Clear Lake and Floyd County (including Charles City) were among the ten statewide finalists for the Iowa Small Business Administration’s (SBA’s) Small Business Community of the Year. Announcement of the finalists is part of the SBA’s National Small Business Week events.
Both communities are key partners with the North Iowa Area Community College (NIACC) John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center and its North Iowa Small Business Development Center (SBDC). They offer impressive stories of local focus upon supporting home grown, entrepreneurial success. Each models the emerging rural development strategy of “grow your own” small business success stories. Grow your own is an additional strategy to the traditional economic development recruitment of out-of-state businesses to move to or locate new operations within a community. Cultivating entrepreneurs also develops local leadership and contributes age and economic diversity to the regional economy.
The two communities share an open partnering approach to leverage available resources through broad inclusion rather than re-inventing the wheel. Success in economic development and entrepreneurial support are team efforts.
Clear Lake and Charles City area also feature local leaders strongly advocating for entrepreneurship as an essential component of future community growth and success. Typical of these local voices are Tim Fox, Executive Director of the Charles City Area Development Corporation, and Tim Coffey, Director of the Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce.
“We’re committed to writing our own future in Clear Lake and not waiting to be saved by someone. Technology increasingly allows people to live where they want to and work with customers or clients wherever. We’re focused on supporting entrepreneurs who want the lake lifestyle with high speed, high tech infrastructure to serve clients worldwide,” said Tim Coffey.
“Charles City and surrounding Floyd County benefit from our location along key transportation arteries like the Avenue of the Saints. We have historic strengths in manufacturing and pharmaceuticals, built by past generations of entrepreneurial innovators. The world is our market and our competition. Success requires innovation and entrepreneurs are the key innovators that drive future jobs and growth. We’re working to make entrepreneurship our core competitive advantage,” said Tim Fox.
An excerpt from the Clear Lake nomination is illustrative:
“Clear Lake has a strong tourism driven economy and events calendar thanks to the deep, natural glacial lake. Still, Clear Lake’s local leaders want more. They want more diversity of jobs and more consistency of income throughout the year. They want more technology-focused businesses. They want to import more industrial dollars from outside the region.
Inspired by some key entrepreneurial local success stories and the hiring of new leadership at the Chamber (Tim Coffey), local leaders committed to support entrepreneurial development in a “grow our own” strategy to both fill main street (or Main Avenue in our case) store fronts and build new tech and industrial ventures elsewhere in the community to import dollars and grow jobs. Three recent entrepreneurial success stories inspired this drive with Kingland Systems, TeamQuest and Cabin Coffee, all based in and thriving in Clear Lake, selling nationally and internationally.”
Tim Putnam, Director of the NIACC Pappajohn Center said, “I’ve worked with Clear Lake both as a volunteer for key summer events like the Bicycle Blues and BBQ races and music festival and professionally in small business growth and entrepreneurial support. Clear Lake brings a consistent high energy and strategic focus to all they do. Leaders have a clear vision of the opportunities open and the future they want. Technology permits diversifying the local economy to turn the lake lifestyle into a first home for entrepreneurial leaders that will import dollars and create jobs for others.”
Floyd County highlighted their team work with the example of Hawkeye Preferred Tooling Group:
“Floyd County resources were able to integrate a myriad of lenders and benefit the client, in both instances managing successful projects. “
Hawkeye Preferred Tooling Group Vice President Andrew J. Hobson noted that, “It is easy to do business in Floyd County. This is a great venue for our size of company because we receive great service and do not get overlooked.” CCADC (Charles City Area Development Corporation) President Craig Anderson stated that, “We venture to provide superior service for all worthy projects. The economic development infrastructure is in place in Floyd County to accommodate all manner of activity.”
Brook Boehmler, North Iowa SBDC Director confirms, “The Floyd County development team is an aggressive partner. We maintain regular office hours in Charles City at the combined offices of the Charles City Chamber and regional CCADC. Mark Wicks, Tim Fox and other local leaders work to line-up local business owners and entrepreneurs for business coaching and assistance. Through our Launch & Grow program and one-on-one counseling we’ve got a steady stream of new business launches and business expansion and improvement efforts. The Charles City area is not just waiting for a miracle, but working to create opportunities.”
These efforts deserve local recognition as critical to the future success of our North Iowa region. Clear Lake and Floyd County offer models that can help other communities change to support emerging opportunities for local business creation and growth. Iowa business owners are aging. It is becoming even more important to cultivate new business owners and entrepreneurs, to reinvigorate main street and sustain rural communities.
The top 2015 state recognition went to Manning, Iowa in Carroll County, for its leveraging of federal, state and local government, higher education and community resources to create an ideal small business culture. The city also identified cultural, health care and education initiatives as critical resources.
For more on SBA’s National Small Business Week events and celebrations: https://www.sba.gov/nsbw/nsbw
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