A Banner Day for Benton County’s Economic Progress

Benton Development Group announces new projects in Benton County receiving support from the Iowa Economic Development Authority. Tax credits under the High Quality Jobs (HQJ) program were approved for Frontier Co-op in Norway and the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School property in Vinton received $200,000 in redevelopment tax credits through the Brownfield/Grayfield program to repurpose the 1905 Hospital building into a brewpub.

Frontier is one of Benton County’s major employers and a leading supplier of organic herbs and spices. The company, founded in 1976, offers high quality, competitively priced products that are environmentally friendly and socially responsible. Frontier Co-op products can be found in grocery stores and specialty shops throughout the United States and Canada.

To meet an increasing demand, the company will add bottling lines, fillers, and expand warehouse capacity by 22,000 square feet. The project was awarded tax benefits through the HQJ program and represents a capital investment of just over $7.3 million. It is expected to create 24 jobs, of which four are at a qualifying wage of $27.84 per hour.

Hobart Restoration received $200,000 in tax incentives for the $1.3m redevelopment of the 1905 Hospital at the Iowa Braille School site. This is the first part of the $20m project by Hobart Historic Restoration that will develop the entire former Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School campus in Vinton. The school was founded in 1852 but closed in 2011 after enrollment declined. The 3,200 square foot brewpub will have indoor and outdoor seating and offer locally brewed beers and smaller menu items.

“For several years, the Iowa Braille School project has been an important part of our work with the State of Iowa,” said Kate Robertson, Benton Development Group’s Executive Director. “We worked closely with state and local governments to facilitate redevelopment of the facility on behalf of Vinton residents and the entire county. On the other side of the county, we worked with Frontier Co-op and the Iowa Economic Development Authority to gain approval of tax incentives under the HQJ program. Our focus is on developing every community in Benton County, and we’re pleased by the opportunity to help both these projects.”

Robertson also noted the importance of regional economic development relationships, specifically with the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance. “Economic development depends on cooperation across the boundaries of cities and counties. BDG has helped secure investment in many Benton County communities and continues to work on important projects across the county, but major initiatives like these benefit because of strong partnerships, like the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance.”

To learn more about what Benton Development Group can do for your business or community, visit www.bdgia.com.

Laborshed study to be conducted in Vinton

The Benton Development Group is partnering with Iowa Workforce Development and Iowa Economic Development Authority to complete a Laborshed employment study for the Vinton area. This study will geographically define which communities contribute to Vinton’s workforce, regardless of political boundaries. This defined area is called a Laborshed area and is based upon commuting patterns.

For the success of this study, we will be sending letters to employers in Vinton asking that they provide us with aggregate counts of their employees’ residential ZIP codes. This will allow us to determine what the scope and scale of Vinton’s Laborshed area is and better understand where Vinton’s workforce resides.

Once that Laborshed area is determined, a confidential residential telephone survey will be conducted to collect workforce characteristic information specific to the area. The survey call originates out of Cedar Rapids, IA, therefore, the incoming number will have the 319 area code. It is possible that you may receive a text message from their 888 number as well, alerting you to expect a call from them to take the survey. Survey questions will cover topics such as: employment status, current and desired wages, current and desired benefits, education level, and type of occupation among other things. However, Iowa Workforce Development will not be asking survey takers identifiable information such as: name, social security number, or date of birth.
Your participation in this study will help economic development efforts and support both current and potential employers in your area.

“The data from the laborshed survey is an extremely important tool for all of us concerned with economic development,” says Kate Robertson, Benton Development Group’s director. “The information gives existing and potential businesses a window on how available labor is, what current wages are, how many hours are worked, and vital data about commuting patterns.”

Every year Iowa Workforce Development conducts Laborshed studies across the State. The results of each analysis are publicly available online at www.iowalmi.gov/laborshed. If you have any questions about the Laborshed project, please contact Katie Lippold at 515-281-3035 or Kate Robertson, with Benton Development Group at 319-472-5545.

Public meeting reminder for Vinton residents

BDG is encouraging Vinton residents to attend the Vinton Municipal Electric Utilities Public Meeting on the subject of forming a local telecom utility that would bring fiber to the community. The meeting will be held starting at 6:30 pm on August 16 at the Vinton-Shellsburg Community School District’s Administration board room, 1502 C Avenue, Vinton beginning. Enter the south door across from the ball diamond.

Both the Vinton-Shellsburg School District and Virginia Gay Hospital have given their support to forming the telecom utility. Those letters of support can be read below:

• Vinton-Shellsburg Community School District Letter of Approval

• Virginia Gay Hospital Letter of Approval

Ideal Industries Named to Inc. 5000 List for Third Consecutive Year

Exciting news from Ideal Industries, Inc. on being  named to the Inc. 5000 list for the third year in a row! Congratulations to Pat Lyons and everyone at Ideal Industries, Inc. Please read the press release provided by Mike O’Connor.

Vinton, Iowa (August 15, 2018) — Ideal Industries, Inc., headquartered in Vinton, Iowa, was named today to the 2018 Inc. 5000 list, marking the third-consecutive year it has been recognized as one of the fastest-growing companies in America.

The Inc. 5000 list showcases some of the top privately held companies in the country. Patrick Lyons, president of Ideal Industries, talked about what this special recognition means from a practical perspective.

“Making the list isn’t really the goal, but the recognition is gratifying in that it speaks to the fact we are achieving our goal of sustained growth,” Lyons said. “Manufacturing can be challenging in times of economic predictability and this certainly hasn’t been the case of late. Continued inclusion on the Inc. 5000 list is a direct reflection of the quality, creativity, and overall work ethic of our employees.

One of the hurdles all manufacturers face in regard to sustaining growth is attracting, hiring, and retaining quality employees. Lyons spoke to Ideal’s strategy for growing the company’s workforce as part of an overall plan for continued success.

“We are experiencing challenges in attracting qualified applicants in manufacturing,” he said. “In order to stay on our planned growth trajectory we must be able to fill the gaps created in production as we expand. We are establishing partnerships with area high schools and community colleges to build awareness of career opportunities in advanced manufacturing, while at the same time enhancing internal training and employee retention programs.”

In closing, Lyons commented on how Ideal plans to approach the marketplace moving forward.

“We have shifted our business development focus from quantity to quality,” he said. “We want to create strategic partnerships with our customers, while moving away from transactional relationships.”

For more information on Ideal Industries, Inc., go to www.idealii.com. For more information on the Inc. 5000, go to www.inc.com.

BDG Welcomes New Executive Director, Kate Robertson

Kate Robertson

Benton Development Group, the economic development resource for Benton county, has announced the selection of Kate Robertson as its new Executive Director.

Kate will fill the vacancy created by Emily Upah’s departure in June to join Alliant Energy.

“We are excited to have Kate join our organization. Kate’s experience in sales and marketing and her love for Benton County made her a great match for our open Executive Director position,” says Kristina Kremer, president of Benton Development Group.

“Kate will begin her role of Executive Director on October 2nd and will be in contact with many of our local partners in the next few weeks”

CIPCO brings first of 5 solar sites online

Information was originally published by Dar Danielson on October 24th, 2016 to http://www.radioiowa.com/2016/10/24/cipco-brings-first-of-5-solar-sites-online/

 

That state’s largest solar energy project is on its way to turning the sun’s rays into power.

Central Iowa Power Cooperative (CIPCO) spokesperson Kerry Koonce says they recently flipped the switch on the first of 5 sites for the solar array that’s eventually expected to generate 5.5 megawatts of electricity.

“It’s producing electricity through the solar system — which is a benefit to all of our members. All five sites will be up and generating through the end of the year,” Koonce says. The first site has some 3,700 solar panels on that site in Urbana, which is within East-Central Iowa REC’s territory. Other sites are in Wilton, Pella Osceola and Marshalltown.

Koonce says the solar power adds to what the coops already produce. She says outside of some purchased wind generation, they generate their own power and she says this will increase their general power capacity to meet new growth.

Koonce says the solar power adds another option to the power they produce. “Customers won’t notice anything as far as their bills, there’s no increase in cost or anything like that. Solar is a very cost-effective utility for us,” Koonce says. “The thing that they can notice is that the generation company that provides their energy will be increasing our ability to provide emission and carbon-free energy, which is something that is very important to a lot of our members.”

Koonce says the solar site will eventually pay for itself in the energy it produces. She says the total cost of the project is about $9 million and is spread out over 20 years to take advantage of some the federal solar tax credits. Koonce says the cost of all five solar sites is significantly less than what it costs to build a new coal-fired electric plant. She says the time of payback is not exactly known.

“It’ll depend on how much electricity actually gets generated through the system each year,” Koonce explains. “On average we are expecting it to generate enough to power over 700 homes. Assuming that, we will have a nice playback well before that 20 years is up.”

CIPCO is Iowa’s largest cooperative energy provider serving 13 electric cooperatives and associations spanning 58 of Iowa’s 99 counties. It’s territory stretches 300 miles diagonally across the state from the Mississippi River on the east to Shenandoah in the southwest.

Photo courtesy of the East Central Iowa Rural Electric Cooperative.