BDG to elect officers and set 2016 action priorities

Benton Development Group will hold their monthly Board of Directors meeting on January 27th at 7:00pm at the Van Horne Community Center and you are encouraged to attend.


During this gathering, members will hold an election of officers for President, Vice-President, Treasurer and Secretary. Each officer is elected for one calendar year.


Those in attendance will also be setting action priorities for 2016. Our vision is to create BDG action priorities with feedback from our communities to ensure our priorities fall in line with community initiatives. These priorities are ones that we will be able to make direct action and continue the progress in 2016. BDG executive director, Emily Upah, will also update members and attendees of projects that she has been working on over the past month, including: business development, small business development programs, workforce topics, etc.


Benton Development Group meetings are open to the public and community input is highly encouraged at each meeting. If you or someone you know is interested in being a leader and spokesperson for your community or has a general interest in economic development, please attend the meeting on the 27th or connect with Emily at the BDG office.

2015 – BDG Looks Back on a Successful Year


As we reflect on 2015, Benton Development Group is able to reminisce on the progress and preparation for future growth that has been established this past year. As our group continues to grow and assist our communities and businesses in unique ways, we find each project has its own set of trials and tribulations. In 2015, we were able to use our strategic partnerships and dedication to our businesses to tackle issues head on to ensure success for our communities, businesses and our organization.


Benton County experienced many milestones in 2015 that BDG was excited to be a part of. In total, Benton County saw approximately $22 million in new capital investment with approximately 180 jobs created over 18 months. The numbers are impressive, but all of this credit goes to those businesses that made these expansions happen. BDG was and is standing ready to assist those companies to assure the success on all fronts. Some ways that we played a role include connections to Kirkwood training programs, Iowa Department of Transportation resources, the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) services, Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) grants and financing, Iowa State University resources, etc.


BDG and officials from Kirkwood Community College’s Benton County Center and Workplace Learning Connection came together to bring a new level of collaboration between our groups to create opportunities for our students, our educators and our businesses. Together, we found new ways to work with our local school districts in an effort to address the talent shortage that is being felt by our local, regional and state industries. While we cannot solve this issue on a local level only, it is our hope to bring awareness to our students that many opportunities lie within our local communities and educate our students on the 21st century skills our current industries are struggling to find. Our big success in 2015 on the workforce front, was an BDG internship that came from these collaborative conversations. Three students, one from each Benton Community, Belle Plaine and Vinton-Shellsburg, participated in surveys with our local industries from around the county. Each student gained further knowledge on communication, problem solving, time management, etc. To learn more about their experience, please view the video the students created by visiting and searching, “BDG Summer Internship 2015”.


In June, BDG hosted a visit with the IEDA Director, Debi Durham. During her visit, Director Durham was given a comprehensive tour of Benton County where she was able to visit Atkins, Van Horne and Wallace Farms. Director Durham also visited Clickstop, where CEO, Tim Guenther, announced the company’s $6 million, 100 job expansion. BDG also hosted a luncheon at the Van Horne Community Center that was attended by approximately 80 business and community leaders. These attendees were able to gain insight to the programs the state is working on and how the programs and activities of BDG fit into those state initiatives. Director Durham left with these words, “ We need to be prepared with housing, commercial buildings, utilities capacity & connectivity to become the site of choice for new businesses to locate in our community or for current businesses to expand. If we build capacity on all fronts, they will come.”


While BDG has been involved in many great activities this past year, something that we cannot neglect is the role our partnerships organizations have played in these events. The Benton County Supervisors have provided great support for BDG activities and continue to work with our organization to assure community and business needs are met. The Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance team has provided great assistance and collaboration on business expansions projects and organizational goals. We continue to work with the Small Business Development Center and Iowa’s Creative Corridor to bring new programming and awareness to Benton County businesses and communities.


We have had an exciting year, but we do not plan on slowing down in 2016. We are planning programs with the SBDC to provide workshop opportunities in Benton County to address small business needs. We will be embarking on a top executive roundtable group to give top executives in our communities the opportunity to network and learn from other industry leaders with and educational piece on different business practices and resources. Also in early 2016, we have several events planned to give our local industry the opportunity to speak with our local students and educators to have a direct impact on students and the implementation of 21st century skills in our current curriculums.


We will have a busy and exciting 2016. To assure we are meeting all needs, we want your input at our monthly board meetings. Our first meeting of the new year will be January 27th at 7:00pm at the Van Horne Community Center. This meeting will be our kickoff to the new year with Executive Board elections and setting the stage for the year to come. Our meetings are open to the public and community input is encouraged. If you have any questions regarding board involvement or activities, please never hesitate to contact Emily at the BDG office at (319) 472-5545 or


Thank you to all of our community and business leaders for your support in 2015 and continued support in 2016. We plan to make it a year full of growth and prosperity for Benton County!

SBA Boots 2 Business

Are you a Veteran, in the National Guard or Reservist? Are you also interested in starting your own business?!  If you answered YES to BOTH of those questions, the Small Business Administration has an upcoming education and training program for YOU.

During this one day, three part program takes place on Monday, October 26th, 2015 from 8:30am to 5:30pm at The Hotel at Kirkwood Center. You will learn about the entrepreneurship track, foundations of entrepreneurship, etc.!  You will also learn about SBA collaborators who are able to assist with your business!

Click HERE to learn more about the program.

WE are Iowa’s Creative Corridor

“Iowa’s Creative Corridor is home to a half million creative residents and covers 4400 square miles in eastern Iowa including Benton, Cedar, Iowa, Johnson, Jones, Linn and Washington counties.

It is a shared identity that represents the people, places and ideals of the 7-county region which encompasses the entire Kirkwood Community College service area. It represents the pride and actions that make our region prosperous and vibrant. It pays homage to our region’s historical strengths in art, science and technology, and captures our aspirations for an even more collaborative, innovative and imaginative region.

Everyone in the region is welcome and encouraged to use this shared identity proudly in community, corporate and non-profit communications. It’s a way to show what we all work together to strengthen and celebrate this place that we love.”


The above information is taken right from the Iowa’s Creative Corridor ( website.  How many people actually knew Benton County was part of Iowa’s Creative Corridor? or maybe thought Iowa’s Creative Corridor was just the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City Corridor?  It is much broader than that; but to make our mark, we can’t be humble! It is our effort moving forward to push our unique stories and our local events to the Creative Corridor.

In this effort we need YOUR help:

1.) when you hear of a unique business or community story, let BDG know.  We will do our research and push the information.

2.) The BDG calendar serves as a tool to push local events to the Creative Corridor calendar of events.  We need your help by posting your community event on the BDG calendar.  Let’s show people what a great place Benton County is to live, work, shop and play.

Here is the first of many stories to be published on the site.  Thanks Jim Morrison for running it in the Vinton Newspapers.

If you haven’t done so already, please take 30 seconds and subscribe to the Digest.  This is a weekly blast that shows the upcoming events and featured stories for the week!



Let’s Help Connect our Students to Our Local Opportunities

As we hear, over and over again, workforce continues to be a large issue looming in our local, regional and national industries. Different issues we hear come up are that applicants are not prepared for the workforce, they do not possess this necessary soft skills (communication, problem solving, reliability, etc.) to preform the necessary duties, lack of applicants for skilled positions, etc.  This is very alarming in the realm of economic development because it poses a risk to the sustainability of existing businesses.  It is also very alarming to companies looking at relocating with the concern that they may not be able to find an adequate workforce.

Benton Development Group continues to look for ways that we can play a small part in correcting these issues.  This summer, BDG had the opportunity to host 3 local students (one from each Belle Plaine, Benton Community, and Vinton-Shellsburg) for an internship.  This was an effort to connect local students to local industry while gaining the soft-skills that we hear are of primary concern.  Please take a couple of minutes and watch the video below to learn about the value the students found in the internship experience.

Perhaps a more exciting part, BDG is only one of the many organizations that have hosted or will host internships with our local students.  See the attached document below for the numbers and interests from this Fall’s Workplace Learning Connection’s interns.

Benton County Teens Explore Careers

IEDA Director to Tour Benton County

On June 17th, the Iowa Economic Development Authority Director, Debi Durham, will be visiting Benton County.


Ms. Durham was appointed by Governor Terry Branstad in January of 2011 as director of the Iowa Department of Economic Development (IDED). In collaboration with Gov. Branstad and Legislators, Durham worked to restructure the IDED into a public-private partnership to update and improve the way Iowa’s economic development programs and services are delivered. This partnership is now known as the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA).


As the director of IEDA, Durham plays an integral role in economic development initiatives across the state including: Home Base Iowa, High Quality Jobs program, New Jobs Training programs, site location and development, expanding Iowa’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, among others.


With this visit, Durham will get an insight to the needs of our business climate and communities here in Benton County. She will analyze the potential in our communities and talk about how we can implement the IEDA initiatives in Benton County. As we come together, we have the opportunity to ask questions about building upon successes and overcoming struggles that our communities are facing. The director will also have a more in-depth perspective of what we are doing to attract, expand and maintain business in Benton County, while providing feedback on what we can improve upon. It is very important for her to understand that we have many dedicated individuals and leaders that are taking an active role to bring new opportunities to their community.


Benton Development Group is hosting a luncheon for business representatives, local elected officials and community members to ask Durham questions about their business or community needs. Durham will also be speaking about helping position rural communities for continued growth and what resources are available to help. While this gives the attendees a better idea of what resources and knowledge are available, it also gives BDG the opportunity to collaborate with businesses and communities to identify solutions to each unique set of struggles.


The luncheon will begin at 12:00pm at the Van Horne Community Center. There is no cost to attend; however, BDG is requesting that attendees register for the event to ensure we are adequately prepared. To register, please visit the BDG homepage at or call the BDG office. Registrations are due by June 10th.