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“Unlocking Opportunities” is a fitting t “Unlocking Opportunities” is a fitting title for the Courier’s 2013 progress report o for the Courier’s 2013 progress report on the state of the economy and the vitalit the state of the economy and the vitality of our community. In the following pages, our community. In the following pages, we will tell the story through pictures, feat will tell the story through pictures, features and advertisements. and advertisements.



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“Unlocking Opportunities” is a fitting title Business leaders across the Cedar Vall for the Courier’sleaders 2013 progress on Business acrossreport the Cedar Valley indicated the local of economy has “weath the state of the economy and the vitality indicated the local economy has “weathered the storm” is resilient to what we’ve on the title national “Unlocking is our and community. In theOpportunities” following pages,seen wea fitting the storm” andEvery is resilient toCourier what we’ve seen ondive” the national year The takes a “deep into economic front. Despite the uncertainty with health will tell for the story through pictures, features the Courier’s 2013 progress report care on reform economic front. Despite the uncertainty health care reform, the how the and community is doing inwith aneconomy annual advertisements. tightened regulatory environment andprogress aand struggling world the state of the the vitality of econo tightened regulatory environment and aonstruggling world economy, edition. This year we focused education, manufacthe Cedar Valley business climate maintains a strong footing. our community. In the following pages, we the Cedar Valley business climate a strong footing. Business leaders Cedar Valley turing and growth with maintains aacross specialthe report titled “Future will tell the story through pictures, features Vision.” indicated the local economy has “weathered The Courier focused on three areas for this special report. “Key and advertisements. the storm” and is resilient what we’ve seen the national This special report provides the community a snapThe Courier focused ontothree areas for on this special report. “Key to Success” looked at programs such asreform, the Skilled economic front. Despite the uncertainty withValley health care the Iowa Initiative shot of how well the Cedar is doing and where Success” looked at programs such as the Skilled Iowa Initiative launched by Gov. Terry Branstad. Weeconomy, also highlighted rural tightened regulatory environment and a struggling world Business leaders across thethe Cedar we see ourselves positioned for the future. In fol- Valley launched by Gov. Terry Branstad. We also highlighted rural the Cedar Valley business climate maintains a strong footing. counties that we are seeking highly skilled employees and educatio indicated the local economy has “weathered lowing pages, will tell the story through pictures,

counties that are seeking highly skilled employees and educational that to are leading the wayoninthe training future workers the storm”institutions and is resilient what we’ve seen national features and advertisements. institutions that are leading in training The Courier focused on three areasthe for way this special report.future “Key toworkers. Recently I heard leader state that many commueconomic front. Despite theauncertainty with health care reform, the Success” looked at programs such as the Skilled Iowa Initiative Innovation is another key to development, our Cedar Valley success as John nities are focused on economic but tightened regulatory environment and a struggling world economy, launched by Gov. Terry Branstad. highlighted rural Innovation is another key to We ouralso Cedar Valley success as John the communities that focus on workforce development AND economic Deere, Rydell Chevrolet, Blackhawk and Kryton the Cedar Valley business climate maintains a Engineering strong footing. counties are seeking highly skilled employees and educational Deere, that Rydell Chevrolet, Blackhawk Engineering and development willthat beEngineered those communities will be a successful andKryton grow Metals, name few, workers. expand and continue to lead institutions are leading the waythat intotraining future Metals, to name a few, expand and continue to lead in in theEngineered future. their specific economic community is clearly div The Courier focused on industries. three areasOur for this special report. “Key to their specific industries. OurCedar economic community is clearly diverse. In the focus of education, wetodetail how educators and businesses Innovation is another key our Valley success as John Success” looked at programs such as the Skilled Iowa Initiative across the Cedar are working together to haveand better educated Deere, RydellValley Chevrolet, Blackhawk Engineering Kryton The “Key to Landscape” wasalso the third area ofrural interest in our launched by Gov. Terry Branstad. We highlighted students that will develop into a skilled workforce. The “Key Metals, to Landscape” third area of interest Engineered to name awas few,the expand and continue lead in our progress report as we looked howtoour downtown areas have counties that are seeking highly skilledat employees and educational A second partreport ofindustries. our “Future Vision” a focus onismanufacturing. their specific economic community clearly areas diverse.have progress as weOur looked atwas how our downtown changed and how our industrial parks future and riverfronts are thriv institutions that are leading the way in training workers. The Cedar Valley hashow seenour significant growth at John area medical changed and industrial parks and Deere, riverfronts are thriving.

The “Key Landscape” was theThe third area of interest in Deere’s our providers andto local entrepreneurs. completion of John $150 Yes, the Cedar Valley has hadValley the to success. As we continu progress report asiswe looked at how our downtown areas have Innovation another key to ourbut Cedar success as John million foundry modernization led the way, several keykeys projects Yes, the Cedar Valley has had the keys to success. As wewere continue to changed how our industrial parks riverfronts are thriving. grow, we clearly haveand unlocked opportunities for the Cedar Vall Deere, Rydell Chevrolet, Blackhawk Engineering and Kryton important as and well.

grow, we clearly have unlocked opportunities for the Cedar Valley.

The final focus of this special to report centered the growth of busi- to lead in Engineered Metals, name a few, on expand and continue the Cedar Valley hasstaff had the keys to success. As we continue to Courier members have done a tremendous jobdiverse. developing ness,Yes, housing and downtown areas. More and more people and their specific industries. Our economic communitybusiis clearly grow, we clearly have unlocked opportunities for the Cedar Valley. Courier staff members have done a tremendous job developing nesses are once again attracted to the center of the cities close to restauthis publication. We are confident you will be impressed with th publication. We best are confident you will be impressed with the rants,this work, and one of our assets, the Cedar River. business climate the Cedar Valley. We have great story to te The “Key to Landscape” was the third area of interest inaour Courier staff members have done a of tremendous job developing business climate of thedone Cedar Valley. Wejob have a great story Courier staff members have a tremendous developing this to tell the world! report asconfident we looked how our downtown areas have this progress publication. We are youat will be impressed with the the world! publication, and we are confident you will be impressed with the business business climate of how the Cedar Valley. We have a great to tell are thriving. changed and our industrial parks and story riverfronts climate the future vision of the Cedar Valley! theand world!

Yes, the Cedar Valley has had the keys to success. As we continue to grow, we clearly have unlocked opportunities for the Cedar Valley. Courier staff members have done a tremendous job developing David Braton this publication. We are confident you will be impressed with the David Braton David Braton Publisher David Braton business climate of the Cedar Valley. We have a great story to tell Publisher Publisher Publisher the world!

Progress is a publication of Progress is a publication of

Progress is a publication of

is published yearlyCommunications by Courier Communications and may ProgressProgress is published yearly by Courier and may Progress be is published yearly byat: Courier Communications may be contacted 100 .O. Boxand 540, Waterloo IA 50704. contacted at: 100 Fourth St., PFourth .O. Box St., 540,PWaterloo IA 50704. be contacted at: Copyright, 100 FourthProgress, St., PAll .O.rights Box 540, IA 50704. Copyright, Progress, 2013. reserved. Reproduction orReproduction use 2013. AllWaterloo rights reserved. or use editorial graphicAll content without permission is prohibited. Copyright,ofProgress, 2013. rights reserved. Reproduction or useis prohibited. of or editorial or graphic content without permission of editorial or graphic content without permission is prohibited. David PROGRESS 2013



Braton Publisher


Progress is a publication of

5 • 5 •


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Contents C e d a r Va l l e y P ro g re s s 2 0 1 4

Brian O’Regan, page 9 Sportsplex, page 32

John Deere, page 16


Focus on education



Focus on manufacturing


Focus on growth




Bridging the Educators, business sector want ANDREW WIND I MACKENZIE ELMER I


W The Rev. Abraham Funchess Jr. with 21st Century Task Force

Andy Pattee Cedar Falls Superintendent

Randy Pilkington executive director of University of Northern Iowa business and community services


ATERLOO — Employers have long recognized the importance of an educated workforce. But educational institutions have not always been in tune with the needs of business and industry. That is beginning to change. Fourteen educators and community members from Cedar Valley school districts and post-secondary institutions peered into the future of their institutions during a roundtable discussion. Waterloo Community Schools Superintendent Gary Norris acknowledged a sense of disconnect between the education and business worlds. “We have some very well-prepared students, but there’s misalignment with the exact skills that certain industries or businesses want.” He cited data from a fall Adecco Staffing survey of 500 top corporate executives, 92 percent of who believe there is a serious gap in workforce skills. It’s not only in technical skills that American graduates come up short, though. Forty-four percent of the respondents said workers lack soft skills like communication, critical thinking and group work. Only 22 percent saw a lack of technical skills as the reason for the skills gap. “That was eye opening to me,” said Norris. “We have to make sure that we engage our kids but that we (also) help give them as many of the soft skills that they need.” Randy Pilkington, executive director of business and community services at the University of

Northern Iowa, confirmed that companies are now paying close attention to what’s happening in schools. But though the skills gap is of real concern, he said businesses also want employees who are innovative. “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 to the plate, 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 Hawkeye.

More options

Administrators agreed just capturing student’s attention is a major problem in education. “I would say, charitably, that 50 percent of the high school kids in America are really engaged in a daily lesson,” Norris suggested. “In Waterloo, we’re going to keep on task for raising student achievement, but we also see a need to engage young people in different ways.” He said the district hopes to make “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 the 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 post-secondary 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. Stephanie TeKippe, assistant dean for academic affairs at the private Wartburg College in Waverly, warned that higher education should still be in the position of providing students a broad knowledge base. “We won’t know what students need five years from now,” she said, “so our goal is to offer experiential learning (and) di-


e skills gap better-prepared students PHOTOS BY

MATTHEW PUTNEY I Courier Photo Editor

verse backgrounds. So students are not just getting courses in history, but they also get chemistry.” The Rev. Abraham Funchess, director of the Waterloo Commission on Human Rights and a member of the school district’s 21st Century High School Task Force, pointed out “significant disengagement, particularly for black and brown kids” who have a single parent or a parent incarcerated or face issues such as domestic violence or substance abuse. “We need to find some kind of educational model that will, in fact, reach even those kids in a way that will tickle their imagination and get them really involved,” he said. The task force is working on recommendations for major changes in how the Waterloo district educates high school students. 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 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. 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.”

Let students learn

James Hoelscher, a member of Gov. Terry Branstad’s STEM Advisory Council, went one step further by suggesting teachers should “step aside” and let students work through technology challenges on their own. “It’s just creating that problem environment, giving them a little leeway and setting them loose,” he said. That way, he said, teachers are creating a business-like environment, where student innovators could explore their interests beyond the classroom curriculum. “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. “We have about 75 percent of our students graduating with college credit,” added 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.”

The Rev. Brent Cantrell 21st Century Task Force

Linda Allen Hawkeye Community College president

William Ruud president of the University of Northern Iowa

James Hoelscher STEM advisory council at UNI

Dwight Watson dean of the College of Education at UNI

Jessica Miller parent, 21st Century Task Force member


FOCUS ON EDUCATION Norris said Waterloo has also built good relationships with Hawkeye and UNI, who have been excellent partners. “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 Gary Norris cited data system. from a fall Adecco “What I’m seeing now is a better alignment beStaffing survey of 500 top tween higher education corporate executives, 92 and K-12 with regard to percent of who believe resources, curriculum, there is a serious gap in working to help students workforce skills. It’s not set those career goals early and have resources and only in technical skills that opportunities in cue for American graduates come them,” Allen said. up short, though. Waterloo’s task force Forty-four percent of is looking at further bolthe respondents said stering those post-secondary relationships workers lack soft skills like plus strengthening partcommunication, critical nerships with business thinking and group work. and industry. Among the Only 22 percent saw a lack ways task force memof technical skills as the bers saw other schools doing that in visits they reason for the skills gap. made around the country was by getting businesses directly involved in training students through apprenticeships.

Creating opportunities

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 “competency-based 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. That’s where the apprenticeship comes in,” he said. “Now what they need is that work-based experience.”


Dan Conrad director of secondary education at Cedar Falls Schools

Anthony Voss Hudson Schools superintendent

Jane Lindaman associate superintendent and superintendent designate of Waterloo Schools

Gary Norris

Waterloo Schools superintendent

Stephanie TeKippe assistant dean for academic affairs at Wartburg College PROGRESS 2014

Focus on Education

UNI eyes technical bachelor’s degree program Liberal arts core would build leadership skills for skilled technicians, tradesmen. MacKENZIE ELMER ​‌


his is the story of a classic Iowa farm boy, whose curiosity and can-do attitude might one day land him a spot in upper-management or his own business. All he wants is a bachelor’s degree. Decorah-born Brian O’Regan, 18, is studying welding and computer numerical controlled machining and technology at Hawkeye Community College in Cedar Falls. “I can turn a piece of metal into just about anything,” O’Regan said. Growing up, town was a half-hour drive from the family cattle farm, so it was a hassle to order replacement parts for broken equipment. Instead, O’Regan started fixing things himself, thus discovering his true vocation. He started a two-year program to get an associates of applied sciences degree, spending about 50 hours a week between the classroom and machine shop perfecting his art. He’s so anxious to finish, O’Regan enrolled in 19 credits his first semester; 12 is the minimum to qualify as a full-time student. “I like to stay after class and spend more time with the machine,” he said. “I’m constantly challenging myself to be a better person and make myself more valuable to an employer by letting them know I’ve learned something each day.” A man of his ambition and natural drive is reaching for the top, but O’Regan said good bosses first learn their trade and work from the bottom up. So, he’s shooting for a bachelor’s degree. In his mind that would set him apart. “Employers will understand that, hey, this guy is working hard and is getting where he wants to be,” he said. But there hasn’t been a clear path into a liberal arts program for students like O’Regan. His coursework is confined to a technical trade and the college credit he earns may not properly align with a traditional bachelor program, which requires more arts, social sciences and core skills like writing and quantitative reasoning. “We have wonderful articulation agreements with the (Iowa Board of Regents) on the liberal arts side,” said Jane Bradley, vice president of academic affairs at Hawkeye. The regents are the governing board for the state’s public universities. “But when you look at applied sciences, those skill-driven types of programs, that has not typically been something in which the regents institutions have been highly engaged.” Since the 1960s, community colleges have traditionally been centers for training the welders, CNC and heavy equipment operators in the country. But, over time, a four-year degree has become a mark of distinction within company hierarchy. Bradley said a liberal arts background can help an employee learn “to be a leader, build confidence and learn organizational skills.” It raises a hot topic in the world of higher education right now: What value lies in a bachelor’s degree? On average, an individual with a bachelor’s degree earns 35 percent more than a person with an associate’s degree and 46 percent more than a person with some college or no degree, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “The complexity of the technology in some of these business is growing, so their expectations of their employees are growing as well,” Bradley said. “A bachelor’s degree gets people in the door.” PROGRESS 2014


The new president of the University of Northern Iowa wants to develop a degree program for students like O’Regan called the bachelor’s of applied sciences. UNI is asking the Legislature for $3 million over the next three years to hire faculty and develop curriculum. If the Legislature funds the program at that level, about 160 community college graduates could apply. Ruud brought the idea from his previous tenure at the University of Toledo in Ohio, where a community college functioned as part of the university.

The model is reversed. In typical college degrees you get your liberal arts core first and your technical expertise second. A BAS program is the other way around. ... I become a welder first, and then I get my supervisory, leadership and liberal arts core second.” — Bill Ruud UNI president “The model is reversed. In typical college degrees you get your liberal arts core first and your technical expertise second,” he said. “A BAS program is the other way around. ... I become a welder first, and then I get my supervisory, leadership and liberal arts core second.” According to an outline of the program provided to the Board of Regents in September, the program would provide leadership, communication and critical thinking skills for students with some college education. More than 540,000 Iowans have some college credit but no bachelor’s degree, the board reported. Ruud said he hasn’t decided which courses would be offered yet, but the program would most likely be tailored to those studying advanced manufacturing, computers or health care. “A lot of companies want people to go beyond being welders and automotive technicians. They want them to be a partner in the company, to be team leaders and supervisors,” said Ruud. The BAS would be what Ruud called a “parallel track” or “stackable” degree program, allowing students to drop in and out of education and their jobs and provide smoother transitions for technical students to complete their bachelor’s. The program could be a cost-savings for students who might otherwise be forced to retake courses or enroll in classes that don’t serve their career interest. “College is an investment. You may lose working years by having to go back and complete courses,” Bradley said. O’Regan said he needs that bachelor’s degree to master the elements of business he can’t get from his technical program. Even with just a semester under his belt, he must carefully select his course load, taking credits that would likely transfer to a university in the future. “You definitely need to be motivated to do both of these majors at the same time,” he said. “And if UNI were able to offer me the capability of continuing my education and going into upper-management, that would be great.”


Focus on Education

Proving its mettle

Metal Casting Center celebrates 25th year of hot research at UNI MIKE ANDERSON‌


and government industries along with a small allowance from the Department of Economic Development. This kind of arrangement is a double-edged sword in Thiel’s view. While being untethered to the university’s general fund makes for an unpredictable budgetary situation, the result can also be liberating. “I think it’s made us very aggressive in our work attitudes and methods,” Thiel said. “We’re not waiting around for funding to arrive. We’re going out there and seeking funding.”

ehind the sheer spectacle of flying sparks and molten steel at the University of Northern Iowa Metal Casting Center lies one of the best equipped and most influential metalwork facilities in the world. For the last 25 years, the UNI Metal Casting Center has been providing state-of-the-industry research to state, federal and private organizations, all while affording students a unique opportunity to gain experience in an applied scientific field. “We have the highest-ranking metal casting academic program in North America,” said Jerry Thiel, director of the metal casting center. “There is no other program like this in the U.S.” A not-for-profit organization, the center boasts $10 million worth of equipment, mostly donated, sprawled across 7,500 square feet of floor space in its facility abutting the UNI Industrial Technology building. About 5,000 square feet is devoted to the center’s hot metals laboratory. The rest is occupied by three other laboratories that house state-ofthe art sand- and materials-testMATTHEW PUTNEY / Courier Photo Editor ing equipment. University of Northern Iowa students, from left, Nathaniel Bryant, Bo Wallace, Edgar Guzman and Kyle Patterson Most notable perhaps is one of pour a brass step cone at UNI’s Metal Casting Center in Cedar Falls. the center’s more recent acquisitions, the largest 3D printer in North America. The 12,000-pound maThough it collects fees for service, UNI’s center is not in the business of chine, currently housed at Cedar Valley TechWorks in downtown Wamanufacturing actual products. The emphasis is on research and develterloo, will help create three dimensional molds for metal casting. The opment, Thiel said, on testing technologies, materials, and processes for printer is capable of creating casting models with a volume of 13 cubic the betterment of the metal casting industry as a whole. feet. To that end, the center has produced several technological innovations “For the students getting to work with cutting edge technology, there’s over the years, according to Thiel. Some of the assembled gear used for just no equal,” Thiel said. testing chemical and thermal properties is unique to UNI, created from According to Thiel, 90 percent of all manufactured durable goods and the ground up over the years by workers and students at the center. 100 percent of all manufacturing machinery contains metal castings of One standout invention produced at the center for the federal governthe type produced at the center. Casting refers to the process of forming ment is a new kind of bio-based agent for binding metallic materials. metal components by pouring molten materials into molds, which are Most such binders are developed from petro-chemicals. typically made of bonded sand composites. “We developed an agricultural alternative,” Thiel said. “And that was “Metal casting continues to be the most versatile metal forming methusing carbon nano-particles.” od that we know of today,” Thiel said. That’s just one example of the kind of research conducted by the workEstablished in 1984, the metal casting center came into its own when ers at the center. its building was finished in 1989 with funding from the Iowa Lottery Including Thiel, the center has three full-time employees, with up to and matching university funds. With an average annual budget of about 15 part-time undergraduate employees who work on a variety of indus$350,000, none of the center’s money comes from the university’s gentrial and federal research projects. Any student can work at the center’s eral fund. The center is instead self-funded via service fees from private »continued on page 31 10





Early talent program a pathway to Deere career MACKENZIE ELMER


ndrew Sorenson, 18, is only a freshman in college, but he’s on track to securing a job when he finishes school, thanks to a John Deere program that selects promising students to try their hand in the company. The former Cedar Falls High School student was one of 10 selected to participate in the John Deere Early Talent program. Students have the opportunity to work for Deere each summer until they graduate from college with a four-year degree in science, technology, engineering or math. Sorenson spent last summer learning about the complexities of corporate communication while working on his first project, organizing 3,000 surplus parts in a warehouse. He conducted inventory and provided parts when sections of the factory were out or missing stock. “It was kind of overwhelming. I had to walk a half mile through the factory to get to the office,” he recalled. “I think it’s great for him to have done that right away,” said Gordie Sorenson, Andrew’s father. He’s a partner of Sorenson Development, a We have made it construction firm in the Cedar Valley. a priority to help “You kind of figure out the bureaudevelop the next cracy of working in an office, and generation of by getting that early it helps you interviewing later because you already students pursuing have a concept of what they’re talking STEM education and about.” career paths.” Andrew Sorenson made 10 dollars — Thad Nevitt an hour working from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. factory manager every day of the summer, passing at John Deere up what most high school graduates Waterloo Works cherish as the last summer of freedom before college. “I had the weekends,” he laughed. His principles of engineering course in high school qualified for college credit at Iowa State University and gave him a leg-up in the Deere program application process. The Early Talent program also awards a scholarship each semester, providing he passes all his courses. Sorenson hopes to work at Deere again this summer if he meets benchmarks. Deere supervisors check his grades and review his progress at the corporation. But his dream job would be leading large commercial construction projects in an urban center like Chicago. “I could definitely see me doing something along those lines, building big buildings,” he said. Deere created the program back in 2007 to foster students interested in STEM careers. Some of its Early Talent Program graduates have been hired as full-time employees. “We have made it a priority to help develop the next generation of students pursuing STEM education and career paths,” said Thad Nevitt, factory manager at John Deere Waterloo Works. A 2012 study by the World Economic Forum showed 67 percent of industrial hirers surveyed experience substantial difficulty finding employees skilled enough to do the available jobs. Fifty-six percent said that


BRANDON POLLOCK / Courier Staff Photographer

Jacob Gubbrud, left, Ryan Holzapfel and Ben Weno work on switches to make their elevator stop at each floor during Intro to Engineering class at Cedar Falls High School in Cedar Falls.

BRANDON POLLOCK / Courier Staff Photographer

Instructor Dirk Homewood, left, and student Chris Keys watch a CNC machine mill a small box during Intro to Engineering class at Cedar Falls High School in Cedar Falls.

they anticipate the problem getting worse in the near future. Another poll of 500 top executives conducted that same year by Adecco — a nationwide staffing and recruiting agency — cited technical, leadership and computer skills as lacking among the current workforce. “An increasingly high percentage of our workforce works in STEM functional areas, whether its in the office ... or out on the shop floor. The technical requirements of all our employees will continue to increase,” he said. Last year, Cedar Falls High School students won nine out of the 10 available spots in the program. This year’s crop has yet to be selected. “Candidates are selected on their individual capabilities,” Nevitt said. “The program is open to any high school senior graduating from a participating school pursuing an approved STEM major.”


Focus on Education


Downtown training Hawkeye Metro Center structured to help adults JOHN MOLSEED‌





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riane Hakizimana feels more comfortable in a classroom with adults from a variety of countries than she does in a classroom with other Iowa teenagers. Hakizimana, 17, is taking high school equivalency classes at the Hawkeye Metro Center in Waterloo. She is also taking English Language classes. English isn’t her first language — it’s her fourth after her native language of Kinyarwanda, French and Ugandan. Hakizimana initially took classes at Columbus High School in Waterloo. Her lack of English fluency held her back. “At the moment, you don’t feel smart anymore,” she said. “When you know the answer and you can’t express it, it’s hard.” In her English learning class at Hawkeye Community College, she found people from other countries who, like her, are working to hold their BRANDON POLLOCK / Courier Staff Photographer first conversations in EnAriane Hakizimana is a student in the GED glish. program at the Hawkeye Community College “I feel more comfortMetro Campus. able,” she said. “They feel comfortable to talk about their lives.” English proficiency, high school equivalency classes and high school proficiency tests are the bulk of the education work the Metro Center offers. More than 2,000 people go through the center each year, said Sandy Jensen, director of the Hawkeye urban center and adult literacy programs. About 200 people graduate with a high school equivalency degree from the center each year. Those programs may be expanding in the coming months as funding sources for adult education become more reliable. The Iowa legislature has allocated money to state community colleges specifically to be used for adult education and English language training. Five years ago, federal money provided the bulk of funding for the programs. As that has phased out, the state will be taking over. That also means programs will expand, Jensen said. HCC officials are looking at ways to speed up adult education and help people get job training while gaining English proficiency and literacy. “We want people to find a place in the workforce faster,” Jensen said. The Metro Center has CNC (computer numerical controlled) machine training that some students will soon work with while studying English. Jensen said that program is still being developed based on similar ones around the U.S. “It’s a model that’s been tried in other states and has been very effective,” Jensen said. In addition to new programs in the works, evening classes are being augmented with online classes to give students more flexibility in scheduling their learning, she added.

»continued on page 22 PROGRESS 2014

Focus on Education

MATTHEW PUTNEY / Courier Photo Editor

Chris Woods, a Hawkeye Community College student in the sustainable construction and design program, works with Waverly-Shell Rock students to build a picnic table at GETT Camp.

Go GETT-ers Camp lets girls try their hands in male-dominated fields META HEMENWAY-FORBES‌


t’s a big job for small hands, but 14-year-old Cloey Case is up for it. Her glitter-painted fingernails deftly guide the wood through the table saw. The scrap falls to the floor and she steps back, removes her safety glasses and surveys her work. “It was a little scary, but it’s easier than I thought it would be,” she said. That’s precisely the point. Case joined 16 of her Waverly-Shell Rock High School classmates at Hawkeye Community College’s GETT Camp in December to gain exposure to traditionally male-dominated career fields. Girls Exploring Trades and Technology is in its fourth year at HCC, but December’s camp was the first to allow the girls to practice with the tools of the trade. “My thought is let’s get them in here and let them experience a trade hands-on,” said GETT Camp organizer Jill Dobson. Dobson, Hawkeye’s coordinator of applied sciences and engineering technology, hopes that adding the hands-on element will spur even more girls to check out HCC’s trade programs. The Waverly-Shell Rock girls spent half of the day building a picnic table. They sawed, drilled and bolted under the guidance of HCC construction program students, and decided they would place the finished product in a garden at their high school. “If they are building it, they get to decide,” Dobson said. “We wanted them to also practice giving back.” The GETT Camps target eighth-grade girls, part of the Iowa Department of Education’s 8th Grade Plan. Under the plan, Iowa students are required to complete a career and educational assessment and schedule courses accordingly. The plans can be revised as students learn more about their interests and abilities. “By the end of that eighth-grade year students have mapped out the rest

»continued on page 31


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Focus on Education

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he effort to develop student leaders in Cedar Valley schools is growing. Five new schools began implementing the Leader in Me program in the fall, joining nine others 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.

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Hoover Middle School student Malvin Loeijak helps clean the cafeteria after lunch. “Some local business representatives went and visited a Leader in Me school in North Carolina,” said Melissa Reade, director of Leader Valley, the organization’s educational arm, which provides support for the initiative. They wanted to bring it to the Cedar Valley and recruited the pilot schools to get things started. “From there the interest has just grown, and now we have 14 schools with several others in the exploration phase,” said Reade. In Cedar Falls, Lincoln, Orchard Hill and Southdale elementary schools are also part of the program. St. Patrick School, a Catholic preschool through eighth-grade school, started the program this year. 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 are new additions this year. In the CVCS, St. Edwards Elementary School started the program this year, joining Blessed Maria Assunta Pallotta Middle School. Reade noted Leader Valley was established and supports Leader in Me “to prepare the work force for the Cedar Valley.” Area businesses face difficulties in finding enough workers with “soft skills, leadership skills and just general work ethic.” “For a long time, education and business have operated independently of PROGRESS 2014

Focus on Education

Student initiative expanding in Cedar Valley schools one another,” said Reade. Leader in Me is an attempt by the business community and educators to “synergize” — which happens to be habit six —and better prepare students for life after school. “We want them to be thinking about their future as a person,” said Reade, “not just what they can do by the end of third grade. Give them a vision for something bigger.” The hope is that the seven habits will permeate the climate of Leader in Me schools. Principal Mike Fisher said the “overall climate” of Hoover Middle School has improved thanks to implementation of the Leader in Me program, which started there last year. Every student took a six-week class last year learning the basics of the Leader in Me philosophy. This year, the class is required for sixth-graders while seventh- and eighth-graders can choose a class where the students have leadership opportunities like doing a service project. The program has given students “more control and ownership of their learning,” he said, as they take on roles from creating signs on the seven habits that line the hallways to reading daily announcements and helping out in the lunch room or office. “We’ve made a point of creating leadership opportunities for students throughout the building.” As a result, the school “feels like a warmer, happier place,” said Fisher. He believes the initiative will also pay off with more confident students, improved attendance and an improved learning environment. “Bottom line, this has been a game-changer for us,” he said. “This is not a program; this is a way of thinking.” A group of seven students at Blessed Maria Assunta Pallotta Middle School said Leader in Me has made a real difference for them since being implemented last year. Like Hoover, the school uses some class time to teach students the seven habits. As a result of what they’ve learned, students said, they have organized fundraising events, improved their organizational and time management skills, overcome behavior issues, learned how to prioritize tasks and become better at speaking to people. “The great thing about learning to use the habits is they all build on each other,” said sixth-grader Dylan Mack. Students have opportunities to join various school leadership teams and organize service projects under the guidance of Carol Luce, Cedar Valley Catholic Schools’ service learning and leadership coordinator. “Mrs. Luce really helps us get opportunities that we didn’t have before,” said Ryan Glass, an eighth-grader. Taking on those roles “helps us see the needs in our community and the ways we can help,” said seventh-grader Taylor Hogan. Blessed Maria was the first CVCS building to use Leader in Me. Luce said other schools are beginning implementation or studying the program now. By the 2015-16 academic year, all five schools in the system are expected to have the program in place. Pam Zeigler, director of elementary education for the Cedar Falls School District, said schools are “working on a cultural shift” as they implement Leader in Me “so that kids aren’t just thinking about it in the building.” The hope is that students will also regularly use the skills they acquire at home and in the community. She noted that in order for schools to teach and reinforce the seven habits among students, staff members must first understand the concepts. “Staff does seven habits training and also implementation training,” said Zeigler. Inevitably, many teachers apply the same concepts they’re teaching students to themselves. “It helps you reflect on your own practices,” she said. PROGRESS 2014

Reade said the program can’t be a success in a school without teachers and administrators on board. “If we don’t start with the teachers, then it’s just one more thing we do to kids,” she said. Staff members at schools interested in exploring the Leader in Me program visit schools where it has already been implemented and complete a leadership study. School administrators must then make sure that there’s staff buy-in for the program. “Once we have all those ingredients in place, we pull the trigger,” said Reade. That’s a more deliberate approach than initially used to introduce the program, but “we’ve slowed down the process in the name of quality.” Reade expects Leader in Me to expand to smaller school districts surrounding Waterloo and Cedar Falls. All of it will be done with the support and funding of the Alliance and partner businesses. “The bulk of funding is taken care of by private businesses and foundations that we’re applying to for funding,” said Reade. Schools have a “very small amount of cost,” such as paying for substitutes as teachers go through training. Officials with Leader in Me’s Utah-based parent company, FranklinCovey, have told Reade the Leader Valley initiative is unique in its scale and scope. “There’s no other community in the nation that is taking the steps that we are in the Cedar Valley to create an entire community of leaders,” she said. “Our goal is pretty substantial and very unique.”



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Fired up John Deere completes $150 million modernization of foundry



ohn Deere has fired up its $150 million baby. It is a complete modernization of the John Deere Foundry on Westfield Avenue. Three years in the making, it is the latest in more than $1 billion in investments Deere has made over the past decade in its Waterloo operations — the company’s largest manufacturing complex in the world. “We believe having a foundry provides us a competitive edge,” said Josh Wittenburg, manager of foundry operations in Waterloo. The project gives Deere “the ability to produce larger castings to match the growth in the size of our tractors,” said Thad Nevitt, factory manager of the Deere Waterloo Works. The company’s industry-leading large row-crop tractors are manufactured in Waterloo. But it isn’t just the plant itself that provides the edge. “A lot of people can build a foundry, but you can’t replicate the people,” Wittenburg said. “The investment here is about the people providing that distinctive advantage for us.” The same is true with Deere’s investment in its operations across Waterloo, Nevitt said — in product development, capacity and manufacturing modernization and improvements — and its investment in the community. It’s about the people — cultivating, attracting and retaining a skilled work force to run Deere’s world-class Waterloo operations, Nevitt said. Total employment at Deere’s Waterloo operations remains at 6,000 people — the highest in a quarter century and steady over the past two years. Deere is a partner in work force development incentives throughout the education system — from the University of Northern Iowa and Hawkeye Community College down to the grade schools — and quality of life initiatives. Those range from the John Deere tractor museum, anticipated to open this year near Cedar Valley TechWorks, to the Cedar Valley SportsPlex downtown. “We are very pleased with the development of the Cedar Valley,” Nevitt said. “These improvements are critical to our business as we compete to attract and retain the best employees. Just like the other businesses in the area, our competitive advantage is our employees.” Community leaders have taken to heart a challenge by former Waterloo operations general manager Mike Triplett nearly 15 years ago, on the cusp of Deere’s $1 billion investment, to improve the community to justify that investment and to help Deere maintain its work force. “The leaders in the community are delivering on Mike’s chal-


MATTHEW PUTNEY / Courier Photo Editor

Wheels are in lines at John Deere foundry in Waterloo. lenge by really improving the quality of life here in the Cedar Valley,” Nevitt said. The foundry modernization — believed to be Deere’s largest investment in the facility since it was built more than 40 years ago — is Deere’s latest vote of confidence in the Cedar Valley. It was aided by tax incentives approved by the Iowa Department of Economic Development in 2010 when the project was announced. It includes a new high-tech mold line, integrated cooling sys-


Photos by MATTHEW PUTNEY / Courier Photo Editor

Jennifer Henricks cleans a casting in the foundry.

Don Milligan Jr. uses a Coordinate Measuring Machine to checks a part at John Deere foundry. tem and core processes. The existing 40-year-old mold lines, carefully maintained over the years, also remain integral parts of the operation. As the size of Deere tractors increased over the years, so has the size of the castings required. The project “allows us to design tractors that provide us with a competitive advantage with the use of very large and complex castings with tight tolerances,” Nevitt said. The Waterloo foundry is, in essence, the forge furnace for a major portion of the entire company’s manufacturing operation.


Devontez Roberts grinds down metal for a density test. “We do not sell castings to other companies today, and that direction doesn’t change with this project,” Nevitt said. “Our full casting capacity is consumed by our tractor business and products produced at other Deere factories” around the world. Part and parcel of that modernization is continually improving working conditions for employees. “A big part of everything we invest in is about our employees and providing a better environment to work in,” bucking the stereotypical perception of a foundry environment, Wittenburg said. “We are the safest foundry in the industry here. and we have a great place for our employees to work.


FOCUS ON MANUFACTURING “We remove them from the hazards and work them smarter, not harder” Wittenburg said, through automation and improved technology. “And that helps us attract employees to the foundry and retain them here. There are employees who have been here a long time, and they love it here and have no desire to leave. We continue to invest in making it a safe place, a better place to work.” In addition to the foundry improvements, Nevitt said, “Over the past six years we’ve significantly increased the capacity of our tractor business. There was a lot of work completed in 2013 related to these projects as we installed many of the final pieces. Several hundred equipment moves and installations were completed in 2013 alone.” All those improvements will be seen in products coming off the line. “Starting late in last year and continuing throughout 2014, we will produce and ship new engines and new models for each of our tractor product lines,” Nevitt said, responding to customer demand and new air emissions requirements of various major markets. “Designing and testing these new products, plus preparing to manufacture them, has been a massive effort for our employees and suppliers,” Nevitt said. While a new plant in Montenegro, Brazil, will produce “8R” model tractors for that market, “Waterloo will still continue to manufacture 8R tractors for the other markets around the world,” Nevitt said. “Additionally, we also will continue to supply many major components for the tractors assembled in Brazil, so our local Waterloo factories will benefit from the expected growth.” Deere corporate officials have consistently cited the company’s Waterloo-made large tractors as a major factor in the company’s success, having just notched a fourth consecutive year of record earnings. That translates into jobs in Waterloo. “The biggest factor impacting our employment levels recently has been the worldwide growth of our engine and tractors businesses,” Nevitt said. “As long as we continue to focus on being the best choice for our custom-


Robotically controlled equipment in the melt facility. ers, manufacturing in Waterloo has a very bright future.” Within the Cedar Valley community, “There is still plenty of work to do,” despite recent accomplishments, Nevitt said. “We need to maintain the momentum so we can move further ahead in the competition for talent.” That includes improving education at all levels through STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) initiatives; more entertainment and amenity choices; and continuing to promote ethnic and racial diversity and inclusion of all segments of the

community. Deere and its work force are an intrinsic part of the community’s quality of life, Nevitt indicated. Those contributions include some 7,300 hours of volunteer service and continued United Way support in cooperation with United Auto Workers Local 838.

Union sees positives

UAW Local 838 President Paul Jungen II said the local is pleased about the foundry improvements and proud of its United Way contributions.



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MATTHEW PUTNEY / Courier Photo Editor

Wheel parts hang at John Deere foundry in Waterloo.

“We are excited about the additions to the foundry,” Jungen said. “That should hopefully bring a lot more work back into the foundry. We’ll melt a lot of iron and bring a lot of castings and work back into Waterloo. “If you’re pouring it in Waterloo, you’re cleaning and machining it here in Waterloo,” Jungen said. “And that PROGRESS 2014

foundry (work) could reach far beyond the foundry. People should be pleased about that money going into Waterloo.” Additionally, Jungen said, “We’re very proud of the United Way efforts. The United Way counts on it. Deere and the UAW can be proud of what we do for the United Way.”

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Focus on Manufacturing

Healthy growth Cedar Valley medical community looks to keep expansion momentum going JIM OFFNER‌


ospital facilities around the Cedar Valley are continuing to grow as they strive to enhance the region’s position as a major health care center. Both Allen Hospital — whose corporate identity changed to UnityPoint-Allen Hospital in 2013 — and Covenant Medical Center have been expanding their physical plants and reach in recent years, and that continued in 2013. Allen’s newest addition is a family clinic at the hospital. It opened Jan. 6. It’s part of the hospital’s effort to reach residents who might otherwise not get the care they need, said Dr. Tim Horrigan, 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 pro-

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viders.” And the dynamics are changing as the baby boomer population ages, Horrigan 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. Patients are used to being active, and part of the health care industry’s mission is to help them stay active, Horrigan 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 MATTHEW PUTNEY / Courier Photo Editor medical care of those Occupational therapist Susan Hoey, left, people has changed evaluates patient Michael Flores after he considerably.” suffered a heart attack and has lost most of Needs have changed, his upper body strength at Covenant Medical too, he said. Center in Waterloo. “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,’” Horrigan 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 middle-aged or elderly person, medical care is going to change.” Pam Delagardelle, Allen’s chief executive officer, said the Allen approach to health care is part of a systemwide “holistic” philosophy. UnityPoint Health wants to coordinate care better to reduce the cost. “We have to do things differently in order for health care 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,” Delagardelle said. 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. “It was another very exciting year for us,” he said of 2013. The most visible change from the public’s perspective 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.” PROGRESS 2014

Focus on Manufacturing

Photos by MATTHEW PUTNEY / Courier Photo Editor

Tamie Drees, left, a telehealth technician with UnityPoint Health uses a wireless pulse oximeter with Sherwin “Shorty” Kleinschmidt to get his vital signs in his home in Waterloo. He said the facilities are seeing 5,000 to 6,000 more patient visits than five years ago. The new ER treated more than 100 patients on its first day in September, Dusenbery said. Covenant also is developing its first interventional radiology suite, as well. “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,” Dusenbery said. A new radiology clinic will open soon, probably by the end of February, and the full radiology suite will be operational by mid-2014. The hospital is performing many procedures already. Covenant recently brought in robotic surgical system and is set to launch its robotics this month. The hospital also continues to upgrade electronic health records. It also recently rebuilt its in-patient psychiatric facility. “That was a challenge, because the unit is always full and we had to accommodate that,” Dusenbery said. “But we got through it.” The revamped center opened in the fall. Meanwhile, Waterloo-based Cedar Valley Medical Specialists turns 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 PROGRESS 2014

physicians to the Cedar Valley,” Irey said. “We have maintained a great working relationship with all the hospitals in the area. We continue to see that moving forward into 2014 and beyond.” Cedar Valley Medical Specialists has 58 member physicians, including 18 specialists, Irey said. The group had 21 physicians and six specialists when it started in 1994. Irey said his organization has a retention rate of about 80 percent. “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.” Waverly Health Center continues to grow, even as the hospital looks for a new leader. Kyle Richards recently resigned as CEO of the hospital to take a position as chief operating officer at Regional Health in Rapid City, S.D. Richards’ last day at Waverly was Jan. 16, said Heidi Solheim, director of community relations. The hospital expects to have a new CEO in place by the middle of the summer, Solheim said. Richards came to Waverly from Sanford Health in Webster, S.D. Solheim said Richards made the move to enable him to help care for his parents, who live near Rapid City.

»continued on page 22


Focus on Manufacturing Training » from page 12 Focus on Education Hakizimana’s stepfather, Janvier Muhizi, took a traditional route to an accounting degree after learning English skills. He studied at the Metro Center after he injured his shoulder while working at the Tyson Fresh Meats plant in Waterloo. When he first started working there, Muhizi didn’t understand enough English to fill out his job application. “In the past two years here, I didn’t speak any English,” he said. After leaving Tyson, he knew he would need to learn English. “I needed to learn — I needed to find a job,” he said, adding instructor Linda Schmidt was instrumental in easing his fears and helping him learn the language. Hakizimana’s mother, Henriette Nyiraneza is also studying English at the Metro Center alongside her daughter. Nyiraneza said her daughter is picking up English quickly, and she picked up her other languages with ease. Hakizimana said she would like to become a translator to help people in her position. She said she doesn’t want other students to feel the way she did. “I was lonely,” she said. “It was hard to understand the other students.”

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Photos by MATTHEW PUTNEY / Courier Photo Editor

Tamie Drees, right, a telehealth technician with UnityPoint Health, shows Sherwin “Shorty” Kleinschmidt how to take his blood pressure with a Bluetooth blood pressure cuff in his home in Waterloo.

Cedar Valley medical communities » from page 21 Focus on Manufacturing Lisa Bennett, chief financial officer at Waverly Health Center, is serving as interim CEO while also carrying on with her responsibilities as CFO. Whoever signs on as permanent CEO will inherit a hospital system in the midst of a growth period. “We’re the second-largest critical-access hospital in Iowa, and the changes we have coming are really a reflection of growth,” Solheim said. Among those changes, WHC expanded a family practice clinic on site from seven to 12 rooms at the end of January. The hospital now employs 34 providers — up from one a decade ago. More are coming. “We’ve just hired a certified nurse-midwife, and we’re recruiting for a new general surgeon,” she said. WHC this month opened an upgraded radiology room at a cost of $825,000. “We’re adding nuclear medicine in February, so we’ll be able to do cardiac stress tests using nuclear medicine, gall bladder studies and things like that,” she said. One of the “coolest” additions to the hospital, Solheim said, is Alter G — an “anti-gravity” treadmill.

Occupational therapist Susan Hoey, right, and patient Michael Flores works on regaining his strength after a heart attack. “For patients after surgery, it can unweight a person up to 80 percent, and it is great for somebody who’s had a stroke or has Parkinson’s,” Solheim said. “For individuals who can’t walk on a regular treadmill, this removes all the safety issues. You feel almost the same as walking on the moon. It allows them to do a normal gait and it takes the pressure off their body.” It’s the only such treadmill in the Cedar Valley, Solheim said. “The closest one is Cedar Rapids,” she said of the apparatus, which went into WHC’s physical therapy department early in January. “It’s great for sports training, too, for rehab,” Solheim said, noting Alter G will be available to the public in the future. PROGRESS 2014

Focus on Manufacturing

What they reaped in 2013 Business, agriculture looks at year of ups and downs in the state JIM OFFNER‌


hen Cedar Valley businesses look back on issues that affected their bottom lines in 2013, it might help to use history to gain some context.‌ In many cases, they’d seen it all before. “It’s almost got a ‘back in 1999’ feel, when we were going to hit 2000 and everyone was warning us we couldn’t handle the change that was coming to computers and everything,” said Elliott Smith, executive director of the Iowa Business Council. “As it turned out, it was little more than a bump in the road.” For Iowa businesses, 2013 began with similar fears — this time over the “fiscal cliff” debates between warring parties in Congress and President Barack Obama. Politicians warned of a government lockup if a combination of expiring tax cuts and across-the-board government spending cuts was allowed take effect Dec. 31, 2012.

Government tops concerns

“Sequestration,” or automatic spending cuts across federal agencies, kicked in early in 2013 as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011.

Further angst over federal spending erupted at the end of the fiscal year in September, as Republicans in the House attempted to defund the controversial health insurance reform law known as “Obamacare.” That effort failed, and Congress ultimately agreed to boost the government’s debt ceiling into 2014. Gauging issues that affected businesses most in 2013, Smith says, “sort of depends on if you’re talking macro national or micro state level. Some might argue we’re in the midst of the macro event right now and that it’s yet to be seen how that plays out, the whole debt ceiling and government shutdown issue. I wish I had a crystal ball and could say how business would or wouldn’t react.” There were other concerns that concerned Iowa businesses in 2013, as well. “From the agriculture side, the weird weather patterns have been impactful, with snow in May and an arid drought in July and August and parts of September,” Smith said. Education reform measures that the Iowa Legislature passed were positives, Smith said. “It depends on the implementation of it, but it stands to benefit Iowa in the long term,” he said.

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Ken Pecinovsky harvests corn at the Iowa State University Northeast Research and Demonstration Farm near Nashua. PROGRESS 2014

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Focus on Manufacturing Obamacare, known officially as the Affordable Care Act, likely will be the most important issue to most businesses in 2014. The president granted businesses that employ 50 or more full-time employees a one-year delay in the requirement to provide medical insurance coverage to those full-timers or pay a per-worker penalty. Smith said the delay hardly made a dent in the potential harm the law could do to businesses. “Right now, a big issue is trying to figure out what the impact is going to be on employees and companies ...” Smith said. “I think there are some unintended consequences with the whole part-time employee thing. ... As we move into 2014, we’ll see numbers related to that providing a clear picture.” For the moment, he said, the law likely is affecting the retail sector more than any other, but ACA is sure to embrace others similarly in due course. Discussions about health care reform have led to some positive changes for businesses, too, Smith said. “In terms of generally trying to generate better, healthier employees and a healthier workforce, that’s always been an issue at the council,” he said. “If we see improvement there because of the law, that’s kind of good thing.” Obamacare was the No. 1 issue at Waterloo-based PDCM Insurance, said Chris Fereday, president. “For us it has to be Obamacare and what it means for individuals and business,” Fereday said. “We were prepared to pull the trigger, only to have ambiguity restored (with the year delay on business compliance). No matter what we do with the crystal ball, you’re looking for leadership.” However, Fereday agreed the increased focus on employee wellness has been a positive. “For us it was eye-opening because we started to have our groups rather than concentrating on health care costs, start concentrating on behaviors that were driving costs,” he said. “... I don’t know if anybody in the industry can change the pricing structure, but if we can affect prices or change the dynamic and have employees understand what that means to me, in the long run, that may be one of the side benefits to come out of Obamacare.”

Weather extremes

Charles Dickens might sum up Iowa’s agriculture year thusly: “It was wettest of times, it was the driest of times.” A snowy winter — 61.5 inches fell at Waterloo Regional Airport during the season — and rainy days in the spring pushed back planting for many farmers. Corn and soybeans got planted nearly a month late in some cases, according to Iowa State University Extension & Outreach. In many northern counties, acres of corn and soybeans didn’t get planted because it was too wet, said Terry Basol, field agronomist with ISU Extension in Nashua. Farmers planted cover crops in a lot of cases. “I’d say as you look back on the year, that’s going to be one of the major talking points for farmers: just getting planted,” he said. “We had pockets that were able to get in, but we had large areas that struggled just to get the crop in.” Then, summer hit and fields that did get planted had to deal with extended hot, dry conditions, Basol said. “In central Iowa, that whole pocket ended up by getting hardly any rain from July to end of August. ... That was another stress factor.”

Interest rates low

In financial sectors, persistently low interest rates dominated discussions, said Steve Tscherter, CEO of Lincoln Savings Bank in Reinbeck. “It is difficult to maintain spread — loan and investment return less deposit and repo costs,” he said. “That is the single largest income stream in banking. We have also levered up our non-interest income production from insurance, annuity sales, investment consulting, and real estate sales.” 24


Housing likely got a boost from low interest rates, too, although inventories in the Cedar Valley remained tight, said Bob Reisinger, past executive vice president of the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Board of Realtors. “I think about the only negative I can come up with was the availability of inventory,” he said. “Interest rates are still fantastic. Money is available. As far as our economy, unemployment is low. All the factors for a good market are there. We’d sell more if we had more.” The market’s supply of “spec houses,” homes built on speculation that they would sell, remained low, Reisinger said. If clusters of 12-15 spec homes at attractive price points went up across the area, they would be snapped up, he said.

Manufacturers endure

The manufacturing sector continues to churn out products in spite of challenges, said Mark Hanawalt, owner of Waverly-based manufacturer United Equipment Accessories. “I think that on the positive side, 2013 was better than everyone expected,” he said. “To a certain point, manufacturing has gone on in spite of other influences going on around it.” Regulations are among those influences, Hanawalt said. “The gorilla in the room is the federal government,” he said. “Our legislators just don’t seem to conceive of how their actions impact people’s plans.” Hanawalt said that’s the biggest challenge from 2013, and it appears set to continue this year. “It’s seen as a flat year. From what I’m anticipating, the bulk in 2013 is tax implications coming in 2014. Depreciation is being drastically cut, so there may be some people making capital purchases in the fourth quarter that they would not have because they’re going to lose it next year,” he said. Manufacturers also are looking to fill anticipated labor needs, and Skilled Iowa, a state program focused on helping them find trained workers for the future, had its first full year in operation. Kevin Harberts, president and CEO of Kryton Engineered Metals Inc. in Cedar Falls, said filling positions in the future is a concern. “Probably the two most difficult challenges for us in 2013 and for the future in 2014 are finding the talented work forces needed to move forward and trying to figure out how to compete in a global economy,” he said. “... We have open positions going unfilled for months because we cannot find the right match.” Times have changed, Harberts said. “Ten years ago, if an applicant was breathing you hired them; today, they obviously need to be breathing, but its preferred they have a twoyear degree as well,” he said. Competing on a global stage also is a sign of changing times, Harberts said. Automation is the key. “We are taking it one step at a time and doing what we can,” he said.

Tourism milestone

The year also marked a turning point for the tourism business, said Aaron Buzza, director of the Waterloo Convention & Visitors Bureau. “One of the things that we’re finding is competition is growing,” he said. “Competition is developing new products. It’s something we have to consider as we keep up with the Joneses. Cedar Rapids opening their new convention complex downtown is a competitor.” Opening the Cedar Valley SportsPlex in downtown Waterloo this month and the scheduled opening of the John Deere Tractor and Engine Museum on the Cedar Valley TechWorks campus, scheduled for spring 2014, will help to keep the metro area in step, Buzza said. “We’re a lot stronger competitor now,” he said. “Over the last five years, with the Isle and all the riverfront development since 2008, we’re a destination that a lot of folks are seeing as doing something right.” PROGRESS 2014

Focus on Manufacturing

Growth industry

Local entrepreneur brings statewide attention to Cedar Valley JIM OFFNER‌

One of the newest projects the IIC is involved with is the Iowa Advanced Manufacturing Center at the Cedar Valley TechWorks. The Iowa Innovation Corp., Hawkeye Community College, UNI and ocal entrepreneur Mark Kittrell has taken his business acumen John Deere are all involved. “That’s a high-visibility initiative that can statewide, and in a sense he has taken the Cedar Valley with him. deliver a big impact not only for the Cedar Valley but also to the state,” Kittrell, a Cedar Falls entrepreneur, real estate developer and IT Kittrell said. consultant, took that step in October when he became the new It also likely will provide a nice spark for the TechWorks project. president of the Des Moines-based Iowa Innovation Corp. He offered a couple of examples in his reasoning. Kittrell replaced Jack Harris, who left to work on the creation of an ad“First, what we’re trying to do is coordinate a lot of state activity through vanced manufacturing and materials center. TechWorks,” he said. “No. 2 is if we put smart people and state-of-the-art “We could not be happier to have Mark on board,” Cara Heiden, vice equipment someplace, we’re going to get a lot of interest from industry. chair of the IIC’s board said at the We think people will want to put staff time Kittrell accepted the position. there, develop their own labs, and we “His experience in technology startmay see new development around up companies and his service to the there and inside the building.” state as an officer or director of nuKittrell said there is a “large federal merous industry, state and regional push” behind state, private and local economic development organizaeconomic-development initiatives tions makes him the perfect candisuch as TechWorks. date to move the organization to the “That can move the needle quite a next level.” bit in manufacturing,” Kittrell said. Kittrell, who still spends part of “We think the Iowa Advance Manueach week in the Waterloo-Cedar facturing Center can be a real magFalls area, said his new position is a net for that.” statement that the Cedar Valley has The IIC is the “private” portion of plenty to contribute to the advancethe state’s private-public partnership ment of the state’s business commufor economic development, Kittrell nity. said. “The Innovation Corp. is really “As a not-for-profit organization, statewide, and one of the first things we have flexibility that the state does MATTHEW PUTNEY / Courier Photo Editor I’ve been telling people as I’ve been not have,” he said. “Working with Mark Kittrell stands near TechWorks’ new 3D printer in Waterloo Jan. 6. stepping into the job is I want to make private venture and angel funding The ExOne 3D printer is one of a few in the county and is the largest in the sure we do get past this emotion that folks is a priority with us.” states. what happens in Des Moines is for Local programs that encourage Des Moines,” Kittrell said. “I’m devoted to eastern Iowa and the Cedar entrepreneurship and the development of tech-related businesses — TechValley specifically, so I’m really excited to bring that perspective.” Brew, for example — get considerable statewide attention, Kittrell said. Kittrell has been involved with multiple tech startups, real estate devel“TechBrew is one of the most vibrant programs in the state,” he said. opment and economic development initiatives. He is founder of TEAM “We’re really pleased to see a lot of entrepreneurism there. UNI has a ton Technologies, a regional IT consulting/services firm specializing in IT and of entrepreneurship activity. We’d like to try and bring a lot more private Internet services. He led the firm from modest beginnings to more than funding opportunities to those kinds of entrepreneurial ideas. So. if we 100 employees through engagements with many of the Midwest’s leadcould get more angel (funding) activity and more venture capital in this ing companies, including John Deere, Meredith Publishing and Principal area, that’s another big priority.” Financial Group. The outlook for such funding is bright, Kitrell said, using state tax credits TEAM operates three data centers in Iowa and Wisconsin specializing and other incentives. The goal is to put together $100 million in innovation in health care, financial services and other industries. The firm was honfunding. ored three times with the Inc. 500 award for rapidly growing private com“We’re also working with a group in Des Moines called Plains Angels panies and was acquired by TDS Telecom in December 2010. who are interested in increasing their footprint in the eastern half of the Kittrell also is co-founder and CEO of Eagle View Partners developing state,” Kittrell said. River Place, a $70 million mixed-use real estate project situated along the There is reason to expect good things on the entrepreneurial front in Cedar River in downtown Cedar Falls. He holds a B.S. in physics from the 2014, Kittrell said. University of Northern Iowa and an advanced management development “The state is in very good shape, financially. That’s wonderful,” he said. designation in real estate from Harvard University’s Graduate School of “I would say the question that is going to be in front of an awful lot of peoDesign. ple is with a good economy, do we have the wisdom to make some smart “I feel like there’s an awful lot of effort that’s being put into statewide investments. We are the kind of state that understands you have to plant initiatives from people in the Cedar Valley, and my hope is I’ll be able to and tend and harvest. The best time to do that sort of planting is now, coordinate those things and deliver some amazing results,” Kittrell said. when we have a good solid budget.”




Focus on Manufacturing

Doerfer NASA project shows need for skilled workers JIM OFFNER‌


at Doerfer. For this particular business, those middle skill set jobs are crucial and clearly crucial for NASA.” Doerfer recently put on a show of what Wheelift transporters can do for NASA representatives and dozens of local political, business and education leaders. Doerfer employee Luke Offner used a hand-held remote to maneuver a vehicle riding on multiple wheel modules and bearing 100 tons of cement blocks, showcasing its zero-turn radius. It’s just the vehicle NASA had been seeking for its new rocket, said Marshalltown native Chris Bramon, lead engineer and operations manager for NASA’s new space launch system. “For the last 15 or 20 years, I’ve been trying to find better ways to move large items, especially large vehicles,” Bramon said. “I’ve got high-dollar, massive items to move around.” The Wheelift fit NASA’s needs exactly.

dvanced manufacturers across the Cedar Valley have been talking about the need for workers with specialized skills for years. One Cedar Valley manufacturer recently demonstrated the need for those skills in this world — and beyond. In December, officials from NASA visited Doerfer Co.’s Waterloo plant to launch an $8 million partnership that begins with eight Doerfer-manufactured Wheelift heavy-equipment movers. Those machines will transport the heaviest, bulkiest components of a new NASA rocket being built for deep space missions. Doerfer’s Wheelift division, which operates primarily from Doerfer’s plant at 1575 Big Rock Road, received a multi-year contract last year. The company will provide the main assembly and material-handling transporters for NASA’s new SLS (Space Launch System) corestage rocket production plants in New Orleans. Wheelift’s transporters will carry rocket segments through assembly, engine test and launch preparation at NASA plants in Michoud, La., and Stennis Center, Miss. Wheelifts will then travel with the 240-foot assembled rocket core stage on a ship as it makes its way to Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., for launch. “The size and scope of the project doesn’t wow us; what wows BRANDON POLLOCK / Courier Staff Photographer us is being able to play such a funLuke Offner demonstrates the load maneuverability of a transporter during a visit by NASA officials at Doerfer Cos. damental and mission-critical role in Waterloo. in what really is from the time we were little kids, something we aspired to be part of,” Doerfer President “I got excited,” Bramon said. “We saw what was going on in this world. David Takes said. I was able to go out with this open competition, see if there’s anybody out The project also sends a clear message of the need for new employees in there that has this kind of technology. Doerfer and Wheelift came in and the advanced manufacturing sector, Takes said. carried it.” He said programs like Skilled Iowa add clarity to that call. Garry Lyles, chief engineer of NASA’s SLS program, described the “I’m very optimistic about what Iowa is doing right now,” Takes said. transporter as “a beautiful machine.” “When you look at combined from the primary schools up, we’ve got a He noted Iowa is the 30th state to have a contractor working with NASA. great plan.” “We’re really happy to add Iowa to our NASA family,” he said. He praised the state’s STEM (science, technology, engineering and The first four transporters were scheduled to be delivered to NASA in mathematics) initiative, and said Hawkeye Community College and the January. University of Northern Iowa are a great source of skilled workers, too. Mel Terry invented the technology in the early 1990s and thought he had What it all means, he said, is that Iowa is answering the call. a deal worked out with NASA back then before budget cuts quashed a po“Iowa is paying attention to the fact that advanced manufacturing really tential agreement. He has been working with Takes since 2004. is sexy, and is where it needs to be,” Takes said. “When I started out, I just wanted this technology to be successful in Linda Allen, president of Hawkeye in Waterloo, agreed. my lifetime, said Terry, 77, a resident of Mount Vernon, Wash. “Well, this “That is exactly the audience we work with,” she said. “This is a perfect is kind of the culmination, although I’m anxious to go down to NASA beexample of the middle-skill set jobs in Iowa. Fifty percent of the jobs in cause I have a full range of ideas of how differently they can use this techIowa are those middle skill set jobs. That’s the kind of jobs that are offered nology.” 26



Focus on Manufacturing

Elevating industry standards Tyson adds a generous portion to area’s economic health DENNIS MAGEE‌

Beyond the financial impact, Dust sees intangibles that also pay dividends for the community at large. “No. 1, their workforce is not only large but is very diverse,” he he company’s founder, John W. Tyson, would hardly recogsays. “Most people would be pleasantly surprised how Tyson has put nize what he started. in programs to celebrate everyone in that environment. The company Tyson established the company after moving his family spends a lot of time and money making everyone fell welcome and in 1931 to Springdale, Ark. Before long, he was delivering engaged.” chickens throughout the Midwest. Tyson Fresh Meats also has elevated industry standards, according That foundation now supports one of the largest meat-processing to Dust. enterprises on the planet. “There are more high-quality jobs available than many people would A snapshot, according to the company’s website, shows just how give them credit, especially if someone is starting from the memory of far Tyson’s vision expanded in the past 82 years: when that plant was IBP,” Dust says. “This is a quality operation The ■■ Sales in 2013: $33.3 billion, with 14 percent from pork products like difference is huge and stark.” those made in Waterloo. The required skill level also has gone up, according to Dust, and the ■■ Weekly intake: 41.4 million chickens, 403,000 hogs and 132,000 cattle. company expects more and is training to higher planes. ■■ Average weekly production: 41 million pounds of meat. “People are climbing the ladder higher on the skills level than in times gone by in that industry,” he adds. Dust sees bright days continuing given Tyson’s track record. “That’s absolutely good to see that kind of growth in their markets and their investment in people and technology,” Dust says. Donnie Smith, CEO of Tyson Foods, in May offered the comDENNIS MAGEE / Courier Regional Editor mencement address to the University of Tyson Fresh Meats in Waterloo employees hundreds of people, making a large contribution to the local economy. Tennessee-Knoxville ■■ 97,000 employees in the U.S., including 14,125 in Iowa or on its School of Agriculture. During his speech, available on Tyson’s webborders. site, he noted the graduates’ challenge of producing ever more food. ■■ Customers in 130 countries. A frequent question, Smith said, is what keeps a CEO up at night? To achieve those numbers, Tyson relies on 60 chicken processing “How can we responsibly increase our food production and siplants, 23 for processed food, 12 for beef and nine for pork, including multaneously educate the public on the benefits and the necessity of one in Waterloo. A pet products facility is near Independence in Bumodern agriculture to get the job done,” Smith asked the graduates, chanan County. “when the population is now a couple of generations off the farm and In the end, Tyson as the company exists today processes 1 of every really doesn’t understand how food’s made? They don’t understand 5 pounds of meat in the U.S. the huge task that we’ve just learned about in feeding a growing popThat’s big picture. Steve Dust, CEO of the Greater Cedar Valley Alulation, and they’re becoming increasingly resistant to using the safe, liance and Chamber, offers a local perspective on what Tyson Fresh efficient and responsible technologies that we’ve developed over the Meats means for the Cedar Valley and Iowa. years.” “They just add a good deal to our economy. Tyson is a big employer Smith described the prospect as a “daunting task” but “a great opthat has invested heavily in us and their people,” he said. portunity and awesome responsibility.” Dan Fogleman, a native of Ottumwa, is senior public relations man“The truth is, those of us who make food, we’ve got an opportuniager for Tyson in Arkansas. He can put a more specific number on ty to make the world a better place,” Smith added, encouraging the Dust’s observation. graduates to “lead with a conscience.” “In the most recent fiscal year, we spent $3.3 billion with Iowa farmTyson’s core values and six-word purpose statement offer an examers who raise livestock out of $15.4 billion total,” Fogleman said. ple, Smith said: “Making great food. Making a difference.”




Focus on Manufacturing

‘Virtual office’ space gains traction in Decorah JIM OFFNER‌

Winneshiek County Development Inc. “The new business fits in well with the Winneshiek County Development, Inc. marketing strategy that focuses on attracting individuals capable of deas wait for no one, Ross Hadley says. running their own businesses from any location, or working for an emThere are entrepreneurs who want to get on with launching their ployer but from a location of their choice,” Uhl said. “We’ve worked to get own enterprises but who also don’t have the work space they need to young workers who select Winneshiek County because of the quality of grow their plan into profit. life here, and Open Decorah is another great tool in that recruitment effort. Ross Hadley has launched Open Decorah as a possible solution. Open Decorah is plowing new ground and may be the first of a good numOpen Decorah offers work space, including computers and meeting ber of similar business relationships in Decorah and Winneshiek County.” rooms, for entrepreneurs who want to develop their own enterprises but Co-working space is not a new concept; there are such spaces across the don’t have their own space to do so. Cedar Valley, including Waterloo and Cedar Hadley has six offices on the second floor Falls. of a retail building he owns, at 128½ W. WaHadley said he saw a need for such space ter St. in downtown Decorah. There are in Decorah and jumped on the opportunity, accommodations for a conference room, a since he already had space available. “co-working room,” and a “quiet room” for He got together with Uhl, as well as the teleconferences. Decorah-based Corbin Group, a busiUsers also have access to the building’s ness-development consulting firm, to develthird floor, which has a kitchenette area. op his idea. “We have a sleeping room, so an out-of“They saw a need for it,” he said. town client can rent a bedroom up there, as Hadley said his space, when it’s fully dewell,” Hadley said. veloped, will be able to accommodate 20-25 The target market for the building is telepeople a day. Currently, there are two encommuters, of which there is no shortage in trepreneurs regularly using space at Open Decorah, Hadley said. Decorah, but more are likely to come, Had“Decorah itself has brought a lot of teleley said. Photos by MATTHEW PUTNEY / Courier Photo Editor commuters into town,” he said. “We’ve got 200 ‘likes’ on Facebook,” he Those telecommuters are all looking for Ross Hadley is owner of Open Decorah, a work space for said. space, and they find it, through Hadley or business telecommuters to use above retail stores on West An advantage to occupying temporary elsewhere. space is that there are no requirements to be Water Street in Decorah. It’s a trend, they say. there day after day, Hadley said. One of them is Eric Sovern, sales manager for Surly Bikes, an offshoot of “People will change any given day,” he said. “The alternative is a coffee Bloomington, Minn.-based Quality Bicycle Products that focuses on hybrid shop or the library, because of Internet access, and those have their own cycles for snow, trail or off-road biking. drawbacks.” Sovern rents space in downtown Decorah, a couple of doors up from Hadley recently won $2,500 in Winneshiek County Economic DevelopHadley’s operation. ment’s Biz Booster Challenge. He and his wife, Shannon, decided they wanted to live in a small town, Hadley said he invested the money in some software that handles reserafter having resided in the Twin Cities for 15 years. vations for space. “We wanted to move to a smaller town with a better sense of community, “Open Decorah is a good idea because you have that exposure to other and there are few places in the world that fit that like Decorah,” Sovern said. people,” Sovern said. “ I’m sharing a space with somebody who does some“There are 20 miles of mountain trails in Decorah, which you wouldn’t often thing entirely different than I do.” think of if you’re picturing Iowa. It’s also a community with a college (Luther Local telecommuters get together every Friday afternoon. It’s called “ College) and a food co-op, plus, I’m on the volunteer fire department.” Co-Working Fridays.” More importantly, Sovern said, he can do his job remotely. “Sounds better than ‘Get Drunk Fridays,’ Sovern said, laughing. “All I need is a phone line and an Internet connection, but there are also Then, he turned serious. printing facilities and conference lines,” he said. “Honestly, it’s just a place where a couple of real movers and shakers, It’s also helpful to share workspace with other telecommuters, he said. people that are starting businesses and other entrepreneurs are looking for Hadley said those ideas support his concept for Open Decorah. the next thing and how to network with people,” Sovern said. “This is a “Open Decorah is a co-working space that I’ve created downtown Decplace where people can get together and talk about the specific challenges orah to facilitate a collaborative working environment for telecommuters of work we do.” that need a project space but don’t necessarily need a full-time office space,” The group usually includes about a dozen attendees, but it has drawn Hadley said. upwards of 20, Sovern said. Hadley opened the space in July. Indeed, Hadley said, the weekly meeting was the inspiration he needed “We have quite a few salespeople here, and we’ve got some other people for Open Decorah. who do graphic design, and they can be anywhere to do it,” he said. “More “We had people talking over what they’re doing over a couple of beers,” and more, people who can live anywhere choose to live here because of the he said. “ I had this space I was going to turn into apartments, but it turned quality of life. Open Decorah is just the icing on the cake, if you will, because out well to turn it into working space instead.” it’s a place you can go and work.” More information is available at The company It’s also a business that fits Decorah ideally, said Randy Uhl, director of also has a Facebook page.







A boom in choices Care facilities offer seniors more options than ever before



enior citizens have seen it all. Many of them experienced the devastation of the Great Depression, multiple wars and the rapid advancement of technology. Seniors in the Cedar Valley are now seeing more options on almost everything as they transition into care facilities. “More traditional retirement offerings such as Friendship Village are adding choice — choice of dining options, choice on contract styles, choice of interior design, choice of things to do,” said Velda Philips, administrator at Friendship Village in Waterloo. Philips attributes the rising demand for more options to the baby boomers. Described as the generation of Americans born between 1946 and 1964, baby boomers currently are between the ages of 49 and 68. “Since I am one, I feel somewhat entitled to represent what boomers think,” Philips said. “On the other hand, obviously the 76 million of us aged 50 to 68 do not necessarily think alike. Our views vary based on a number of factors just like every other generation, but I think we’ll be probably more a demanding group than the groups before.” Deb Frost, property manager at Liberty Manor Senior Housing in Waterloo, which serves low-income seniors and disabled residents, said she sees a difference in the baby boomer generation. “The older ones lived through maybe the Depression, and they have a whole different way of thinking about life,” Frost said. “It’s just a whole different breed.” Many members of the boomer generation are still working, while some are beginning to think about retirement, according to Philips. “We are used to having a more disposable income … more willing to spend income on ourselves, where previous generations were more frugal,” Philips said. Friendship Village offers independent and assisted living apartments, a skilled


MATTHEW PUTNEY / Courier Photo Editor

Dwayne Driscoll, left, lines up a shot as Sam Kramer, right, waits for his turn during a game of pool. nursing facility and a home care agency. It serves more than 700 residents in the Cedar Valley. “Even though we believe in change, we are less likely to believe that aging requires a change in lifestyle,” Philips said. To smooth the transition and keep options available, Friendship Village offers a fine dining restaurant as well as a more casual cafe, as well as high speed Internet. Employees at the Western Home Communities in Cedar Falls are planning several expansions in the Cedar Valley for 2014 in order to accommodate aging baby boomers. “This is a large demographic that is, and will be, in need of our services,” said Western Home Communities CEO Kris Hansen. Western Home Communities, which serves more than 800 residents on two campuses in Cedar Falls, provides care and housing options in villas and townhomes, independent and assisted living, memory support and skilled nursing. Hansen said crews will start building another retirement community on the

south campus with 72 apartments, a wellness center and a “rehab hotel” for those recovering from surgery or illness. The organization added six villas in 2013, and plans to build 14 more villas and new assisted living facilities in Jesup and Reinbeck in 2014. “We know there’s no way we can build enough housing for all the boomers, so we’re creating new ways to serve people and meet needs,” Hansen said. The program, atHome, was created in 2013 to take care services out into the community to meet the growing demand of those who wish to stay at home. “It’s also why we’ve put a lot of emphasis on increasing amenities that we know the boomers will demand. They want easy access to fitness programs, educational opportunities, restaurants, spas and more. We’ll have all of that in our new wellness and community center,” Hansen said. Patty Berning, director at Bridges Senior Lifestyle Living in Waterloo, said it’s also important for the seniors to remain active and social to maintain their quality of life.



Step Confidently Into the Future When planning for your family, contact your local credit union

MATTHEW PUTNEY / Courier Photo Editor

Lowell Fox shoots pool at Bridges Senior Lifestyle Living Jan. 13 in Waterloo.

to discover the variety of steps available to help secure your financial future.

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on your service.

Stephen Knapp, managing broker with Lockard Realty in Cedar Falls, IA was recently honored by the National Association of Realtors as “Realtor Emeritus.” Realtor Emeritus is an honor bestowed upon persons who have held membership in the National Association as a REALTOR, REALTORAssociate, or a combination of both, for a cumulative period of 40 years in one or more associations of REALTORS. Knapp, a lifelong Waterloo-Cedar Falls resident, specializes in residential homes, commercial and investment properties, development, and property management. He has been assisting buyers and sellers in Northeast Iowa for over 40 years and has earned the trust and respect of his peers. Additionally, Steve served on the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Board of Realtors as an officer and director, and also on several local boards of directors over the years. congratulations Steve! “Enhancing the quality of life in the communities we serve.” Everyone at Lockard is grateful for your service.

Stephen D. Knapp, Managing Broker sknapp@ 30

“Staying healthy through exercise programs and good nutrition helps to keep up their physical strength so they can continue to be independent,” she said. To ensure there are plenty of opportunities for social events and fitness, Bridges offers a full-service restaurant, hair salon, indoor swimming pool and transportation on site. “Socialization is key to making sure seniors get the emotional support they need to fight off depression which is commonly seen in the elderly.” Social centers are becoming more popular in senior housing, according to Berning. NewAldaya Lifescapes, a Christian-based care facility in Cedar Falls, was recently recognized by the national organization, LeadingAge, for their innovative social center. The 14,000-square-foot area, known as Main Street, boasts tall ceilings and bright storefronts similar to the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas, according to Amie Vander Werff, director of fund development and marketing at NewAldaya Lifescapes. “It looks like a little town,” she said. “It’s a destination where individuals can come and still be independent, but feeling like they’re going downtown and really contributing.” Inside, residents can enjoy a cafe, library, family dining room and a pub with live music, all open to the public. “We are constantly planning for the future,” she said. NewAldaya offers about 200 units, including skilled nursing, extended and short-term care, and independent or assisted living. The addition of the Internet has brought about changes in marketing perspectives for Darnell Jones, community sales leader at Mallard Point in Cedar Falls. “Obviously baby boomers are a big part of the market we’re looking to attract,” Jones said. Jones still uses direct mail advertisements for the seniors, but also more digital advertisements for the younger generation, which he believes is influencing seniors. As for the future of senior housing, Philips does not expect the boomers to come all at once. “I anticipate a slow evolution as we actively listen and respond to our current customers who are paving the way for the future customers,” she said. “We have some time to adapt to the demands we expect to occur later on.”

(319) 277-8000 /


Proving its mettle »from page 10 Focus on Education foundry, making anywhere between $8 and $10 an hour. But only a manufacturing major can enroll in the center’s academic program. “We are the most industry-oriented program, not only on campus, but in the state of Iowa,” said Dr. Mohammed Fahmy, head of the UNI technology department. An emphasis in metal casting studies pays off, too. According to Thiel, students who graduate from the manufacturing program with an emphasis in metal casting are virtually guaranteed to get a job straight out of school. “When they are employed they hit the ground running,” Fahmy said. “They don’t need more training because they have all the training, or most of it, they’d need to get the job.” The last four graduates of the program, Thiel said, have jobs with annual salaries of between $65,000 and $70,000. “We educate the students to create wealth by manufacturing it,” Thiel said. The center continues to grow in capability, but Thiel is always looking for more students to enroll in the academic program. Whatever the future holds, Thiel expects only good things to come for the center’s students and the industries that benefit from their hard work. “What’s ahead for us is doing more of what we’re doing right now,” Thiel said. “And that’s assisting the industry in advancing.”

Camp for girls »from page 13 Focus on Education of their high school experience,” Dobson said. “I try to get them before the second semester of eighth grade to help them make that plan.” Through science, technology, engineering and math career fairs and GETT Camps, Dobson works to expose girls to the manufacturing trades. Girls tend to migrate toward nursing, veterinary assisting and other traditionally female career paths, she said. If she can get a couple of girls to take a look at some of the opportunities in skilled trades, chances are a few of their friends will, too. “I like for girls to see that they are not gender-specific opportunities,” Dobson said. “... Go with your natural talents. Your talents are nongender specific.” According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women make up about half of the work force but hold just 26 percent of science, technology, engineering and math jobs. Just 2 to 5 percent of students in the trades programs at HCC are women, said Mary Pat Moore, Hawkeye’s public relations director. Of those, most are older, nontraditional students. “We don’t see as many direct from high school,” Moore said. “The women who come back are a little older, maybe 25 to 30, and they have seen the opportunities that are available.” Moore said job outlooks are good for those in skilled trades, and the majority of those jobs require some kind of post-high school education or training. “Women are so underrepresented in the trades,” Dobson added. “We’re talking to (these) employers. They want women in their work force. ... There are lot of studies that suggest the more gender diverse it is, the more successful a company is. If you get the right mix, the company wins.” Macy Janssen, 14, is planning on a career in agricultural engineering. Helping build the picnic table, it’s evident she knows her way around a workshop. Right now, she and her father are restoring a tractor for her Future Farmers of America project. “I think it’s cool,” she said of the GETT Camp. “I feel pretty special. A lot of girls don’t get the opportunity to do this.”


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Focus on Growth

TIFFANY RUSHING / Courier Staff Photographer

Young Cedar Valley soccer players practice on the fields at the Cedar Valley SportsPlex in Waterloo.

Sporting a new look TIM JAMISON ​‌


t was a major addition to the downtown Waterloo skyline, an enormous economic development tool and gargantuan fundraising achievement for the community. The Cedar Valley SportsPlex, which finally opened to the public in January, is just darned big. “This is incredible for Waterloo, Cedar Falls and the Cedar Valley,” said Mayor Buck Clark. “To walk in here and think this belongs to the people of the Cedar Valley is just an incredible feeling.” The building includes basketball courts, fitness and weight equipment, a field house with artificial turf for soccer, football and baseball, a jogging track, swimming pool, golf simulator, children’s play area, child care center, multipurpose rooms and offices. “This isn’t the type of facility that the private sector could build,” said Dan Watters, president of the Waterloo Development Corp. “This is another amenity in our community that’s necessary for us to compete on a state and national level.” With 140,000 square feet on two city blocks



— and carrying a price tag of $27.5 million — the SportsPlex represents the largest project to date in a major downtown revitalization effort conceived nearly 14 years ago. Challenged by major employers to invigorate the downtown and create a quality of life to attract employees, a group of local business leaders formed the nonprofit WDC in 2000 and worked with the city administration and Vandewalle and Associates of Madison, Wis., to develop the Riverfront Renaissance plan. Voters in 2002 rejected a referendum to fund the program with sales tax revenue, but the WDC and city managed to find other ways to get the job done. “It was a big setback for us mentally, but it taught us to be more independent in the way we think and as a community,” Watters said. “It taught us to take more initiative.” There was the RiverLoop Amphitheatre, a Cedar River dam, riverside trails, the RiverLoop Expo Plaza and Public Market, Mark’s Park and revitalized East Fourth Street entertainment zone. Rick Young spearheaded a private fundraising effort that garnered $23 million in commitments for the SportsPlex, including $8 million in funds from the Black Hawk County Gaming PROGRESS 2014

Focus on Growth

BRANDON POLLOCK / Courier Staff Photographer

A view from the pool area at the SportsPlex.

TIFFANY RUSHING / Courier Staff Photographer

Cedar Valley Alliance and Chamber member Mason Fromm tests out the TrackMan golf simulator.

BRANDON POLLOCK / Courier Staff Photographer

The basketball courts are popular with kids and adults.

Cedar Valley SportsPlex is cherry on top of downtown revitalization Association. Other major donations included $4 million from the McElroy Trust, $3 million from the John Deere Foundation and $2 million each from the Young Family Foundation and the estate of Carlton and Thelma Winter, who operated local Ben Franklin stores for many years. City Council members stepped up with more than $3 million to buy and demolish buildings along the Jefferson Street construction site. Clark, who followed former mayors John Rooff and Tim Hurley in advocating for the project, said the Deere donation was telling. And company officials locally have said the SportsPlex will play a key role in their ability to recruit a quality work force. “We made a commitment many, many years ago to one of our major employers, John Deere,” Clark said. “If they invested in their plant and continued to grow (here) that we would do the same with the city. With WDC’s help we have done that. “We feel if we are going to attract top talent at John Deere, VGM and CBE and all of our major employers, we have to provide quality-of-life amenities,” he added. “This facility is one of the amenities we are now providing.” The nonprofit WDC hired the architects at PROGRESS 2014

InVison Architecture to design the building and engaged Cardinal Construction to build it. The WDC continues to own the building, but the city is leasing it with the right to take ownership in eight years. Waterloo Leisure Services is staffing and operating the SportsPlex, which is now part of the city’s budget. That led to concerns from some in the community that the building could eventually become a burden on local taxpayers. Watters said a study from Ballard King & Associates of Highlands Ranch, Colo., says otherwise. “The pro forma has been set up so the facility makes enough money to take care of all the utilities, payroll and all the operating,” he said. “There’s no reason it should exceed that.” The city will realize revenues from the pool and from renting the field house and other activity space in the building, which will be on top of the membership payments. “My opinion is there will be about 2,000 (memberships),” Watters said. “The Ballard study called for less than that to break even.” While the SportsPlex fitness center may compete with other area businesses for customers, the field house is a unique space



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Focus on Growth Most of the people were really impressed when they walked in. The kids thought they were in a whole new world.” Craig Winger CVYSA club administrator

MATTHEW PUTNEY / Courier Photo Editor

The Cedar Valley SportsPlex is open for business.

Sportsplex »from page 33 Focus on Growth

Crystal McCarty of Evansdale works out at the Cedar Valley SportsPlex on Jan. 18 in Waterloo. 34


unequaled in the Cedar Valley. Members of the Cedar Valley Youth Soccer Association have already laid claim to hours on the rubberized artificial surface, even locating the club’s offices across the street. “We’re offering all kinds of indoor training programs,” said Craig Winger, CVYSA club administrator. “This will allow us to train consistently throughout the year now.” Youth soccer players had been using a former downtown Cedar Falls church, which was small and had hard floors, to train indoors during Iowa winters. They were able to begin using the 30,000-square-foot fieldhouse in early January. “Most of the people were really impressed when they walked in,” Winger said. “The kids thought they were in a whole new world. We had kids who were flopping all around and diving for balls, which they never would have done in the church.” More information about the SportsPlex fees and amenities can be found at PROGRESS 2014

Focus on Growth

Reclaim, repurpose, recycle Retail shops plug into home decor ‘junking’ trend MELODY PARKER


BRANDON POLLOCK / Courier Staff Photographer

Jenny Boevers, left, and Becky Hiatt, owners of Fig and Frolic.

alentine’s Day was a few weeks away, but spring was coming. Jenny Boevers, co-proprietor of Fig & Frolic with her mother, Becky Hiatt, was scribbling notes and making sketches, trying to decide what theme to display in their windows at 600 Baltimore St. The Christmas windows were decorative eye candy for passersby and patrons, each tiny twinkle light beckoning “come inside.” Stacks of merrily wrapped gifts were perched on the seat of a beat-up bicycle painted white and others dangled from the ceiling on red ribbons. White twig trees sparkled with vintage ornaments. Now that the wintry, glistening scene had come down, what next? A red theme with hearts might be fun, but Valentine’s Day is over and gone in, well, a day. Perhaps something fresh and green heralding spring instead?

“It’s part of the fun to see what I can put together, how pretty we can make the windows,” she said. Her mother nodded. “There are certain expectations our customers have, so on days when we’re open, we want the shop to be special, quirky and whimsical,” Hiatt added. After nearly a year in business, Fig & Frolic counts itself a success. The shop’s “occasional” every-month-or-so openings are much anticipated and nearly always crowded. The word gets out on social media sites such as Fig & Frolic’s Facebook page and Twitter. The mother-daughter duo also started teaching classes in painting techniques with Annie Sloan chalk paints, and there’s hardly a spare moment when they aren’t busy turning trash into treasures or planning a new project. The shop is one of several opening in the metro area in the past year that specialize in the three R’s — reclaim, repurpose and recycle. The theme plays off the hot home design trend, junking. In recent months, shops like Aly’s Picks, Dapper Designs and

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Focus on Growth Vintage Window have opened their doors, and places like Stew’s Vintage and Junk in Cedar Falls and Little Prairie Girl in Grundy Center have enjoyed success for the past several years. “It’s been a whirlwind. Opening the shop has been a life-changer for me. I’ve had some ‘ah-ha’ moments,” says Boever, who also works as a nurse. A retired businesswoman, Hiatt says they recently re-read their original business mission and “we realized we’ve accomplished so much already and learned so much in a short amount of time,” such as working with vendors, logistics, building inventory and meeting customer expectations. They plan to spend a recuperative weekend updating their business plan and making plans for the coming months before their first occasional sales begin this spring. Emma Hicks, who opened Stew’s Vintage and Junk several years ago, credits social media such as Facebook and particularly Pinterest for generating broad interest in reclaiming, repurposing and recycling what some people might consider junk into attractive and inventive home accessories. “When I was in high school, I painted an old piano with glossy tractor paint. That was my first experience with reclaiming, and that’s how I got the craze for it. I think the same thing is true for other people. They start seeing ideas online on Pinterest, and they’ll do their own projects. “Some of us just decided to take it to a different level by turning it into a business. It’s great not to be one of the only ones around here now,” Hicks explains. Hicks had no retail experience before opening her business and admits she was unprepared for the lulls in traffic, especially after bustling holiday sales. “That was discouraging, but you have to be patient and build it. Everyone is trying to find their niche, what works best for them in the projects they do and what they sell in their shops. I have a woodworker and a welder who help me create things, so that gives me my uniqueness.” Aly Hagness and her husband, Chris, are proprietors of Aly’s Pick at 3641 Kimball Ave., opened last year. Aly owns Snippety’s hair salon, next door to Aly’s Picks, and both businesses are situated on the lower level of the Day-Star Jewelry building. The shop is brimming with an eclectic collection of items ranging from vintage and retro to industrial chic and kitsch, as well as repurposed furniture and home decor accessories. Aly loves to refin-

COURTNEY COLLINS / Courier Staff Photographer

ish pieces, and Chris enjoys upcycling and transforming objects, such as making a lamp from an old parking meter. “There’s a lot more investment than people have any idea. We both have other full-time jobs and a daughter. We’re very energetic do-ers, so it’s hard to slow down. You spend most of your spare time hunting for objects, hauling, cleaning, fixing, repairing and trying to be inventive to find or create something people will be interested in buying. We have some really cute items, and our prices are good.” That creative urge can never flag, Hiatt of Fig & Frolic points out. “All these shops have similar concepts, but everyone has their own style. There’s nothing cookie-cutter about it, and you have to anticipate what customers are going to be interested in a month, three months or six months from now.” Dapper Designs, 329 E. Fourth St., began online two years ago and became a retail store in spring 2013, selling vintage, antique and repurposed items. Proprietors Stephanie and Josh Hagen of Waterloo also provide custom painting for kitchens and furniture, offer workshops and share their passion for upcycling with their customers. Stephanie Hagen describes their first six months in business as “chaotic. We’re learning every day, especially how to market ourselves. Downtown Waterloo is not the first area people think of when they want to shop, but the downtown has lots of great shops.” Dapper Designs already has grown by leaps and bounds. “When we opened, we thought we had enough inventory, but it turns over quickly, and we’ve found we need to have stuff ready to go. We both work full-time at other jobs, and we put in a ton of hours finding and making things for the store,” she explains. Now the Hagens have a new vision for the shop. “In the next six months, we plan to convert the entire store as a design showroom to show how to mix the old with the new. We’ll have Chesterfield sofas and other new specialty pieces and the old pieces, the repurposed and antique items, and show how you can pull it all together for a comfortable, beautiful living space.” Located next door is Vintage Window, operated by Heather, Josh’s sister, and Riley Herman of Jesup. The couple refurbishes vintage items into home decor. Hicks of Stew’s Vintage doesn’t see interest in junking waning anytime soon. “It’s been fun, and we’re going to just keep rolling.”

BRANDON POLLOCK / Courier Staff Photographer

From left to right, Stephanie Hagen, Josh Hagen, Rose Hagen, Heather Herman, and Riley Herman, co-owners of Dapper Design & Vintage Window located on East Fourth Street. Right: Aly and Chris Hagness of Aly’s Picks. 36



Focus on Growth

Housing market heated up in 2013 Condos seen as the next big segment in Cedar Valley JIM OFFNER‌


ouses sold across the Cedar Valley. And sold. And sold. 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 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, Cedar Falls, 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, and I saw people, when their children have left and they buy new homes, I saw a desire for more condos than we have in our market,” Shinkle said. “There were plenty of people who wanted to size down to a condo so they could take off during the holidays.” It could be the next booming niche in the local housing market, Shinkle said. “That’s a huge market because of our population increasing in age and younger people coming up. The younger people want to buy houses and the older ones want to buy condos,” she said. “We saw that, so our market was lacking probably in condos. That’s the desire for a lot of people, and people coming in from out of state to live near their children.” Bonsall agreed. “I think as this baby boom generation comes into the marketplace, we will need more condominiums,” he said. “We’ll probably find some, though, that would prefer a zero-lot, such as a patio home, on very small lots, so the maintenance is quite low.” 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. “I do think the baby boomers will look for features and benefits that we don’t have a lot of here. Walking paths and exercise rooms, kind of a one-stop facility with many amenities offered.” Agents say they see more new houses going up than in recent years, too. “Building is OK in Cedar Falls, but it’s been a problem for Waterloo, simply because the additions or the amount of land has not materialized,” Shinkle said. “If you look, the new additions are more in Cedar Falls than Waterloo. I think that’s one reason why Cedar Falls might have had more building.” Overall, Shinkle said, 2013 was a good year for housing in the Cedar Valley, in both the new and existing. PROGRESS 2014

MATTHEW PUTNEY / Courier Photo Editor

Crews work on the roof of a home under construction on Quesada Avenue Tuesday in Cedar Falls. “Inventory was a little low, but the interest rates are good,” she said. ‘We saw people coming into the market and changing and building and buying up. We also saw people staying in their homes and getting equity loans.” The full-year numbers weren’t tabulated yet, but the third-quarter numbers indicated an upward trend in all major sale categories, according to the local real estate board. There were 746 sales in the third quarter of 2013, compared to 630 in 2012. That’s an 18 percent increase. The average sale price of $149,846 in 2013 was 10 percent higher, year on year, than the $136,607 reported in 2012. The median sale price of $132,000 in 2013 was 10 percent more than the $120,000 in 2012. Steve Knapp, managing broker with Lockard Cos. in Cedar Falls, said his numbers were up in 2013. “I’ll be up considerably from 2012, which was a record year for us, so I’m tickled with how busy we are,” he said. When asked what he thought 2014 would be like, he hesitated. “I’m somewhat of a skeptic,” he said. “We’ve had some real good years in building the business, but internally, I’m forecasting it to be about like (2013), which was good. We are seeing some new housing starts and more lots being developed. In general, we’ve got a pretty good demand. From an absorption standpoint, we’ve got a six- to eight-months supply in that 400-up range. We’ve got good demand. Knapp, too, said the condo market seems to be generating a lot of interest. “I’ve done quite a bit in the condo market, and I think we’ve got a dearth of ranch-style affordable condos that would address the aging baby boomer segment,” he said, defining “affordable” as $190,000 and lower. “We could use more supply in that segment,” he said. “We’ve got pretty good demand as people try to downsize. They’re not buying the split-level or two-story condos that the professionals might.” New construction of all varieties seems to be perking, too, Knapp said. “We’ve got several people out there with spec homes,” she said.


Focus on Growth

Heart of the city TIM JAMISON ​‌ CEDAR FALLS — Former downtown factories on State Street have given way to new apartments. But developers of River Place kept the industrial feel when designing the 21-unit, three-story residential condominiums in the first phase of their project. Ten-foot ceilings, polished concrete floors, recycled paper countertops, stainless steel appliances, exposed duct work and open floor plans with few interior doors are all part of what developer Jean Fischer describes as “industrial with character.” The front patio from Fischer’s second-floor loft offers views of Main Street and the Cedar Falls Parkade a block away, while sights from the rear windows include the Cedar River, bridge and geese. “Our primary purpose was to reconnect downtown with the river,” said Fischer, who teamed with Photos by MATTHEW PUTNEY / Courier Photo Mark Kittrell to develop RivEditor er Place, a $50-million proj- The exterior of River Place apartments in ect which eventually will Cedar Falls. include a mix of residential, retail, offices, event space and a hotel. Connectivity is a common thread running through the housing development — connecting tenants with the walkable downtown, the recreational trails, the river, each other and, with the availability of ultra high-speed broadband service, the rest of the world. “Freedom to live an urban lifestyle in a small city,” said Fischer, stating the project’s slogan. Downtown housing developers in both Cedar Falls and Waterloo are seeing a growing demand for that lifestyle from both new residents and Cedar Valley natives. River Place had already leased 10 of the 21 units in 300 State St. within two months of opening and had pre-leased all 30 studio and one-bedroom units in 200 State St. before ground was even broken. Fischer said tenants are already asking about the chance to buy condos planned in future buildings. Local developer Brent Dahlstrom has seen similar demand for his downtown housing projects. Dahlstrom and his partners this year finished building River Trail, a condominium development at East Seventh and Sycamore streets along the Cedar River in downtown Waterloo. All 72 units are full. “We have more demand than supply,” said Dahlstrom. “That project went very well, and I’m excited about the possibility of more downtown projects.” 38


Downtown housing options surge in Cedar Valley The River Trail tenant base includes a wide cross-section of the community, including John Deere workers, teachers, lawyers and nurses all looking to live close to their work and the downtown entertainment. “Most importantly, it is new and nice,” he said. “There hasn’t really been a ‘new’ development in Waterloo for so long that people couldn’t find something like these.” Dahlstrom is also a partner in the planned Park Avenue Lofts, a project to develop 11 loft-style apartments in the Masonic Temple at 325 E. Park Ave. in downtown Waterloo. That is still in the planning stages. Meanwhile, Dahlstrom also is preparing to create condos for sale in downtown Cedar Falls. He broke ground this winter on La Riviere, a 10-unit condo project at Fifth and Bluff streets, which will have units for $200,000 each. “There are places to rent downtown now, but there’s nothing to buy,” he said. John Rooff’s Black Hawk Contracting and Development is hoping to provide home ownership opportunities on the edges of downtown Waterloo. His firm has already built houses on East Eighth and Lafayette streets and is hoping to build town houses on other downtown sites. “We have seen Waterloo start to come alive downtown,” Rooff said. “We’ve had a growing number of downtown residential rentals in the last year and a half” but not market-rate homes for sale. JSA Development has been a stalwart for downtown housing and retail development in Waterloo. The company has utilized historic tax credits to renovate 33 apartments on upper floors along Fourth Street. It has another 21 apartments under construction or in the works, including six in the Walden buildings in the 200 block of West Fourth, eight units in the former New Plaza Hotel on Sycamore Street and seven units above CU restaurant. “We try to emphasize character of the building, the quality of finishes in the apartments,” said David Deeds, JSA controller. “We do above-market finishes — granite countertops, high upper cabinets, wood or polished cement floors. We try to position ourselves with the uniqueness factor.” With River Place, River Trail and other projects on the market, JSA isn’t the only downtown housing player. But Deeds believes there’s room for everyone. “There’s more competition than there was, and people have more options now than before,” he said. “They don’t line up like they did, but we still have plenty of interest in the units. One size doesn’t fit all for everybody.” Two large-scale downtown housing projects had setbacks in the last year. Waterloo city officials had to go back to the drawing board when a planned $10 million, 58-unit Bank at River Landing housing project near the RiverLoop Amphitheatre failed to get a state grant. In Cedar Falls, the Western Home Communities’ plan for Mill Race on the River — 72 condo-style homes on eight floors at the former Old Broom Factory restaurant site for those age 55 and older — is being scaled back. “Since we’re a nonprofit and not a developer, we always needed to pre-sell a certain percentage of the available space before we build,” said Linda Hudwalker Bowman, Western Home spokesperson. “That has not happened.” Bowman said the Western Home, in discussions with those who did show interest Mill Race, are looking to change the project to include a smaller residential component. PROGRESS 2014

Significant asset: Rail drives Butler County industrial park JEFF REINITZ ​‌


long-term dream to bring ethanol production to Butler County has led to an industrial park that is starting to chug along. Located off of 220th Street in the west end of Shell Rock near Flint Hills Resources, the Butler Logistics Park has two recent tenants building new facilities and plenty of potential for more. “The park has really grown. It went from being bare farm ground to now having two large projects going on out there,” said Jeff Kolb, executive director of the Butler County Development. The first addition to the park was Minnesota-based Zinpro Corp., which manufactures minerals for livestock and poultry feeds. The company moved into a 30,000-square-foot spec building for its warehouse and is now erecting an addition for manufacturing. Completion is slated for late spring. Next, American Colloid Co., which produces a clay additive used in metal casting, relocated to Butler Logistics Park after outgrowing its Waterloo facility. “They were landlocked and had some rail issues, so this just made good sense to them,” Kolb said. “And we’re keeping their facility in the Cedar Valley. That’s important.” In fact, Kolb said, the draw at Butler Logistics is access to rail lines to move materials and products, and until the park started no other industrial parks in Butler County had rail service. “The Iowa Northern Railway is a significant asset in our county, and our location next to the ethanol refinery is just a perfect fit,” Kolb said. He said the popularity of rail has grown in the last four years, and it’s becoming a common request for prospects looking for a site. “There are fairly substantial driver shortages and the new hours-of-service laws involving trucking, so we’re finding more and more partnerships that we’re doing with the trucking industry to do rail to truck reloads and


truck to rail reloads, and it’s a big part of our growth and our business today,” said Dan Sabin, president of the Iowa Northern Railway. The park is just four miles from four-lane U.S. Highway 218. Another 30 miles gets one to an interstate, and the Waterloo Regional Airport is only 15 miles away. Iowa Northern built staging tracks on each side of the main line and put in a line to serve Zinpro in 2013, Sabin said. He said the plan is to add 10 more rail tracks. “We have a plan of having a substantial rail yard there and to make that our main terminal on the Iowa Northern, and eventually have a locomotive shop and car repair facilities there,” Sabin said. The idea behind Butler Logistics came about 10 years ago when the county worked to land the Hawkeye Renewables ethanol refinery, which was acquired by Flint Hills Resources in 2010. Property was available in the area, but the lot that was up for sale was bigger than the company needed. “The land parcel was twice as big as they needed, but it was buy all or none,” Kolb said. Iowa Northern Railway stepped up to buy the other half of the land that wasn’t needed for the ethanol plant. The park is a joint project between local utilities, the railroad and communities. Butler County arranged to bring MidAmerican Energy natural gas service with bonds sold through a tax increment financing setup. Central Iowa Water Association and the city of Shell Rock are handling the water and sewer lines. Butler County REC put in the electrical infrastructure, and Butler-Bremer Communications put in the phone and data lines. State Revitalize Iowa’s Sound Economy funds paid for roads. “This park is there because of the partnerships,” Kolb said. In addition to landing more tenants, Kolb said, his goals for the coming year include having Butler Logistics Park certified through the state.


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Progress Edition 2014  
Progress Edition 2014