National Small Business Week is a movement happening in every state throughout the county that is recognizing the idea of “Dream Big, Start Small”. Benton County is joining the movement by celebrating the entrepreneurship, risk-taking, diversity, and innovation that is taking place in our community that makes contributions to our local, state and national prosperity. Small businesses are a vital piece to the engine that keeps our Benton County moving forward. Each of these small businesses started with an idea and a passion for a product or service by an entrepreneur who morphed that passion into a vision. They turned that vision into a lifelong goal of creating a career for themselves, their family and their community.
As our economy continues to blossom, it is important for all to remember that small businesses are the backbone of our local success. Our small businesses include: our clinics, care centers and hospital who provide care; manufacturing organizations producing products for our global economy; our eCommerce and customer care organizations who provide the highest quality services globally; our personal care service professionals who assure we look and feel great; our restaurants and grocery stores who help feed world; and this is just to name a few. It is our local entrepreneurs who continually assess and consider how they bring their vision to life, how to create opportunities for our community, how to create new jobs. Each small business owner is faced with changes that create both challenges and opportunities. Each business owner face business owner faces these challenges by taking risk and making investments. With the advancement in technology, our small business owners are forced to think, market and provide globally.
We will utilize this week to build awareness around the value small businesses provide to our community. We challenge all to: remember that we have a strong local and state economy because of our entrepreneurs, employee and customers who have shown dedication and loyalty to our small businesses; remember why our small businesses exist; and remember why you choose to support a small business.
Every year since 1963, the President of the United States has issued a proclamation announcing National Small Business Week, which recognizes the critical contributions of America’s entrepreneurs and small business owners.
More than half of Americans either own or work for a small business, and they create about two out of every three new jobs in the U.S. each year.
As part of National Small Business Week, the U.S. Small Business Administration takes the opportunity to highlight the impact of outstanding entrepreneurs, small business owners, and others from all 50 states and U.S. territories. Every day, they’re working to grow small businesses, create 21st century jobs, drive innovation, and increase America’s global competitiveness.
Benton Development Group is constantly looking for new ways to serve as a resource to our local businesses and communities. With the recent release of the Benton County Laborshed Analysis and the ever tightening labor pool, we have decided to make a change to our website.
The results of the study show that over 70% of our Laborshed area is turning to the internet to search for job openings. We are surprised by this result, but we did want to consider a way of how we can pick up some of that traffic. Last Thursday, during a presentation of the Laborshed data with many local leaders, BDG announced that we have added a feature to our website where all Benton County businesses have the opportunity to post their job openings. This is a free service to all Benton County employers and each posting will expire after 30 days. We feel that with our tight talent pool and many additional jobs being created, this is a great opportunity for BDG to assist our local businesses in finding their next employee by pushing these opportunities out on more platforms.
While we are very excited to provide this tool for our businesses, we are also excited to provide this for our local communities. We understand that we have many commuters in our area, but we feel that if we can communicate local opportunities, we may be able to capture a part o the commuter population to work locally.
To either post a job or search for a new career, please visit our webpage at www.bdgia.com. You will find the pages to both post your openings or find local openings under the Resources tab. If you have any trouble navigating or posting on the site, please do not hesitate to let Emily at the BDG office know.
Benton Development Group, Vinton Unlimited and Belle Plaine Community Development have partnered with the Small Business Development Center to bring a series of engaging educational opportunities to Benton County for our small business community. The series will be made up of 9 sessions that focus on getting, keeping and growing customer bases. “One of the most exciting elements of this project is that all of the sessions will be very interactive. The ultimate goal of this program is to give leaders the tools they need to take action in their business, that is why we decided to call this the Action Academy.” said Emily Upah, Benton Development Group. Along with the series being very interactive, we also look for the series to be very high energy to help motivate our businesses to take action. “We can promise this won’t be a boring lecture series” states Melissa Schwan, Vinton Unlimited.
The big picture of the series is to provide different entrepreneurship perspectives to our local small business community. Here in Vinton we’ve been talking with some of our local businesses and some common themes have emerged regarding their small businesses stated Schwan. “Those common themes gave us a starting point and helped the SBDC prepare the series that best targets our needs.” The series will be based around the ideas of getting, keeping and growing customer bases by engaging in educational experiences. When we break that down, we will really give our businesses the appropriate tools to think about their value proposition, who their key customers are, how their customers want to receive their services, what sets you apart from your competition, etc.
The Small Business Development Center has really helped us narrow our ideas and put together a series that has greatly exceeded our expectations. With their connections, the speakers coming to our local events have deep roots in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Their experiences range from leadership coaching, marketing gurus, customer experts, Iowa Venture School graduates, and much more. The SBDC is also taking this on as somewhat of a pilot project which they hope to offer in Marion and other communities throughout their service territory.
The Action Academy is open to all businesses in Benton County and free for those who attend. Our kick off session is on February 16th from 5:30pm to 7:00pm at the Van Horne Community Center. The remainder of the sessions will be held twice a month from 7:30am-8:30am, rotating between Belle Plaine and Vinton. “We feel there is so much value in bring our business communities together for these events in order collaborate, learn from different business climates and experiences and to build an open network.” said Upah.
Please visit the calendars on the Benton Development Group and Vinton Unlimted websites for dates and locations. Feel free to contact the BDG, VU or BPCDC offices for more information regarding the Action Academy.
ARE YOU READY TO TAKE ACTION?!
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.
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 YouTube.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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!
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.