One of the major staples of any economic development organization is business recruitment. Often, business recruitment is the most publicly acknowledged component of the organization because of the interest and excitement generated from a new business coming to town. Though the most attention is paid to this portion of an organization, it only accounts for ten percent of job growth within a community. We have been fortunate in Ames to be a magnate for new opportunities, and with the addition of Prairie View Industrial Center, we are poised for more opportunities than ever.
When we think of the impact that business recruitment has on our communities we think of great successes like Barilla or 3M that have become powerhouse manufacturers for our community. Where Ames has seen the most success for recruitment has been at the ISU Research Park. Legacy companies from throughout the State of Iowa and beyond continue to seek out and open locations due to access to research and students for their continued success. As the park has grown, those companies have continued to make investments in new facilities.
More traditional business recruitment has focused on available land or speculative buildings. Such examples include NextEra Energy in Story City, or Priority Envelope in Nevada. With the new addition of Prairie View Industrial Center, the opportunity for Ames and Story County to see major industrial growth is just beginning. Since the onset of COVID-19, we have seen a major shift in our expectations for business recruitment. With the strain placed on global supply chains, we see an increased opportunity for re-shoring of manufacturing to ensure reliable supply chains. Additionally, the opportunity for foreign direct investment by foreign based companies looking to establish significant presence in the United States has never been more opportune.
Story County is incredibly well positioned to recruit new companies that will continue to be industry leaders and innovators. With strong partners and willing stakeholders, we will continue to find success within our business recruitment program.
I enjoy looking out into the future and thinking about what is next! While the pandemic our world is enduring is rightfully creating consternation, I really like to focus on what we will be pursuing when this over, because it will pass. As we celebrate Economic Development Week 2020, I remain bullish on our marketplace going forward.
Do we lean in post pandemic or do we retreat? We must lean in and press on! We must continue to work as thought leaders, and promote them. It’s critical that we keep working with existing businesses and entrepreneurs to find the next great job-creator. Leadership will be paramount and we have a responsibility to cultivate new leaders for all of the organizations with boards and commissions that need civic-minded people with the greater good in mind; and we absolutely must continue to unabashedly plow resources, both public and private, back into amenities to will make every corner of the Story County community thrive.
Will there by challenges ahead? Without question. But here is the real question… Do we lean in and become the community that can find ten ways to get something done? Or do we wilt at how hard things can be and find ten reasons why something in unattainable? In my estimation a community determines its fate in how it answers that question.
As we commemorate Economic Development Week 2020, we salute our numerous partners and we reaffirm the need for thriving communities and businesses whether we are in the throes of pandemic or not. Finally, you have our unrelenting pledge that we will work tirelessly to always be the community that can give you ten reasons why something will work here in Story County. Rest assured; with that attitude our greatest days are ahead of us!
Throughout the years, Ames and Story County have been fortunate to receive numerous accolades for our high quality of life. Whether we are listed as a great place to raise a family, retire, or recreate, these accolades align with what I have often heard from our own residents: “We have a great community.” This is a vague phrase, but we seem to universally understand it as a summing-up of our community’s positive traits. It is also a casual phrase, yet it implies that there is a tremendous ongoing effort, both intentional and organic, to maintain and enhance our positive attributes. This effort is the act of community development.
Although community and economic development are separate concepts, they are generally interdependent and interlocking. They reinforce one another, and a strong presence of both builds resiliency for communities and regions. Story County is replete with examples. In Roland, a group of local mothers banned together to form a pool committee. The existing 50-year-old pool was in state of hastening deterioration, but the committee understood the importance of maintaining the facility for their children and future generations. They volunteered their time to create a campaign to save the pool, and they succeeded with the overwhelming passage of a $3.1 million bond. While the pool will not directly generate revenue for the city, it is an asset that will serve to retain and attract young families to Roland. Those people may purchase homes, shop locally, or work within the laborshed. Some may start businesses. Their children may attend Roland-Story. The committee members themselves developed grantwriting, public relations, and community development skills, and their success provides them with the momentum to apply these skills to the next project.
In a time of crisis, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, past, present, and future community development efforts are especially important. Strong service clubs, booster groups, foundations, religious institutions, and other organizations provide a support structure for residents and businesses. Their very existence creates a culture of mutuality and a sense of obligation among their members to help, and this culture catches fire. For instance, look around, and you will find it difficult to avoid the phrase “We are in this together.” There is no phrase that better captures the spirit of community. It mirrors local pride, commitment, empathy, shared experience, and mutual obligation. It reflects our connectedness. Locally, the #StoryCountyStrong campaign similarly embodies this spirit of community.
It is in this spirit that we uplift the efforts of every individual to make Story County a “great place to live.” Whatever your role, know that it is because of your efforts that we have the pride and connectedness to endure difficult times and emerge stronger than ever, together.
Within economic development the topic of entrepreneurship is one of the toughest growth opportunities to properly understand and support. Here in Story County we are fortunate to have a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem rooted in Iowa State University, but the opportunity to support entrepreneurs extends beyond.
As we look at the landscape of our community, we can point to many businesses that started here as small ventures by local entrepreneurs but have since grown to be major industries and employers within our community. Companies like Burke in Nevada and BASF on North Dayton in Ames are companies that were started as novel ideas and grew to be these major industries. This is exactly why supporting these businesses early is so critical for the growth of our community. In economic development, we recognize that between 10-15% of our employment growth is driven by entrepreneurship.
We continue to fight unique ways to support entrepreneurs broadly throughout our community. Two affiliates at the Ames Chamber of Commerce focus entirely on supporting our entrepreneurs, but in completely different ways. Ames Seed Capital has been around for over 30 years and is the oldest seed capital organization in the State of Iowa. This means that Ames and Story County have been supporting these startup companies with critical venture capital for many years. One great success that can be pointed to is Workiva. A small startup with a novel concept, coupled with venture capital from Ames Seed Capital and others, has led to the growth of an incredible Ames-based publicly traded technology company. Our second affiliate focused on the entrepreneurial ecosystem is Startup Ames. Their event-driven community conversations allow entrepreneurs and those aspiring to start their own companies a place to network with others in the community and build a support network to help them find success.
In addition to the organizations we support as affiliates, we find ways to encourage and support many additional efforts to build this ecosystem. From the ISU Startup Factory, to CyStarters, to the Small Business Development Center, all these organizations provide service and resources for different levels and types of businesses. Each of those organizations are vital to the continued success and growth of our entrepreneurs.
While we know that things are certainly different during these times of a global pandemic. The entrepreneurs that we interact with have always strived to be vigilant in the face of adversity. This time is certainly challenging us all now, remember to find opportunities to support these businesses. Whether it’s a locally owned restaurant or shop, or our entrepreneurs working away at the ISU Research Park, all of these businesses are being built by folks who believe in our community and want to grow locally to continue supporting us.
Written By: Mayor John Haila
Filling out my 2020 Census form will be a simple task. This isn’t my first time completing a census. Yet, I’m aware that a large percentage of our Ames population may not be familiar with this once-a-decade responsibility. Many Iowa State University students would have been in grade school the last time we had a census. Some may not realize they are responsible for completing a form.
U.S. Census Bureau officials cite multiple barriers to getting census forms returned, and undercounting a community’s population can have serious consequences. Ames residents have long history of high participation in the census, but it takes a lot people working together to educate our entire community especially reaching out to those at risk to not participate.
ISU students may believe their parents will count them in their hometowns. Yet census rules are very clear that university students should claim the city they attend school. International students, their spouses and families, as well as non-citizens may believe the census doesn’t apply to them. Not true. They are Ames residents for the purpose of the census.
Completing the census is important because census numbers are used to determine political representation and spur redistricting of wards for local elections. Also, census numbers are used to proportionally distribute more than $675 billion annually in federal funds. This money supports state, county, and city programs including housing, education, transportation, public safety, and health care. In Ames, our CyRide transit system, affordable housing projects, and street improvements all receive significant federal funding based on our census numbers.
Some people have a deep distrust of government. Others don’t believe the information they share will be kept safe. We have work to do ensure everyone understands the facts about the census and the role of U.S. Census Bureau.
Census information is confidential. By federal law, it may not be shared with any other federal agency, nor do state or local governments have access to individual census forms. The census asks a series of simple questions including your name, birthdate, and gender. It asks for a phone number for verification purposes only. It does not ask for Social Security numbers, bank, or credit card information. Once the 2020 Census is complete, aggregated data (absent personal information) is available on the U.S. Census Bureau website for anyone to access.
Your invitation to participate may have already arrived in the mail. Once received, please take a few minutes to answer the questions online, by phone, or by mail. The census form is available in multiple languages.
One last request. Please use your influence as a trusted voice to share census information with those you socialize, work, or interact with every day. The message is simple. Census is safe, easy, and important. We need everyone’s help to ensure Ames has a complete and accurate count. Spread the word so Ames has the funding and representation we deserve.
If you have more questions about the 2020 Census, visit www.2020Census.gov
Coronavirus is dominating the news and has brought up conversation among the Ames and Story County business community. We at the Ames Chamber of Commerce wanted to provide you with some resources that may be helpful to you and your company.
Our friends at the Iowa Association of Business and Industry recently summarized helpful precautions as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control:
“The Centers for Disease Control recommends several precautions to avoid the spread of the disease. Most are part of a common standard precautionary protocol. They include frequently washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, avoiding close contact with people who are sick and staying home if you are ill, disinfecting common surfaces, and covering your coughs and sneezes.
Further, the CDC encourages employers to review protocols related to business travel. If business can be conducted remotely via video conference, that procedure is best. Direct staff to frequently disinfect common surfaces, make hand sanitizer available throughout facilities and offices, and direct employees to stay home when ill. Eliminate shaking hands and close greetings.”
Ames has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country at just 2%. That means we have a lot of positions and we need more talent! As teachers, you can introduce your students to the countless opportunities right here at home now.
In a new section of our website, Future Ready Story County, we are serving as the connector for teachers, students, parents and business partners. What does this mean for you as a teacher?
Check out AmesChamber.com/FutureReady now to explore Future Ready Story County! We look forward to connecting you with the bright young minds of tomorrow’s workforce.
Did you know there are over 11,000 preschool through 12th grade students in Story County? That’s a lot of talent for our future workforce! Get to know these students now and help them discover all of the opportunity right here at home.
In a new section of our website, Future Ready Story County, we are serving as the connector for teachers, students, parents and business partners. What does this mean for you as a member of the business community?
Hop over to our Developing Talent section now to explore Future Ready Story County! We look forward to connecting you with the bright young minds of tomorrow’s workforce.
Written by: Leah Whaley, Public Relations Intern
As California and New York natives, Liz McAllister and her husband Zach Lisabeth may have never pictured themselves living and working in Iowa, but after nearly four years here, Ames has become their home. Zach earned his degree from Northwestern University in Communications and continued his education pursuing his Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Iowa State University, which led Liz and Zach to Ames in 2016.
Prior to their life in Ames, Liz graduated from Pitzer College in Claremont, California with a degree in environmental studies and went on to serve for two years in AmeriCorps where she began working in youth education and development. She is currently completing her master’s degree in social and cultural studies of education from Iowa State and serves as the Director of Strategic Change Management at the Iowa State University Foundation.
In her past role, Liz she traveled frequently, and as a writer Zach travels to both Los Angeles and New York, but throughout their careers they have chosen to stay in Ames rather than relocating. The sense of community and inclusivity in Ames have been a big factor in why they have chosen to stay, and do not have plans of leaving anytime soon. “For the foreseeable future, I see us here,” said McAllister “Ames is a calm and comfortable place to call home.”
Ames offers the amenities of a larger city as the home of Iowa State University while still creating a welcoming, close knit community. Liz is able to see this first-hand as a community member and through her work at the Iowa State University Foundation. “There’s a real investment in the community thriving. Whether it’s the youth, adults or ensuring that it’s a welcome place for everyone, inclusion is an important factor to me and Ames represents that value well.”
For those considering living in Ames, Liz’s advice is simple, “Do it,” said McAllister, “It’s a wonderful place to build connections and be part of a growing community of people who care about each other, care about the world and act on those beliefs. Find a way to get engaged in the community because then it feels like it’s yours to make and yours to build.”
At the Ames Chamber of Commerce, we are pleased to have over 350 Gold Members. Out of the 593 total Chamber members we have, this adds up to over half of our membership. A Gold Member is an individual or business that pays 10% more than their annual member dues each year and as such receives some additional benefits to thank them for their investment.
Here’s what you gain when you become a Chamber Gold Member:
Weekly Email Recognition
We’re excited to announce that in February 2020 we launched a new email template for our weekly emails. Part of this template includes a space reserved to share our Gold Members and say thank you. This email sends to over 1,500 contacts each week.
All of our Chamber Members are provided with a special window decal denoting them as an investor in the Ames Chamber of Commerce. However, our Gold Members receive a gold decal for their window, highlighting them as a Gold Member to all their customers and clients.
Social Media Recognition
In addition to our weekly email recognition, Chamber Gold Members are recognized at least once a month on the Ames Chamber social media pages (Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to be specific), and we make sure to tag your business page on Facebook and LinkedIn if applicable. We are excited to have over 1,000 likes, follows, and visitors on each of our pages, providing an ample audience to reach and engage with on a daily basis.
Social Media Share
Alongside the social media highlight thanking you for your investment, we offer our Gold Members a social media share on each of our pages. If you have a big event and you’re hoping to gain more attendance, or a special deal you’d like to highlight, we will promote your opportunity to our social media pages to help spread the your message! This once-a-year opportunity is offered exclusively to our Gold Members and Inner Circle Sponsors.
Part of being a Chamber Member includes having a listing on our online directory. However, as a Gold Member, your listing will include a special little icon noting you as such. This will draw more eyes to your listing.
All the Other Benefits!
Of course, you get to take advantage of the many other benefits we offer to all our Chamber Members! Some of these great opportunities include the use of a notary (we have two staff members that are certified notaries), the opportunity to post coupons and events to our website, and receive mailing labels for all our members (only $125 for over 500 contacts!). These are just a few of the great opportunities we offer our Chamber Members.
Because of the additional contributions for our Gold Members, we are able to provide enhanced programming to our membership that supports our efforts to help you succeed as a business – such as our Business Builder Series, advocacy efforts, and Workforce Solutions programming. We appreciate that over half of our membership finds value in our programming and chooses to invest 10% more in their annual dues. So, if you are a Chamber Gold Member – THANK YOU for your investment!