This month last year, we launched the Buy-In Story County gift card program as an initiative to support local businesses as our community first started feeling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to 29 sponsors and countless community members, we were able to infuse $137,775 into our local businesses at a critical time.
To build on the passion for supporting local, this year we are launching a new, long-term currency program called Community Cash.
Through Community Cash, you'll be able to purchase $5, $10, $20 or $25 worth of cash that can be used at any of our participating members. Each Community Cash purchase will come with a unique QR code that you'll simply scan at check-out.
We are thrilled to be able to offer a program that enhances our commitment to our community, local businesses and overall economic growth. I would like to give a special thank you to the program's sponsor, Availa Bank, for helping us make this vision come to life.
Stay tuned for more program information including participating merchants, FAQs, and the official launch in the coming weeks. If you're a local business and you would like to learn more or get signed up, click here to get in touch with us.
The sun is shining, birds are singing and snow is melting, not a bad way to wrap up February in Iowa!
I encourage you all to take advantage of the beautiful weather to get out and support our local businesses. From shopping to dining to even stopping in just to say hi, our small businesses appreciate every single visitor that walks through their doors.
We are fortunate to have a strong network of diverse local businesses, I am confident you will find exactly what you are looking for and more! In fact, if you take a walk in Campustown, Downtown Ames or at North Grand Mall, you might be surprised at the variety of stores and services available to our community. Support doesn't have to be in-person, most of our businesses have an online presence, check out our online directory to find websites and social media pages.
Our local businesses have persevered through extreme hardship thispast year, so let's come together to show them some love!
One of the most common insights we hear from our members is their need for talent. As part of our partnership with the City of Boone and our own workforce development programming, the Chamber has recently launched expanded platforms for our community job board and Future Ready youth programming.
Many of you are familiar with WorkInAmes.com, our longstanding community job board. This month we are pleased to expand the site to include WorkInBooneIA.com, offering free talent search services to businesses in Boone and the opportunity for job seekers to create a profile that showcases their resume and contact information for employers. We are confident this initiative will be a vital resource for employers and job seekers in the years to come.
Our Future Ready programming has also been expanded to include Boone Community School District along with the seven Story County school districts. In addition to the career exploration resources on our website, we are also working to connect our members with high school classes to collaborate on work-based projects, internship and tour opportunities and more. If you're interested in learning more or partnering, visit our website to sign up. It's never too early to start recruiting the next generation of workforce!
As always, never hesitate to contact me, or a member of our team, if we can do something more to promote and advocate for your business or organization.
Written By: Emily Haan, Marketing & Public Relations Intern, Ames Chamber of Commerce
“Do you like dogs?”
This is a question that Kevin Maher, entrepreneur and the founder of VetMeasure, asks his interviewees to ensure their passion for animals is just as fervent as his own.
Back in 2015, Maher established VetMeasure with the mission to create a product that was unrealized in veterinary practices, specifically focused on helping companion animals. Today, VetMeasure provides innovative technology monitoring veterinary health for companion animals and livestock animals. Located in the Iowa State University Research Park, Maher has had multiple start-ups affiliated with the Research Park and is no stranger to all the amenities that Ames has to offer. Maher said he enjoys the energy that comes with being around other entrepreneurial companies.
“It’s nice being in an environment with other start-ups. Same building, same area,” said Maher. “The Research Park encourages trying to get collaboration going.”
These collaborations have led VetMeasure into projects with the Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship and the Cybiz Lab. Both connections were facilitated by the Research Park to build a closer relationship with students, community innovators and other businesses. Several years ago, VetMeasure ran a video project through the CyBiz lab that they still utilize to this day. Maher said these long-lasting relationships are one of the many advantages of being a Research Park tenant. Another crucial part of VetMeasure’s success, according to Maher, has been the proximity to Iowa State’s deep talent pool.
“The precedent at Iowa State has been a big thing,” said Maher. “We have the veterinary school, the Pappajohn Center, the resources at the Research Park and we have a wide inventory of young talent we can choose from that’s right here.”
The topnotch students coming out of Iowa State make being a business in Ames that much more advantageous, and Maher recognizes these favorable circumstances. VetMeasure’s team hires a couple interns every year, mostly coming from the university. Maher’s goal is to employ innovative minds that can launch new ideas in the communication area of VetMeasure.
“We are encouraging innovators to come up with ideas and uniquely position our company so that we can gain more and more social media traction,” said Maher. “We also allow vet students to come in and contribute in a unique way. Their innovation is fed by our unique market position and our unique product we continue to offer.”
One of these innovative minds is Rachel Zumbach, the marketing and communications intern at VetMeasure and a senior at Iowa State University. Zumbach has been fortunate enough to intern at VetMeasure for several months. This job has added immeasurable value to her experience, considering typical internships only last 12 weeks. This lengthier position has granted Zumbach the opportunity to create long-standing goals.
“I really value the Research Park and how they have allowed VetMeasure to have so many interns, as well as supporting the interns,” said Zumbach.“It’s really helpful to be a student on campus and have that close-to-campus job.”
At VetMeasure, Zumbach is in charge of creating social media content and increasing brand awareness. Zumbach said her internship supplies her with substantial insight and helps her to learn hands-on. While learning at her internship, Zumbach gains valuable knowledge and business savvy that she can supplement with the curriculum she is learning at school. Zumbach also appreciates that she is able to build her network while working at Research Park, as it is a familiar place for Iowa State professors and business professionals to build community.
“I am able to say ‘I work for somebody at the Research Park’, and then my professors want to know more about VetMeasure, and then my professors have that connection too.” says Zumbach.
At VetMeasure, Zumbach and the other interns not only have the opportunity for onsite job training and building their resumes and experiences, but they are also allowed to explore innovation in a setting outside of the classroom.
“We have a lot of brainstorming activities; everyone gets involved and shares their ideas,” says Zumbach. “It’s super fun to be able to come into the office and share my outrageous ideas.”
Zumbach says that Maher and the rest of the VetMeasure team rarely try to hold her back and are constantly encouraging her to be creative and challenge herself. For Maher and his team, there are no limits.
“I think it’s really exciting being able to be creative in your own way and not having limits,” says Zumbach. “We haven’t had limits on this type of innovation, and it’s really exciting to see where it goes in the future.”
Maher says that as VetMeasure expands, he plans to grow in Ames and continue to capitalize on all the resources this city has to offer. This is just the beginning for Maher and his team at the Research Park.
Written By: Emily Haan, Marketing & Public Relations Intern, Ames Chamber of Commerce
The Ames Economic Development Commission and the City of Boone is excited to announce the new WorkInBooneIA.com community job board. This free service allows job seekers to view and apply to the variety of jobs located in Boone and surrounding areas. Not only does the job board appeal to those looking for a new career, but it also enables employers large and small to post job opportunities at no cost to them or their company.
The job board consists of employment across all spectrums: full-time, part-time, and internship opportunities alike. Job seekers are able to create a free account, where they can choose to post their resume, contact, and employment information for employers. After their profile is completed, users can search for jobs and opportunities, as well as receive email notifications regarding new job postings that match their preferences. This site is a great way to search for and facilitate connections with future employers and employees!
Regarded as a “big little city,” Boone has a rich history as a railroad and mining town. Boone was named the #1 Most Affordable Small Town to Live in by Realtor.com in 2019 (a real estate listings website) and ranked in the top 10 safest cities in Iowa by Alarm.com (a site dedicated to home security and safety). Insurify, an insurance comparison website, also awarded Boone as one of the best up and coming housing market awards in 2019. Centrally located with convenient proximity to Ames and Des Moines, Boone is a great place for anyone pursuing comfortable living. Visit WorkInBooneIA.com to explore your future now!
Written By: Emily Haan, Marketing & Public Relations Intern, Ames Chamber of Commerce
The Ames Chamber of Commerce and League of Women’s Voters sponsored the 2021 State of the Community this past Thursday, January 28. The virtual event consisted of discussion with our community leaders on challenges faced from this last year, upcoming projects and goals, and how to move forward with the ongoing pandemic as a community.
The community leaders on the panel featured: Rob Denson, President of Des Moines Area Community College; Jenny Risner, Superintendent of the Ames Community School District; Lisa Heddens, Story County Board of Supervisors; Brian Dieter, President and CEO of Mary Greeley, Wendy Wintersteen; President of Iowa State University; and Mayor of Ames, John Haila. Dieter began the meeting by pointing out that exactly one year ago on January 28, 2020, Mary Greeley initiated their first “Incident Command Team” in response to COVID-19, a team that has been meeting regularly ever since.
2020 was a year of navigating various challenges for the communities’ organizations. Superintendent Risner commented on how the public school system was given the opportunity to be “reimagined,” as education leaders had to be inventive and adapt accordingly to the ever-changing environment in 2020. President Denson of DMACC said his greatest challenge was helping students and young people understand the opportunities they have, even if the opportunities may have seemed bleak amidst COVID-19. Regarding Iowa State, President Wintersteen applauded the University for taking action in the diagnostic process of COVID-19, highlighting the Veterinary Diagnostic Lab and how they have provided over 30,000 COVID-19 tests to students and faculty. Within the Story County department, Supervisor Heddens described how she was able to keep her community meetings open to the public and meet their needs, all while maintaining mask and social-distancing protocols. While 2020 presented many challenges including being distanced and isolated, President Wintersteen remarked that the Ames community had come together in ways she couldn’t have imagined.
Much of the discussion revolved around how to both recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and prosper during this improvement period, as well as new community projects and plans for the upcoming year. With spring fast approaching, Heddens has exciting plans for improving the parks and roads around Story County, conservation projects, and implementing programs to increase access to camping and campgrounds for low income families. Many exciting construction projects will be taking place in 2021, including the brand new Ames High School, the Iowa State Student Performance Center, a family care center at Mary Greeley, and several different construction projects at DMACC. Mayor Haila said he is eager to see these community improvements, as well as seeing existing programs reopen and see the community reengaging once again. All members of the panel shared plans to implement new or more intense diversity and equity training programs to ensure their institutions are as diverse and inclusive as possible. Superintendent Risner stressed the importance of recruiting and retaining people of color within the Ames community. Members of the panel also voiced that they would like the Annual Symposium on Building Inclusive Organizations to continue this year, an event hosted by the Ames Chamber of Commerce, Iowa State University, and the City of Ames.
All community leaders were encouraged at the prospects of the Ames community in 2021. Mayor Haila concluded that for the community to overcome these ever-present challenges, Ames must remain in a tight-knit, committed partnership with each other in the community and in the county.
Written By: Emily Haan, Marketing & Public Relations Intern, Ames Chamber of Commerce
In 1988, Leadership Ames was founded on the premise of building a better community by educating and developing local leaders that are informed, involved, and concerned. As a way of giving back to the city of Ames, each year Leadership Ames participants split into teams to complete service projects during the yearlong program. Community projects have included, but are not limited to, fundraising events, issue awareness campaigns, beautification projects, and property improvements. There is no project too small or too big for Leadership Ames as their mission is improving the community in any way possible.
One of the best known Leadership Ames Projects is the “CyclONE City” project class XXVII executed in 2015. A community-wide project, the class set to create and place 30 Cy statues around Ames. Local businesses sponsored the project and the statues were made and designed by local artists. The spectacular effort made by Class XXVII led to a grand fundraising total of $66,000, not including proceeds from the auctioning of 5 of the statues. The money that was raised was divided among local charities and a scholarship fund for a Story County student at Iowa State University. All this made possible by Leadership Ames and their determination to
improve the city and create a lasting legacy!
Karin Chitty, a member of class XXXIII, was very moved by her experience while working on a service project for Hope Closet, a longstanding charity organization that Chitty had no previous knowledge of before her work with Leadership Ames. “I was shocked at the amount of people Hope Closet served,” Chitty said. “There is more homelessness and food insecurity in my hometown than I realized. It was very eye opening to see the needs of the community and I felt very hopeful seeing these needs be met.”
Last year, Ames Leadership raised about $23,000 for their respective causes. Projects have included partnerships with the Boys & Girls Club of Story County, Mainstream Living, Ames Main Street, Octagon Center for the Arts, YSS, and local schools in the district. Beneficiaries from these projects range from children to seniors. The city of Ames has felt the impact of these projects, and the Leadership Ames is passionate about both ongoing and new missions alike. If your organization has a project that needs support, please fill out this application.
Written by: Emily Haan, Marketing & Public Relations Intern, Ames Chamber of Commerce
Judi Eyles has worked with young entrepreneurs for over 25 years, and as the Director of the Iowa State University Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship (ISUPJCE), it is her job to foster innovation and inspire the boldness that is necessary to becoming a successful entrepreneur. For Eyles and the rest of the PJCE, there is no better place to spark new ideas than at the Iowa State University Research Park (ISURP).
Iowa State and the Pappajohn Center connect young, student entrepreneurs with resources and opportunities to practice and learn about true entrepreneurial endeavors. These students immerse themselves in real-business operations, something students cannot always receive in the classroom.
The Pappajohn Center has been endorsing entrepreneurial innovation since the organization's inception, however, it is only recently that they have identified that entrepreneurship is actually defined by innovation. According to Eyles, you cannot be an entrepreneur without being innovative.
“Innovation was something people couldn’t explain, and now it's an accepted part of our language, philosophy, and what we do,” Eyles said about the evolution of innovation. “At the Research Park, innovation threads through everything we do.”
When Eyles started 25 years ago, the archetype entrepreneur was born, not made. Innate abilities trumped work ethic and training. Today, however, at the Pappajohn Center innovation is explored, inspired and learned, molding versatile entrepreneurs.
The Space to Grow
Prior to their arrival at the ISU Research Park, the PJCE had all the energy to inspire student entrepreneurs, but without the proper facility. Their old space was small, lackluster, and did not allow for student collaboration-a key aspect of entrepreneurship.
“You can have a space to work, but it’s what you do to interact with others that is valuable to entrepreneurs,” Elyes said.
Now equipped with conference rooms, training rooms, and a student work space, the Research Park has made it accessible for students to have these important interactions. The ISURP has made it easier for students to collaborate, engage, and feel like a part of the Pappajohn team. The core facility itself has created an energy that inspires innovation.
“We love the space, we love the community that can and should happen here,” said Eyles of the Pappajohn workspace. “The Research Park provides support to our space, it is very functional and it offers us innovative networking opportunities.”
The Research Park has grown exponentially over the past 25 years, and this growth can partially be attributed to what they do to provide for their companies. From efficient upkeep, providing support to the space, and showcasing their businesses, Eyles applauds what she calls the Iowa’s greatest landlords. Eyles and her team appreciate how the Park is constantly asking what they can do to better provide more for their innovators.
Their dedication to their tenants has inspired similar parks around the nation. It is not uncommon for other associates to visit and learn how they can implement a similar mission at their locations. Eyles said that she hopes The Park will only continue to grow, as she has witnessed first-hand for years.
“We keep growing, with a forward vision,” said Eyles.
Starting with the Students
The most prominent work done with the Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship is their work with students. Through numerous programs, their students are able to work with businesses (many of whom are in the ISU Research Park), on case studies, internships, and ultimately learn about business practices with an entrepreneurial lens.
“We are able to give our students the time, resources, connections, networks, and space, all of those things at the Research Park,” said Eyles.
The Pappajohn Center works with all the colleges at Iowa State with the goal of sprinkling entrepreneurship and innovation directly into classes. Much of the time this includes guest speakers coming into the classroom, like their Reiman Entrepreneurial Speaker Series, and providing on-campus programs such as entrepreneurs club. However, most of the work the PJCE does is outside of the classroom, with their primary activities centered in the Research Park. This allows students to get hands-on, real-world experience, and allows businesses the access to the insightful talent coming right out of Iowa State.
“All of our programs are meant to help people develop the tools and the resources to do what they’re doing, but a large part of that is connecting with resources at the Park, resources in the community, and resources around campus,” Eyles said.
This space at the Research Park provides an unparalleled advantage for students, as they have a direct path to companies right next door. Eyles said that many clients of the PJCE are right in the Research Park, giving students that critical networking opportunity. When these young entrepreneurs are ready to start their own business, they are well-equipped and well-rounded innovators as a result of their experiences at the PJCE.
Flourishing in Ames
Elyes’ goal, along with the rest of the Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship, is simple: to inspire innovation that can flourish in the City of Ames.
“At the end of the day, our goal is to create businesses, especially ones that stay here in Ames,” said Eyles.
The biggest advantage, according to Eyles, is the fact the Research Park offers potential businesses a perfect starting point. Entrepreneurs are provided flexible opportunities to set-up camp and start their venture, but also the chance to grow into a bigger business. These small start-ups are able to look like real businesses before they are one. Eyles said there are examples of this all over the park.
“We have a Research Park that has flexible space, an opportunity for people to grow, and also access to all those resources and programs that are available,” said Eyles. “It is helping us serve our mission which is to create companies that can thrive in Ames.”
It is just the beginning for the Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship, and with the support of Iowa State and the Research Park, students are fortunate to gain incomparable experience and knowledge right here in Ames.
I can’t help but reflect back on the year we’ve had. It’s safe to say that 2020 was an unexpected whirlwind of events that kept us all on our toes. Now a vaccine is on the horizon and we may, at some point in the first half of 2021, slowly be returning to the normal that once was. Yet, when I reflect back, I can’t help but feel immense gratitude for this place I call home. Through thick and thin, we have stuck together.
This was truly a year to be #StoryCountyStrong. The Ames Chamber of Commerce team initiated this social media campaign back at the height of restrictions in March to help keep the community rallied together. What we didn’t expect, was how easy it was to get the word out about the campaign. Almost immediately, we saw businesses posting signs in their windows with #StoryCountyStrong, or children creating #StoryCountyStrong chalk designs. I found it difficult to travel anywhere throughout town without seeing the hashtag prominently displayed.
As the year progressed, we worked together to safely keep businesses open with hospitality promises delivered to every restaurant and bar in Story County and reopening guides delivered to businesses getting ready to open their doors again, or others donated handmade face coverings to ensure employees could safely return to work. When the Iowa State University students were returning to Ames, we welcomed them back with open arms and helped them navigate the new regulations in the community. They had been gone for six months, experiencing the pandemic elsewhere, and we helped them learn how to live in their new hometown while they were at school.
When the derecho hit, we removed debris from our neighbor’s yards, and opened our homes to strangers in need of a warm meal and a phone recharge. Our community worked together, without being asked, to ensure others were safe and without need.
Although there were points in time when the changes felt never ending and at times it was easy to get frustrated with the state of things, I am proud to say our community hung in there and helped one another as we collectively endured. From the start of the pandemic, to derecho clean up and sharing electricity, we stuck through it all, together. I wouldn’t have wanted to live anywhere else then right here in Story County. Thank you for always staying #StoryCountyStrong and all the best for a terrific 2021.
Story County is home to a diverse range of industries including advanced manufacturing, biosciences and technology, precision farming, and more. To support these industries, the Ames Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Commission provides an array of services through its Business Retention and Expansion (BR&E) program.
BR&E is an economic development strategy of proactively connecting with existing businesses to understand and respond to their current and future needs. Staying in touch and connecting with our existing business community is key to the retention of existing jobs and growth of new jobs. Studies show over time that up to 70% of all new job creation will come from existing business and industry growth if an aggressive BR&E program is implemented and supported.
In the last three years our Business Development team conducted 114 official visits with Story County companies. These confidential visits are a great way to gain insight into the strengths and challenges of the business and as well as own community. The feedback received as part of these interviews is aggregated, tracked, and reported each year.
In 2019 the following information was identified:
Top Story County Strengths:
Top Story County Challenges
Key to any effective BR&E program is the ability to act on the feedback received as a result of these visits. Because workforce continues to be an area of concern for our business community, the Ames Economic Development Commission has implemented a robust Workforce Solutions program. The following are the key aspects of our workforce solutions programming designed to assist our business and industry in the retention and recruitment of workforce now and into the future:
Our Story County labor force is 58,700 strong and growing. We stand ready to help business and industry flourish through workforce retention/recruitment, project support, and increasing the overall quality of life for all!