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!