Evie Peterson is a roll-up-her-sleeves type of entrepreneur who requires little sleep, a lot of coffee, and is not afraid to tackle the next big thing. Over the past 17 years, she has grown a successful catering business into a quintet of companies that has transformed Main Street Nevada. She is relentless and passionate about smart business growth, and in doing so, has been integral in the revitalization of her community.
Her portfolio of businesses now includes FarmHouse Catering, FarmGrounds coffee shop, Gatherings venue (one of the premier event spaces in the Ames MSA), the thoughtfully curated Cozy Home & Table store, and most recently, Copper Spaces, the beautiful coworking and flex space.
Peterson sat down with Traction to discuss the origins of her various companies, how she keeps it all straight, and her opinions on what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur.
How it all began
“[FarmHouse Catering] started on the side and evolved. With three kids, I needed to do more than just a few events a year to make a little extra money for my family. I had previous experience in large-batch cooking, and some experience at a conference center. So it was a natural fit to grab onto and it eventually grew.”
In 2006, the work of FarmHouse Catering served the need that many early businesses do: it was created out of necessity to provide for her family, but quickly became a dream come true.
Peterson rented the kitchen at Indian Creek Country Club and catered their events while also making connections across the community. The word-of-mouth grew the business and when life circumstances required it, she was able to capitalize on the momentum and produce at a larger scale.
“Those early days really got me into this town and built some really good relationships with people that utilize catering on a regular basis.”
Today, Peterson is known across the region not only for her catering, but also her range of recently new businesses that have transformed Main Street Nevada. Gatherings event venue opened in 2014, FarmGrounds coffee shop in 2016, Cozy Home & Table in 2021, and the co-working Copper Spaces opened most recently in 2022. But it is the original FarmHouse Catering that supports it all in many ways.
“For us, one thing led to another, and each business opportunity was created on the momentum that preceded it. Gatherings was developed because I needed a kitchen for the catering business. I figured that if I am going to invest in a kitchen, why not invest into a venue so that I can get to a point where I am not having to move food all over the place.”
As a business owner, what will you never compromise on?
Today, Gatherings is a destination event space that is used for a range of events from wedding to corporate. If you explore their website or social media channels, you will immediately notice the design, décor, and overall aesthetics that have been purposefully curated.
“We created a marketing standard across the company that impacts each individual business. Kristy, our Marketing Director, developed color schemes that all coordinate together. Aesthetically, if you see items at Cozy, you will immediately know that it is connected with Gatherings.”
Gatherings, and the co-working space above it, Copper Spaces, include a wow factor that is immediately noticeable. It is this standard of excellence that Peterson and her team are not willing to compromise on. That philosophy applies to other aspects of the business as well.
“We have a philosophy of just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should. If the product or the process is not enjoyable, beneficial, and life-giving to our company, then we are not going to do it. That is where the buck stops. If it does not meet those criteria, then we just shut it down.”
Although the decision-making ultimately rests with Peterson, she knows that her decisions impact other people, including many who have invested time and energy into making each business successful. She wants the team to weigh in and it is part of her responsibility to initiate those conversations.
“That is part of any process that we make. Any decision that I make or thing that we add to our company must answer the following questions: does this make sense? Does this fit with anything else that we are doing? And does this benefit any of our other businesses? It has to check off some boxes as far as how it correlates to our core beliefs.”
During this interview, this conversation was timely with Peterson and her team as they were currently engaged in this decision-making process.
“I wanted to know around the table what their dream for it would be. If some of them said, ‘we should shut it down,’ then we would have considered that. But not one person said that. They all had a great perspective which meant that they were invested. So that tells me that this is something that we can improve upon so we will continue with it.”
The evolution of space and addition of Copper Spaces
“It was a dream when we bought this building to do something up here. We were creating a lot of traction downstairs (at Gatherings) for smaller events, as well as corporate events, and we were not able to accommodate them. I realized that we could utilize the upstairs more and that became Copper Spaces.”
Although they had a lot of ideas for the space, including the option of renovating it and using it for their own residential living, the catalyst to move forward came when they received a grant from the State of Iowa.
“As workplace dynamics were shifting during the pandemic, we started thinking of turning that into a co-working space. I was familiar with that concept through travel and thought that if we could get the grant, then we will do it.”
The opportunity presented itself when they were awarded a $75,000 matching grant from the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA), along with a $15,000 grant from the City of Nevada, to support their renovation. The Community Catalyst Building Remediation Program through IEDA “assists communities with the redevelopment or rehabilitation of buildings to stimulate economic growth or reinvestment in the community.” They received the maximum amount at the time.
The Copper Spaces project fit the grant opportunity perfectly and kicked off further revitalization efforts on Main Street Nevada. To date, five additional Nevada businesses have received city-issued grants.
When you reflect on starting something new, what advice would you give a new entrepreneur?
“Advice would be to get guts and have a plan. It can be scary when you take the first jump. But I have always had confidence in my abilities because that had been bred into me from an early age. I always knew that I could fall back on my abilities. And for me, that came down to hard work.”
Peterson grew up at Hidden Acres Christian Center, now one of the largest camp and conference centers in Iowa. Her father helped catapult its growth when he was hired in 1985, and as any family-operated business knows, everyone pitched in, including kids.
“My dad built it from a little shack to a resort-style camp. In many ways, I have been in the hospitality business from a young age. I started doing dishes at age 10. I had to stand on a crate to push the button on the dishwasher. Cleaning toilets and all of those things to be hospitable is completely second nature to me. Those abilities have taken me places in every job I’ve ever had.”
Only recently has Peterson come to the realization that she grew up in an entrepreneurial household.
“I had no idea. I didn’t realize it until I started my own business. Just in the last few years, I find myself doing exactly the same stuff that my dad was doing. He always had to be building, but he never did it for himself, but for others. It was 100% service for him. He never got rich off the things that he was doing, but it was purely for fun and the Lord. As I’ve been going down this path of one thing leading to another, I am doing part of this for money, but it’s also a lot of fun and contributes to making the community around me better.”
Any entrepreneurial journey is measured in part through financial success. Peterson knows this as well as anyone. But running a business is more than finances, it is a way of life and must be just as life-giving and bucket-filling in order to continue. Being flexible, creative, and having the ability to let go is also important.
“I’ve had to let go of some ideals. I think as an entrepreneur, it is important to understand that perfectionism is not attainable. It will impact profits and it will cause you to lose sight of your real goals.”
As Peterson’s enterprises have expanded over the past 17 years, she has had to grow as well. With five separate, yet inter-connected businesses, she has been forced to assess where she spends her time. Two years ago, she added a Business Manager, Ryan Larson, who oversees all of the companies: contracts, company policies, website development, and accounts payable to name a few items on his list. He was also the Project Manager for the Copper Spaces redevelopment. Larson’s position and personality has transformed the business and opened up opportunities for Peterson to focus on others.
Today, the quintet of businesses employs 6 full-time staff that help manage the event and retail spaces, along with human resource and marketing related projects. This is in addition to the 40+ part-time staff.
“Each business is a labor of love, but the team makes it absolutely amazing! They give their all and this community has supported us the entire way.”
Heartland of Story County is changing the vision of aging with the Sixty Forward initiative. In today’s culture, age is truly just a number, and the aging process is unique to everyone. The reality is that as people enter their 60s, 70s, and 80s, they want to stay active and engaged with others. They want a wider variety of options to help them stay healthy and feel their best. They want easy access and supportive services when health issues arise.
The driving mission of Heartland has always been to enrich and support the health and quality-of-life as people age. In recognizing the need to shift how we think and talk about aging well, they have identified the need to reimagine the programs, services, and activities offered.
Sixty Forward is a collaboration with Heartland of Story County, Mary Greeley Medical Center (MGMC), and the City of Ames Department of Parks and Recreation. Together, it is a community-wide programmatic model that connects those 60+ to opportunities that include physical activities, social networks, and wellness offerings. The program will launch in early 2024, aligning with the opening of a new 15,000 square foot facility.
Through a new unified Sixty Forward website, the partnership will allow participants to seamlessly access programs and services for those 60+ that utilize existing recreational facilities in Ames and through Story County. For example, there will be a Sixty Forward golf league at Homewood Golf Course, aqua exercise classes at the Furman Aquatic Center, and pickleball leagues offered through Ames Parks & Recreation.
By utilizing community facilities and the expertise of each entities’ staff to lead programs, Sixty Forward will support those 60+ on their journey to aging well. Collectively, programs, activities, and services will be provided in the areas of physical activity, social networks, health and nutrition.
At the Sixty Forward Center, MGMC staff will offer nutrition, wellness, and health classes. Parks and Recreation will offer aerobics, yoga, Silver Sneakers, Tai Chi, and more, while Heartland will continue to provide meaningful educational offerings, Adult Day services and social activities.
In January 2022, Heartland partnered with 10Fold Architecture + Engineering to develop the state-of-the-art Sixty Forward Center facility. Harold Pike Construction of Ames began earthwork in September 2022 with construction beginning in the spring of 2023.
The Sixty Forward Center has been made possible through private gifts that total over $9.5 million. The Story County Board of Supervisors awarded Heartland $300,000 toward this project from Federal ARPA funding. The City of Ames is leasing the land to Heartland for $1 per year.
Innovation happens slowly, meticulously, through trial and error, and a great amount of research. That early work often goes unseen by the majority of people, but when it is shared with the world, it can be revolutionary and change the trajectory of the industry that it aims to impact.
The future of housing construction may very well be taking place on the campus of Iowa State University. Under the leadership of Assistant Professor Pete Evans, AIA, IDSA, Julie Robison, Interim Director, IDRO, and Kevin Kane, Director, GIS Facility, in the College of Design, his team is researching the feasibility of 3D concrete printing, in the 3D Affordable Innovative Technologies Housing Project.
Why 3D printing? Initial industry analysis suggests that a 3D concrete printed home can be built faster, with less labor costs, and with a reduction in material costs. When developed, the application for such technology can impact affordable housing initiatives and when housing needs to be built in emergency situations, such as in the fallout of natural disasters.
The goal of Evans and his team is the “create a collaborative in-state ecosystem for high performing affordable housing through innovative and emerging 21st century technologies and strategies.” Other specific goals include streamlining the process for quicker to market affordable homes, and to collaborate with state and local officials to help develop housing codes for this new technology.
But simply speaking, their goal is research. “We are a research institution,” said Evans. “We are not in the business of printing 3D homes for purchase, but rather, to uncover and provide information to housing contractors and developers who may be interested in using this technology.” Evans talks about how all of their research and key understandings will be available to the design and building industry in order to eventually unlock this technology.
Funding has come from the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA). Director Debi Durham admits that the “industry is not there yet,” but adds that “in five years, I guarantee that we are going to be ready for this and it’s going to make a huge difference.” The IEDA has committed $2.14 million dollars to the project.
Evans and his team began their research in early 2022 with the acquisition of printers and related technologies. Since then, they have been incrementally conducting research, working with smaller versions of the 3D printer, developing the right mix and process. This spring, the team moved toward the printing of reasonably sized shed prototypes to test their understandings.
In addition to their 3D concrete printer on campus, they are collaborating with Iowa Central Community College, where an even larger printer resides. All of this momentum is building toward a large collaboration in Hamburg, Iowa, in the far southwest part of the state, later this summer. Brunow Contracting has committed to utilizing the 3D printing technology for one home in their development. The house will be occupied by Brunow contracting staff, and will be used for further research.
For the past 16 years, Chocolaterie Stam has been a staple in Downtown Ames and a go-to location for holiday, or any-day, chocolate sweets. Owned by Terry and Anne Stark, the couple was the first non-Stam family to own a store. All of the chocolates are made in Des Moines under the direction of Erik Stam, production manager and great-grandson of the founder, Jacobus Stam. The best dates for sales are those surrounding Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Easter.
In addition to chocolate, they offer real Italian gelato, have a full coffee bar, and wine to go. Or stay awhile on Saturday’s when the piano is played inside by a local musician. In addition to owning Chocolaterie Stam, Terry has been a long-time member of the Score Table for Iowa State University basketball programs.
(Chocolaterie Stam is located at 230 Main Street)
The co-owners of Marmalade Moon, Ann-Marie Widdowson and Graham Watkins opened their Downtown Ames shop in December 2021 after 9 months of renovations. All of their ice cream is created in-house, including their Marmalade Moon flavor, a creamy, light citrus ice cream with candied orange peel chunks. Both Graham and Ann-Marie are natives of Great Britain, and they bring this European flare to their sales offerings. In addition to ice cream, they offer a range of snacks, retail shop, and full coffee bar. If you’re looking for a suggestion, consider an affogato: a scoop of ice cream “drowned” in espresso.
(Marmalade Moon is located at 207 Main Street)
Gracie Hammer, a senior at Boone High School, spends her afternoons in Downtown Ames at Pyfferoen Pediatric Dentistry where she is job training to become a licensed dental assistant.
This is part of a State of Iowa dental assistant trainee program overseen by the Iowa Dental Board. Working under the supervision of a licensed dentist, Gracie engaged in on-the job training that includes chairside assisting, infection control, and dental radiography. The goal is after 6-12 months, she will be able to complete a series of assessments and apply to be a Registered Dental Assistant.
This opportunity is available because of the collaboration between the Boone EDGE Program and Dr. Matthew Pyfferoen. Boone EDGE is the work-based learning program through the Boone Community School District where students get to “experience real-world work through authentic projects, internships, tours, and speakers.” This is one of many opportunities afforded to students in the Boone EDGE program.
“It is important that we provide high school students a wide variety of career awareness and training opportunities while in high school,” said Lindsey Hyman, Boone EDGE Coordinator. “Fortunately for us, we have amazing partners across the region who are willing to help high school students gain experience related to their field through Boone EDGE. These partnerships truly are a win/win for not only the students but also the employer.”
Students earn high school credit through the Boone EDGE program, while learning on the job skills. For employers, establishing partnerships can help fill the job market gap that exists right now. “A huge benefit for the employer is the fact that they get a student who has proven themselves to us in school and has been hired and trained per the dentist specifications,” said Hyman. “The employer gets a multistep vetting process for employees by partnering with the school because we know these students and can help train and support them prior to applying and entering the workforce.”
When approached with this idea, Dr. Pyfferoen quickly saw an opportunity for his practice to train and hire. Gracie is the second student that Pyfferoen has brought in for on-the-job training from Boone EDGE. The first was Kennedy Lewis in 2022. At the time, Kennedy was a senior at Boone High School and completed the program. She now works full-time in the pediatric dentistry office.
“The labor market is very tight right now, especially in the service and trade industries. This is a great program and a win-win for the students and for our office,” said Dr. Pyfferoen. “If we can train and then hire talented dental assistants, we will utilize that opportunity every time.”
For 115 years, the Nelson Electric Company has been providing electrical services to the Ames area. Today, the company is led by Chris and Matt Nelson, the fourth-generation brothers to operate the business.
At the turn of the century and the dawn of the electrical grid, the City of Ames Municipal Light Plant staff provided all of the electrical work across Ames. As the utility grew, the city realized the task was larger than they could handle and allowed private contractors to do the work.
C. B. (Ben) Nelson began contracting for electrical work in 1908 after having worked at the Ames Light Plant for several years as an electrician. He left his job at the power plant when he saw an opportunity to expand this new technology and bring its convenience to Ames’ residents.
An October 1909 announcement in the Ames Tribune noted that “Ben Nelson and Earl Moore will open a new plumbing and lighting shop,” that would come to be known as Nelson Electric Company. The business was originally located at 304 Main Street. Ben and a few employees traveled up and down Main Street moving their equipment in carts and wagons.
During the 1930’s depression era, the company moved to the garage behind Ben’s house on Clark Avenue as a cost savings measure. Ben and his son Chuck worked together until Ben’s passing in 1961. Around that same time, Chuck’s sons, Jerry and Paul, became involved in the business. Those two brothers took over the business in 1989.
In 1995, the company moved into their current 12,000 square foot building on South Bell. Over the years, the company has received some of the most prestigious awards in the electrical service business. Among them are the Better Business Integrity Award (utilizing ethical business practices ahead of profitability or popularity), Excellence in Merit Shop Construction Award, National STEP Safety Award (commitment to safety leadership and performance), and the Angie’s List Super Service Award.
After more than five decades of service to Nelson Electric, including serving as President since 1989, Jerry Nelson stepped back from his full-time leadership role in the company this spring and assumed the role of President Emeritus. His sons, Chris and Matt, assumed leadership of the company with Chris serving as President and Matt as Vice President.
The moves continue in the tradition of Nelson family ownership and leadership that dates back 115 years to 1908. Nelson Electric is thought to be the oldest business in Ames to be continuously operated under the ownership of the same family. They currently employ over 60 individuals and service over 1,400 work orders a year. They have provided electrical services to thousands of Ames residents and businesses, and along the way, have committed themselves to giving back to the community. Members of the Nelson family have engaged with numerous community organizations, including Lions Club, Kiwanis, Rotary, Ames Chamber of Commerce, Ames History Museum, and Mainstream Living, among others. From 2014-2020, Chris Nelson served on the Ames City Council.
Congratulations to Nelson Electric Company, and the Nelson family, for serving and positively impacting the Ames community for 115 years.
This story was first published in Issue 02 of Traction magazine in March 2023.
If you have driven along Lincoln Way in downtown Ames between Clark and Kellogg avenues, you likely noticed the big open (and empty) lot. That is the future home of The Linc, a $150 million development that will feature retail and commercial spaces, residential living units, and a hotel and conference center.
First proposed in 2019, The Linc is moving forward after years of collaboration between the City of Ames, Hunziker & Associates of Ames, and private developer Christensen Development of Des Moines. In October 2022, the Ames City Council voted unanimously to move forward with the concept for the proposed development, with additional approvals required in the coming months.
“A transformational project of this scale requires years of collaboration between public and private sectors,” said Chuck Winkleblack of Hunziker & Associates. “It requires vision and a willingness to commit. With considerable work yet to do, we are fortunate to have wonderful partners working alongside us to help make this happen.”
The planning is not yet done for The Linc, but each step provides a clearer vision of what it will eventually become. As agreements are finalized and signed, more information will be released regarding which companies are committed to the project, including hoteliers, restaurants, and retail outlets. Underground utility construction is anticipated to take place in the latter part of 2023.
What is Tax Increment Financing (TIF)
Redevelopment is expensive. As a way to bridge the financial gap in a project of this magnitude the City of Ames will be asked to provide tax increment financing (TIF) for the project. According to the Iowa Department of Management, TIF is a financing mechanism primarily used for urban renewal. “It involves freezing the tax base (property values) within a designated area.” TIF districts divert property taxes created from increased property values in an area to subsidize development.
TIF allows local governments to invest in public infrastructure up-front and it incentivizes private investment. Local governments can then pay later for those investments by capturing the anticipated increase in tax revenues generated by the project. This is often seen in large-scale projects, such as The Linc.
The project is expected to bring in an estimated $52.4 million in property tax revenue over 20 years. As reported in the Ames Tribune in October 2022, the City of Ames is offering tax increment financing and would waive $42 million of that income from the developers’ property taxes and keep $10 million to build a public parking structure on the north side of the railroad tracks. This type of investment is a perfect example of public and private partnerships coming together to create a generational project that will serve the community for decades.
In the fall of 2022, the family-owned Ames Ford Lincoln celebrated 10 years in Ames. Casey Johnson first purchased a Ford dealership in 1996 in Fort Dodge. In 2012, the Johnson's saw an opportunity in Ames and expanded to their second location. Today, the operations of the Ames location are overseen by Casey and Nick Johnson.
“Looking back at the 10 years, the thing that has stuck out to me the most is how warmly we were received by the community,” said Nick reflecting on the past decade. “Our philosophy is that if we take care of our team members and guests, and provide an excellent experience, everything else will take care of itself.”
One of the hallmark programs that Ames Ford Lincoln actively partners with is the Wheels for Work Program through the United Way of Story County. Ames Ford accepts donated vehicles into the program, performs a safety inspection and repairs, before the vehicle is given to a family in need. To date, the program has provided transportation to over 80 families.
“We hear stories that kids are now able to join a sport or activity because they now have reliable transportation,” said Nick. “The program has allowed individuals to advance their careers by accepting a different job or promotion.”
The Johnson family donates with their time as well, having sat on a number of boards including The Ames Foundation, Story County Medical Center, and the Ames Chamber of Commerce, while also actively investing in other organizations such as the Boys & Girls Clubs.
Ames Ford Lincoln currently employs about 75 people, up from 16 in 2012. Part of this growth is a result of doubling their service department about three years ago. They are committed to Ford’s new electric vehicle program and next year will be installing 3-4 fast charging stations and will be a certified Model-E dealer. The Johnson family has always reinvested in their business, and this provides a positive economic impact on our community.
The American Welding Society predicts the nation will have a shortage of 400,000 welders by 2024. In Iowa, more than 58 percent of health care facilities reported a shortage of qualified applicants for nursing positions according to a 2020 workforce demand survey by Iowa Workforce Development and the Iowa Board of Nursing.
Career changes are complicated and too often are never pursued because of built-in obstacles. For many professions, certificates or degrees are needed to prove proficiency in a craft. Starting over requires establishing a new professional network, which can be daunting. And above all, pursuing a career change costs money, often the first and most obvious non-starter of them all.
The Story County Retraining Program eliminates those barriers and is free to all residents in Story County who are 18 years or older and have obtained a diploma or GED. It is a partnership between Story County, the Ames Chamber of Commerce, and the Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC), who hosts the classes at their Ames and Boone campuses.
“There is a growing need for trained and skilled workers in Story County,” said Latifah Faisal, Chair of the Story County Board of Supervisors. “It removes some of the barriers that can lock people into a job with little opportunity for professional growth or increased income potential.”
This free Retraining Program provides an opportunity to master new skills and technology that can lead to a new career in a very short amount of time. The program is currently available in ten different career tracks, with the most popular being the welding and certified nursing assistant (CNA) tracks.
The idea of the program began in 2020 as a result of the Future Ready Iowa Grant program, but fundamentally evolved in Story County when the Story County Board of Supervisors approved the program and assigned the operations to the Ames Chamber of Commerce. It was a strategy that was utilized in the wake of the pandemic when employment for many people was impacted.
Nikki Fischer, Director of Workforce Development for the Ames Chamber of Commerce, oversees the program. “The underlying theme of the Retraining Program is that it provides opportunities to learn a new skill, immediately have an opportunity for advanced employment, and to earn more money. And it’s completely free!”
The process to apply is simple: prospective students fill out the Workforce Training Academy application online. Afterward, DMACC representatives contact the applicant to provide more information. Tuition and books are all paid through the program. Additional benefits include transportation assistance through gas cards each week that a student attends classes. Childcare assistance is determined on a case-by-case basis, and a cash stipend helps fill in the financial gaps of this transition period. In all, $600 is given to each student who finishes the coursework and works in a job in Story County for 30 days.
“The goal is to take the barriers away and make it easy for people to advance or upscale their career,” said Fischer. The classes are 5-15 weeks long depending on the course.
The Retraining Program is focused on providing opportunities for individual career advancement, and it is exciting to see employers of Story County increasingly utilize the program.
A Mid-States Companies Case Study
Mid-States Companies is a leader in agricultural construction. Much of their 20+ year reputation is in providing a full range of design-to-build contracting services, notably for grain and feed storage construction. The company is multi-generational and family-owned with their roots in Nevada, Iowa, dating back to 1965. They are proud to call Nevada and Story County home and invest in not only the community, but their people as well.
Dustin Johns is a Production Manager at Mid-States Companies. As a supervisor, he has encouraged several people to participate in the Retraining Program and sees it as an opportunity for employees to further their career.
“Often times, we have employees come in at an entry-level position and absolutely love working at Mid-States because of the culture we have built,” said Johns. “They want to do more with our company and want to make more money. This is where we use the Retraining Program to help make that happen.” One of those people was James Stewart who completed the welding program in March 2022.
Stewart admits that he had no metals background when he started at Mid-States, but he had always been interested in learning a new skill. He started taking the evening classes and quickly realized that he had a natural ability to weld. He started in shipping at Mid-States, and today does welding full-time and hasn’t looked back. “It changed the way I look at things, not only for my career, but what Mid-States does.”
High on a wall on the production floor reads “Hard Work Beats Talent When Talent Doesn’t Work Hard”. It’s a mantra that the company lives by, but it can also serve as a reminder of the seriousness of the products they are building.
Welding is a process where two pieces of metal are fused together by heat and pressure. At Mid-States, the quality of weld supports buildings and cat-walk structures that people walk on, sometimes 200 feet in the air. There is not a margin of error for producing a weak product.
Stewart notes that the program has helped him out financially (he now earns a higher wage in his new position), but that he is also more excited to come to work every day.
“We have to leverage the talent that we already have in the building,” says Johns. “We want to push people to grow, advance their career, and ultimately stay here at Mid-States. If we can support that through this program, we will continue to do that.”
Developing high-quality welders is a passion that Johns has not only at Mid-States Companies, but beyond. He learned on-the-job while employed at ALMACO, another Nevada-based manufacturing company, and today is a welding instructor at DMACC and teaches high school students at Nevada High School. He fully recognizes that not every student he works with will pursue welding as a career, but high school is a time of career exploration, and he loves sparking that interest in students.
The Retraining Program continues to be a viable strategy for Mid-States Companies. Never one to sit idle, Johns took coursework through the program this spring to get his Commercial Driver’s License (CDL).
Mary Greeley Medical Center
Like Mid-States Companies, Mary Greeley Medical Center (MGMC), is an organization that actively promotes the Retraining Program with staff and experiences a direct, positive result.
“We are always in need of qualified patient care techs,” said Tammy Stegman, Workforce Engagement Program Manager at MGMC. “This is a really good growth opportunity for employees, especially those who are currently working in a non-clinical setting but are interested in advancing their career in healthcare and within our organization.”
For Mary Greeley Medical Center, the certified nursing assistant (CNA) track is the most popular for their organization. They often see staff in other departments such as purchasing take advantage of this opportunity. “It sets them on the first step of a career path for advanced pay and promotion without the financial barriers attached with going back to school,” said Stegman.
Jacqueline Hollingshead, Learning and Development Manager at MGMC, also noted the impact from the patient care perspective. “Completion of the course provides our staff with skills to improve the quality of care and overall experience for our patients.”
From a workforce development standpoint, the Retraining Program continues to be an important strategy to build skilled employees. “This is a program that can grow our skilled labor force by removing barriers to opportunity and connecting people with the resources they can use to lift themselves into a better financial future,” said Board of Supervisors Latifah Faisal. “This is just one way we grow Story County strong.”
At the end of the program, the Ames Chamber of Commerce organizes meet and greet opportunities for graduates. Employers are able to talk with the students and at times extend job offers immediately. “Companies absolutely love this because they have access to potential employees who they know have gone through a program that has equipped them for the workforce,” said Nikki Fischer, Director of Workforce Development for the Ames Chamber of Commerce.
Since the beginning of the program, 51 individuals have utilized the program with the average age being 34. In all, 31 individuals have earned their CNA and 7 their welding certificate through the retraining program.
It is never too late to begin thinking about a new career and the Story County Retraining Program could be the best fit. It is free to all Story County resident who are 18 years or older and have obtained a diploma or GED.
Matt and Marianne Pacha opened Flight Bar + Grille in Huxley, Iowa, earlier this year. In the process, they built a business that has community at the heart of its operations.
The Pacha’s moved to Huxley in 2017 and saw a need for the type of restaurant that they were hoping to build. “Huxley deserves a bar and grill like the one that we were envisioning,” said Matt, reflecting on the early conversations that he and Marianne were having with family and friends. “After about six months, the conversations turned from how this could work to how we are going to make this work.”
Ideas turned into action and in March 2022, Flight opened. “All of the signs were there for us to do this,” said Marianne. They secured the location in north Huxley on Highway 69 and had the ability to customize the interior to match the look and feel that they wanted. “I'm passionate about ambiance and experience, so it was important for us to get the look and brand right.”
The Flight name is community inspired and plays off the local Ballard Community School District’s mascot, the Bombers B-52 airplane. It is also woven into their menu selections: beer and dip flights. Most importantly for the Pascha’s was how nearly every aspect of their business weaves the notion of community into it.
One of the unique amenities that Flight brings to Huxley is the addition of a golf simulator. It is a great off-season option for the golf community, even if they cannot arrive in their golf carts during the winter.
Just as Flight Bar + Grill leans into the community school brand, they are also personal contributors to the high school’s athletic club. The high school golf team uses the golf simulator in the off-season, and they also employ several high school students part time.
Upon opening, the Pacha’s announced their membership program called the Flight Crew. In a nod to the sitcom Cheers, which was known as the local establishment for locals to meet, relax, and socialize, the Flight Crew offers discounts on food and drinks, but also provides members with their own beer stein mug with their name on it. When Flight Crew members come in, they grab their personalized mug for the night.
When you visit Flight Bar + Grill and are looking for a recommendation, consider the Foundation Burger. The double burger includes cheddar cheese, caramelized onions, and a mustard aioli. Consistent with their brand, $1 of each burger goes to the Ballard Education Foundation that supports teachers and students in the Ballard Community School District.
Flight Bar + Grille is located at 931 N US HWY 69 in Huxley, Iowa
304 Main St.
Ames, Iowa 50010
Phone: (515) 232-2310
About the Ames Chamber
Centrally and conveniently located in the heart of the Midwest and Iowa, Ames is known for its healthy, stable economy, flourishing cultural environment, and the world-renowned Iowa State University.
With over 700 members, the Ames Chamber of Commerce strives to make Ames a better place to live, work, and do business by strengthening the economic vitality and the quality of life in the Ames community.