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!
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
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.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.