April - End of Month Update
Next month, May 8-12, we will celebrate Economic Development Week. It is a hallmark week for our organization as we pride ourselves on being a driving force of economic development for our region.
In many ways, we have already started the celebration. If you follow our social media accounts, you may have seen that many of our governmental agencies from the city councils in Ames, Boone, Gilbert, Huxley, Nevada, and Ogden, as well as the board of supervisors for both Boone County and Story County, have passed proclamations acknowledging the week. Although the proclamations are in many ways symbolic, the work that these agencies and governmental leaders do is incredibly real. We have fantastic partners across the region.
Economic development includes programs, policies, and activities that improve the economic well-being and quality of life for a community. There are a lot of ways to measure economic development, but here are a few primary areas that we often think about as an organization:
That last point of business retention and expansion is key to the economic success of our region. A large part of job growth in any region is the result of businesses and companies growing and expanding.
As a result, we are excited to share that starting in July 2023, a new team member will be joining our organization who will be specifically tasked with this responsibility. Ottie Maxey will join the Ames Chamber of Commerce & Economic Development Commission with a primary purpose to make business retention and expansion visits to companies in our region. The “official” announcement will come later this summer, and in the meantime, if you have questions, never hesitate to reach out to any member on our team. This growth in our organization is exciting as it will provide us more capacity to serve our members.
As I close, I want to thank you for your role in being an economic developer in our community. For business owners, each day that you open your doors, that is economic development to us. Each employee that you bring into your organization, that is economic development. If you are reading this as a community member, know that each time you spend money in our county, or recommend a business to a friend or family member, you are supporting economic development.
March - End of Month Update
One of the three pillars that leads our work here at the Ames Chamber of Commerce is advocacy, or our ability to publicly support or privately recommend a course of action related to a particular cause. We want local businesses to succeed, and it is our responsibility, and honor, to advocate on your behalf. This includes being your voice at the local, state, and federal levels throughout the year across a range of topics and issues.
Often times, our advocacy work includes making connections, providing information, resources, and access to individuals who need to hear from our business partners. If there are opportunities that benefit our member businesses and community partners, we want you to have that information and make informed decisions that positively impact your company and our economic region.
In today’s landscape, advocacy can be a complicated thing because there is often not one single course of action that benefits all. There are dominoes that fall on each policy issue and our advocacy on one topic may not resonate with everyone. That is okay. It is for those reasons that we have a dedicated public policy component of our organization and host a variety of legislative events throughout the year. Our team attends city council meetings across the Ames MSA because it is our job to have a pulse on what is happening. We want to help our members and business partners understand how decisions impact them at all levels of government.
We proudly have companies in the Ames MSA that operate nationally and internationally, and as a result, their scope of business and our scope of advocacy must also include that perspective. Unlike politics, the business world operates in the complicated world of logistics, operations, and personnel where not everything is black and white with one side being correct and the other being wrong. There are times when the job just needs to get done.
Through my conversations with business leaders in our region, I can say that most understand this. While they have a pulse on the topics of the day, their focus is on their business and what makes our communities better. That local emphasis allows for robust conversations because the baseline is that we are all in this for the same reason.
If you ever have any questions about our advocacy, political or otherwise, please reach out to myself or one of our team members. We are here to serve you and be your advocate.
February - End of Month Update
I recently came to the realization that my job has changed. I still hold the title of President & CEO of our organization, but how I spend my time on any given week has shifted. I am not entirely sure when that happened, or necessarily how it happened, but I understand that it is a byproduct of what has been needed of me.
In my ways, this is natural for any leadership position. You give yourself to a business or an organization and it inevitably molds you just as much as you hope to inform it.
When I came to the realization that it is now different, I had to come to terms with the fact that I am more distant to areas of the organization than I once was. I knew everything about what we were doing and sat at every table where those decisions were being made. Today, I cannot be everything to every part of the organization and have finally come to the realization that it is okay.
I share this as I am reminded about the importance of having the right people in the right seats. Within our organization, I believe we have that today. The skill and talent within our organization is enormous and a point of pride for the services that we provide. Our organization is better off NOT having me organize events, paying our bills, or developing our marketing strategy. But stepping back from some areas and focusing on different areas is something that I have had to grow into over time.
I have appreciated every person that has given a portion of their career to our organization and the impact that they have made. But as we continue to serve the entire Ames MSA, all of our roles will shift and adjust over time. The success of our organization is the result of our entire team’s combined commitment and individual strengths.
As the leader of this organization, I must be willing to regularly assess our teams and how they best serve our organization and our community. These should be candid conversations, and as a result of that, they could be challenging as well. But when done honestly and with best intentions in mind, they will be productive for everyone involved.
As I close, thank you for your unwavering support of the Ames Chamber of Commerce and our Affiliate entities. With your continued engagement, our success as an organization, and region, is assured.
February 2023: Slowing Down
I am reminding myself to “slow down” more often lately. Maybe it is because I am a grandma now and I watch the littles grow so fast. Or maybe it is because I know I am getting older and the years go by so much quicker! Whatever the reason, I am making this year the year for slowing down. Not quitting, not retreating, but simply taking a bit more time to make sure that the things I do matter and that I do them with care and quality.
In our line of work here at the Ames Chamber of Commerce, we run hard and fast. Why wouldn’t we? There is always a lot going on across the Ames MSA. From economic development projects within the communities we serve, to Coffee Mingles for our Chamber members, to a host of other activities, there isn’t a lot of down time. Slowing down and paying attention to details to provide the best value needs to be deliberate.
Deliberately slowing down takes concerted effort. In a world that is built around convenience and instantaneous results, it can be difficult to find the balance between getting your projects done and getting them done right. It could be the extra time you spend on the phone or exchanging texts about an upcoming event. It may be the extra touch you put on a table setting or simply making sure the spelling is correct in the publication you are distributing. Slowing down and being mindful of how to achieve the best results, though it might take a bit longer, will inevitability bring service level from good to excellent. These things matter!
Slowing down and taking time to listen is imperative. Ever meet anyone who talks so much you don’t think they will ever breathe? What impression does this leave you with? Listening may be the most underrated skill out there. When we take time to listen, we hear. We may not always hear what we want to hear, but we may hear a nugget of wisdom that will carry us forward in a way that changes us. It is entirely possible that we could hear valuable information that grows our companies, grows our communities, and grows us!
While I take the time this year to slow down, I invite you to do the same. Take time to be kind to a stranger. Take time to listen intently to really understand. Pay closer attention to details that really do matter. Find ways to add value to everything you do. Make all things that you have a hand in show the quality they deserve.
January - End of Month Update
Who will be the next leader of the Ames Chamber of Commerce? It’s an odd question, but one that was proposed to me a few weeks ago by one of our board members.
First and foremost, I have no plans to retire or move on from the work that we are doing. I love the Ames MSA, the Ames Chamber of Commerce & Economic Development Commission, and our communities. Perhaps at no other point in my career have I been more excited by the work that we are doing than I am right now. I plan to continue our amazing work for a long time, but the question got me thinking about leadership.
We think about leadership a lot at the Ames Chamber of Commerce, both within our organization and how we serve our community. If something were to happen to me, we have succession plans in place. We also regularly assess the roles and responsibilities of each person so that we can build redundancies and backups for each person. These are important things to identify so that the work can continue.
Developing the next generation of leaders is a responsibility that we all must carry. Some people are natural leaders and possess the required skills needed to run an organization, manage projects, or cultivate relationships. But in my experience, those skills need to be paired with adequate experience. I do not necessarily mean years of service, but rather having access to the world of leadership; how decisions are made and the thought process behind them.
I have spoken before about the entrepreneurial operating system (EOS) that we utilize to set goals, identify gaps in our system, and how it holds us accountable to one another. We use this within our leadership team, but each departmental team uses it as well to be more efficient. I also think about the informal ways that we can cultivate leaders. I strive to provide updates to my team on the work that is happening that lies beyond their scope of influence, while explaining my thinking behind it. I can do this in meetings or within an impromptu one-on-one conversation with a cup of coffee in hand. I hope these interactions inspire innovation and a new level of thinking for those in our organization.
Finally, I would like to pitch a few leadership programming options from the Ames Chamber of Commerce. We recently announced the 36th class of Leadership Ames. The program gives both experienced and emerging leaders a broader view of civic leadership responsibilities and opportunities through direct contact with a wide range of institutions and people who shape the community where we live and work.
One additional affiliate program that we are investing more resources into this year is the young professional organization, FUEL. You can learn more on the FUEL website, but I encourage you to consider being a member for the professional networking, programming, and social opportunities that it provides. Many of the next leaders of our community are already here, so let’s facilitate their success.
President & CEO
Ames Chamber of Commerce
Let me share a tidbit of background information on me, then to the substance of this blog…Membership Investment.
I hopelessly enjoy connecting people, solely with the intent to generate relationships! My career started in personnel, and along my professional journey, I’ve connected with donors, meeting planners, event managers, human service providers, and volunteers of all generations. It’s amazing how one connection can lead to the “six degrees of separation” truth.
Connections and relationships are the backbone of the Ames Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Commission! We have a team that prides itself on formulating partnerships with Ames, Story County, and Boone County business and industries for the greater good of the Ames MSA.
At the Ames Chamber of Commerce, we offer numerous ways for each and every member to engage with our programming efforts, including our affiliates; workforce solutions, retraining programs, public policy initiatives, Ames Main Street events, Leadership Ames programming, our Ambassador program, FUEL, Farmer’s Market opportunities, small to large networking events, and so much more!
Your annual investment with our organization is critical to the sustainability of our programs, but it also allows for you and your team to engage and build relationships with others in our community for personal and professional growth, too. Attention is given each day with a focus on Leadership, Engagement, and Advocacy efforts to help you and your business succeed. Whether that means being a voice for local, state, and federal policy issues, placing job vacancies on our job board, or holding retraining and outreach services to find valuable employees for you, this matters to all of us. Ribbon cuttings, various social media marketing outlets, Community Cash options, events…the list goes on about value-added benefits for you!
When we offer a multitude of offerings to our members and allow for sponsorship opportunities, your brand is projected on multiple social media platforms, and your company is recognized for your support during each event. Thank you! We simply cannot offer and execute our programs without Membership support.
An underlying theme of value we continue to hear is that we allow our members opportunities for relational growth and networking. It’s that sort of value-add that is meaningful and worthwhile when speaking in terms of membership investments.
I challenge you in this new year to commit to cultivating new relationships and broadening your circle of contacts within our community. Follow us on our various social media channels so you are aware of our offerings as the year unfolds. Be intentional about taking full advantage of your Chamber of Commerce Membership investment in 2023.
Connections are key, so build your network with us! We are here for you!
December End of Month Update
An end of year message can be challenging because it always aspires to condense the year that was, which is impossible. Therefore, I will not attempt to summarize the past twelve months, but rather talk about how our organization connects with our community as we move into 2023.
I have always seen our organization as one who celebrates our communities. It is one part of this job (of many parts) that brings me joy. We celebrate new businesses, economic development projects, and host events that bring vibrancy to our communities. The question is how do we share this information with our community?
Communication is complicated. I am amazed, yet not surprised, at how often I have conversations with people who do not know things that I thought were common knowledge. It’s not their fault. We all have a robust amount of information available to us that it is difficult to manage it all. For us at the Ames Chamber of Commerce, it is important that we approach both digital and analog forms of communication to help educate and inform our members and communities.
Today, digital media is a requirement for most organizations, including ours. Social media is a utility communication channel and a great way to immediately share information. I have also seen it be a wonderful digital networking opportunity and to publicly acknowledge great work. But even with that, social media has some pitfalls. Content can go unseen if the timing is not right, and only those who choose to engage with your channels have access to that information.
As an organization that has a reach across our entire community, we aspire for more. Our solution: Traction, a new quarterly, print publication from the Ames Chamber of Commerce. When we were brainstorming Traction, we sought to find ways to share some of the amazing things that are happening to our entire community. With a circulation of over 20,000, I think we are doing that.
Traction is not just about our organization, but about communicating what is happening across our communities. It will include member business profiles, events, and feature stories about economic development projects that you may not be aware of. We will talk about Downtown Ames, FUEL, our young professionals organization, and workforce development initiatives, among many other topics.
One of the things that excites me the most about this publication is that we will have an expanded opportunity to tell more stories. There are amazing people and incredible businesses across the Ames MSA, and we hope that these stories encourage you to invest your money locally and it builds pride in the community that we have chosen to call home.
President & CEO
Ames Chamber of Commerce
Recruiting and retaining workforce continues to be the number one business concern across Story County regardless of the size of an organization. There is a tool specified to Iowa that can be utilized to assist employers in understanding the nature and characteristics of a regional workforce in a unique way.
Laborshed studies are supply-side, labor availability studies. They are designed to assist community leaders, economic developers, site selectors, and existing or prospective employers with a flexible tool to understand the workforce characteristics of their local labor market. A laborshed is defined as the area or region from which an employment center draws its commuting workers. It shows the distribution of these workers regardless of political boundaries.
Laborshed studies also address underemployment, availability of labor and likeliness of the employed or not employed to change or accept employment. Other topics covered within a laborshed analysis include current and desired occupations, wages, hours worked, job search resources, and distance willing to commute to work.
The laborshed study for Story County was recently updated. Here are some of the key findings of the update:
These are just a few of the many data points of information that can be found in the study results.
Iowa Workforce Development has an interactive website that features all the laborshed studies available in the State of Iowa at: https://www.iowaworkforcedevelopment.gov/laborshed-studies.
Our Workforce Solutions staff at the Ames Chamber of Commerce are here to assist you should you have questions regarding utilization of the Story County laborshed.
Brenda Dryer, Vice President, Ames Chamber of Commerce
Nikki Fischer, Director, Workforce Development & Diversity
End of Month Update: November 2022
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.
End of Month Update: October 28, 2022
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.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.