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Strong Cedar Valley

Manufacturing might Community champions Staying power





CELEBRATING YEARS IN THE CEDAR VALLEY Join us as we celebrate 15 years of serving the Cedar Valley with a new name, logo and appearance. We are excited to serve you as Grow Cedar Valley and to be a part of the next 15 years of Growth in the Cedar Valley. We are passionate about growing opportunities for Cedar Valley businesses and communities. We are working to create business synergies and optimize resources to reduce obstacles to business growth and help leverage the best systems, processes and skills. Together we’ll help the Cedar Valley thrive for years to come.

Formerly the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber


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7400 Hudson Road Cedar Falls, IA 50613


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Progress 2019 is a publication of

Deere drives company, community growth


North Crossing development takes off


University Avenue nearly complete


Sports travel successful for Short’s Travel




Mark Nook


Eric Johnson


Dan Trelka


Andy Pattee


Becky and Gary Bertch


Jim Coloff


Rodney Lewis


Jane Lindaman


Cary Darrah


Cherie ‘Chillin’ Kabba




Downtown Cedar Falls moves forward


Downtown Waterloo not slowing down


Revitalizing Highway 63


Cedar Falls expands to southwest


TechWorks welcomes more 3D printers


Cedar Valley housing market steady


Veridian still has green thumb


HCC apprenticeships meeting needs


Waverly downtown makes progress


Wapsie Creamery plans expansion


PUBLISHER ROY D. BIONDI AD DIRECTOR TARA SEIBLE PROJECT MANAGER & AD SALES SHEILA KERNS EDITOR NANCY NEWHOFF SPECIAL SECTIONS EDITOR MELODY PARKER Progress is published annually by Courier Communications and may be contacted at: 100 E Fourth St., P.O. Box 540, Waterloo IA, 50704 Copyright, Progress 2019 All rights reserved Reproduction or use of editorial, photographic or graphic content without permission is prohibited



LeRoy Gray works on putting together the pump on top of a transmission at the John Deere Drivetrain Operations facility. KELLY WENZEL, COURIER STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

MOVING FORWARD Deere ‘drives’ company, community growth



ATERLOO —- To see the future of John Deere and Waterloo, walk inside the big L-shaped building at 300 Westfield Ave. That’s the home of John Deere’s Drivetrain operations … just a long baseball line drive from where Deere began doing business in Waterloo when it bought the Waterloo Gasoline Engine Co. 101 years ago. It’s where employees work who are the future of John Deere — employees like Katie Harn. The 1997 East High School graduate spent six years in the U.S. Army as a military police officer. It’s a job that took her all over the United States, and overseas, to Korea. She found her future right back here in Waterloo. She’s been at Deere about seven years

— first, as a contract employee and then on the Deere payroll, about five years ago. She attended school while working and obtained bachelor’s and master’s degrees through night classes at Upper Iowa University’s Waterloo campus. She’s a production supervisor, overseeing two departments of 15 employees in the Drivetrain plant. “Every day is different,” she said. She has a good crew. She plans to make Deere a career — for the congenial work environment as much as the compensation and benefits. “I really like it … . It’s a very ‘small’ big company, “ she said. “It really is. Especially in Waterloo.” It’s where Deere builds transmissions for its Waterloo-built large row-crop tractors. It’s just one plant within Deere’s Waterloo operations, the company’s largest manufacturing

complex in all of North America. Assembler Travis Stoner of Independence, an employee in Katie Harms’ department, said he can see the wide-ranging impact of his work. “Not just locally but worldwide,” he said. “You get on the John Deere (web)page and you see places in Africa that are seeing tractors for the first time. Crazy stuff. The leadership, they’re open to us giving our opinions” and he receives good support from United Auto Workers Local 838. LeRoy Gray of New Hampton has been at Deere for 38 years, 15 years at Drivetrain downtown. He’s hung with the company through a couple of layoffs. “It’s a good place to work and they treat you pretty good.” He worked at the now-defunct Sara Lee plant in New Hampton before hiring on at Deere. “I get WCFCOURIER.COM | PROGRESS 2019 5

along with everybody pretty good. They keep growing, too.” Walk within the Drivetrain plant and you’ve unlocked the door to where the company and Waterloo are headed — up. What’s just gone “up” is a 60,000 square foot expansion — small in size compared to the more than 1.1 million square feet under roof there. But it’s similar in size to a large grocery store. It’s the biggest expansion there in 10 years and figures to meet the company anticipated expansion in transmission production over the next decade. The building construction was just recently completed and will soon be occupied, as will be a related office area still being finished, said Wayne Southall, manager of Drivertrain operations. The building changes are part of the Moline, Ill.- headquartered company’s “next generation” of agricultural equipment, including its Waterloo-made large row-crop tractors. “We’ve got the widest and broadest portfolio of any ag company in the world, and we spend a considerable amount of money refreshing it all,” Deere Waterloo Operations general manager Dave DeVault said. “We look

Waterloo operations, the company has been hiring — as a recent quarter-page display advertisement in recent editions of The Courier also indicate. Total employment at Deere’s Waterloo operations now stands at about 5,400, according to DeVault. That’s a net increase of about 400 positions from about a year ago. It’s divided roughly equally between union-wage factory jobs, like assemblers represented by United Auto Workers Local 838, and nonunion salaried positions such as engineers. “Our workforce is getting a little older. That’s what we’re really hiring for, is the attrition within our workforce, and skilled trades,” DeVault said, both in the engineering and production. We’ve been blessed so far, and continue to get the talent we need and bring it in,” both hiring locally and bringing in new talent from elsewhere when needed — like Southall, a native of Tennessee. Production worker Stoner, also an Army veteran, encouraged those interested in working for Deere to continue their education. “A lot of kids in high school, I tell them if you’re going to come to work here, you should go to school first, something after high


The newest 50,00 square feet bump out at the John Deere Drivetrain Operations facility in Cedar Falls on Jan. 25, 2019. on two-, four- and eight-year cycles and look at refreshing our product portfolio. “That’s what we’re in the middle of doing — the same stuff we’ve been doing 18 years,” DeVault said, beginning with a massive redevelopment of the Waterloo operations in 2001 under one of DeVault’s predecessors, Mike Triplett. “We’ve kind of doubled down on it and been going ever since,” DeVault said. We right-sized it (after 2001) and now we’re taking on the future. And all products are getting bigger.” That expansion is indicative of an expansion in employment — comparatively modest for Deere, but large enough to draw a brass band and a key to the city had it been a new single employer. There, and across the entire 6 WCFCOURIER.COM | PROGRESS 2019

school.” He said his military experience, for example, helped him develop a work ethic. The company has been hiring not only to fill openings created by retirements and other attrition, DeVault said. It’s also to meet production demand, with farmers on the cusp of a replacement cycle — needing to replace equipment that has run its useful life. To meet that demand, production changes also are in store. At the tractor cab assembly operations at the East Donald Street plant, one production line currently assembles both the Deere 7000 and 8000 model tractors. That single line now will become two — one line dedicated specifically for the 7000 model and one for the 8000. Another tractor, the 7030 model, in produc-

tion since 2006-07, “went out of production this past December,” DeVault said. “ We’ve been running the 7000 and the 8000 on a mixed-model assembly line. And because of the changes coming at us with our (product) portfolio, we want to get those two models separated. That gave us the room out at Donald Street to do that separation. So I’m taking the 7000 right now and moving it over to where we used to make the 7030. “We’ll actually stop producing the 7000 tractor for a couple of months to give us the chance to change over the line and then come back up this summer in production with it,” DeVault said. “We’re only halting production a couple of months. 7000 will have a dedicated line and the 8000 will have its own dedicated line. It’s going to make it much easier to manage having them on two different assembly lines.” Assembly of the smaller 6000-series model is being moved to the company plant in Mannheim, Germany. However, “that’s assembly only,” DeVault emphasized. Parts for those tractors will still be produced here in Waterloo. “Wayne and the team down here (at Drivetrain) are still doing a lot of the components and assembly for that tractor.” Deere’s 9000 series tractors and their “tracks” models also are still being made and assembled here. The overall trend in agriculture is toward larger tractor models, DeVault said, and the production changes here reflect that. The company also has brought in or “insourced” some work at Drivetrain and the Foundry that was being performed by suppliers outside the plant to meet internal production volume demands, and as some of those suppliers diversified their own customer base. “We’re positioning this (Waterloo) business to become John Deere’s large tractor business,” DeVault said. “When you look at the journey into the next generation, the 6000 is going to become the versatile tractor. And we need the space to be able to make all the large tractors coming at us.” There’ll be plenty of work. “It’s different work,” DeVault said. “It’ll be adding models in and changing things up. That’s some of the reason for the extra square footage, for new products coming through. We’ve seen the trend in the ag business, as far as implements getting bigger. Implements don’t motorize themselves across the field. Therefore, the tractors have to get bigger.” Tarriff and trade war talk has had some impact. “Our customer sentiment is very unsure right now,” DeVault said, but farmers do need to replace equipment and “the net (farm ) is above where it was in 2010. It’s pretty stable.” He also noted Deere took market share leadership in South America in the tractor industry the past year. The company does business in 140 different countries, including the Russian Federation. Also, the company’s service parts operation at what’s known as the company’s 400,000

Architects General Construction Interior Design Furnshing Signage Waterloo, Iowa Proud to be working in the Cedar Valley and surrounding areas. • 319-232-4242 WCFCOURIER.COM | PROGRESS 2019 7

square foot “1020” building at Westfield and Fletcher avenues, adjacent to the John Deere Foundry has been rearranged and expanded within that building. Consequently, production materials and supplies — the stockroom storage — has moved to the renovated adjacent 1010 building off River Drive along Black Hawk Creek. That building had been underutilized for many years. It was used to house temporarily production machines over the past 15-plus years as they were moved and reconfigured during the massive redevelopment of Deere’s Waterloo operations after 2001. An adjacent 16,000 square foot, 60-foottall “high rise” storage building, state of the art when it was opened in 1981 but now outdated, was demolished to allow more room in the central materials handling operation. In fact, DeVault said, some of the machines he installed during that redevelopment in the early 2000s are now being replaced. Devault estimated Deere has invested $1.5 billion in Waterloo since 2000, in new and renovated facilities as well as new product research and development. That investment will continue. That includes the company’s investment in the community, local company communications and visitor services manager Kelly Henderson said. Deere workers contribute 60,000 hours of volunteer time, she said, and donated more than $1.1 million to the Cedar Valley United Way, in a cooperative effort with UAW Local 838. She also said Deere and its foundation have donated more than $500,000 to nonprofit organizations and initiatives, some significant ones being the Leader in Me and Leader Valley initiatives with young people, in cooperation with the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance economic development organization and local schools. The Cedar Valley has made significant improvements in education and quality of life to cultivate, attract and retain a skilled work force — meeting, DeVault said, a commitment Deere required at the outset of the redevelopment which began in 2001. Hawkeye Community College’s recently completed metro campus,


LeRoy Gray speaks with supervisor Katie Harn at the John Deere Drivetrain Operations facility. named for local entrepreneur and major donor Van G. Miller, and the University of Northern Iowa Metals Casting Center at The Cedar Valley TechWorks, are examples of that, as well as the general overall redevelopment of downtown Waterloo. Henderson noted, for example, that some local Deere administrators live at developers Brent Dahlstrom’s and Jim Sulentic’s Grand Crossing condominium complex at West Mullan Avenue and Jefferson Street, across Mullan for HCC’s new metro camps and adjacent to TechWorks and the Drivetrain plant. The new Courtyard by Mariott hotel in one of the TechWorks buildings – a converted Deere factory building — also is an asset. Deere plans to use a floor of that building for a conference and training center as a restaurant and other additional amenities at the hotel get up and running. “The new hotel and conference center is a great addition to the community, and is in a great location for our partners coming to the Cedar Valley to do business with Deere,” Deere senior communications specialist Megan Zuniga said. “At the (Cedar Valley) TechWorks, there has been very good progress with projects like the UNI Additive Manufacturing Center, and the number of tenants in the facility continues to increase.” “It’s all that we were hoping for when we

started this journey: How do you make the Cedar Valley a more attractive and inviting place,” DeVault said, a challenge laid down by Triplett back in 2000 and 2001. “See what the Waterloo Development Corp. and the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance have been doing, and working with the two mayors. That division between Cedar Falls and Waterloo is pretty much gone now, as far as the politics, working more synergistically within the community. We couldn’t ask for better than that. They’re going after what the cities need in order to give that growth and opportunity. “Just that streetscape with Jefferson and Commercial that’s coming on,” with the renovation of U.S. Highway 63 and adjacent developments, “is going to be huge,” DeVault said. “Just to invite, to have a place that physically invites people into the downtown community – the shopping, the restaurants, the entertainment.” Deere has held up its end of the bargain in its investment in Waterloo. Even through a downturn a few years ago, “our focus has been delivering the best solution we can, and doubling down on better quality products,” DeVault said. “And we’ve done that. We haven’t been just sitting back and hoping for good times again. We actually really worked at our (product) portfolio and made sure we worked at what’s going to help our customer base the most.”


John Deere high rise demolition. 8 WCFCOURIER.COM | PROGRESS 2019

Assembler, Travis Stoner builds the power takeoff for the 6000 series at the John Deere Drivetrain Operations facility on Jan. 25, 2019.



The UnityPoint Health clinic at North Crossing in Waterloo.




evelopment is transitioning into its next phase at North Crossing. The $9.1 million project, spearheaded by developer Ben Stroh at the intersection of Donald Street and Highway 63/Logan Avenue — the former Logan Plaza site — saw two medical facilities and a convenience store go up since its inception in 2016. UnityPoint Health-Allen Hospital built an Urgent Care clinic in 2017 and family medicine, neurology and internal medicine also moved to the site. “We wanted to re-ignite that area of the neighborhood. We all remember what it looked like a couple of years ago, and to see it now, it’s great to drive past that,” said Sarah Brown, vice president of operations for UnityPoint Clinic. She said transitioning those services from the main UnityPoint campus to North Crossing — a kitty corner move — makes it more convenient for patients to get care. “We have had a goal to get our outpatient services out of the hospital. The hospital can be challenging to navigate with the five floors, and it’s wide spread, and the parking,” Brown said. “We wanted that ‘walk right up, drive right in’ mentality. Easy check-in, easy process.”

The Urgent Care clinic takes the quick turnaround approach, too. “We know they are really busy and have a lot of other things to do other than manage their sore throat,” Brown said. In coming weeks, UnityPoint will be moving its therapy center to one of the North Crossing buildings. “Instead of therapy patients who might be on crutches or something, they don’t have to navigate the parking lot and the entrance and go up to the fifth floor of the hospital. They can drive right up and park in the front row and walk in the door for their therapy appointment,” said UnityPoint Spokesman Carson Tigges. City officials said the next step in the project is to bring more commercial businesses to the strip malls on the site and establish a restaurant. “The whole idea has always been the medical would continue to bring a constant flow of traffic through there, for people to serve their medical needs and hopefully get some retail to take advantage of the traffic,” said Noel Anderson, the city’s community planning and development director. The plan included a convenience store, which was fulfilled when Kwik Star erected a shop on the corner last year. “We are kind of right on schedule right now

in terms of phase four, I think (Stroh) is working on another medical building this spring … He’s talking to potential retail- and restaurant-type businesses,” Anderson said. Farther north, property that had been set aside for a Menards home improvement store that didn’t materialize is also available for development. Anderson said the city has contracted with Buxton, a data analysis firm, to explore possibilities for the land through information on credit card purchases. “They use that information to help companies locate to where these are the types of people who will eat at an Applebee’s or a TGI Fridays or whatever,” Anderson said. He said the city has been reaching out to potential retailers. “Retailers usually want to look at a site and analyze it. They are going to want to look at it for their patterns as well as what we provide them,” Anderson said. The city is undertaking drainage improvements to Virden Creek in the area and is calculating how that will coincide with development. “It’s kind of a chicken and egg. We’d hate to put some of the drainage way improvements in the way of some of the lots. We are trying to figure out the best location for drainage improvements as well as for lot layout out there,” Anderson said.



Roundabouts near Highway 58 on University Avenue in Cedar Falls.

University Avenue


in CF all but complete TERRY HUDSON For the Courier


EDAR FALLS — Now that the reconstruction of University Avenue is virtually complete in Cedar Falls, many are taking a look back at the $38.8 million project. And it looks pretty good. “It is so much better than I even thought it would be,” said Jon Davis, who moved his Slumberland Furniture operation into the old Hy-Vee building near the roundabout at University Avenue and Boulder Drive in Cedar Falls. “We’re just thrilled with the store traffic that we’ve seen. When I think about the old store in 2014 and 2015, the traffic in this building is double — sometimes three times that traffic. It’s convenient for customers, and I hear nothing but great feedback from them.” Davis had moved his operation from its Waterloo location at 4020 University Ave. “We were experiencing declining traffic, and the road continued to deteriorate,” he said. Once Cedar Falls approved the University Avenue project, he put the wheels in motion. “We actually made the purchase about a year and a half after that first call,” he said. “It was a long process, and it all just worked out perfectly.” While some minor work will be finished up in the spring, the University Avenue project was substantially completed late last year. The City Council voted 6-1 in February 2015 to narrow the road from six lanes to four and replace six of its eight signalized intersections


with roundabouts. It was a sometimes-contentious process, with most of the conflict coming over the use of roundabouts. Access to businesses, while never completely cut off, suffered when traffic sometimes had to be taken down to one lane. But today’s smooth drive has apparently smoothed over a lot of concerns residents voiced before and through the process. Cedar Falls Mayor Jim Brown said comments from citizens lately have been overwhelmingly positive. “I’ve been saying publicly, probably nine out of 10,” Brown said. “Of course there was a very large group that had been supportive since the beginning.” In other instances, he says, there have been “converts.” “A lot of people who weren’t sure about the project, once they made some trips through the finished corridor a couple of times, they came on board,” Brown said. “They’ve been able to see how it flows, the access in and out of business areas. They appreciate what the city has done there.” Of course, Brown realizes there were some painful points during the process. He mentioned a short duration where access to the HyVee grocery store was difficult for motorists. Completed over three years and three phases, the project was the most significant overhaul of University, once part of U.S. Highway 218, since the road was created and opened in the early 1970s as a sixlane road with a series of signalized intersections. The state turned over

jurisdiction of the road, along with $20 million, to bring the road back to an acceptable condition. “The first phase was probably the hardest, because of the sensitivity to the types of changes,” said Stephanie Houk Sheetz, the city’s director of community development. “There are trails, sidewalks, bus pullouts and a lot of elements people weren’t used to seeing on University Avenue.” Another business owner, Brad Jacobson, operates his insurance agency from his office at 4919 University Ave. He came away impressed with the ability to keep access open to businesses over the entire construction process, even if it was messy at times. “The challenges we incurred were expected,” Jacobson said. “We knew the road needed to be replaced. We anticipated the challenges we had to face. “I’m thrilled with how the road turned out; I think it’s beautiful,” he added. “The road was in extremely poor condition. It was like driving down a washboard. The road was way overdue to be replaced; it was almost an embarrassment.” He’s already seeing bicycle and footprints on the trail in front of his office, indicating he’s apt to see a lot of that traffic during warmer weather. Prior to the construction, there was no pedestrian access on University. “We would see people walking and riding bikes in the lanes of traffic,” Jacobson said. “I was always afraid someone was going to get hurt. That access is one of the huge pluses of the new design.”

Brown listed a number of new businesses in the corridor and noted the city has plans to give specific credit to the appearance and traffic flow on University as the city works to attract more new business. “It’s amazing what has happened over the past three years,” he said. “We should have some pretty good news on new projects this year.” Brown said one of the biggest challenges was getting information to businesses, property owners and other citizens around University before and during the project. City officials held open-housetype informative meetings throughout the process, complete with maps. Information was disseminated on the city’s broadcast channel and website. Officials even went door to door a couple of times. “We heard the good, the bad and the ugly,” he said. City officials and City Council members invested a lot of time in investigating the safety aspects of using roundabouts. “We are finding the report about increased safety to be proving true,” Sheetz said. “Some people may have misinterpreted that no accidents would happen. We can’t guarantee that anywhere. But the severity of the accidents, injuries and the costs for damage is less because there are less ‘T-bones,’ which happen when people are running lights or not paying attention. The severity has gone down.” And whether the city used roundabouts or not, it had long been clear that the road needed to be replaced. Please see UNIVERSITY, Page 34



Sports travel successful venture for



WATERLOO — Brackets are being set up and 68 college teams are prepping for the “March Madness” that is the spring NCAA Division 1 men’s basketball tournament. At Short’s Travel Management, the NCAA championship division of travel agents are running their own drills and girding themselves for the onslaught of complex travel arrangements that must be made to get teams from point A to point B for games. “It really is what the term says — madness. All of the pairings are released on Selection Sunday, and we don’t get the information really before anyone else does. Some of the travel has to happen the next day, so there are a lot of moving parts. Everything has to happen quickly and efficiently, and we stay on top of it. Our agents are making all of that happen,” said Ryan Dohmen, president of STM Charters, a division of Short’s. “There’s a lot of intensity because you throw weather on top of it. Every year, it seems there’s a winter storm somewhere that we have to contend with,” he noted. “The first week to 10 days of the tournament are pretty crazy. We have our dedicated staff yearround for the NCAA, but in March, we’ll pull people in from our other offices and hit the ground running. “All the phone lines and computers are set up, and on Saturday before we’ll have briefings, some training sessions. When things start happening on Sunday, it’s game on,” Dohmen explained. On the heels of the men’s NCAA tournament announcements, another 64 women’s NCAA Di12


vision I basketball teams are selected, followed by 36 teams for the NIT. Short’s arranges travel for all of these teams. “It’s stressful, high-profile and a tight turnaround,” says Kris Fratzke, account executive. As teams are winnowed out of the tournament, remaining teams have a higher profile — “and bigger needs. They’re more particular about the time they depart, when they arrive, amenities on the aircraft, the size of the aircraft,” she said. Players, coaches, staff, administrators, bands and cheerleaders travel on the same plane. “We have to charter aircraft, and we become our own little airline for about two weeks. On one day, we’ll have 54 single charter flights with around 120 people on each flight,” Fratzke explained. Short’s Travel Management was awarded the contract in 2003 to manage NCAA championship travel. Within two years, Short’s began taking on member colleges as individual clients and handling regular-season travel arrangements. The list includes men’s and women’s Division 1, 2 and 3 teams, hockey, swimming, indoor track, women’s bowling, men’s and women’s gymnastics, wrestling, baseball and sports like skiing, rifle and fencing. The company also arranges travel for officials. Regular-season sports are handled by a different group within the Short’s organization, Fratzke said. When a team reaches championship level, travel arrangements are passed over to Short’s NCAA Championship Division. The company moves more than 100 sports teams year-round in


Danni Bildt works on getting flights for North Michigan University’s skiers while working at Short’s Travel.

the regular season, said Dohmen. Regular-season sports teams are already being booked for fall travel, including football, soccer and volleyball. In October 2018, Short’s Travel became the official travel partner of the National Junior College Athletic Association. NJCAA President and Executive Director Dr Christopher Parker said in a press release, “With Short’s Travel Management on our side, we have taken that burden away from them with the top-of-the-line service Short’s provides. We are excited to team up with such a prominent company in the travel industry.” Short’s Travel Management Inc. is a family-owned, woman-owned private corporation established in 1946 in Iowa. Headquartered in Waterloo, the company has an Overland Park, Kan., office and numerous on-site locations. It is ranked as one of the top 20 travel management companies in the industry, specializing in corporate, government, university and sports travel, groups and meetings and air charters. The company’s stated mission is “To enhance the experience of getting there, being there and coming home.” Dohmen said the company is proud of its service, teamwork and dedication to clients, as well as its ability to innovate. The company has a 99 percent client retention rate and a 96.2 percent client satisfaction rating, according to the website. Short’s agents are “nimble” and its information technology

department is “robust,” Dohmen said. “We have 150-ish employees around the country and about 10 to 15 percent of them are in IT. A lot of what we do is technology-based. We’re building new products, and we’ve developed our own online travel portal, online booking tools and processes that make our agents more efficient. It’s all developed and maintained in-house, which also sets us apart from other travel companies.” Short’s CEO David LeCompte listens to its clients and encourages feedback, Dohmen said. “A client makes a suggestion or comes up with a cool idea, and we’ll see if it’s something we can build into our processes. That mentality is part of our success.” On the NCAA Championship Division sports desk, each team is assigned a specific agent. “They work with the same teams and universities and get to know their teams. It’s very personal for us. Our clients talk to a real person each time. Booking sports travel is what our agents do every day, all day,” he explained. The business has grown by leaps and bounds in the past few years, thanks to client referrals. “Our clients say ‘this is who we work with, this is what they do for us, our consultants are fabulous.’ Short’s is successful because of the personal touch we offer. In some instances, we have a Short’s employee on-site at a team’s university, and the coaches can go directly to the agent and tap them on the shoulder.”



Making waves as KBBG FM Radio president META HEMENWAY-FORBES

WATERLOO — Former state Rep. Deborah Berry was named president and executive director of radio station KBBG in June 2017. Berry, who holds a master’s degree in communication and served 14 years in the Legislature and two years on the Waterloo City Council prior to that, was the unanimous choice of KBBG’s board of directors to lead the African- American radio station following the death of her predecessor, University of Northern Iowa professor Scharron Clayton. In 2014, Berry, a Democrat and one of the longest serving African-Americans in the Legislature, was inducted into the Iowa African-American Hall of Fame. She received the 2017 History Maker Award from the African-American Museum of Iowa in Cedar Rapids. WHAT DRIVES YOU? Knowing that I have to create my own opportunities in this perfect time and perfect space. Rediscovering the “new” thing that keeps me relevant phenom-

broadcasting standardize and maintain staff levels, and prepare KBBG for the next millennium as we reach heights using a social media platform. WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR 2019? Personally: Stay healthy, begin writing my memoir in leadership, continue to make time to rediscover my artistic talent through painting and, most important, continue to be an inspiration speaking life into those who feel lost, moment by moment wherever I am. Professionally: To continue to build KBBG into the powerful media center that will teach youth the importance of having a voice (community learning center) and empower all listeners in communities to be active and participate in making the community “one.” To be an all0inclusive radio station through quality programming that speaks to the needs of all sectors of our community in an effort to BRANDON POLLOCK, COURIER STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER grow and become more enlightened; lastly, to Deborah Berry is executive director of KBBG expand into new markets through social meradio. dia and other marketing opportunities. enal and in the game. WHAT MAKES THE CEDAR VALLEY A GREAT WHAT WAS YOUR BIGGEST ACCOMPLISHMENT PLACE FOR BUSINESS/EDUCATION? IN 2018? Leading the charge in rebuilding and Waterloo’s diverse community is a huge plus. rebranding KBBG-FM radio station. With the In our community are members from various African nations, Pakistan and other Hindu help a dedicated new board of directors, staff nations; Hispanic, Asian Bosnian, Burmese and community support (Guernsey Founand other countries. Acknowledging, dation, Community foundation and Black understanding and embracing the various Hawk County Gaming Association), we were Please see BERRY, Page 16 able to purchase major equipment critical to


Leading the charge at UNI META HEMENWAY-FORBES


Mark Nook is president of the University of Northern Iowa.

CEDAR FALLS On Feb. 1, 2017, Mark Nook began serving as the University of Northern Iowa’s 11th president. Among his many goals and initiatives is reversing the decline in student enrollment at UNI. UNI’s peak enrollment was 14,070 in the fall of 2001. Last fall, there were 11,212 students enrolled. Nook has said his target is to reach 13,500 students by the fall of 2023.That includes increasing the university’s share of recent high school graduates from across the state. “We’re going to take and enroll as many Iowa kids as we can,” said Nook in a Courier story last fall.

WHAT DRIVES YOU? I love the university environment. It is a unique place where people learn from each other and explore and test new ideas across a wide spectrum of topics. At UNI the faculty and staff are extremely committed to helping our students become knowledgeable and thoughtful people, who become valued employees and engaged members of their community, state and country. WHAT WAS YOUR BIGGEST ACCOMPLISHMENT IN 2018? The biggest accomplishment was probably our work with the Regents and legislature to attain our full funding request during the 2018 legislative session. That helped us better serve UNI students and their families, our employees and the businesses and industries in Iowa. WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR 2019? My primary goal is to make sure that UNI has the resources (human, financial and physical facilities) to be able to educate our students, Please see NOOK, Page 16




Attorney, leader, community helper META HEMENWAY-FORBES meta.hemenway-forbes@

WATERLOO — In July 2018, Eric Johnson, law partner at Beecher, Field, Walker, Morris, Hoffman & Johnson, P.C., was elected to lead the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber board of directors. Johnson will chair the regional economic and community development organization through its 2019 fiscal year. WHAT DRIVES YOU? First, I’ve always found satisfaction in accomplishing tasks. I don’t know the origin of that, but I wake up every morning and feel like my cup is empty and feel a need to fill it. Whether you call that a strong work ethic or a need for therapy, might depend on the person or situation. Second, I have a desire to help others. I would credit that to both my upbringing from my parents as well as my Christian faith. Third, I am competitive. By nature, I like to succeed. I’ve noticed as I have aged, that competition is not as much with others, but has evolved into simply

ERIC JOHNSON trying to be the best version of myself. With those factors, I find my focus gravitates toward: (A) work in trying to help clients solve their problems or prevent future problems; and (B), helping my community. I am grateful for what I have and what I feel my community has given me over the years. WHAT WAS YOUR BIGGEST ACCOMPLISHMENT IN 2018? Professionally my role as an attorney is to be an adviser and hopefully to be a key member of my client’s team. I had the opportunity in 2018 to work with many clients in accomplishing their goals, some bigger projects, some projects not as big from a dollar or notoriety standpoint but all important to the clients involved. While I don’t take credit for those successes, I hope to take credit for being an integral part of my clients’ team. Community-wise, I think my role with the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance currently and this past year as chair has been rewarding. We have taken this time of change to do some introspection, try to refocus and then execute on that new plan. We are trying to take what is a good idea, and organization and make it better. I am fortunate to have a good board and great staff to work with on those. WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR 2019? My goals for 2019 are really the same as for 2018. Continuing


Eric Johnson is a law partner at Beecher, Field, Walker, Morris, Hoffman & Johnson, P.C., and leads the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber Board of Directors. to assist clients in successfully completing their projects and also helping to better my community. From a personal standpoint, my goal is to continue to find that illusive balance in my life between business and home, work and play, etc. Please see JOHNSON, Page 16


Waterloo Police Chief, Black Hawk County Supervisor META HEMENWAY-FORBES meta.hemenway-forbes@

WATERLOO — Dan Trelka became Waterloo chief of police in May 2010. A U.S. Marine Corps veteran, he started his career as a deputy sheriff in Weld County, Colo., in 1990. From 1992-2010, he was a member of the Sturgeon Bay, Wis., Police Department, where he served as chief of police for seven years. In November 2018, Trelka became the first Republican in a decade to win a seat on the Black Hawk County Board of Supervisors. He’s currently serving as police chief and on the board of supervisors. In 2016, Trelka and his wife adopted two girls they’d been fostering for two years. The girls joined the couple and their five biological children as part of the Trelka family. In early 2018, Trelka made news again when he donated a kidney to a stranger in Milwaukee. WHAT DRIVES YOU? Success, but success comes in many forms for different people. For me, seeing the crime rate in Waterloo continue to trend down is the type of suc14 WCFCOURIER.COM | PROGRESS 2019


Waterloo Police Chief and county Supervisor Dan Trelka sits outside his office at the Black Hawk County Courthouse. cess I thrive on. I live in Waterloo. If I am a part of an organization that is having a positive impact upon the crime rate, that benefits the ones I love: my family. WHAT WAS YOUR BIGGEST ACCOMPLISHMENT IN 2018? Donating a kidney for a person in need. It was kind of comical, too. As I was lying on the operating table before they put me under, I literally said to myself, “This seems kind of barbaric.” Then I chuckled to myself and I was out. WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR 2019?

1. Diversion of citizens suffering a mental health crisis from the county jail to feasible, prudent alternatives (detox, crisis center or the hospital). We are nearly to the point of making this a reality. 2. Every year Waterloo police officers run a physical fitness test (sit-ups, push-ups, sit and reach, and the 1 ½ mile run). For each decade of age, the threshold for passing increases. My goal is to pass the physical fitness test in the 20-29 year old range. (Editor’s note: Trelka is 55.) 3. As a county board supervisor, discovering and pursuing collaborations with other local governmental entities for the mutual benefit of all residents in Black Hawk County. WHAT MAKES THE CEDAR VALLEY A GREAT PLACE FOR BUSINESS/EDUCATION? We are fertile ground for progress, growth and opportunities. Just look at what each individual city in the Cedar Valley has to offer. The offerings are as diverse as our citizens. There is something for everybody. Yet everybody knows everybody else. And let’s look at how we are geographically located. Des Moines, Madison, Chicago, Minneapolis, St. Louis, Kansas City and Omaha are all within fairly easy driving distance. Want to go further? You have your choice of no less than half a dozen airports within 250 miles to utilize. WHAT’S A LESSON YOU’VE LEARNED IN YOUR CAREER JOURNEY? If you enjoy your job, you never have to work another day in your life.



CF schools superintendent strives for excellence META HEMENWAY-FORBES,

CEDAR FALLS — On July 1, 2013, Andy Pattee officially began his duties as superintendent of Cedar Falls schools. He left his job as superintendent of schools in Charles City to lead the charge in Cedar Falls. He is a Humboldt native and graduated from the University of Northern Iowa in 1998. He also has a doctoral degree in education from Drake University. WHAT DRIVES YOU? Like most people, I am driven by positive relationships, collaboration and a focus on excellence. On a deeper level, as an educational leader, I am motivated by creating engaged learning opportunities and richer experiences for students and staff members. I strive to be a servant leader, helping the system improve for the sake of our constituents. I am excited and driven by working within a system of multiple external and internal components helping ensure all elements are working toward the same goals

for the 2018-19 school year as the district’s seventh elementary building, Center for Advanced Professional Studies expanding and providing enhanced partnerships and opportunities for students and business/ industry, having three students receive perfect scores on their ACT, recognized as being one of only two school districts in the state of Iowa named to the Advanced Placement Honor Roll, expansion of our computer science/coding curriculum to all K-12 students, enriching essential standards through our learning based grading process to ensure all students know KELLY WENZEL, COURIER STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER what must be learned and which skills must be Andy Pattee sits in the library near the exhibited for success, and being named a Top entrance of the new Aldrich Elementary 10 District in Iowa by Niche and U.S. News & School in Cedar Falls. World Report, to name a few. and high levels of success. Our community school district is one of the foundational cornerstones of our great city of Cedar Falls and surrounding regions. With collaborative and forward thinking systems, we can make certain our community stays vibrant and continues to grow for generations to come, and that is certainly a strong motivational factor. WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST ACCOMPLISHMENT IN 2018? The Cedar Falls Community School District had several accomplishments during 2018. A few include Aldrich Elementary opening

WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR 2019? Our goals are to continue to focus on excellence and enhancing our student, staff and community opportunities for enhanced learning, collaboration and growth. As we continue to increase student enrollment, we know we still have facility challenges that need to be addressed. The high school facility limits educationally what we can provide, and safety and security Please see PATTEE, Page 16


Building a strong community META HEMENWAY-FORBES meta.hemenway-forbes@

WATERLOO — Gary and Becky Bertch are the owners of Bertch Cabinet Manufacturing, which has production facilities in Waterloo, Oelwein and Jesup. Their support of organizations and nonprofits in the community is helping to strengthen COURTESY PHOTO the Cedar Valley and their business to ensure Gary and Becky Bertch own Bertch Cabinet long-term success for both. In 2001, the Bertches took the plunge and Manufacturing and Lost Island Waterpark, built Lost Island Waterpark, which has since and are the Cedar Valley United Way 2018 become one of the top-ranked water parks in campaign chairs. the country. chairs and getting through that process and The Bertches also chair the 2018 Cedar Valley learning what all was involved, as well as all United Way campaign. the new relationships that we formed. WHAT DRIVES YOU? Striving to be the best On a business perspective, we continue to you can be in whatever project or business develop and improve the manufacturing and opportunity you take on. Secondly, it is the people we work with every day who drives us. family entertainment businesses. WHAT WAS YOUR BIGGEST ACCOMPLISHMENT IN 2018? On a personal level, probably being the 2018 Cedar Valley United Way Campaign

WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR 2019? Our goals Please see BERTCH, Page 16


WE DO IT ALL! Manufactured in Iowa for over 90 Years 988-4200 | WATERLOO moved to hwy 63 1 mile S of 20 393-5768 | CEDAR RAPIDS WCFCOURIER.COM | PROGRESS 2019 15



From 13

From 13

differences that divide, is an authentic strength and not a weakness.

groups opens new opportunities that support the idea of unique cultural experiences (in food, music, etc.) that make a positive contribution to the larger society. Focusing on those positives, rather than the superficial

WHAT’S A LESSON YOU’VE LEARNED IN YOUR CAREER JOURNEY? The most prevalent lesson learned in my career journey is the importance of speaking truth to power. While in the Iowa Legislature, I was unaware that I was being

support our faculty and staff and enrich the economic, social and cultural life of our region and state. Specifically this year that means: „„ Attaining sufficient state funding to be able to keep our tuition reasonable for Iowa students and families. „„ Putting programs, processes and systems in place to assure a healthy long-term enrollment for the university. „„ Improving diversity on campus and working to make sure all students and employees have an equitable opportunity to be successful in reaching their educational, professional and personal-life goals. „„ Growing the Purple Circle, i.e. increasing the reputation of UNI in Iowa and beyond. „„ Improving the economic, social and cultural vibrancy of the Cedar Valley and Iowa. „„ Spending quality time with my family, especially our grandchildren. WHAT MAKES THE CEDAR VALLEY A GREAT PLACE FOR BUSINESS/EDUCATION? The people. The people of the Cedar Valley have a kindness that goes beyond being nice. It is deeper, more genuine and more caring. The people here also value hard work and determination, and they truly value education because they know it is the only way to secure the future of our region and country. They built an economy that is diverse and not dependent on a single economic sector. They created a high quality of life that is apparent in the miles of trails and recreational opportunities, strong and diverse arts and culture scene, and an extremely robust and diverse educational structure that includes strong public and private pre-K – 12 schools, a great community college, a strong private liberal arts college, and of course the best public university in the nation. WHAT’S A LESSON YOU’VE LEARNED IN YOUR CAREER JOURNEY? I am extremely thankful for the mentors I’ve had throughout my career. I know I wouldn’t be where I am without them and the wisdom they shared. They paid it forward by sharing their professional knowledge. Through them I learned a great deal about how to be a professional in higher education, but more significantly, I learned the importance of paying it forward, helping the next generation be ready to take on the challenges they will face. We have a responsibility to not only leave the world in a better place than we found it, but to also make sure that the next generation has the ability to make it better for the generation that follows them. 16 WCFCOURIER.COM | PROGRESS 2019


our CAPS program, ongoing and deeper use of technology allowing students to showcase their critical From 15 thinking and analytical skills, and must be addressed. Additionally, provide greater enrichment activwe continue to explore how can we ities to all students. provide greater collaborative partnerships with the city of Cedar Falls, WHAT’S A LESSON YOU’VE UNI, Cedar Falls Utilities, etc. as we LEARNED IN YOUR CAREER look at both efficiency and quality in JOURNEY? I think this is twofold. The power of collective thought our services. We will explore the expansion of and unwavering focus on integrity

Johnson From 14

WHAT MAKES THE CEDAR VALLEY A GREAT PLACE FOR BUSINESS/EDUCATION? I think we have a great framework in the Cedar Valley on which to build. Of course, in my mind, the bedrock for that is John Deere and UNI. We are fortunate to have both of them as anchors in our community. There are many others that also serve to make our community great. In education, Hawkeye Community College, Wartburg College, Allen College and all of our K-12 school systems throughout the Cedar Valley. In business, we have great businesses like Bertch Cabinets, Viking Pump, and the list could go on forever. However ultimately, I think that you need to look at the people of the Cedar Valley as its greatest resource. I moved to the community in 1991 with my wife Lori, and we didn’t know anybody. We have found the people here to be welcoming, diverse and resilient. They truly are the lifeblood of the Cedar Valley.

Bertch From 15

are the same as they have been for the last 40plus years: To be the best we can be, service our customers to the best of our ability, provide a quality product on time, every time. WHAT MAKES THE CEDAR VALLEY A GREAT PLACE FOR BUSINESS? Certainly the people here and their sense of community and their work ethic. It’s a central location with a reasonable cost of living. WHAT’S A LESSON YOU’VE LEARNED IN YOUR

groomed and cultivated for a new career in public broadcasting as president of KBBG radio station. Speaking truth to power means trusting deeply in what I believe and being persistent every day to have that heard. It may not be popular. It means taking a risk. It means standing for something. I learned it takes courage to stand upon one’s own convictions, and I must.

and fairness can have dramatic and impactful influence on change. Change is challenging as it moves people past the known, current state. Having a collective commitment from a divergent group of individuals to create a path toward a better tomorrow has to be accomplished together, but must also be for the betterment of everyone in the system, community, etc.

WHAT LESSONS YOU’VE LEARNED IN YOUR CAREER JOURNEY? I have learned a fair number of lessons because I have made a fair number of mistakes along the way. Two that stick out to me are the following: 1. Surround yourself with good people. Certainly, that applies in the professional and work situation. I have been blessed to have great co-workers. However, I have seen in more than one situation the results when people don’t surround themselves with strong co-workers. It’s also applicable in your personal life. Just like your mom told you, “Be careful who you choose for your friends.” That advice is timeless. 2. Deal with your problems head on. My professional life centers around problems, helping clients avoid them or helping them resolve them once they have occurred. Problems are universal, we all have them. However, ignoring them never, or very rarely at least, works. It’s best to simply deal with them immediately the best you can, and then keep moving forward — something which I have to remind myself of on a daily basis also. Like all advice, easy to give, hard to live.

CAREER JOURNEY? It’s hard to single out one. My dad always told us it was important to enjoy what you do. Also, “Remember there is always someone smarter than you.” There’s also a great quote hanging on our office wall from The Economist: “Every morning in Africa a gazelle wakes up. It must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa a lion wakes up. It must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a lion or a gazelle. When the sun comes up you’d better be running.” Lastly, whether in business or personal endeavors, it’s all about personal relationships.



Making magic for kids in need

never imagined when we started. The continued support the Cedar Valley gives to help us provide this once-in-a lifetime trip to Disney World for these sick children is amazing. The accomplishments made over these 20 years by our many volunteers and board members is a career highlight most will never realize. I am grateful I have been a part of it. WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR 2019? My goal is to involve more individuals in my organization in the leadership of where we are going and the direction that we are heading. I am fortunate to have some very talented and committed people that I work with, and I hope they are eager to step-up and take advantage of the opportunities we have in this growing company. We have seen strong growth in both our radio business and in our new digital marketing division. Together, they are tremendous in producing results for our marketing clients and our community service efforts. 2019 is going to be a banner year for us.

WHAT MAKES THE CEDAR VALLEY A GREAT PLACE FOR BUSINESS? The Cedar Valley is now a very progressive and successful place to do business. When I moved here in 1993, I don’t know if I would have said this. Some visionary business and community leaders in the late ’90s worked very hard to bring our two communities together and instill a self-belief into how great we could be as a community. Before then, I believe there was a lack of belief. However, it is still strong today, and you can see it in the individuals who are investing, building and supporting the Cedar Valley. Success breeds success, and it’s contagious. We have many young entrepreneurs who continue to promote this belief that we are in a great place to do business WHAT’S A LESSON YOU’VE LEARNED IN YOUR CAREER JOURNEY? I have a quote written on a large piece of faded paper on the wall in our office that reads, “You’ll never make it.” I put it on the wall after I was told that by someone in my industry when I got started in the Cedar Valley. Early on, I learned there are some individuals who don’t want you to be successful and, I believe, don’t want to be successful themselves. You will come in contact with them throughout your career, maybe even working with them. What I learned is that you can’t help what other people think about you or your dreams, or what they think of themselves. All I can do is always be working to be the person I want to be, never losing sight of my values and goals, and not getting frustrated at others lack of ambition or devotion to their dreams.

WHAT WAS YOUR BIGGEST ACCOMPLISHMENT IN 2018? My biggest accomplishment was operating a small business with little help, but we survived with the business provided by the community and surrounding areas. WHAT’S YOU GOAL IN 2019? To gain more support from my community and surrounding areas so we can continue to run a successful business. WHAT MAKES THE CEDAR VALLEY A GREAT PLACE FOR BUSINESS/EDUCATION? You can focus on many things, such as family, community development and leaving a positive impact on the community and what you love the most. WHAT’S A LESSON YOU’VE LEARNED IN YOUR CAREER JOURNEY? No matter how tough times fall on you, never give up.

Rodney Lewis is owner of Rodney’s Kitchen in downtown Waterloo.

META HEMENWAY-FORBES meta.hemenway-forbes@

CEDAR FALLS — Jim Coloff, owner and general manager of KCVM 93.5 The Mix Radio, is co-founder of Magical Mix Kids, a nonprofit organization created to provide a worry-free vacation for chronically and terminally ill children of the Cedar Valley area. The trips are 100 percent funded by donations. Last year marked Magical Mix Kids’ 20th annual trip to Walt Disney World. WHAT DRIVES YOU? I take great inspiration from my parents, who are wonderful people and taught themselves how to be successful business owners. Their success has helped inspire me to be the best person that I can be. I also believe that in all the things that you set out to do, do them as if you are doing them for something bigger than yourself or someone else. That helps keep the fire alive when you need to hurdle those inevitable roadblocks that come your way. WHAT WAS YOUR BIGGEST ACCOMPLISHMENT IN 2018? In terms of our radio business in the Cedar Valley, we started two new radio stations in 2018. First was the new 102.3 FM signal for our Sports Talk station, 1650 The Fan. The second was our new Country station for Waterloo/ Cedar Falls at FM 106.5 and 93.5 HD2. We are the only commercial station broadcasting in HD radio in the market, and it has allowed us to do some innovative things with these new radio stations. Personally, going into my 20th year leading Magical Mix Kids is a highlight I would have


Jim Coloff is owner and general manager of KCVM 93.5 The Mix Radio, is co-founder of the nonprofit organization Magical Mix Kids.


Owner of Rodney’s Kitchen, champion of kids META HEMENWAY-FORBES meta.hemenway-forbes@

WATERLOO — Rodney Lewis, owner of Rodney’s Kitchen in downtown Waterloo, aims to be a positive influence in the lives of young people. He has organized a teen work skills program, offers free sack lunches for kids in need and more. In August, Lewis received the Paul Mann Memorial Human Relations Award presented by the Iowa State Education Association. While Lewis’ restaurant serves up great food, his work in the community, specifically for hungry kids, is what earned him ISEA’s honor. WHAT DRIVES YOU? My kids and my community drive me because you have to be an example to both.





on my radar. In this role, I want so much for the students of Waterloo Schools. What drives me is my desire to provide leadership for our district that ensures students get what they need. I want others to see our students for the bright amazing kids they are. I want to be one of the few districts that has closed the META HEMENWAY-FORBES achievement gap for students of color. While WATERLOO — Jane Lindaman became Wa- we have made some wonderful progress, terloo Schools superintendent in 2014 following there’s so much to do. My faith is strong and the retirement of her predecessor Gary Norris. drives me to lead our district to be among the She arrived in Waterloo in 2005 as principal of best. Bunger Middle School. After a year, Lindaman WHAT WAS YOUR BIGGEST ACCOMPLISHMENT was promoted to executive director of learning IN 2018? I’m proud of the work our district has and results and middle school education. Later, done to launch the Waterloo Career Center. she was named to the associate superintendent When the bond vote failed in February of 2016, position. She has a doctorate in educational lead- we found another way to move forward with ership from the University of Northern Iowa. expanding career programming for students in our district. In a couple of short years, we WHAT DRIVES YOU? From the time I was have grown from two career programs to 14, young, I wanted to be a teacher. I used to set and we’re on track to have over 600 students up a makeshift school room in my back yard, at the Career Center next year. We are drawing making the neighbor kids come over to do a diverse group of students to these programs, math worksheets throughout the summer. and we’re collaborating with other districts Why they listened to me, I’ll never know. I so their students can attend, as well. These think education has always been in my blood, as is leadership. Becoming the superintendent courses are engaging students at high levels, increasing our graduation rate (which reached was truly a leap of faith and it certainly wasn’t

Education, leadership ‘in her blood’


Jane Lindaman is the Waterloo Schools superintendent. its highest point this past year at 84 percent), while helping students earn college credits and certifications that provide them with a competitive advantage for their future. It is truly a point of pride for 2018. WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR 2019? In 2019, we will be launching a new strategic plan that will drive our work over the next five years. There are several things that will be front and center Please see LINDAMAN, Page 19


Making connections through Grow Cedar Valley META HEMENWAY-FORBES meta.hemenway-forbes@

WATERLOO — Cary Darrah was named CEO of the Grow Cedar Valley, formerly the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber in September 2018 after seven months as interim CEO of the economic development group. She is the first woman to head the group or any of its predecessor organizations since Kristi Ray headed the Cedar Falls Chamber of Commerce from 1997 to 2002. A native of Cedar Falls and Iowa State University graduate, Darrah was named general manager of Techworks, an Alliance subsidiary, in 2007. She was then promoted to GCVAC executive vice president of community development in 2012 and TechWorks president in 2016. Prior to joining the Alliance & Chamber, Darrah was director of Cedar Falls Community Main Street from 1997 to 2007. WHAT DRIVES YOU? I’ve always said “I have a healthy fear of failure”, and while that is somewhat true, I can also say that I’m driven by listening, assessing needs and connecting resources for successful outcomes — not mine but others. It could be helping an employer connect with a new employee or a friend find a new recipe for their event. I love solving 18 WCFCOURIER.COM | PROGRESS 2019

many methods of research about the business and community needs of the Cedar Valley. There were several themes that are leading us to carve our path for the future — with workforce and talent development at the top of our priority list. My goal is to work with community partners to move the needle in addressing those concerns both for our businesses and to affect the quality of life for our residents. WHAT MAKES THE CEDAR VALLEY A GREAT PLACE FOR BUSINESS/EDUCATION? With a community priority of education and access to quality education at all levels, we have a solid base to attract, retain and grow businesses while also contributing a rich environment for BRANDON POLLOCK, COURIER STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER the current and future workforce. There is no doubt that pride and investment is critical for Cary Darrah is CEO of the Greater Cedar the business and educational climate of any Valley Alliance & Chamber. community, and the Cedar Valley is made up of problems or removing barriers. several individual communities, representing WHAT WAS YOUR BIGGEST ACCOMPLISHMENT rich and diverse contributions — all who are swelling with pride about their heritage and IN 2018? Accepting the honor of CEO of Grow future. Cedar Valley, which allows me to collaborate WHAT’S A LESSON YOU’VE LEARNED IN YOUR with others and celebrate this amazing CAREER JOURNEY?With gratitude, the career community. There is always work to be done, lesson that I’ve learned is that every person, and I am proud to lead a team committed to every perspective has value and a story. Once making the Cedar Valley a great place to live again, listening is key. I don’t know that I was and grow both professionally and personally. always a good listener, but I’ve learned that WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR 2019? Our in order to satisfy what drives me – making team is in the process of re-branding and connections that help others meet their needs refreshing the organization. With the help of — it starts with a deliberate effort to listen and understand those needs. our stakeholders, we listened to input through



Celebrating diversity, teaching tech to kids META HEMENWAY-FORBES meta.hemenway-forbes@

WATERLOO — Poet, artist and youth advocate Cherie “Chillin’” Kabba splits her time between the Cedar Valley and the San Francisco Bay area, teaching technology to young people in both regions. In 2017, she founded The SoulTown, “a community-based magazine that tells positive, realistic and in-depth stories impacting primarily the black and brown communities.” WHAT DRIVES YOU? I do what I love. I am driven by Maya Angelou’s quote, “You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you.” I am driven by things I do not know in the world of technology. I am driven by curious youth that have a desire to learn from me. I want them to know more than I know. The speed of technology reminds me of the speed of a light rail train traveling hundreds of miles in just seconds. I don’t want to be on the platform waiting for the next new thing, blink, then run the risk of missing it. This is the reason I have chosen to return to the Silicon Valley to immerse myself in the field of technology, working with youth and a technology network with a plethora of techies with like minds. I am driven to learn new things. Then, return to Waterloo and share it with youth. Just when I thought I had an understanding of virtual reality, I was on a plane headed to M.I.T. to be trained in the field augmented reality. I’ve seen how small steps can make a difference by improving and enhancing the tech skills of youth. WHAT WAS YOUR BIGGEST ACCOMPLISHMENT IN 2018? Is it possible to measure the size of accomplishments? In 2018, I was given an opportunity to rejoin the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula (Menlo Park,

Lindaman From 18

in our plan, including additional strategies to close the achievement gap, additional supports for mental health and emotional well-being, and expanded experiential learning opportunities. My personal goals for 2019 are to continue to engage with and listen to our stakeholders and increase teacher retention.

West Africa, I promised my ancestors that I would help to tell their stories so their great-great-great-great-greatgrandchildren would know of them and their struggles. We are connecting our culture to our cyber and conscious communities. Each story is written from the heart and includes the depth of the writer’s soul. WHAT MAKES THE CEDAR VALLEY A GREAT PLACE FOR BUSINESS/EDUCATION? The Cedar Valley is an untapped market, a good place for the impetus for product innovation or customization. However, when I returned a few years back, I realized the Cedar Valley is a manufacturing city first. Technology is a close PHOTO BY RUBY FONG second. The bridge in the middle of Waterloo is a Cherie “Chillin’” Kabba facilitates youth tech symbol of connections. The connections made workshops, including programming robots from mobile devices, like Kuri, The Adorable via networking in the Cedar Valley are forever. Once the myths have been dispelled, common Home Robot. ground is established between the cultures, and Calif.) and the Clubhouse Network, an the bonds built are endless. The most valued international community that provides possession we have in the ... the Cedar Valley technology education to underserved youth, today is our networks and “circles.” while simultaneously leading the team of The SoulTown Digital & Print Magazine in WHAT’S A LESSON YOU’VE LEARNED IN YOUR Waterloo. CAREER JOURNEY? The 10 most valuable We have successfully published 25 magazines. lessons I have learned in my career are: I have worked on many teams, but the dynamics 1. The path I have chosen to be a black, female of these teams are, by far, the most rewarding. entrepreneur blazing trails in literacy, technolThis part of my life’s journey is about me going ogy and education is not easy. ... If it were easy, where I am celebrated, not tolerated. It is about everyone would choose it. balance. It is about being the best mother, grand2.Self-preservation is the first law of nature. mother, team player, friend, colleague — the best Once I take care of myself, it becomes easier to person I can be. take care of others. 3. I can help you build your dreams as long as WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR 2019? My goals I am building my dreams, too. Unsure of what for 2019 center around me being intentional your dreams are? I dare you to discover a paswith what I create with the youth while sion project. retaining as much about new technologies as 4. Seek first to understand, then be undermy mind will allow. goals include exposing stood. Never assume a person can read your youth to technology in a fun and fulfilling way. mind. I want our youth to declare STEM-related 5. If you permit it, you promote it. majors during their first year in college. I’d love 6. If someone wants my opinion, they will ask. to coach a teen tech team that creates a project 7. Don’t talk about it, be about it. My actions speak louder than my words. to exhibit at Maker Faire. 8. I am a doer. Execution is the name of the My goal for The SoulTown Magazine, our virtual city, is to keep the Sankofa Promise I made to game. 9. I know my strengths and I stay in my lane. my ancestors in 2006. As I left the House of Slaves 10. I go where I am celebrated, not tolerated. on Goree Island, off the coast of Dakar, Senegal,

WHAT MAKES THE CEDAR VALLEY A GREAT PLACE FOR BUSINESS/EDUCATION? The people and the opportunities. The Cedar Valley is the perfect size, small enough that you know many, but large enough to offer a variety of experiences. The sports, theater, shopping, cultural opportunities … we enjoy them all! We love raising our two boys here, and I love that they attend Waterloo Schools. The diversity in Waterloo provides us with experiences that are more like the real world than anywhere in Iowa.

WHAT’S A LESSON YOU’VE LEARNED IN YOUR CAREER JOURNEY? I learned early on the importance of staying true to my values. When I make decisions, I always think of the students first. From instructional decisions to weather decisions, it’s just easier to determine our next steps if I stay focused on kids. There will always be some who disagree with my decisions, and I understand that. But if I make decisions in the students’ best interest, I sleep a lot better at night. WCFCOURIER.COM | PROGRESS 2019 19





CHANGES in downtown Cedar Falls propel district forward


ou can’t go near downtown Cedar Falls without noticing the dramatic changes taking place there. Whether it’s the residential and commercial building going up between Washington and Clay streets on First Street or the six-story hotel under construction on First and Main streets, developers are changing the face — and the feel — of the city’s downtown district. But more subtle and longer term changes — which are now coming to fruition — have been in the works for years. The Hampton Inn, which will grace the site where the Broom Factory Restaurant and Cedar Falls Chamber of Commerce buildings once stood, will feature 130 guest rooms, including double queen rooms and larger senior suites, a large meeting room and services for guests, according to Damen Trebildick, vice president of development with Hawkeye Hotels, the Coralville-based company building the multi-million dollar facility. “Those five corner suites will have balconies with glass rails, a patio and wet bar,” he said. “And the view from the top floor is amazing. You can look right down Main Street. “Cedar Falls is a growing market for hospitality rooms,” Trebildick said. “With the streetscape and the boutique-style businesses, we really wanted to be downtown. “With the positioning of this hotel, the proximity to downtown, there isn’t anything comparable within a couple of miles,” he said. Construction of the hotel began in July 2018 and it is about 60 percent complete, Trebildick said. “We expect to be done by late spring or early summer,” he said. “Our goal is to be open for the Sturgis Falls Celebration. That’s what we are trying to hit. “This is a big investment for us,” he said. “We own and operate

BUILDING OUR WORKFORCE Cedar Falls housing at Second and State streets. more than 50 hotels and have 25 in construction. “Cedar Falls has been able to bring people downtown and attract outside investors. We’re very excited to join the community.” Just a block away, Arabella, the mostly residential building being built on Washington and First streets is a project Brent Dahlstrom and Jim Sulentic are partnering on. Neither are newcomers to bringing construction projects to the Cedar Valley. Sulentic alone owns five buildings on Main Street in Cedar Falls, and he’s excited about Arabella. “This is the best project we’ve ever done,” he said. “The retail space is spoken for, and I expect to have the place completely rented out by the time it is finished.” Arabella, which will feature 50 residential units — 46 studio apartments and four two-bedroom units — is expected to be complete this summer, bringing even more people to reside in the downtown district — a trend started by Mark Kittrell, owner and CEO of Eagle View Partners, with River Place Apartments on State Street. Kittrell continues to put his mark on the downtown district. His company acquired the Blackhawk Hotel as well as the former Wells Fargo building. The bank building and drive-thru are being demolished, and new buildings are expected to be constructed there. Another of Kittrell’s downtown properties, Mill Race — a co-working space and kind of business incubator — is bearing fruit as well. Emergent Architecture has made the move from Mill Race and set up a storefront in the downtown district. Not as glamorous, but certainly necessary, is the ongoing

levee work that will resume in the spring. “We are going through and extending the levee two feet from the Ice House Museum to the Western Home’s downtown campus,” said Matthew Tolan, a civil engineer with the city of Cedar Falls. “That will be an increase of 2.77 feet over the crest of the 2008 flood.” The levee work started in November 2017 and is expected to be done in June. The levee consists of a mix of systems, Tolan said. “The structural wall made of concrete starts at the Ice House and goes to the First Street bridge. Then there is an earthen levee, which is a clay mound with topsoil and seed, that goes to the waste water treatment plant.” The remaining work is aesthetic. “We’ll be installing decorative wall caps and painting and adding lights,” Tolan said. Crews also will restore the flower beds at Peter Melendy Park, add new sidewalks and reinstall lighting, and will do work on the proposed downtown plaza at State and Second streets — as part of new trail connections — by adding stairs, a retaining wall and planter beds. The work is being financed with a $6.6 million flood mitigation grant from the Iowa Homeland Emergency Management Department. “We don’t expect to use the entire amount on the levee,” Tolan said. With all that is going on, it is an exciting time for the downtown district, as Carol Lilly, executive director of Cedar Falls Community Main Street, will attest. “We’re seeing a period of pretty dramatic growth and changes to the downtown area,”

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she said.” I anticipate that is just going to continue.There is a lot of interest in investing in the downtown right now.” Lilly credits some of that success to what she says is the continued focus and constant attention that has been put on the district. “I think it’s been a lot of the businesses and volunteers who appreciate and know what a healthy downtown means to the greater community. The small things add up,” she said. “Those details matter.” When people want to hang out somewhere, there are people who will want to invest in that location. Lilly says that is due in no small part to Community Main Street and the National Main Street initiatives. “There is a set pattern and flow, a methodical approach to development,” she said. “The mix of businesses. We help identify what type of business would be a good fit. When you have a strong base, that builds traffic. And people can walk along and enjoy the aesthetics. It all works together. And we have been celebrating each small success along the way.

“We are continually trying to improve, to attract investors and better what it is like to live, to work, to have a business downtown. Having Community Main Street helps because we constantly keep downtown in the community’s consciousness. That’s part of the reason we keep thriving.” It’s a lot of hard work and deliberate, conscious decisions that have been made that help it stay a thriving downtown. The addition of a multitude of apartments to the district expands the focus of all involved with Main Street. “I think the downtown residents are looking for a place to connect,” Lilly said. “Their focus is on experiencing everything downtown has to offer. We need to be seeking businesses that help the residents’ experience. Those extra touches you won’t get when you shop online or go through a drive-thru restaurant. It’s a different experience when you are in a business. And I think our businesses are embracing the downtown residents.” “It has brought changes. You will see more foot traffic at different


Arabella, a mixed-use building going up on First Street in Cedar Falls, will feature 50 residential units and retail space. times of day, people walking their dogs up and down the street. Residents are bringing a different feel to the downtown.” Lilly, like a lot of people, is keeping an eye on the parking situation in the district. “Our organization has done a lot to keep ahead of the curve,” she said. “The city has recognized we are at least at the cusp of that curve and has brought in an outside entity (referring to a recent parking study for the area). ... It will be interesting to see what happens next. I think we will be seeing some changes. Following a parking survey and two public meetings, the city re-

cently voted to implement recommendations from the parking study. Lilly also is anxious for the downtown streetscape project to begin. “It’s a four-year plan,” she said. “We are trying to expand the look and feel of Main Street to the surrounding streets. There will be decorative light poles, more banners and flowers, hub areas, benches, bike racks and trash cans. “We are trying to improve the walkability of the district and we’ve been working really hard to give the residents a beautiful, safe and comfortable downtown district.”

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Downtown Waterloo shows no sign of slowing down AMIE RIVERS

WATERLOO — Call Rodney Lewis a downtown Waterloo convert. When he decided to move Rodney’s Kitchen to a storefront with inside seating, he just happened to find the perfect place on Sycamore Street, he said. But since seeing his business boom there, he’s encouraged other entrepreneurs to locate downtown as well. He says he helped convince business owners of Boujee Berries, Five Seasons Hair and Beard Studio and The Spot to join him on Sycamore Street, building a destination block of sorts. “I like the way that Main Street Waterloo is always involved with different businesses around here, always getting us involved in different activities,” Lewis said. “I love it.” When Jessica Rucker took over as Main Street Waterloo’s executive director last spring, she found herself in the middle of the city’s downtown renaissance, she Rucker said. “We already had a lot of great momentum going on downtown, and I was able to step in and continue what was going on,” Rucker said. Depending on how you classify Waterloo’s downtown district, between 23 and 32 new businesses have opened just in 2018. And there’s more to come in 2019, from new construction like the Art Block to rehabilitation of existing structures like the Masonic Temple. Historic buildings on both sides of the Cedar River have been saved from the wrecking ball and redeveloped into thriving storefronts, restaurants, bars and loft apartments in recent years. Other spaces have been turned into more or less public spaces for the community, like the RiverLoop Amphitheatre, Expo Plaza and the Waterloo Dek Hockey rink. Entrepreneurs looking for reasonable rents have been attracted to downtown on both sides of the river, and even begun straying past Fourth Street, including Boujee Berries and The Spot, which both opened up in the 600 block of Sycamore Street in the past year. “There’s just a lot of excitement and vibrancy, and people are seeing that good things 24 WCFCOURIER.COM | PROGRESS 2019

are happening and this is just a great place to play and live and run their businesses,” Rucker said. “It’s spreading like wildfire.” But it wasn’t always such a rosy outlook. Perhaps no downtown project more exemplifies the initial resistance, community support and ultimately successful revitalization better than SingleSpeed Brewing Co., which transformed the old Hostess bakery on Commercial Street. While the multi-million-dollar historic and LEED-certified renovation of a former industrial bakery into a 500-capacity brewpub and beer distributor seems a foregone conclusion now that it’s been thriving for more than a year, it wasn’t always that way. “You have to think about how much of a battle it was,” said Jeff Kurtz, the executive director of Main Street Waterloo from 2010 until 2015. “I think a lot of people forget that a lot of the city leaders had a bull’s-eye on that building: They wanted to tear it down. They wanted to make it a parking lot.” Kurtz, the Main Street Waterloo board and a community-supported Friends of Wonder Bread activist group saw the building as a good candidate for reuse. John Molseed, a former Courier reporter who began volunteering with Main Street in 2012 and later served as president of its board of directors, said Main Street worked to convince SingleSpeed owner Dave Morgan to locate his planned distribution center there, then educated the community and Waterloo City Council on the benefits of saving the building. “One of the top things in the last decade would be this Wonder Bread project,” Molseed said, noting it succeeded because it had grassroots community support. “It shows what a repurposed historic building can do, it shows its potential, and I don’t think it’s something city leaders thought of at the time.” It’s still a battle Main Street Waterloo wages with city leaders and some community members: saving historic buildings instead of tearing them down. But it’s gotten a bit easier as projects like SingleSpeed, as well as the Walden block, the dilapidated John Deere manufacturing buildings and the Fourth Street Bridge walkway, prove to be successful. “We live in a throwaway time,” said Tavis


Workers place concrete sections on the Art Block building going up adjacent to the RiverLoop Amphitheater on Jan. 16 in Watreloo. Hall, who was Main Street’s executive director from 2015 until 2017 and is now executive director of Experience Waterloo, formerly the Waterloo Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It’s hard to realize we can look at something old and see it with a new purpose.” But Hall sees a shift in that mindset nonetheless — he points to antique event Funky Junkaloo and pop-up thrift shop Epic Finds as two examples of how people in this area are valuing old and historic items. “Nobody looks at Jameson’s now and says, ‘They should have torn that down,’ or goes into SingleSpeed and thinks it should have been a parking lot,” he said. “It takes people with vision to step up and be part of the process, instead of sitting back and complaining that things are being destroyed in front of our eyes.” Hall points to the fact that he can walk into Basal Pizza and grab his favorite pizza, and remembers when his senior photos were developed in that same storefront years ago at Walden Photo. “Everywhere we look there continues to be progress, and in every story of progress it dips its toe into historic preservation,” he said. Rucker says it’s something she sees continuing for a long time. “We’re really excited about the momentum and excited to keep it going,” she said. “We don’t see any end in sight for us.”



the curbs Waterloo works to revitalize Highway 63



Peterson Contractors Inc. constructs pilings for a new U.S. Highway 63 bridge over the Canadian National Railroad tracks in Waterloo on Feb. 11.

WATERLOO — Noel Anderson recalls a 2008 meeting with Iowa Department of Transportation leaders to talk about U.S. Highway 63. The state had agreed to rebuild the highway from downtown through Waterloo’s east side and had a message for the city’s newly appointed director of community planning and development. “Their message was crystal clear,” Anderson said. “They said: Look, we’re giving you the money to do the road. Now you’ve got to make it look nice and get homes and businesses to come here. “They told us we need to hold up our end of the deal and redevelop the corridor,” he added. “It was about improving the whole corridor, and I think that’s what we’re doing.” More than $60 million has been spent since construction started in 2013 to rebuild the highway from Jefferson Street downtown to Donald Street near UnityPoint Health-Allen Hospital. The final phase, which includes a skyline-changing bridge to replace the Canadian National Railway underpass, is slated to wrap up in the fall. But the city has focused outside the curbs. Homes with front porches just feet from the highway were torn down or relocated, creating room for new decorative lights, trails and green space. Community Development and others focused on fixing up homes that remained. The city reconfigured its tax-increment financing districts to help incent commercial projects along route, including Grand Crossing downtown, a new CVS Pharmacy and planned grocery store near Franklin Street, and a complete overhaul of the former Logan Plaza strip mall into new medical offices and retail space. John Rooff was the city’s mayor in 2001 when a deal was reached with IDOT to begin studying the U.S. 63 project. “We really needed that,” Rooff recalled. “That was such a narrow corridor, and those people living there were having problems. We couldn’t get the old Logan Plaza people to work with us, so we turned to (UnityPoint Health) and Allen College to do the Hy-Vee store. “I look at it now and think it definitely will be good for the city when they’re done,” he added. “It’s amazing how it’s improved in looks already.” Construction crews finished work on the

downtown portion of the highway project, which utilizes First Street and Mullan Avenue, in 2018 just as two projects along the highway also opened for business. The second phase of Grand Crossing, which is a 36-unit residential building with ground floor commercial space, wrapped up at Jefferson and Mullan. Hawkeye Community College also opened the Van G. Miller Adult Learning Center, at 120 Jefferson St. Those projects replaced what had been the troubled Grand Hotel and a muddy lot that once housed the Waterloo Bowl-In. Grant Crossing developer Brent Dahlstrom said all of the housing units are leased already while Jimmy John’s and Sidecar Coffee have taken two of the storefronts. “So much has happened in downtown Waterloo since we started, with the new (Courtyard by Marriott) hotel, SingleSpeed and Hawkeye Community College,” Dahlstrom said. “We always hoped all of those items would happen, but it is great to be a small part of all the great activity going on downtown.” The city is currently planning additional improvements improve access and beautify the highway downtown. “The new Highway 63 design has made pedestrian safety improvements that allowed for connections and accessibility from John Deere Waterloo Works and the TechWorks campus to downtown businesses, residential and entertainment,” said Marta Purdy, of Vandewalle and Associates, a downtown planning consultant. Across the Cedar River at Franklin Street, a new CVS Pharmacy was built in 2013 to replace the former Immanuel Lutheran Church and School. The city is working with developer Rodney Anderson to build a new All-In Grocers store and restaurant next to the pharmacy. Rodney Anderson said he expects construction on the grocery to begin in April. “I cannot wait to get that up and going,” he said. “It’s going to be a beacon of light in the community.” Farther north, Dr. Thomas Gorsche is planning to construct a new $1.5 million orthopedic clinic at the former Logan Middle School site at Highway 63 and Louise Street. The school was demol-

ished after being replaced by George Washington Carver Academy. Developer Ben Stroh’s redevelopment of the former Logan Plaza into North Crossing is also continuing to move ahead. UnityPoint Health has invested in new medical offices there, a Kwik Star convenience store opened, and additional space is being readied for tenants. Dr. Kalyana Sundaram has also continued to invest on land just east of North Crossing, completing a $1.1 million expansion of his clinic at 419 E. Donald St. last year. Neighborhoods along the U.S. 63 project were heavily involved in the planning process before construction began. But the Walnut Neighborhood Association abutting the highway just north of downtown is becoming a model for redevelopment. “I do believe that the Walnut Neighborhood has been taking steps over the past five years to strengthen and move together toward a flourishing neighborhood,” said the association’s president Laura Hoy. After identifying housing conditions and vacant lots as its greatest challenge, a coalition was formed to address the issue, which included the neighborhood, Link Christian Community Development, Habitat for Humanity, JSA Development and the city. Many Walnut area homes are being restored, and the coalition also is working on tree planting and other beautification efforts. “So much of holistic neighborhood development is about building momentum through listening to and engaging neighbors, building on assets that exist and creating a strong network of communication and collaboration,” Hoy added. “We see a lot of positive movement in this regard in the Walnut Neighborhood.” Despite the success stories, Anderson said there’s still work to be done to revitalize the highway corridor. “We’re doing all these things to make the area look attractive and redo all of these sites,” he said. “Momentum’s a good thing to have and it’s good to see a lot of people interested in this area.” WCFCOURIER.COM | PROGRESS 2019 25



Construction on the corner of Ridgeway Avemue and Viking Drive in southwest Cedar Falls.

Construction on Raising Cane’s Chicken on Viking Road in southwest Cedar Falls.

Cedar Falls is developing and

expanding southwest THOMAS NELSON

CEDAR FALLS — Cedar Falls is a growing community because of the commercial and residential development. “What kicked this off was about nine to 12 months ago we had three different companies come in that needed a certain amount of acreage for a certain sized building,” said Cedar Falls Mayor Jim Brown. Brown was told if more companies around the same size came in the city they would struggle to find space. From there Brown credits his staff with working to incorporate new areas for the city. “It’s just indicative of Cedar Falls being a great place to do business, and we want to make sure to be ahead of that, not behind,” Brown said. “We’ve had some great paperwork come across our desk from folks looking to expand and looking to come into town for this coming construction season.” The city’s growth is primarily spreading to the southwest in its technology park and western residential areas. More growth is coming southwest because of the industrial park and residential locations and Waterloo city limits and landscape barriers to the east. “We want to be able to provide for continued industrial growth because we are seeing businesses expand or want to locate in this area,” said Community Development Director Stephanie Houk Sheetz. Brown said staff and elected officials are doing their best to predict what new business and residential growth will look like for Cedar Falls. 26 WCFCOURIER.COM | PROGRESS 2019

“To make sure that kind of growth is what the public is looking for and what those folks that spend the capital are looking for in terms of doing business and living in Cedar Falls,” Brown said. Throughout 2018 new businesses have come to Cedar Falls like Raising Cane’s Chicken, and others have expanded, like Rabo Agrifinance. “We purchase land because we’re seeing the trend remains very strong,” Sheetz said. A lot of residential plats have been popping up in western Cedar Falls. “The residential is being driven by the new elementary school,” Brown said. Bess Streeter Aldrich Elementary School started its first school year in August 2018 and is Cedar Falls’ seventh elementary school building with 340 to 350 students. In November, Cedar Falls began to add land west of its city limits to the city’s industrial park tax increment finance district. The city is planning to purchase and annex the property on the east side of Union Road between Viking Road and Ridgeway Avenue. In November the city got Black Hawk County’s approval for the expansion. The expansion has correlated with the city’s increased population over the last decade. “We’re doing on average 150 residential permits a year,” Sheetz said. “We’re seeing that stay steady and because the residential growth is steady, usually the commercial kind of follows that.” The commercial growth in Cedar Falls has followed the city’s residential growth. Viking Road and Highway 58 have seen

large amounts of development. “In the industrial park we saw the opening of Ashley Furniture Warehouse,” Sheetz said. “Cedar Falls has been pretty steady in terms of both its residential and commercial growth.” Cedar Falls has seen some its highest permit evaluation years over the past five years. “We’ve had some really strong years,” Sheetz said. 2018 was Cedar Falls’ second highest year for construction activity. A total of $129.1 million worth of building permits were issued in the Cedar Falls area for the fiscal year ending June 30, with 115 new homes, 14 new commercial and industrial buildings, and $57 million worth of commercial and residential alterations, additions and garages were started. 2018’s construction edged out last year’s total of $113.5 million in construction activity for 2017, but couldn’t top 2016’s record of $151 million. Last year a record 221 homes were added compared to this year’s 115. “What’re generally anticipating is continuing to have strong permits happening here,” Sheetz said. “We think we’re going to have another strong year (this year) comparable to 2018.” For three years Cedar Falls has had over $100 million worth of construction permits issued. “We’re really excited about what’s going to be taking place,” Brown said. “We still have room to grow both commercially and residentially; it takes careful planning to make sure it goes well in the future.”


Cedar Valley TechWorks welcomes more


WATERLOO — A relic of a bygone manufacturing era has been retooled as a cutting-edge research lab to create the foundry of the future. The University of Northern Iowa’s Additive Manufacturing Center is doubling in size, adding millions of dollars in new 3D printers and drawing national attention to the Cedar Valley TechWorks campus in downtown Waterloo. The TechWorks also took on a new tenant, began installing a vital elevator and welcomed a new restaurant in the adjacent Courtyard by Marriott hotel over the past year. But the highlight, said TechWorks president Wes James, was a decision by the Metal Casting Center to lease the entire first floor of the Tech One building in 2019. “It’s still our crown jewel at the TechWorks,” James said. “Jerry’s program has been really successful in the past few years and is growing. They doubled their footprint at TechWorks to make room for the new printers.” Jerry Thiel is director of the Metal Casting Center, which has become a go-to site for industry and the military to learn about adopting 3D printing to their manufacturing processes and for researchers to improve the technology. “The amount of industry draw we have for the technology that we assist companies with just never slows down, whether that’s on a national, regional or local basis,” Thiel said. “They need our help; they need our assistance. “Additive manufacturing is being adopted at an ever increasing rate,” he added. “It’s becoming a major part of how we produce parts now.” It’s importance to the future of U.S. manufacturing has made the

center a must stop for every politician touring Iowa with presidential aspirations. And the state has been generous with grants to buy new equipment, including a $1.5 million grant from the Iowa Economic Development Authority last year. The new equipment has allowed the center to grow from its initial large-format sand printer installed in 2013 to include polymer printers, a mold milling robot and new equipment focused on investment casting. The center just accepted delivery in January of a $1 million VX1000 printer from VoxelJet Systems that make plastic parts for investment casting, and another sand printer is expected to arrive this spring. “By the end of the year we are going to be really pushed hard to maximize the space,” Thiel said. Randy Pilkington, director of UNI’s Business and Community Services program, which includes the Metal Casting Center, said downtown Waterloo is now the “go-to place” in the country for manufacturers wanting to adopt the technology to their supply chain. “This is cutting-edge stuff that nobody’s doing in the country,” Pilkington said. “This will be the foundry of the future, with full automation.” The Cedar Valley TechWorks campus was created in two sixstory buildings John Deere abandoned when it modernized its Westfield Avenue manufacturing facilities. The campus still includes a John Deere presence and its tractor museum. Cedar Valley TechWorks has been working since 2010 to fill the Tech One building, which includes the Advanced Manufacturing Center on the first floor, Greater Cedar Valley Alliance offices on floor two and the Cedar Valley Makers Makespace and private businesses on the third floor.


Landon Hinchman, right, cleans excess material from a 3D wax printer mold at the UNI Additive Manufacturing Center.


Landon Hinchman, right, cleans excess material from a 3D wax printer mold as Jiayi Wang cleans another type of 3D printed mold at the UNI Additive Manufacturing Center. James said the TechWorks is still seeking tenants to fill out the third floor and occupy the three upper floors, which are about 25,000 square feet per floor. Several out lots on the campus are also available for stand-alone buildings. The TechWorks got a boost last September when Productive Resources, a firm based in Springfield, Ill., that does design services work for John Deere, leased 6,000 square feet on the third floor. The TechWorks is also putting a new elevator in the Tech One building to replace the giant, hard-touse freight elevator accessing the upper floors. “This really became a bottleneck for our growth,” James said. The Black Hawk County Gaming Association provided a grant to help fund the elevator project while Schumacher Elevator Co. provided a great deal to complete the work, James said. Another element of the Tech-

Works campus, a Courtyard by Marriott hotel, opened in December 2017 but saw a restaurant, The Blue Iguana, and bar, Iron Horse Social Club, open in early 2019. A John Deere training center, planned for half the second floor, is slated to open later this year. Developer Rodney Blackwell, based in Davenport, started the project in 2012. “It took us six years and $42 million and was one of the hardest projects I’ve ever done,” Blackwell said. “It was a very distressed building. There was a reason there was no one in line behind us.” But Blackwell praised the support he received from city, county and state officials who stepped up to help make it happen. “I’ve never met a team of people that were just about making the community better, putting in all of the effort and really not getting anything for themselves,” he said. WCFCOURIER.COM | PROGRESS 2019 27



New homes are built on Red Oak Lane near the new Aldrich Elementary in Cedar Falls.

Cedar Valley housing market remains steady TERRY HUDSON For the Courier

CEDAR FALLS — The housing market in the Cedar Valley continues at a remarkably steady pace, with building and realty officials predicting more of the same for 2019. Real estate experts also see a real opportunity for community growth in the Cedar Valley for subsequent years. While the number of single family home starts dwindled somewhat, home prices continue a steady climb. “Interest rates have bumped up some, but are still very competitive,” said Dick Robert, owner/ broker with Cedar Falls Real Estate Co. “Inventories are down. The number of houses for sale was down a bit from 2017.” Robert provided statistics from his 2018 real estate market summary, which indicated that in Waterloo, the number of single-family home sales decreased by 55 to 898, a decrease of 5.77 percent. In Cedar Falls, the number decreased by 52 to 509, or a 9.27 percent drop from 2017. The average sale price in Waterloo increased 6.39 percent from $115,445 to $122,817. The average also increased in Cedar Falls from $219,263 in 2017 to $226,891, a gain of 3.48 percent. Robert’s comparisons are based on each month’s residential sales — detached single-family homes only. They do not include condos 28 WCFCOURIER.COM | PROGRESS 2019

or townhouses. “Both housing markets are very strong and steady,” Robert said of Waterloo and Cedar Falls. “But inventory has been somewhat picked over pretty good. People have been lot more particular.” Noel Anderson, Waterloo’s Community Planning & Development Director, provided information from the current fiscal year, which began July 1. At the halfway mark of the fiscal year, Waterloo is at 40 new units. “We had a total of 55 last year, so we have a great start to gain more housing units than last year,” he said. “We are anticipating over 100 new units this year, with the potential for over 120 with projects forthcoming.” Cedar Falls building official Jamie Castle reported than in fiscal year 2018 there were 115 new homes with a valuation of $28,949,644. For the first half of fiscal year 2019, Cedar Falls has seen 58 new homes. That compares with 55 homes over that same time span from fiscal year 2018. “We’ve had consistent growth with what’s available,” Castle said. “There’s more development coming, so I believe those numbers will remain consistent.” She noted development near the new Streeter Elementary School is currently a hot area. The housing market has been holding steady in the area for quite

some time. Come spring, according to some officials, it could get a little crazy, because of a possible lack of inventory in some areas. “To be in such a tight market so early in the season – it’s going to make for an interesting spring,” said Mary Shileny, CEO of the Northeast Iowa Regional Board of Realtors. Days on the market is telling another interesting story. Five years ago, Waterloo had 337 sales within the first 30 days on the market — or about 40 percent of homes available. “Now we’re selling 55 percent in 30 days and another 15 percent in 90 days,” Shileny said. In Cedar Fall over that time, approximately 60 percent of homes that hit the market sold within 30 days, with another 16 percent selling within 90 days. Five years ago, 30-day sales hovered around 50 percent. “The numbers tell the story. We’re selling hot, fast and heavy,” Shileny said. Kevin Fittro, vice president of Skogman Homes in Cedar Falls, also reported 2018 success. “Last year, sales were up about 30 percent from 2017, and we’re looking for a better 2019. It’s a great feeling going into this year, because we will carry more homes

into 2019. We’re 50 percent ahead in 2019 versus 2018.” Helping builders, according to Fittro, is more consistent pricing on building materials such as lumber and siding. “That’s allowing us to ease into the year a little bit better than in the past,” he said. Bob Manning, executive officer for the Cedar Valley Home Builders Association, said there were approximately 351 new housing starts in the Cedar Valley area. That number is primarily single family homes and twin homes and does not include multiple units like 8-plexes. On the demand side, the capacity is determined by availability of lots. “Developers are going slowly, in some regards, so we hope they will speed up to develop lots.” Adam Hunemuller, president of Cedar Valley Home Builders Association, noted the Cedar Valley has some great advantages to help keep a steady market. “Waterloo and Cedar Falls are blessed with a strong mixture of medical, good schools and a strong government system,” he said. “The communities that seem to be doing the best in Iowa are those that have higher education in their communities. We are lucky enough to have two in UNI and Hawkeye Commu-

nity College.” Builders and remodelers have been very busy,” Manning said. “Remodeling actually is bigger than new housing, so the stats don’t take that into account.” That aspect was reinforced by Wayne Magee, president of Magee Construction. “We had an excellent year,” Magee said. “Obviously people wanted to spend money for upgrades.” For residential remodeling, Magee saw an approximate 50 percent increase in 2018 over 2017. “People seem to have a little more confidence in the direction the economy is going, he said. Kugler Construction has been building six to 10 custom homes per year for the past 10 years. Bill Kugler Jr., general manager at Kugler Construction noted that 2019 has all the indications of being a very strong year for custom home building. “There’s a very high volume of people interested in building right now,” he said. “The Cedar Valley has a good combination of an excellent workforce, good employers and is a good place to raise kids

and provide good opportunities for people. It’s all just a win-win combination.” Mike Taylor, with Lockard Realty, said that company also enjoyed a good 2018. “It was one of our better years and 2019 is starting out good,” Taylor said. “Housing is still pretty strong, and the market is doing well in Iowa in general.” As expected, due to increased development, downtown neighborhoods in Waterloo and Cedar Falls have become popular residential areas. That includes apartment and condo living. “The restaurants and nightlife has helped,” said Taylor. “People like to be in walking distance of home.” Fittro agreed. “You’re seeing a very big push on apartment buildings and multiplexes in the downtown areas,” he said. “It’s a great move by those developers along the Greenhill Road areas and downtown with developers like Brent Dahlstrom and Mark Kittrell. They’ve done a wonderful job of fulfilling market needs when it comes to rentals, leasing and condos.”

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Veridian still has a green thumb for growth PAT KINNEY For the Courier


ighty-five years ago, hard times gave birth to one of the Cedar Valley’s and Iowa’s most enduring financial institutions — Veridian Credit Union. In 1934, at the depths of the Great Depression, when many local banks were failing or struggling, a group of employees of John Deere’s Waterloo operations pooled their resources. They decided, in essence, they would be the bank. “We were founded by seven employees of the John Deere Waterloo Works,” said Monte Berg, credit union president. “We were originally John Deere Employees Credit Union. Then they added John Deere employee family members.” It was part of a movement that became widespread given the economy at the time. “Many Iowa credit unions were charted in that same time frame,” Berg said. “1934 was kind of the peak of the Depression. You think of people, having the wisdom to do something like that, was pretty incredible. The banks, made of stockholders, were having struggles too. So people decided to take matters into their own hands and form their own financial institution.” Because of the growth in Deere’s employment base through the mid-1970s, the separately organized credit union became the largest credit union in the state. The institution once had its offices within Deere plants. It had offices in the old clockhouse at the John Deere Waterloo Tractor Works on Westfield Avenue, as well as at Deere’s Westfield Avenue Foundry and at the Product Engineering Center in Cedar Falls. But in late 1974, the institution broke ground at the site of its current headquarters on Ansborough Avenue between Home Park Boulevard and U.S. Highway 63. The institution faced another crossroads during another down-



turn 60 years after its founding, during the 1980s farm crisis. That’s when Deere trimmed its work force by nearly 10,000 employees at its Waterloo operations, after topping 16,000 in the late 1970s. The institution was going to have to reach out beyond Deere’s employment base to weather the economic storm. It did. “We expanded to a community charter,” Berg said. The institution became the John Deere Community Credit Union — first, expanding its membership to all of Waterloo, then Cedar Falls and beyond. “We were probably ahead of most of the community charters in the state,” Berg said. “I commend our leadership and our board at that point in time for having the foresight to realize that being linked to one employer was not healthy for a member (driven), not-for-profit financial institution.” “It was a scary thing,” said Gaylen Witzel, a 43-year Veridian credit union board member, but one that had to be done to maintain service to credit union members. “We diversified into the community — originally Waterloo-Cedar Falls — then added some counties in this area, like Bremer, Buchanan and Fayette,” Berg said. “Since then, we’ve continued to diversify and shift. The shift in employment at John Deere in the ’80s was a significant factor in the decision. I’m sure it was a difficult decision. If the credit union was going to continue to grow, and be


Veridian Credit Union. L-R: Monte Berg, president, Doug Gilbertson, Chief Operating Officer, Renee Christoffer, Chief Administration Officer Photographed Monday, Jan. 7, 2019, in Waterloo, Iowa. successful, stable financially, they had to make a shift.” In 1993, the credit union began opening branches within Hy-Vee grocery stores, first in Waterloo-Cedar Falls, then outside the metro area. “It’s a good partner,” Berg said of Hy-Vee. “ It was a real convenience to our members to be open seven days a week, evenings, many holidays,” concurrent with the grocery store’s hours. In 2002, the credit union opened its first location in Cedar Rapids, then expanded into central Iowa with a merger with Deere Community Credit Union in Ankeny in 2004. By that time, the institution, always a separate organization from Deere & Co., had grown far beyond the ag-implement manufacturer’s employment base. Deere said, and the credit union agreed, the financial institution should have a name that identified it as its own, separate institution. The color green, with which Deere closely identifies, was still symbolic of the financial insitution’s growth. So the credit union chose Veridian — drawing from the world “verdant” or green and growing, derived from the Latin “viridas” for green and “veritas” for truth. The name change was effective in 2006 “I never thought I’d ever see

the day when we’d have John Deere out of the name,” said longtime board member Witzel, who worked 36 years as Deere supervisor at its Westfield operations near downtown. Credit union officials marketed the Deere name wherever they went. But, he noted, “We’re still green,” like Deere. ” We worked that into our name,” like Iowa itself, synonymous with agriculture and growing. Longtime members still remember the Deere roots. Today, Veridian has more than 30 branches in 14 Iowa communities and two in Nebraska. It employs 850 people, 560 of whom work in Waterloo-Cedar Falls. And the company has immediate plans to add another 40 employees in various positions in Waterloo-Cedar Falls, taking it over 600 in the metro area. In addition to its various Waterloo-Cedar Falls branches and the headquarters on Ansborough, it also has some administrative operations at 6525 Chancellor Drive in the Cedar Falls Industrial Park, in space formerly occupied by Principal Financial Group. Today, Veridian is no longer Iowa’s largest credit union — the University of Iowa Community Please see VERIDIAN, Page 34

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HCC apprenticeships Helping meet changing needs of business, community ANDREW WIND

WAVERLY — Machinists were in short supply at GMT Corp. when Jamie Kramer started there as a human resources manager just over a year ago. GMT employs almost 300 workers in three Waverly facilities. The company does production manufacturing for numerous industries such as military, agriculture, wind energy, gas and oil, airline and construction. “We had 25 or more openings just in this building,” she said, referring to a plant where cast iron parts are machined for John Deere and Caterpillar. “The worker shortage is horrible now.” The company also is thinking ahead to typical turnover and expected retirements in the coming years. It began providing six weeks of basic in-house training to new employees who were hired without completing a program in computer numerical control machining. In January, GMT also launched a registered apprenticeship program with the help of Hawkeye Community College. The apprenticeship lasts five years and the six participating employees commit to working for the company at least three years after completing it. “We decided we can’t find machinists, so we’re going to make our own,” said Kramer. “So, we went from 25 openings to under five.” The apprenticeship and others like it are just one way Hawkeye is responding to changing needs in the community. Various registered apprenticeships through the college enroll approximately 200 people. “We’re the leader in the state when it comes to apprenticeships and working with industry to provide them to their employees,” said Dave Grunklee, dean of business and applied technologies. Hawkeye also is working with high schools and area industries to develop pre-apprenticeship programs that expose students to a particular career field. That is an outgrowth of the college’s work on high school career academies and pathways. The programs offer concurrent Hawkeye credit to high school students while 32 WCFCOURIER.COM | PROGRESS 2019


Jenny Miller works on the quality control of parts as a CMM Inspector apprentice at GMT Corporation. providing education about career options and potentially putting them on the path to earning a degree or another credential. In addition, the college has a growing profile in downtown Waterloo with the January opening of the Van G. Miller Adult Learning Center. The three-story facility replaces the Metro and Martin Luther King Junior centers. It doubles Hawkeye’s capacity to serve those earning high school and equivalency diplomas as well as English learners. The college plans to expand programs at the new center allowing adult learners to enroll in credit classes where they can earn a credential or an associate’s degree. Currently, that includes the certified nursing assistant and CNC machining programs. The hospitality management degree program is also moving downtown from Hawkeye’s main campus. Students will use the center’s cafe as a learning lab along with some of the adult learners from various programs. Low unemployment levels are making it more important for companies to increase the methods they use to connect with potential workers. Education and training play a role in those efforts. “I fully anticipate we’re going to have a bunch of different modes and ways we’re going to be providing education to people, both credit and noncredit,” said Grunklee, pointing to GMT’s new apprenticeship as a prime example. “They know the more educated workforce they have, the more product and better product they can put out.” Participating employees have a two-hour class twice a week that partially overlaps with their work shifts. They are gaining blueprint reading and CNC machining skills while getting 8,000 hours of on-the-job learning. They are expected to earn certifications in both areas and be qualified for a journeyman’s license by the time the apprenticeship is finished. As the apprentices reach milestones in the program, their pay increases. In addition, with 720 hours of classroom time, they are earning 34 Hawkeye Community College credits. All of the costs for the program are absorbed by the

company, although it is seeking some grant funding. This is not expected to be GMTs only foray into apprenticeships. By the end of the year, the company hopes to have four groups of apprentices, some learning skills in other areas like welding. Flexibility is important, both for GMT and the college. Grunklee noted that it is unusual to host the classroom portion at the business. Apprenticeships are “mainly run through our noncredit business and industry side of the college,” he explained, so having apprentices earn college credit is a new approach. “They would usually be doing it at our Cedar Falls center or one of our other centers. It’s a rather unique situation, we had to get some special approval.” It required some investment by GMT, as well. “What makes us unique is we have our own certified instructor here,” said Kramer. They’ve hired Jamie Dettmer, who was a CNC machining instructor at HCC for 17 years, to lead the classes. “I’m glad that you’re letting us do this,” apprentice Ethan Lines told Kramer after one of his recent blueprint reading classes. “It’s starting to make the job much easier.” Lines was trained as an auto mechanic, but the right job didn’t materialize. So he applied at GMT on the advice of a friend and has been working there since April 2018. “Originally, they wanted to hire me for preventive maintenance,” Lines said, but agreed to try him in machining. He likes the learnas-you-go approach. During work shifts, he’s using knowledge gained in class while getting assistance from supervisors and Dettmer in areas not yet mastered. “I feel that this job is very rewarding,” added Lines. Part of that reward is the wages. “By year five,” Kramer noted, “they will be guaranteed at being topped-out at Machinist 1,” one of three pay grades for the position. However, the company expects some of the workers to have progressed further by that point. “They’re establishing their career path,” Kramer added. “We’re just giving them the tools to do it.”

Waverly’s Palace Theater


redevelopment emblematic of downtown’s progress


WAVERLY — Last February, Brandon Zelle took to Facebook and announced he would be abruptly closing the Waverly Palace Theatre. It had been losing money, the theater owner explained in the post. But many in the comments of his post begged him to reconsider closing the 90-year-old theater, a cornerstone of Waverly’s downtown. “The theater is a staple in our community,” said Travis Toliver, executive director of the Waverly Chamber of Commerce. “A historic theater in a town of our size is rare to find.” Waverly Palace Theatre opened with just one screen in the late 1920s at 90 East Bremer Ave. It underwent several changes over the years, most significantly when it expanded to three screens in 1999 with seating for 440 after a complete building remodel. The theater became known for showing first- and second-run movies at a discount, with regular adult ticket prices at $8 and various discounted days and times. But building maintenance proved to be too much for owners to keep up with financially — prior to closing, they were down to just two operational theaters after a furnace broke in one. It needed work. But it needed the right work, and amenities that would bring back customers, said Cory Henke. “I just don’t see how you could renovate the Waverly Palace Theatre without bringing it back the way it was,” he said. Enter Movie Guys LLC, a group of three managing partners: Cory Henke, Kyle Dehmlow and Brent Dahlstrom, who along with Zelle and project manager Wes Bruns are redesigning the Waverly Palace Theatre back to its historic roots — and adding modern theater amenities like a restaurant and bar, and upstairs apartments to boot. The project isn’t yet in full swing, and thus has no end date in sight, Henke said. “Trust me, I wish I knew,” he said. All of the elements — from the historic approval to the exhaust vents to designing the apartments so that theater sound doesn’t creep in — are all being designed simultaneously. “It’s all got to be orchestrated together, and that’s been some of the challenges,” Henke said. But it’s worth it, he said. Henke said he remembers seeing his first movie, “The Bear,” in 1988 with his mother at the Palace Theatre, and the place he and his friends would visit often on the weekends. That translated into

Waverly Palace Theater


This May 17, 2013 photo from the theater’s Facebook page shows the newly-installed marquee outside the Waverly Palace Theatre in downtown Waverly. Theater owners announced they were closed permanently on Feb. 18, 2018. a love of going to movie theaters as an adult. “What’s unique about Movie Guys is all three of us have a passion for going to movies ... . We all go to movies frequently,” he said. “It ended up being really cool the three of us were able to do (the renovation) together.” Movie Guys is getting help from a Main Street Iowa grant awarded to the city’s Main Street Program, and Toliver said the program is also helping Movie Guys with some historic photos to aid in the design. “They’re adding in some state-of-the-art features, but they really want to bring the Palace Theatre back to its glory days,” Toliver said. “I think it’s going to be a huge hit with the community.” Henke says they’re working to put in a kitchen, restaurant and bar space while al-

lowing plenty of space in Theater 2, keep Theater 1 larger and use elements of the materials and color scheme from the original 1920s building. “Kyle, Brent and I would love to see elements of that era with a modern twist to it, so I think that’s kind of been part of our discussions,” Henke said. The 12 upstairs apartments will be a mix of economy-sized studio and one-bedroom apartments modeled after the “Big 6” renovated apartments in Waverly, Henke said. The movie experience will also be “renovated,” Henke said, with full meals and alcoholic beverages available to patrons whether they take in a movie or not. “When you look at the movie theater experience, we’re not creating anything that hasn’t been trending across the country,” he said. “Consumers getting pop and popcorn is kind of old news. ... We’re just improving the whole experience.” Henke said the community support for the project has been “great,” even though it hasn’t yet begun in earnest. “It’s not every day you get to do a project that has this strong of support,” he said. “Seeing how the city of Waverly themselves has reacted has been awesome, to be frank, and it’s something that furthers our belief that this is right to do for the community.” Toliver agrees. “I think Waverly’s really excited about this opportunity to have a theater open again, and certainly in a new, updated fashion — and more downtown living,” he said. “I’m really excited about this project and hopefully it’ll get underway soon.” WCFCOURIER.COM | PROGRESS 2019 33

Driven by Growth + Community


University From 10

“The pavement was over 60 years old and had been overlaid once or twice,” said Sheetz. “There’s only so much maintenance you can put into that.” Brown’s first meeting as mayor was the meeting in which final approval was given to the project. So while he missed out on some of the initial discussions and arguments, he has been there throughout the entire construction process. And he’s pleased with what he sees. “For me, personally, if I’m out early in the morning when it’s empty, it’s just a gorgeous corridor,” Brown said. “And

Wapsie From 36


awards for their cheese, primarily in Wisconsin based and national competitions. “We’re usually in the top five of what we submit,” Nielsen said. The Nielsens, and by extension the creamery, have been involved with Buchanan County and Independence community. “The family and the business are deeply active in the community,” Lake said. “The family members are active

Veridian From 30


Architecture + Engineering + Enviornmental + Planning 34 WCFCOURIER.COM | PROGRESS 2019

Credit Union has claimed that title with its growth in recent years — but Veridian is hardly complacent in meeting the challenges of holding and growing its membership base. “Like any cooperative, any financial institution, it’s meeting the needs of our members; anticipating the needs of our members. Keeping current with technology. Being aware of economic cycles and changes in employment, unemployment. “If you remember back to the most recent recession, 2009, we did very well during that time frame,” Berg said. “Because Iowa was largely untouched by the recession for the most part, at least minimally touched, compared to a lot of parts of the country.” As in the 1990s, when some larger traditional banks shifted focus, Veridian grew. “We’ve had good presidents and a good board with good members,” Wit-

the market is reacting accordingly. Sheetz also is happy with the corridor’s aesthetics. “As the landscaping matures, it’s only going to get better,” she said. Since opening the Slumberland Furniture in the old Hy-Vee building, Davis has seen two more tenants come on board. One is Just Dough, run by Natalie Brown, a local entrepreneur who also runs Scratch Cupcakes. The other new tenant is Trinkets & Togs Thrift Store, a nonprofit store that focuses on housing items, clothing, etc. “It’s fun to be here,” Davis said. “In the spring and summer there are lots of walkers and bicyclists. The building just jumps out at you from the University and Boulder roundabout.”

on various community committees and boards. They give very freely of themselves.” The creamery is one of the largest employers in Buchanan County. “We’re been here a long time,” Nielsen said. “We do a lot of contributions for local events.” The creamery helps sponsor the Independence Fourth of July celebrations and other community activities, he said. “We intend to be here for the long haul,” Nielsen said. “We’ve been here for a long time. We like it here, and we want to continue to grow here.”

zel said, all 15 of whom have stepped up to exercise leadership within the institution and in the community. All the staff and board have been involved in the community, he and Berg noted — the most visible activity being the annual Mike and Leona Adams Thanksgiving dinner. It’s put on at United Auto Workers Local 838 by Veridian in cooperation with Local 838 retirees — harkening back to the credit union’s concurrent growth and linked fortunes with the working people who are its members in Waterloo –Cedar Falls and other communities the institution serves. “The reason I’ve stayed so long is the culture of the organization fits closely with my personal values,” said Berg, with the organization since 1990. “It’s fun to work someplace where the people that own us are the same people that use our services. We do what’s best for our members. We do what’s best for our owners. They’re the same people. We have fun.”


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INDEPENDENCE — The Wapsie Valley Creamery Inc. has been in Independence for more than a century with generations of the same family providing cheese and dairy products all around the Midwest. Four generations of Nielsens have worked at the creamery, and Mark Nielsen is the latest president. Mark Nielsen’s son works as engineer in the plant. “I’m the third generation of family, and my son’s the fourth,” Mark Nielsen said. “We’ve been in the cheese business since about World War II times.” Nielsen’s son is a chemical engineer and runs the plant, while Mark Nielsen, 66, does the book work and deals with customers. The creamery sells its cheese wholesale to companies around the country to use in processed cheese, cheese spreads, shredded cheeses and calf milk replacer. Odds are you’ve tasted their product without knowing it. “They really are a cornerstone of this community,” said George Lake, Buchanan County Economic Development Commission director. The creamery is one of Iowa’s three cheese factories still operating. “There’s lots of smaller farmstead people in smaller operations,” 36


Ryan Nielsen, Mark Nielsen and Wilbur Nielsen represent three generations at the Wapsie Valley Creamery, a business that has been in Independence for more than a century. Nielsen said. The creamery has customers all around the world. Most of their customers are east of Iowa. “Most of our product leaves the state,” Nielsen said. “Everything we sell goes to a private label.” The company is continuing to expand into 2019 and hopes to add more employees to its roster. Currently, Wapsie Valley Creamery employs more than 80 in the plant and works with dairy farmers around the Midwest. “My grandfather came over from Denmark and he took dairy science at the University of Minnesota and got in to it,” Nielsen said. The creamery makes cheddar, Colby Jack, Monterey Jack, Muenster, queso and other varieties. Nielsen said he’s looking to expand the creamery’s equipment and

capacity. “We’re planning to go up 50 percent on production capacity to keep the business going forward,” Nielsen said. “We want to expand the current product line. We want to make more of the same products that we’re making now.” Three years ago the creamery installed new cheese equipment sized for larger production. “We have a good reputation with our customers and they’re interested in more products,” Nielsen said. “As we upgrade everything we’re sizing it for a larger capacity.” A lot of the upgrades are coming through automation running through computers. “We trying to get the process so there’s less physical labor and more watching a computer screen and pushing a button,” Nielsen said.

“Some of jobs we have now are pretty physically demanding,and we want to get so that pretty much anybody can do the job regardless of their physical condition.” The creamery is always hiring. Currently, Nielsen is looking for people with a background in computer engineering, maintenance and programming. “In 2020 we’re going have the next phase of the cheese expansion will be done and then we’ll need some more people,” Nielsen said. “Every year the demand is a little different.” The creamery works with several dairy farms in Iowa and other states. People throughout Buchanan County are employed by the creamery in one way or another. “We’ve got 220 farms that we buy milk from,” Nielsen said. “Most of the farms are not in this immediate area. We go to Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois.” They also work with farmers in the hillier parts of the Mississippi Valley and other parts of Iowa. “Most of customers are just not in Iowa,” he said. “Wisconsin’s America’s dairy land so a lot of our customers are there or out east, because there’s plenty of cheese being made out west.” The creamery has won numerous Please see WAPSIE, Page 34




INDEPENDENCE — The Wapsie Valley Creamery Inc. has been in Independence for more than a century with generations of the same family providing cheese and dairy products all around the Midwest. Four generations of Nielsens have worked at the creamery, and Mark Nielsen is the latest president. Mark Nielsen’s son works as engineer in the plant. “I’m the third generation of family, and my son’s the fourth,” Mark Nielsen said. “We’ve been in the cheese business since about World War II times.” Nielsen’s son is a chemical engineer and runs the plant, while Mark Nielsen, 66, does the book work and deals with customers. The creamery sells its cheese wholesale to companies around the country to use in processed cheese, cheese spreads, shredded cheeses and calf milk replacer. Odds are you’ve tasted their product without knowing it. “They really are a cornerstone of this community,” said George Lake, Buchanan County Economic Development Commission director. The creamery is one of Iowa’s three cheese factories still operating. “There’s lots of smaller farmstead people in smaller operations,” Nielsen said. 36


Ryan Nielsen, Mark Nielsen and Wilbur Nielsen represent three generations at the Wapsie Valley Creamery, a business that has been in Independence for more than a century. The creamery has customers all around the world. Most of their customers are east of Iowa. “Most of our product leaves the state,” Nielsen said. “Everything we sell goes to a private label.” The company is continuing to expand into 2019 and hopes to add more employees to its roster. Currently, Wapsie Valley Creamery employs more than 80 in the plant and works with dairy farmers around the Midwest. “My grandfather came over from Denmark and he took dairy science at the University of Minnesota and got in to it,” Nielsen said. The creamery makes cheddar, Colby Jack, Monterey Jack, Muenster, queso and other varieties. Nielsen said he’s looking to expand the creamery’s equipment and capacity.

“We’re planning to go up 50 percent on production capacity to keep the business going forward,” Nielsen said. “We want to expand the current product line. We want to make more of the same products that we’re making now.” Three years ago the creamery installed new cheese equipment sized for larger production. “We have a good reputation with our customers and they’re interested in more products,” Nielsen said. “As we upgrade everything we’re sizing it for a larger capacity.” A lot of the upgrades are coming through automation running through computers. “We trying to get the process so there’s less physical labor and more watching a computer screen and pushing a button,” Nielsen

said. “Some of jobs we have now are pretty physically demanding,and we want to get so that pretty much anybody can do the job regardless of their physical condition.” The creamery is always hiring. Currently, Nielsen is looking for people with a background in computer engineering, maintenance and programming. “In 2020 we’re going have the next phase of the cheese expansion will be done and then we’ll need some more people,” Nielsen said. “Every year the demand is a little different.” The creamery works with several dairy farms in Iowa and other states. People throughout Buchanan County are employed by the creamery in one way or another. “We’ve got 220 farms that we buy milk from,” Nielsen said. “Most of the farms are not in this immediate area. We go to Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois.” They also work with farmers in the hillier parts of the Mississippi Valley and other parts of Iowa. “Most of customers are just not in Iowa,” he said. “Wisconsin’s America’s dairy land so a lot of our customers are there or out east, because there’s plenty of cheese being made out west.” The creamery has won numerous Please see WAPSIE, Page 34

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