GUEST POST: Friends of the Herring

Non-profit Extravaganza

  Over 20 nonprofit organizations from Benton, Tama, Poweshiek, and Iowa counties are joining to celebrate the first day of autumn at the 2016 Fall Treasure Fest in Belle Plaine, September 24, 8:00 – 2:00, at 1523 Sunset Drive.

   The fest will have something for everyone, with live entertainment and great buys on fresh produce, baked goods, nuts, graphic T’s and sweatshirts, household goods and other rummage sale items, and much, much more. Raffle tickets will be on sale for chances at original art and other great prizes, and there will be hot dogs, brats, and chips on sale for lunch.

   Participating organizations include Belle Plaine After Prom, the Belle Plaine Ambulance Service, the Belle Plaine Legion Auxiliary, Belle Plaine Music Boosters and Athletic Boosters, Benton County Community Foundation, the Blairstown Library, Drake Library, First Lutheran Preschool, Herring Hotel Building Alliance, HLV German Club, Hope Lodge #175, Iowa County Historical Society, Marengo Memorial Hospital Hope Project, Tama County Community Foundation, Virginia Gay Hospitals and Clinics, the Wallace Winkie Foundation, and the Youngville Historic Association and more.

  More on participating nonprofit organizations, sales, entertainment, and schedule, can be found at belleplaineeventsplanner.weebly.comor the Fall Treasure Fest events page on Facebook.

Ideal Industries Named to Inc. 5000 List

Ideal Industries Named to Inc. 5000 List


BIG congratulations to Pat Lyons and his team at Ideal Industries for being named as one of Inc. Magazine’s 5000 fastest growing companies.  Please read the press release provided by Mike O’Connor.


Vinton, Iowa – August 15, 2016 – Ideal, Industries, Inc., headquartered in Vinton, Iowa, has been named to the 2016 Inc. 5000 list of the fastest growing companies in America.

According to Inc. President and Editor in Chief Eric Schurenberg, on average, the companies who have made the Inc. 5000 have experienced almost five-fold growth over the past three years. With its inclusion on the 2016 list, Ideal Industries joins the likes of established brands like Microsoft and Oracle, as well newer success stories such as Dollar Shave Club and Yeti Cooler.

The Inc. 5000 is based on revenue growth, and with a 70% growth rate since 2013, Ideal Industries more than fits the profile of an Inc. 5000 Company. Ideal President Pat Lyons spoke to what it means for the company he joined in July of 2008, to be recognized so significantly for its achievement.

I think it validates that what we’re doing is working,” said Lyons, “and it’s a reflection of the quality of the people who work with us.”

Ideal Industries has made several strategic acquisitions during Lyons’ tenure. Those purchases have positioned Ideal Industries well as both a contract manufacturer of custom metal products and an OEM, with Ideal-branded products in the agricultural and self-service car wash industries.

Lyons commented that the company’s plan for future growth called for an emphasis on the OEM side of Ideal Industries’ business.

“A significant part of our growth has been based on increasing the OEM percentage of the products that we manufacture,” Lyons allowed. “The strategy is to get closer to the customer. The way we execute that strategy is to buy and build product lines that go directly to the end user.”

For more information on Ideal Industries, go to: For more information on the Inc. 5000, go to

Notice of Public Meeting

Iowa DOT Notice of Public Information Meeting – US 30/US 218 Interchange

218 loop SE Quad

Please find the link above to notification of a public information meeting being held in Benton County on Thursday June 30th from 5:00pm-6:30pm at the Vinton-Shellsburg High School.  The meeting will be held to discuss and answer questions about the proposed US 30/US 218 interchange and the associated right-of-way needs that correlated with the project.  Other details regarding the meeting can be found int the notification above.

I have also attached a map of the proposed project.  As you will notice from the map, the loop ramps are in the NW and SE quadrants to avoid Youngville Café and the cemetery.  There will be a bridge over the four lanes of US 30.

If you have any questions regarding the meeting, please do not hesitate to let me know or reach out directly to Cathy Cutler at (319) 364-0235 or

Vinton Popcorn Company

A couple of weeks ago Melissa Schwan, from Vinton Unlimited, and I wrote a story and helped the students of the Vinton Popcorn Company create a video to help tell their story.  The story has been published in this week’s Iowa’s Creative Corridor Digest as the “Big Story”!  Watch the video and read the story below! 



The story of Vinton Popcorn is one that details a great deal of community history, mentorship, commitment and creative minds that have led to today’s success.  


Vinton Popcorn was started in the 1940s and was sold several times before the end of operation in 1998.  Although there were several different owners there were some things that remained consistent: the name Vinton Popcorn; and the reputation of this widely known, tasty treat.  Vinton Popcorn was responsible for a number of jobs in the community as well as feeding many Americans a high-quality product that garnered attention from numerous news outlets throughout its years of operation.  


It was not until 2011 that several community leaders and the Vinton-Shellsburg School District came together to bring this community staple back to life.  It was decided Vinton Popcorn would live on as a project for local students involved in the entrepreneurship course at the Vinton-Shellsburg High School.  The beauty of this partnership is the recognition of the strengths of the student body and the ability to transform aspects of our current educational model to focus on hands-on, project-based learning.


The unique advantage of this project is that Vinton Popcorn is completely run by the students.  The students are responsible for the accounting, marketing, production, sales, and administration of the company.  Having a completely student-run business comes with its challenges and opportunities.  One of the most evident challenges is the cycle of human resources the company goes through.  There is constant transition with each new trimester and work to get new students acquainted with the company, its practices, and its product.  With this challenge, opportunity is quick to follow.  Each new student that comes into the company has a different perspective and is another creative mind.  These creative minds work together to provide top-quality service and new products. Most recently, the company had a yearning to provide a new variety to their customers.  After a community and client survey, they decided to start production of caramel-flavored popcorn.  This product hit the shelf in January 2016 and is now their top-selling product.


The enhancement and development of the participating students’ 21st Century skills is undeniable.  Each day these students are faced with a number of issues or obstacles they must tackle with their team.  They have gained experience managing and facilitating tough conversations with their peers, vendors, board members and clients.  They have also gained the knowledge of the many steps it takes to have a compliant business and product, including navigating FDA regulations.


The hard work and dedication of these students does not go unnoticed.  The Vinton Popcorn Board, which is entirely made up of business and community leaders, serves as a source of input and an outlet for the students to remain engaged within the community as well as other communities throughout the state.  Recently, the board members made the decision to recognize one valuable student employee each year.  This has resulted in a small cash award given to a graduating senior on their annual Senior Awards Night. This is a small token for this student to truly understand the direct value they had on the future of the company.  
To order your Vinton Popcorn, please visit


Do you want to receive FREE notifications about news and events from Benton County and the communities around Iowa’s Creative Corridor?  Make sure to register for the digest and have those notifications sent to you every Monday! CLICK HERE to register for the Digest!

Importance of Housing Availability in Benton County

Available housing that is both adequate and affordable for all different income levels, directly influences population growth. For many years, Benton County has suffered from an aging population. Historical statistics will show some communities have remained stagnant in their population and other have experienced rapid growth, however, Benton County as a whole has lost population in both 2014 and 2015.  This specific statistic is very alarming for both community leaders, leaders in our local school districts, our current downtown and industrial markets, our citizens, our region, etc.  


When we assess this stat, as well as consider where people are migrating to, we find there is seems to be a lack of adequate housing available in some of our communities.


Why is this important?  Many residents and community leaders recognize housing as an issue, but have different reasons it is an issue, including quality of life, quality/availability of services, etc.  While all of these issues are very important, today, we are going to highlight two of the reason why it is important for economic development:

  1. As we all understand, our services are made available by the taxes our citizens pay.  As our infrastructure continues to age and services continue to become more expensive, taxes will continue to rise.  In order to help minimize the burden to these expenses, housing development and rehabilitation is an important issue to spread this among more tax paying citizens.  
  2. Housing and expanding our industry base is a revolving cycle.  At this time, businesses are forced to locate where they have an available workforce to fill their needs.  In order to prove there is an available, growing workforce, we must have a growing population.  


Several communities in Benton County are considering this issue and how we can overcome this this struggle by developing new housing area, housing rehabilitation projects, affordable housing units, etc. Benton Development Group assists in connecting communities to resource partners like the USDA, ECICOG, Iowa Finance Authority, etc.

Help Us Celebrate Economic Development Week!

Screenshot 2016-05-09 09.02.28Economic Development Week will be celebrated in Benton County and Iowa’s Creative Corridor May 8th – May 14th. Economic development happens year round in our communities, mostly behind the scenes.  This will be a week dedicated to building awareness for the work of economic developers and the opportunities that are created through the work of community leaders and volunteers that contribute to greater economic development. The week will be highlighted by a social media campaign by using #CorridorEDWeek to be shared on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin accounts for economic development professionals and organizations throughout Iowa’s Creative Corridor.


Economic development outcomes are vital to our community’s success. “Economic development is the engine that drives community viability.  As a business owner, I am most attracted to a community that consistently demonstrates the willingness to invest in itself,” recognizes President and CEO of Ideal Industries, Patrick Lyons.  The Benton County Board of Supervisors have continued to show support and invest in economic development for the betterment of Benton County.  Most recently, the Board of Supervisors showed their support by signing a resolution which commends the work of economic development organizations throughout the county (Benton Development Group, Vinton Unlimited and Belle Plaine Community Development) and in Iowa’s Creative Corridor, as well as recognizing May 8th-May 14th as Economic Development Week in Benton County.  


Economic developers are charged with generating economic growth, creating better jobs for residents and facilitating an improved quality of life.“Generally speaking, developing anything energizes the community. New parks, trails, and public services are great investments in our community.  Combine that with a growing business base and the jobs and services that those businesses offer and you have a thriving community.  Economic development is important because it promotes these things and moves the community forward” In order to continue growing our thriving community that Mr. Guenther speaks about, Benton Development Group has established four priorities for the years to come: businesses expansion & retention, housing, workforce development, and entrepreneurial development.  
In addition to following the conversation on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin, please visit our blog on our website ( to learn how each of our priorities will provide lasting results in our communities, in Iowa’s Creative Corridor and the State of Iowa.  Additional organizations to follow in Iowa’s Creative Corridor include: the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance, Iowa City Area Development Group (ICAD), Jones County Economic Development Group, Marion Economic Development Corporation (MEDCO), Washington Economic Development Group (WEDG).