In leadership, the axiom goes that “you’re only as good as your team.” In my career, I have grown to appreciate and understand how true this is.
This week, we welcomed two new members to our Ames Chamber of Commerce team. I am incredibly excited to see what they will bring to our organization and how they will positively impact our communities.
When hiring, we look to our core values as the starting point:
Once we find the right people, we need to make sure they are in the right seat, doing the work that helps move our organization forward. I am a firm believer in hiring good people and letting them excel. For career professionals, autonomy is not only a way to get the best from each person, but it is a retention tool that we must be mindful of.
Fostering our organization’s culture is something that I think about often. Several years ago, we implemented an entrepreneurial operating system (EOS), and with it, some structure. It has been great for our organization because it allows us to be more efficient, it gives us the ability to identify gaps in our system, and it holds us accountable to each other.
Autonomy is key for our organization because each team member brings a unique skill set that only they can provide. But for our organization to truly excel, we must be accountable to each other, and we need to live by our core values. Communication is key on a weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis (as supported through EOS), and this builds trust. Trust then builds collaboration among the team and the cycle continues to where our organization is performing at a high level.
Each week, I experience first-hand what a great team can do. When I give myself permission to slow down and reflect on the team we have assembled and how our organization impacts our communities across the Ames MSA, I beam with pride. The work will never be done, but that is the appeal and joy of the work we do and the amazing team we do it with.
Earlier this week, the board of directors for the Ames Chamber of Commerce and Ames Economic Development Commission met together for a joint meeting. We annually have this joint meeting as a way to bring together the two parts of our organization for not only the business meeting, but a social opportunity.
In our line of work, we always have one eye on the next thing. Economic development is complicated and requires patience. Nearly every project includes years of planning before its public announcement, and even longer before shovels start moving dirt. I have had the honor of doing this work for many years, but at no point in my career have I been as excited as I currently am with the range of projects we have on the horizon.
The Linc, a $150+ million development along Lincoln Way, includes a hotel and conference center, residential apartments, as well as retail and commercial space. This is a generational project that will transform the landscape of Lincoln Way and have a profound positive impact on Downtown Ames and our entire community. When we couple that with CyTown, the incoming Fitch Family Aquatic Center, and the recently named Steven L. Schainker Plaza (Congratulations to Ames City Manager, Steve Schainker) in front of City Hall, we have a range of projects that will energize our community and serve as catalysts for other opportunities yet to be presented.
Couple all of that with Illinois-based Wyffels Hybrids announcement from last Friday when they named Ames as their expansion location for their warehouse and distribution center and our economic development momentum could not be stronger. The best part about the Wyffels announcement is that it happened because Alliant Energy and the City of Ames have partnered with the Ames Economic Development Commission to create Prairie View Industrial Center – the large-scale industrial corridor in eastern Ames. The timing could not be better as the utility extensions were just completed in this new, promising area, for industrial development. We express gratitude to Wyffels for choosing Ames and appreciation to both Alliant Energy and the City of Ames for helping set the table for future economic development in our market.
It is easy to get excited about these projects. I know that I am. But as I sat in the joint board meeting, I reminded myself to not lose sight of the work that is happening today. As I observed the members at our joint meeting, I saw a room full of dedicated individuals who are united in their passion to make our community great. If you are reading this right now, you are also one of those individuals who have chosen to call our Ames MSA home.
Success does not happen overnight. It requires vision, talent, and a network of supporters. We may not all be business owners, but each one of us contributes to the vibrancy of our community. As we move toward the gift giving season, consider spending your money in our community. It is an investment that makes an immediate impact and contributes to the long-term success of our community.
Greetings from the Ames Chamber of Commerce!
For those in attendance, I hope you enjoyed listening to Brian Dieter, President & CEO of Mary Greeley Medical Center, speak at our State of Healthcare event that took place on Friday, September 23. I know I did! He discussed a wide range of topics on the healthcare industry with a specific lens on how it impacts us locally.
One of the things that I have always appreciated about Brian is his leadership style. At the event, he talked about how he challenges his team to cut unnecessary things from their plate. Within each of our organizations, we do things because we have always done them. Some of those legacy practices made sense at the time of implementation, but do they now?
Often times, we move so fast that we do not take time to challenge ourselves or our organization to do less. Honestly, I’m not sure how we can do that at the Ames Chamber of Commerce, but we have to be open to the concept first. As a leader, I have to allow space for that thinking and conversation to take place in order for our organization to grow and improve.
I had a moment just this week where my leadership was challenged. Simply stated, I was moving too fast. After apologizing and acknowledging my error in judgement, the next thing I did was inform my team. Mistakes will happen, but this was a mistake of pace, and I was reminded of that listening to the leadership of Brian. Do your business or organization a favor and slow down, remain thoughtful, and have the conversation about how you grow and improve.
Last week, we celebrated a milestone at the Ames Chamber of Commerce: 700 members! I am incredibly proud of our team for always putting our members first. I also want to thank our 700+ members for believing in the work that we do and investing in our community.
As we move into the weekend, I encourage all of you to consider attending some of our upcoming events. Next Friday, October 7, we will be hosting our Manufacturing Breakfast featuring Steve Sukup, President and CEO of Sukup Manufacturing, as the keynote speaker. Our Symposium on Building Inclusive Organizations follows on November 1, and we will round out the calendar year with our Annual Event luncheon on December 14 that will take place in the Sukup Endzone Club at Jack Trice Stadium.
I hope to see each of you soon. Have a wonderful weekend and Go Cyclones!
An op-ed from the Ames Chamber of Commerce and Ames Economic Development Commission
Agriculture and ethanol are vital to Iowa’s economy, which is a point of pride for our Ames metropolitan statistical area (MSA). As a core industry in our region, including Lincolnway Energy in Nevada, it is important that we invest for future generations, and there is an opportunity to do that now through the Summit Carbon Solutions project.
Both the Ames Chamber of Commerce and Ames Economic Development Commission Board of Directors are in support of the Summit Carbon Solutions investment in our region. The project will be a driving force in economic development and job creation for Story County and Central Iowa.
Each May the Ames Economic Development Commission (AEDC) celebrates Economic Development Week as we recognize the power of partnerships and the impact of coordinated economic development efforts in our communities.
Throughout the last two years, our organization has grown significantly. We have expanded our economic development services beyond Story County, partnering with the City of Boone, the City of Ogden, and the Boone County Economic Development Growth Corporation. In fact, these contracts have enabled our team to more effectively serve the entire Ames Metropolitan Statistical Area, or the Ames MSA.
A Metropolitan Statistical Area is a geographical region with a relatively high population density and close economic ties. The Ames MSA is made up of both Boone and Story Counties and includes over 20 communities. The MSA designation is critical to our region for a multitude of reasons. When it comes to economic development projects, consultants and site selectors often look to MSA communities first as an MSA designation offers a high level of credibility as well as easy access to the demographic and economic information they need when looking for a new location for a company. Metropolitan Statistical Area communities also benefit direct federal entitlement payments, recognition in distinguished “Best Of” lists and ultimately face less competition for federal dollars and grants.
A unified approach to economic development just makes sense. By working together, we are able to create a common vision, develop long-term strategies and provide resources across the Ames MSA. We are incredibly fortunate to have strong inter-community relationships that allow us to create innovative solutions as we work to attract and retain talent and industry, promote the importance of supporting local, create jobs and growth opportunities, and so many other projects that benefit the greater good.
Economic development is impacted by seemingly mundane projects like municipal infrastructure improvements all the way to larger-than-life projects like The Linc project coming to Lincoln Way. No one wants to live in a community with pothole-ridden roads but that road construction that drives us all crazy from March to October makes our community more appealing for current and potential residents. Investments in local art and quality-of-life amenities like the Nevada Fieldhouse or Fitch Family Indoor Aquatic Center build upon that appeal. Offering a thriving entrepreneurial environment helps local businesses owners get off the ground or enable a local Farmers’ Market vendor to move into a brick-and-mortar location. It is this myriad of projects, businesses and organizations and the cooperation of local leaders that drive strong economic development.
The AEDC team and our partners will continue to work tirelessly for our communities. Together we will support existing industry and job creation, support up-and-coming small businesses and advocate for the next quality of life amenity. The work we are doing now is setting us up for a sustainable, promising and brighter future for all.
A few weeks ago, Fareway Stores, Inc. pledged their largest donation in company history—a whopping $2M to be put toward the new Boone Community Wellness Center. This contribution covers nearly 20% of project costs and reduced the burden on local taxpayers as the City was able to lower the franchise fee from 3% to 2%. Investing in large-scale projects like these through charitable contributions is a direct investment in the greater community. The more we have to offer, the easier it becomes to attract and retain talent.
We’ve seen a number of charitable contributions for quality of life amenities throughout our communities recently. Nevada is nearly the end of their private fundraising for their Fieldhouse project. The Fieldhouse would bring 40,000 sq. ft. of indoor recreational space to the community including two basketball courts, a soccer field, children’s play structure, an upper-level track and meeting space. Ames has also seen an influx of charitable giving for the proposed Indoor Aquatic Center with the current fundraising total coming in at just over $10.3M.
These facilities offer more to a community than recreational opportunities. The high levels of fundraising indicate our community members’ understanding that one of the biggest factors people consider when relocating is the quality of life a community will provide. The Boone Community Wellness Center, Nevada Fieldhouse, and indoor aquatic center in Ames are the kinds of amenities our communities need to stay competitive and promote healthy growth. When people visit our towns for tournaments and other events held at these recreational venues, they get a glimpse into our community and are more likely to return as visitors and in some cases residents. The increased out-of-town traffic also increases patronage to local stores and restaurants, continuing to feed dollars into our local economy. It's not an exaggeration to say community wellness and recreational facilities are a win-win for everyone involved.
The Boone Community Wellness Center project will go to public vote on Tuesday, March 1. If you are a citizen of Boone, I implore you to exercise your right to vote next week and vote yes to move this project forward. Be a part of the team of community officials, leaders and residents working tirelessly to build upon Boone’s long-standing culture of recreational activity and bring a much needed amenity back into the community.
Don’t make Fareway take their donation back next week. Vote yes and keep Boone on its current trajectory toward growth and increased amenities for residents and visitors alike.
The last two years have tested society in a multitude of ways. From sudden business and school shutdowns to extreme weather to the great toilet paper shortage of 2020, collectively, we have all been trying to make the best of unusual circumstances. The caveat is we don’t always agree on how we handle these challenges.
You may remember that we had to postpone the Ames Chamber Annual Event last month due to the forecasted windstorm. As the forecast developed, we brainstormed Plans B – Z. Team members shared their varying opinions and after a pragmatic discussion in which we weighed all our options, we came to a consensus that postponing the event, while not ideal, was the best decision for the greater good.
As we were making our decision, neighbors were helping each other prepare by moving things indoors, picking up supplies in case of power outages and checking in on each other. Without hesitation, our community came together to hunker down and ride out the storm. This is the kind of camaraderie we need to nurture not only when there’s a storm on the horizon, but throughout the year.
I am calling on all residents of Ames and the greater Story County region to commit to a return to civility and an extra measure of grace for one another. The times we live in are unpredictable at best and we can’t change what is going on elsewhere in the country or world, but we can change what is happening here at home.
Instead of digging in our heels, listen to understand. Be quick to find common ground. Exercise wisdom when engaging in contentious discussions. Ask questions and strive to reach compromise. Come to the table with ideas and solutions rather than excuses or opinions. People will notice and in time, quite possibly, the divisiveness we see in our culture will be replaced with eagerness to work together.
In order to attract the talent we need to continue to grow our workforce and local economy, it is crucial that our community is exceedingly welcoming to all who choose to make Ames their place to live, work and play. We can only accomplish that by returning to a higher level of civility.
As an employee, teammate, mentor, leader, friend, neighbor, do your part to make Ames the epicenter of diverse thinkers working together to serve the greater good. In honor of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday earlier this month, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from him: “Life’ most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?””
The close of 2021 also wraps up the early stages of an economic development and quality of life project that will provide more recreation for Ames in future winter months – the new indoor aquatic center.
To bring this vision to life, the Ames Chamber of Commerce spearheaded the private fundraising efforts and worked with the City of Ames to apply for a $21.6 million grant through Iowa’s Reinvestment District Program. The project was provisionally awarded $10 million in June from the State – a significant win for our community considering the number of program proposals this year.
Receiving less funding through the grant than we had hoped for, the project team pivoted as we all so often have done the last two years and worked to rescope the project and funding needs. We set out to raise another $15 million in private donations, and I am pleased to share that so to date we have reached $10.3 million of that sum. Anticipated construction is to begin in late 2022.
The indoor aquatic center project has been a personal favorite of mine this year because it will not only be a new quality of life asset for Ames and Story County residents, it also builds upon our community’s focus on inclusion and accessibility. Features will include a zero-entry pool, a warm water therapy pool, slides, a lazy river, lap lanes and more. The carefully designed facility was created with our residents and their various needs top of mind. The indoor aquatic center will provide the opportunity for year-round recreation for every single member of our community.
At the Chamber, we have six core values our team strives to personify every day. We are determined to be customer driven, innovative, team players, good for it, demonstrate integrity and work for the greater good. We chose to take on the fundraising aspect of this project because we believe adding an indoor aquatic facility to our community checks each and every one of those boxes. As our community grows, so do our needs. The Ames Chamber of Commerce is dedicated to anticipating those needs and helping create innovative solutions that will positively impact the greater good.
If you are interested in making an end of year contribution toward the indoor aquatic center, we are still accepting two-year pledges, half due at the end of 2021 and the other half by 2022. Contact our office at 515.232.2310 and we would be happy to assist you. No pledge is too small! We are in this together and together we will bring this amenity to our community.
Finally, I invite you to join us as we kick off the new year at our Legislative Breakfast on January 5, Economic Outlook Breakfast on January 11 and the Annual State of the Community on January 26. You can register for these events at AmesChamber.com or by calling our office at 515.232.2310.
Thank you all for a wonderful 2021 and I look forward to seeing where 2022 takes us! Happy New Year!
One of the few bright spots of living through the pandemic is the renewed sense of shopping and supporting local. I have been so encouraged the last 18 months as the Ames and Story County community has come together in a commitment to support our neighbors.
Last year around this time, we ran our second “Buy-In Story County” gift card program which poured $30,000 into our local businesses in just two days. Earlier this year we launched the Community Cash program – a year-round online program that offers gift cards redeemable at any of our participating members. With over 30 current participants, gift card recipients have the option to redeem their cards at retail stores, restaurants and bars, hotels and even North Grand Cinema. Community Cash is a great option for an employee gift or for that person on your list who is especially hard to shop for.
Community Cash not only does it take the pressure off the gift-giver, but it also keeps spending dollars in our local economy. Did you know that of every dollar spent at a locally owned business, about 70 cents stays in the community? Less than 40 cents of dollars spent at non-locally owned businesses stay local. The extra money in our local economy means more resources for our schools and local programs, preserves our local character, and creates more jobs in our community. As you do head out to our small businesses, keep in mind that many are facing staffing challenges, so I urge you to exercise patience for one another.
Looking for other ways to get engaged and support local businesses and organizations? Join in on upcoming events throughout the community. Downtown Ames is celebrating Snow Magic throughout December and will be kicking things off on Friday, December 3 with a holiday tree lighting at 6:00pm in Tom Evans Park. There will be carriage rides, Santa visits, children’s activities and more throughout Downtown. The Ames Chamber of Commerce and affiliate organizations will be celebrating our 2021 Annual Award Winners on Wednesday, December 8 at Prairie Moon Winery. Help us honor these influential members of our community and join us for dinner and the awards ceremony. Finally, we will be commemorating 2021 at our Annual Event on December 15 at Sukup Endzone Club. There will be dinner, drinks, laughs and a little bit of magic as we bring 2021 to a close and look ahead to the amazing things in store for Ames, Boone and Story County in 2022. Learn more and register for these events on our website at AmesChamber.com.
Finally, you can support local by paying it forward in our community. Drop your change in a donation box, pick up a few extra groceries for a food pantry or simply hold a door for a stranger. As we continue to build and nurture our local community, we will continue to be recognized as the Smart Choice to live, work and play.
Economic Development Week is upon us! Each May the Ames Economic Development Commission (AEDC) celebrates Economic Development Week, celebrating the power of partnerships and highlighting the importance of a coordinated economic development effort in our communities.
This year, it feels like we have more than ever to celebrate. Not only are we coming out of a pandemic, but we are coming out of a pandemic stronger and more focused on growth and quality of life in our communities. The AEDC continues to serve every community in Story County and launched a new partnership with the City of Boone at the beginning of the year. It is these partnerships that drive innovative, successful economic development in our region and together we are working to create a brighter future for all.
Our 2021 theme, #ThisIsEconDev, was chosen because it enables us to highlight economic development on grand and small scales. From May 10 – 14, the AEDC will be featuring ongoing projects and partnerships with our neighboring communities throughout Story County and the City of Boone. A project that has been completed in collaboration with the Business Engagement Collaborative class at Ames High School, we are excited to showcase the economic growth we are seeing in our region.
Oftentimes, when people hear the term, ‘economic development,’ they think of new companies coming to town or large local companies beginning expansion projects, both of which are significant aspects of growth. What they might not think of is reinvesting in existing districts through beautification projects, revitalizing and repurposing historic buildings and as a result, providing new ways for residents and visitors to spend money locally.
Bringing new art, destinations and experiences to our communities drives tremendous economic development, especially for our small businesses. People might come downtown to take a photo with a mural only to find their new favorite coffee shop. Others might set out to run a quick errand at their local go-to store and discover the new shop that went in next door. A hidden gem like a mega cinnamon roll might go viral and bring in folks from all over. It is the way these projects work in tandem with larger scale expansion and job creation projects that keep our communities vibrant and attractive.
The AEDC team will continue to work for our communities, finding the next great job-creator, attracting the next big business, supporting the up-and-coming startups, and advocating for the next quality of life amenity. The work we are doing now is setting us up for a sustainable, promising and brighter future for all.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.