News Archive
Tuesday
Jul142015

New Laborshed study to begin soon

The Washington Economic Development Group, a part of the 7-county Iowa's Creative Corridor, is poised to begin a Laborshed study examining the relationship between where employees live and where they work.

The study also will examine where and how employers find employees, and aims to assist existing and future businesses with understanding the size and characteristics of the area's labor force.

The Laborshed study will be conducted in by the Bureau of Research and Analysis, a division of Iowa Workforce Development (IWD).

Letters will be sent to employers in the 7-county region asking for aggregate counts of their employees' residential ZIP codes. Once the "laborshed" area is determined, a confidential household telephone survey will be conducted in those identified areas. The questions will cover topics such as occupation, employment status, current and desired wages, current and desired benefits and education level.

Survey results will be applied to demographic data to determine the size of the region's area labor force, as well as various labor force characteristics. IWD will not be asking survey takers any identifiable information such as their name, social security number or date of birth.

When the study is complete, the results for each county and regional laborshed analysis will be available at www.iowaworkforce.org and www.washingtoniowa.org/data/. For questions, contact IWD’s Ryan Murphy at (515) 281-7505 or Ed Raber at WEDG (319) 653-3942.

The laborshed study is funded by area economic development organizations throughout the 7-county Creative Corridor, Alliant Energy and other utilities, Kirkwood Community College, and a grant from the Washington County Riverboat Foundation.

To view/download previous Laborshed studies in the area check out these links:

If you haven't subscribed to the weekly Creative Corridor e-mail Digest, click here to sign up!

Wednesday
Jun032015

Wesley Halcyon House expansion & Kalona Organics parent acquires Twin County Dairy

Wesley Halcyon House broke ground this week on a $10.5 million expansion and remodeling project in Washington, that will help to transform their senior-living and healthcare campus facility that was established in 1959.

Wesley Halcyon House and Lending Hands in Washington employ 110. After the completion of the project, they will employ over 120.

Halcyon House is committed to better serving the surrounding community by adding much needed memory care households for older adults with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of mid-to-late stage dementia. The expansion will allow area residents to stay close to home for the care they need.

Halcyon House’s original 44-bed health center (Avalon House) is being replaced by three, 18-bed households. Each household will address specialized care needs: long-term care, short-term rehabilitation and memory care.  The project also includes creation of a more identifiable entrance, renovation of several older common spaces and creation of new independent living amenity spaces.

AG Architecture assisted with the project design. The Samuels Group, with offices in Des Moines and Waterloo, is the general contractor. Financing for the project utilizes $10 million in tax-exempt municipally-issued private activity bonds that will be sold to investors.

In November 2014, Wesley Halcyon House received a $750,000 grant from the Washington County Riverboat Foundation toward the $10.5 million project. They have nearly reached their goal of $1.4 million in grants and fundraising.

Wesley Halcyon House, a 501c(3) non-profit organization, currently has:

  • 76 independent living apartments and town homes
  • 9 Sitler Center, Assisted living apartments
  • 16 Arbor House, memory-care suites for early-mid-stage memory care
  • 37 skilled nursing beds & 7 residential care beds in Avalon House
  • A great public restaurant in the Applewood Bistro

KALONA ORGAINCS & TWIN COUNTY DAIRY

Kalona Creamery, a new member of the Open Gates Business Development Corporation family, has purchased the former Twin County Dairy facility located on Highway 1 north of Kalona, Iowa.  Initial operating plans for the facility include milk receiving and separation. Additional plans are under development.

Twin County Dairy, Inc., more widely known as the Kalona Cheese Factory, closed its doors last September.  Since then, the rural community and local economic development groups have been facilitating the reuse of this property.  Bill Evans, Open Gates CEO, says, “We are really happy that we have been able to make this become a reality.  Not only is this good for our community, but it complements our growing family of businesses.” 

Kalona Organics®, makers of the Kalona SuperNatural™ brand and another member of the Open Gates family of companies, has experienced a 40% growth rate in key categories and is driving the facility expansion.   Mindy Seiffert, Director of Strategic HR and Business Development, adds, “The acquisition of the Twin County Dairy facility [from Proliant Dairy Ingredients] will allow us to bring jobs to the Kalona area and boost the rural economy.”

Kalona Creamery is the newest member of the Open Gates family of companies in the rural Kalona area.  Other companies include Kalona Organics®, Kalona Farms, Farmers Creamery, Awesome Refrigerated Transit of Iowa, and Provision Ingredients.

As a result of this acquisition and other initiatives, the company is hiring for several open positions.  Interested candidates can email resumes@farmerscreamery.com for more information.

The Washington Economic Development Group (WEDG) is very excited to see the long negotiations by Bill Evans’ team come to fruition with the opportunity to grow and expand into the former Twin County Dairy facilities. The regional and national success that Kalona Supernatural and its sister companies have achieved in the last decade will surely continue with this new opportunity. As a choice employer, Kalona Supernatural continues to hire dedicated and creative people for their processing, logistics, management, sales, and marketing teams.

Primary financing for the project is through Federation Bank in Washington and Wellman.

More news coverage about this acquisition can be found at the Kalona News and KCRG TV

Tuesday
May192015

Washington companies among fastest growing firms in Creative Corridor

The Corridor Business Journal recognized the fastest growing locally HQed companies this week, and 4 of the top 25 were based in Washington. A few others do business in Washington County.

Congratulations to all these companies!

  1. Spotix, Inc., 284% revenue growth since 2012
  2. Compass Commercial Services, LLC, 239%
  3. BAZOOKA FARMSTAR, 237.4% (last year #9)
  4. Premier Staffing, 205%
  5. MediRevv, 114%
  6. World Class Graphics & Displays, 103%
  7. Ahmann Properties, 92%
  8. Eco Lips, 81.5%
  9. Health Solutions, 71.7%
  10. SEDNA WAREHOUSING, 69.5%
  11. Fusion Architects, 64.8%
  12. SEDNA LOGISTICS, 64.3%
  13. TrueNorth Companies, 62.9%
  14. Perfect Game,  60.9%
  15. ProofreadingPal, 56.3%
  16. World Trend Financial, 53.7%
  17. Interconnex, 53.7%
  18. Midwest Microwave Solutions, 52.7%
  19. MindFire Communications, 50.8%
  20. CUSTOM IMPRESSIONS, 49.7%
  21. Innovative Software Engineering, 48.6%
  22. Circle Computer Resources, 45.2%
  23. Clickstop, 44.2%
  24. Ruffalo Noel Levitz, 40.9%
  25. IMS BrandedSolutions, 40%

This is one of the first year in recent memory that MD Orthopaedics/MD Molding is not on the list, but John Mitchell's global companies in Wayland are likely to return in the future. Both of these companies were on the list of 30 Iowa companies on the national Fortune 5000's fastest growing companies list in 2014.

Other area companies that have received some recognition includes Washington State Bank being named to the Corridor Business Journal's Coolest Places to Work list for 2015. Coincidence that this comes right after longtime bank president, Keith Lazar retires?

Greiner Buildings was on the CBJ Fastest Growing Companies in 2014 (#19) but not this year. However, Greiner Buildings recently received a number of national awards for their design/build buildings. The National Frame Builders Association awarded them national awards for: #1 Residential Building of the Year (shome) for Shawn & Michelle Redlinger in Washington, #1 Ag Workshop, and #3 Commercial/Industrial Building for Ryan Walker's seed warehouse and office in Washington.

Greiner Buildings also was an award-winning participant in the UI Venture School this past winter.

Monday
May112015

Washington County stays on top of Solar in Iowa

Washington County has had 175 solar projects between 2012 and 2014 that utilized state tax credits. This is 16% of the 1,121 solar tax credit projects across Iowa.

In fact, $1 million in state solar tax credits were awarded in Washington County in 2014, or 22% of the $4.5 million statewide total. From 2012 through 2014, $1.5 tax credits were awarded in Washington County, again 22% of the statewide total of $6.6 million. Washington County has installed more solar than the bottom 85 counties combined.

Since the state tax credit covers 15% of the total solar project installation, the $1.5 million in tax credits represents almost $10 million in solar energy for the 175 projects in Washington County.

The #2 solar county in Iowa, Linn County (Cedar Rapids), has received only 40% of Washington County's total, about $574,000. The top six solar counties account for 60% of the total solar footprint in Iowa. Three of the top six counties are neighboring counties in Southeast Iowa with similar agricultural profiles; Washington #1, Keokuk #4, and Henry #6. These three neighboring counties account for 36% of all the solar tax credits in Iowa.

Statewide between 2012 and 2014, about 29% of all the solar tax credits were for small residential projects, and 71% went toward larger business or agriculture solar projects. 

In addition to the Iowa solar tax credit, there is a federal tax credit that can also be claimed, in addition to utility company rebates that may be available. Put together, these incentives shortened the "payback" time for the investment to just a few years. 

The primary reasons for Washington County's solar boom since 2012 includes:

  • Alliant Energy had a generous rebate for solar installations from 2012-2014
  • All of the cities and most of the rural area of Washington County is served by Alliant Energy, which is not typical
  • Washington County has a very large number of energy intensive hog and poultry livestock facilities that lend themselves to roof mount or ground based solar energy installations
  • Washignton County farmers tend to be younger and well educated, and calculated risk taking entrepreneurs.
  • Several good revenue years for local farmers with grain and livestock resulted in extra funds for farmers to reinvest in their operation
  • Locally owned financial institutions that sought out opportunities to lend on solar installations.
  • Word of mouth of early solar success in the business and agriculture sectors spread the concept

In addition to the large number of solar installations in Washington County, the largest solar array in Iowa (at this time) is in rural Kalona, in Southwest Johnson County as part of Farmer's Electric Coop base load generation. This 800 kW solar farm opened in 2014, just outside Frytown. FEC also has several other large-scale innovative solar projects like solar gardens, school programs, and off-grid solutions. These utility based projects do not qualify for the Iowa solar tax credit and are not part of the statistics in the above table.

Solar energy has been covered in past posts in this blog including:

June 2014 - Washington County is tops in Iowa for Solar Energy

Nov 2013 - Solar Energy makes a big push in Washington County

A number of local and regional media articles have appeared in the last year on Washington County's solar boom. A good one is by Emery Styron for the Corridor Business Journal that covers the beginning of the solar movement at Ken and Paul Reed's farm in 2012.

Feb 12, 2015 - Washington County goes all in on Solar

Since the 2014 expiration of Alliant Energy's pilot rebate program for solar installtions, the solar expansion has continued, but farmers and businesses are looking to the USDA REAP grant program to fill in financing gaps. Typically, Iowa projects receive almost a quarter of all USDA REAP funding in the nation, so hopefully, this strategy will continue to work out.

Sunday
Apr262015

Kirkwood Professional Business Training Workshop Series

Kirkwood Training & Outreach Services (KTOS) is partnering with WEDG, the Washington Chamber, and Main Street Washington to bring a collaborative, high quality, professional training series to the Washington County area. All workshops will be held at the new Kirkwood Washington Regional Education Center.

The series of seven, monthly workshops cost about $450 per seat ($64/workshop). Some employers may be eligible for 260E or 260F job training funding to defray the cost. This is a great deal for great training content, with great instructors coming to Washington. For more info or to register, please contact a Kirkwood Training & Outreach Services program director at 319-398-5623

To see a complete PDF brochure on the workshops and facilitators, click here.

2015 TRAINING SCHEDULE

  • Thursday, June 25, 1-5pm: Getting on the Same Page; Accountability Conversations - Ms. Terry Whitson
  • Wednesday, July 29, 1-5pm: Attitude, Professionalism, & Ethics; The Mindset of a Leader - Dr. Celina Peerman
  • Wednesday, August 26, 12-4pm: Facebook & Blogging for Business - Ms. Shuva Rahim
  • Wednesday, September 23, 1-5pm: Communication & Fierce Conversations - Ms. Sarah Young
  • Wednesday, October 28, 1-5pm: Teambuilding - Dr. Allison Poss
  • Tuesday, November 10, 1-5pm: Negotiating for Success - George Hollins, P.E.
  • Wednesday, December 16, 1-5pm: How to become a Person of Influence - KP Persaud

To join the consortium, you simply invest in a “season pass” for the 2015 training sessions. Your seats can be filled with different staff members based on the content of each individual training session. 

For additional information or to register, please contact a Kirkwood Training & Outreach Services program director at 319-398-5623 or visit www.kirkwood.edu/ktos

Diversity Focus launches 2015 Eastern Iowa Community Survey

Diversity Focus is conducting a survey to determine Eastern Iowa residents' attitudes, behaviors and experiences with diversity and inclusion. The organization aims to use the results to improve the living and working environments for all residents in Eastern Iowa.

The survey comes on the heels of a 2008 benchmark study and 2013 community survey, which helped focus Diversity Focus' work on the areas of arts and culture, economic development, education, employment and health and well-being.

It takes about 10 minutes to complete, but is an important tool. Take the Survey!