A ribbon-cutting ceremony is a beginning for a business that’s opening or expanding in the community. But those celebratory events also represent the culmination of behind-the-scene efforts by business owners, economic development experts, government agencies, elected officials and many others.
Advance Southwest Iowa Corp. is a leader in cultivating Pottawattamie County’s economy, offering a one-stop destination for businesses looking to hang a shingle in Council Bluffs or one of the county’s other 13 cities.
The agency helps businesses navigate regulations, apply for incentives, evaluate sites, connect with partners and otherwise keep the process going to open their doors to customers. ...
During the evaluation of highway design alternatives, it was determined that a dual, divided freeway should be constructed along the overlapping section of I-80/I-29 between the West System Interchange and the East System Interchange. This design will physically separate through traffic on I-80 from traffic on I-29 destined for Council Bluffs, creating I-80 express lanes and I-80/I-29 local lanes. This will be accomplished by constructing four separate roadways (two roadways for traffic in each direction). Each roadway will be separated by a concrete median barrier.
The River’s Edge mixed-use office building is now open.
Area residents stopped by for an open house at the new facility, walking the halls of the four-story, 67,000-square foot building.
The $20 million building will house the Iowa West Foundation, which has worked with Noddle Companies of Omaha to develop the area. It will include the office space, a parking garage, apartments and other commercial space. Continue
Let’s give it up for two key and committed leaders in our Greater Omaha Economic Development Partnership: Paula Hazlewood, executive director, Advance Southwest Iowa Corporation, and Andrew Rainbolt, executive director, Sarpy County Economic Development Corporation.
Paula and Andrew are now certified Economic Development Master Practitioners – two of only 42 people in the U.S. to hold this designation. Both recently graduated from the first-ever Advanced Economic Development Leadership (AEDL) program, a two-week executive education course...
COUNCIL BLUFFS, IA - Courtyard by Marriott Omaha East/Council Bluffs is set to open its doors in Council Bluffs, Iowa on Friday, August 3, 2018. Featuring an innovative lobby space as well as Courtyard’s latest contemporary room design, the new hotel provides flexibility and choices that allow guests to optimize and elevate their travel experience.
Located at 2501 Bass Pro Drive, the 131-room hotel will operate as a Marriott franchise, managed by Imagine Resorts and Hotels, LLC. Whether traveling for business or pleasure, the Courtyard Omaha East/Council Bluffs offers guests convenient access to the Henry Doorly Zoo, the Mid-America Center, the Iowa West Field House, and the Harrah’s, Ameristar and Horseshoe Casinos.
By Paul Dvorak | June 8, 2018
Eat your heart out, California, but little middle-of-America Iowa is closer to hitting the halfway mark to 100% powered by wind than you are.
MidAmerican’s recently announced around its new Wind XII project which will position the company to hit its 100% renewable energy goal and significantly contribute to Iowa’s ongoing leadership in renewable energy. This will further its trajectory to become the first state to generate 40% of its electricity from wind. Iowa currently generates over 36% of its electricity from wind power, ranking first in the nation for wind energy as a share of total electricity generation...
In 2014, after devoting her entire career to social services and nonprofit management, Lisa Fox started Fox Creek Fundraising (Fox Creek). In that, Lisa found her professional calling in life - helping nonprofits had become her passion. With her experience, a strong network, the support of her family, and an intimate knowledge of the challenges non-profits face, Lisa opened her grant-writing and consulting firm in Carson, Iowa.
Lisa started Fox Creek Fundraising as a part-time business with a goal of helping nonprofits make a difference in their communities. Lisa laughed that, “part-time was a nice thought that only lasted two, maybe three months”. Fox Creek quickly grew to a full-time, full-service grant-writing and consulting firm. Lisa and her team place an emphasis on service and providing the behind the scenes impact for their client’s missions. Fox Creek has 3 full-time staff members (all Carson residents) and 3 sub-contractors who provide extensive services to Council Bluffs and Southwest Iowa, and clients in Omaha, throughout Nebraska, South Dakota, and Arizona. Offering all aspects of grant development, grant writing, marketing, research, and graphic design – Fox Creek provides the knowledge and services found in the large, corporate firms, while maintaining a small business customer service experience. In 2018, Fox and her team secured 6.2 million dollars in funding for their clients. “When you love, really love, what you do, it’s contagious”. – Lisa Fox
So why Carson? After growing up in the area, like many small-town kids, Lisa left for college, spent time in Des Moines and even lived in Ft. Lauderdale, but she always knew she’d come back. When she made the decision to start Fox Creek, there was no doubt she’d open close to home. “My entire family is vested in the Riverside community and I knew I would start the business in my hometown and help elevate the economy.” The affection Fox has for her community is evident, speaking at length about the resources in Pottawattamie County, from the trails and recreation opportunities, to the hidden gems, shops, and theatres – whether that would be the Griss Mill Theatre in Macedonia for performing arts, or catching the latest Hollywood blockbuster at the Dreamland Theatre in Carson, one of the oldest in Iowa (originally opened in 1920), where you can still get a ticket for less than $5.00!
Lisa Fox and Fox Creek Fundraising are examples of the positive impact entrepreneurs can have on Pottawattamie County communities. Lisa noted the philanthropic nature of Southwest Iowa and Omaha, and feels strongly about giving back. She is involved in numerous community organizations including, but not limited to, the TS Bank Community Foundation Board, Pottawattamie County Planning & Zoning Board of Adjustment, and fundraising for Pottawattamie County Relay for Life. Fox stands alongside many Carson residents, advocating for Carson Main Street revitalization, noting the importance of keeping business local. She credits “an incredible mayor [Mayor Tim Todd], a strong city clerk [Brianne Duede] and a committed City Council who will bring main street goals to life”. Paula Hazlewood of Advance Southwest Iowa said, “Lisa has got a heart of gold and I’m proud to have had the opportunity to work with her as our paths sometimes cross in the work and volunteer activities that we both participate in. Lisa has a strong sense of community so I can’t imagine a better place than Carson for Fox Creek to thrive. Entrepreneurial activity is on the rise in Pottawattamie County and Lisa is definitely one of the trend setters that’s making things happen”.
Farming in America has changed since its early days. The average farmer is now responsible for feeding 155.5 people, six-times what it was in the mid-twentieth century. This trend has created a need for increased yields and efficiency. Navigating the ever-changing farming industry can be complicated, and is where effective farm management can help land-owners get the best return on their investment.
Here in Council Bluffs, Midwest Ag Services offers all aspects of farm management. After graduating from Iowa State, Kelly Summy, a lifelong resident of Pottawattamie County, worked in the banking industry as a farm manager for 15 years. In 1993, with an entrepreneurial-spirit, Kelly started Midwest Ag Services. In 2012, after also graduating from Iowa State, Evan Summy joined his father at Midwest Ag Services.
Midwest Ag Services is a full-service, one-stop-shop for farmers and land-owners, offering appraisal services, real estate services, crop insurance, and farm management. Both Kelly and Evan are licensed appraisers and brokers. When asked what he wants the people to know about Midwest Ag, Evan said, “We pride ourselves on customer service, communication, and our relationship with our clients”, later adding, “Over the past 25-26 years, we now have clients that we have worked with multiple generations of the same family, so you really get to know them.”
According to the USDA Census of Agriculture, in 2014, 2.1 million land-owners rented out 353.8 million acres of agricultural land. Which is consistent with the fact that 70% of Midwest Ag Service’s business is farm management for absentee land-owners. Kelly and Evan personally manage 17-18 thousand acres on behalf of their clients, across Iowa, Minnesota, and North-Central Missouri. With a territory of that size, Evan discussed innovations that have allowed them to work more efficiently, pointing out that when the company started, paper documents and mail were the only options, but now with email, cell phone photos, drones, and automation, they have more data at their fingertips than ever before.
Like many Pottawattamie County businesses, Kelly constantly challenges their staff to be involved in the community, both he and Evan are involved in many community organizations, including the CB Chamber Ag Committee. Make sure to stop by Baylis Park on May 17th between 11 AM & 2 PM for the Ag Committee’s annual cookout, where you’ll probably see Kelly and Evan volunteering. Proceeds from the event fund college scholarships for area students studying agri-business.
“The best thing about Council Bluffs is the rural community feel with big city amenities, but our people are our competitive advantage, good folks – hard-working, honest, and compassionate.” – Evan Summy. We couldn’t agree more!
As corporate farms have led to the decline of the family farmer in America, two Pottawattamie County farms have persevered. Just outside of Council Bluffs, the Larson and Driver families have long histories as multigenerational livestock farmers. Jake Driver and Rick Larson are proud of their Pottawattamie County roots, like their families, both are graduates of area schools and are involved in many activities and events supporting the greater Council Bluffs community.
The similarities between Rick and Jake don’t end with their upbringings – both men are passionate about their mission to provide others in the Council Bluffs region, with the type of beef they were used to eating while growing up. For several years they had different ideas on how to bring their visions to life, but when Driver and Larson came together to share ideas – Rustic Cuts came to life.
Rustic cuts opened in December of 2018 and employs several full and part-time staff. Should you stop by Rustic Cuts on any given evening or weekend, you’ll probably be helped by Jake and his wife, Kristie or Rick and his wife, Sheryl, as the owners are very involved – from working the meat counter, answering customer questions, or just chatting with their customers, it’s obvious that Rustic Cuts is a true family affair.
The farm-to-table (or farm-to-fork) movement has been gaining swift momentum to the mainstream consumer since the early 2000s. The local economic, environmental, and health benefits, not-to-mention, better taste – have led to a boom in demand. These benefits are the foundation for Rustic Cuts; the mission to provide quality meats from their farms to your table, is a concept Rick and Jake are passionate about. “Knowing where your food is coming from is important to today’s health conscious consumer, Rustic Cuts is bringing back the neighborhood meat market with a refreshing and innovative twist”, Paula Hazlewood, director of Advance Southwest Iowa Corp, remarked.
The owners of Rustic Cuts said, “Since the day we opened the doors, we have been very pleased with the community’s embrace of our butcher shop. We are blessed to have such a warm community welcome and a wonderful following so early in our existence”. Aside from the community favorite and their specialty, The Rustic Cut (a bone-in center sirloin with a tenderloin attached), roasts, tomahawks, steaks, beef sticks and jerky are also popular with customers. Rustic Cuts is now making their own breakfast sausage, beef and pork Italian sausage, pork, and bratwurst. They will continue to add to their product offerings based on demand, with plans to add cheeses, spices, and smoking pellets in the near future.
Rustic Cuts is concerned that customers aren’t getting the cuts of meat they want. They will educate the customer on where your meat is truly coming from and provide a quality of meat most customers haven’t had access to… until now! All of Rustic Cuts’ meat comes direct from their own private stock and is dry-aged from 14-21 days, before making its way straight to your table. When asked what they want the community to know, the owners said, “We want to earn your business and we feel that our product quality will help us do that”.
“Our meat will not only taste better, but will be healthier for your family. We are raising the bar on how to get healthy, natural meat from Our Farm to Your Table”. Rustic Cuts is located at 501 Veteran’s Memorial Highway in Council Bluffs and is open EVERYDAY from 10:00 AM – 7:00 PM.
In 2008, the decision for Niki Ford and Tim Craft to start TiNik, Inc. seemed like a natural next venture. Niki started her career in 1991 as a temporary receptionist for Omaha Standard, and with the exception of teaching high-school business for two years, she remained and advanced with the company. Tim started at Omaha Standard in 1993 with the formation of the fleet sales department. Ford and Craft worked together at Omaha Standard until 2008, when the company was bought out by Palfinger.
Both Niki and Tim loved working for a family-owned company and were concerned about the corporate direction Omaha Standard may be taking as part of Palfinger. The two had always worked well together, and with true entrepreneur spirit, they made the decision to go out on their own.
In 2008, in a 10 x 10 office in Council Bluffs, TiNik, Inc. was established. It didn’t take long to realize that the Council Bluffs space wasn’t conducive to the company’s growth. Knowing that an expansion was imminent, Ford and Craft began the search for their next location. Tim, who lives in Council Bluffs with his wife and two children, was open to Niki’s suggestion to move to a space in Oakland. Niki, a lifetime resident of Oakland and still had children in the school district felt strongly about the convenience the location would offer. In 2009 they purchased a building and moved TiNik to downtown Oakland. “We also hoped our decision would encourage other Oakland development,” Niki said of their decision to move. During the conversation, it became apparent that Tim and Niki truly understand the impact small businesses can have – especially to rural communities.
2018 has been an exciting year for the company. Overcrowding and expansions, including in-house installation, once again had TiNik outgrowing their space. Knowing that they wanted to stay in Oakland, they built a brand new 70 X 80 square foot space down the street – quadrupling their footprint. They also rent additional space at the old Ford dealership on the edge of town. TiNik now employs 14 full-time staff, seven who live in Oakland and, with the exception of two national sales positions, all of their employees live within Pottawattamie County.
TiNik, Inc. is your single source truck equipment supplier and installer. They can accommodate your needs for everything from mud flaps, tool boxes, toppers, and snowplows to platform bodies, mechanic’s trucks, dump trucks, and cranes. With a certified welder and diesel mechanic on staff – they can provide you with custom solutions, as well.
It’s safe to say, Niki and Tim’s decision a decade ago was the right one. They have definitely built a successful, family-owned business. Their dedication to their customers along with their industry experience and expertise have made TiNik the choice for truck equipment - both locally and nationally.
TiNik’s focus doesn’t end with their employees and customers, it extends to the entire community. Giving back is part of their culture, they continuously support local schools and clubs, and this year alone they’ve donated to local toy drives and the food pantry as well as the Riverside Girls Basketball team. The economic impact of TiNik, Inc. to Oakland and Pottawattamie County has no doubt been extensive.
Some of the best business ideas center around solving a problem. A mom who was fed up with the lack of family entertainment options in Council Bluffs created her own alternative.
The Hub opened in May and has been consistently busy ever since, according to owner Brooke Hubbard. She and her husband Jeff, along with partners Leo and Nikki McIntosh, invested nearly $3 million to renovate the expansive facility. It features two trampoline parks, including one designed especially for young children, as well as a coffee shop, concession stand and day care.
Hubbard has been married for 16 years and has four children. She says family-friendly entertainment options in Council Bluffs were previously limited to a bowling alley and a movie theater. She had to drive to Omaha to reach the nearest trampoline park or bring her kids to tumbling and cheerleading activities.
When the local YMCA building came up for sale, Hubbard realized it was an opportunity. “I knew all the other mothers like me didn’t want to make the 40 minute drive to take their kids to activities in Omaha,” she says. “I understood the need the community had for family entertainment options — to be able to stay in town is huge.”
Besides recreational trampoline jumping, The Hub offers open gym and tumbling classes for children of all ages. It also hosts Elite Cheer, which has advanced training for competitive cheerleading.
The wide variety of activities means kids of all ages can find something to suit them. Hubbard points out that The Hub can serve as a great after school activity for the whole family, where kids can be active and parents can relax with a book or bring a laptop to take advantage of the free wifi.
The Hub caters to families on the go with its concession stand, which has items like hamburgers, french fries and chicken nuggets as well as pizzas made in-house. “I know how it is being a parent and going to activities for the kids. A lot of times it’s directly from work and there’s no time to grab something to eat,” explains Hubbard. “The Hub Grind coffee shop offers a pick me up for parents.”
The business fills another niche by offering children’s birthday party packages. “Before that there was nowhere to go to have a birthday party and rent a small party room, besides at a restaurant,” says Hubbard. “Our concept is family-friendly, fun and light hearted, which works well for birthday parties.”
Since the facility previously was a YMCA, which already had the space for a licensed day care, Hubbard says adding Jumping Monkeys Childcare made sense. It can serve up to 36 children, ranging in age from 2 to 6 years old. “We really wanted to have super active day care, kids can go upstairs into the trampoline park and run around in a huge space, even in bad weather,” says Hubbard.
One especially unique aspect of The Hub is its affordability. Hubbard notes that most franchise trampoline parks charge a daily fee that would be prohibitive for families interested in regular use. The Hubbards chose to be independently owned, in part, so that they can charge monthly membership fees as a gym would.
For $40 a month, kids can jump for two hours each day at the trampoline park. The regular fee for two hours is $21, which means with two days of use, the membership pays for itself. Family memberships are available for $99. “A lot of members come in five days a week. It’s a win-win. We figured if we’re open, we might as well fill up,” says Hubbard, adding that this saves parents hundreds of dollars.
The community response to The Hub has been “above and beyond what we expected,” according to Hubbard. “There’s really not a slow time. We thought it would be slow in the summer but it was extremely busy.”
The Hub employs between 60-65 people, most who are under 18. Hubbard says since it’s hard for kids to find opportunities in Council Bluffs, the business is filling a need in this area as well.
A number of residents have already thanked Hubbard for opening The Hub. “It’s been rewarding to see people supporting the building and the project,” she says. One area 5-year-old called The Hub his “favorite place in the world,” which made her especially proud. “I’m raising my family here and it’s neat to have an impact on what kids remember — to be part of their memories.
Cosmetology jobs are expected to grow about 14 percent between now and the year 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. It’s an appealing field, particularly for those who want opportunities for flexibility and self-employment.
Council Bluffs has been home to a cosmetology school for 55 years. It began as Stewart School of Hair Design and later became EQ School of Hair Design.
Owners Craig and Julie Mead bought the business in 2004 and have operated it ever since. For 20 years, the school has been located downtown. At the end of July, it will move into the former Peterson Elementary School.
The new location has more space and is easier to access, according to Craig, because of better parking and proximity to the interstate. The new space will have an improved layout as well, as it was remodeled specifically for the cosmetology school.
The EQ School of Hair Design is a nationally accredited. The Meads developed their own “EQ Stars” program to supplement their objective to train students to be professionals when they graduate. “Highly successful people have some particular traits,” Craig explains.
Students and staff are expected to live up to give key principles that include the Golden Rule of treating others as you would like to be treated and emphasize characteristics like honesty, integrity, professionalism, innovation and quality.
“Everything we do is for the education of the student. We provide education to get students ready for a professional career,” says Craig.
The school employs 10 people. The Meads have a habit of giving back to the community. They’re involved near-monthly events that benefit nonprofits or those who are less fortunate.
EQ School of Hair Design students have provided hair styling services to high school seniors attending area proms who wouldn’t otherwise have the means to get their hair done. Many times, the monthly specials are tied into giving events where customers receive a discount if they bring in a donation. The school is currently collecting school supplies for Children’s Square. Before that it was collecting items for the local animal shelter.
The school has seven start dates each year, which translates to an enrollment of approximately 50 students. Tuition costs $18,750 for the 14-month program.
It boasts an impressive job placement rate in the 90th percentile. The remainder of graduates that aren't placed immediately in a job are typically choosing taking time off to raise families, according to Craig.
Although men are entering cosmetology at higher rates than the past, the majority of graduates from the program are women. Craig points out that cosmetology is a unique industry in that it allows anyone a chance to control their own destinies. “Students can pick where they want to go and how hard they want to work. There aren’t many industries that allow people to do that.”
The restaurant industry is infamously fickle. Most restaurants fail within their first five years. When a restaurant manages to survive for decades, you know its owners have carefully created the right recipe for success.
Steve and Kathy Tisher started their foray into food entrepreneurism in 1980. The husband and wife team served up seasonal ice cream treats and sandwiches for 15 years at Tish’s, which was a walk-up window in Council Bluffs.
The success of that venture led them to open up a full-fledged restaurant in 1995.
Tish’s Restaurant soon became a local favorite of residents of Council Bluffs and Omaha. “There were 40 restaurants in Council Bluffs when we started. Now there are over 120,” says Kathy. “And we’re ranked in the top 10.”
Kathy attributes the restaurant’s popularity and longevity to quality food, staff and customer service. “Everything is homemade from scratch. Soups are homemade and sauces are made from scratch. We cut our own steaks and chicken,” she says. “Our signature chili has won accolades.”
The eatery has a full bar and a dining area that seats 80 people. During warmer months, Tish’s covered outdoor patio, which also accommodates 80, is an area hot spot. A separate banquet room can seat up to 70 people and is a popular setting for graduation parties, weddings, baby showers and retirement parties.
Tish’s Restaurant employs 20 people. Kathy gives a lot of credit to their “awesome staff” and says they work hard to cultivate a culture of respect in the workplace. It appears to be working. Several of the kitchen staff have worked at the restaurant for more than a decade. One employee just retired after 22 years.
The restaurant attracts tourists. “We’re in a hub area of the entertainment district, near the casino so we get an enormous amount of travelers,” says Kathy.
Tish’s also enjoys a solid local base of support. “We are incredibly fortunate to have regular customers who have been with us since back in our ice cream days,” says Kathy. “Some of them come for lunch a couple of times each week. We're so thankful for their business and that of new customers too."
The Tishers are grateful for the relationships they’ve developed over the years through the restaurant. “My husband and I were born and raised here — this is our community,” Kathy says. “It’s great to have all the community support.”
Kathy does her part to give back to the community. She has served on the local chamber of commerce board in the past. She currently chairs the Jennie Edmundson Foundation board at the hospital and sits on the Council Bluffs Public Library Foundation board.