s not just one name or two names, when people flourish; it’s a team effort,” he said, drawing a comparison with wrestling. “We have to have outstanding individuals to make commitments to the total community,” Gable said. “If we do that over time, we’ll be stronger. I do feel I see some of that happening now.”
Photo by Rick Chase
alk wrestling in Iowa – a popular topic – and the name Dan Gable inevitably will pop up. Gable, who was born in Waterloo in 1948 and grew up learning and mastering the sport in and around the city, is synonymous with wrestling in the Cedar Valley. The National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Dan Gable Wrestling Museum in downtown Waterloo punctuate the point. Gable won three individual state wrestling titles at West Waterloo (1964-66) – never losing a match during that time. At Iowa State University, he won two individual NCAA titles and had a 117-1 record. He won the Olympic gold medal in 1972 without allowing a point to his opponents. He went on to coach the University of Iowa to 15 NCAA championships and 21 consecutive Big 10 titles. “Dan Gable embodies commitment, perseverance and dedication --- values that are the foundation of the great state of Iowa and its people,” Iowa Gov. Branstad said when he proclaimed Oct. 25, 2012 “Dan Gable Day” across the state. In 2013, a bronze statue for of Gable was unveiled outside Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City. Gable says he owes all he has to his Waterloo upbringing and regularly visits his hometown. “When you’re born in Waterloo in 1948, by the time you came of wrestling age -- which means the time you can stand up -- you start wrestling,” Gable said. Gable credits numerous family friends, coaches and others who steered him along his wrestling path. Passion for the sport runs deep in the Cedar Valley, Gable said. “It’s like Iowa feeds the world and we can wrestle, and the Waterloo area is central developmental part of that product and continues to be,” Gable said. The wrestling museum is in a strategically important location, across the street from the city’s new Cedar Valley SportsPlex, Gable noted. ”The two together can coordinate different activities; they can push off on us and us on them,” Gable said. “It’s one of
Gable Museum, Waterloo
Grapple guy: Waterloo native becomes face of wrestling
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Dan Gable on Sports
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Photo by Matthew Putney Taylor Morris
Taylor Morris 86
Taylor was a Navy explosive ordnance disposal expert who lost portions of all four limbs in a bomb blast in Afghanistan. He and his longtime girlfriend Danielle Kelly plan to make the Cedar Valley their permanent home.