Contact Paula Hazlewood for information. 402-960-8505.

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Spotlight Businesses





Just across the river from Omaha, only moments away from Downtown, are the 65,000 people of Council Bluffs. Between the Bluffs and Downtown Omaha is the mighty Missouri River. But there’s more than just the river that stands between the two cities. For a long time now, there have been stigmas and assumptions that separate the cities. 

Entrepreneurs, though, should be careful not to overlook Council Bluffs. The area has a lot to offer, and its leadership is ready and able to support and nurture new companies. 

What makes Council Bluffs unique for startups? A lot says Niki Ferguson, who works as the Manager of Entrepreneurial Development at Advance Southwest Iowa Corporation. “Some great things are happening on the east side of the river,”... 

Advance Launches New Small Business & Entrepreneurial Program Promotes Ferguson to Lead the Charge.



August 9, 2019, Council Bluffs, IA – Advance Southwest Iowa Corporation (Advance), the economic development organization for Council Bluffs and all of Pottawattamie County announced today that they received a grant from the Iowa West Foundation to implement small business and entrepreneurial programming. This grant is part of a larger Iowa West initiative to enhance the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Council Bluffs and Southwest Iowa. Advance has strategically created a program of work but will also rely on the recommendations and guidance of Chapman & Company. Chapman has been retained by the Iowa West Foundation to access the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Pottawattamie County.

Advance has hired Niki Ferguson to lead the charge with programming centered on identifying those small businesses and entrepreneurs in Pottawattamie County that are looking to start and/or grow their business. “Advance’s goal is not to duplicate services that are already being offered by the Small Business Development Center or other various organizations in Pottawattamie County, but rather enhance those services by unearthing those businesses and entrepreneurs that are here but more than likely not aware of the resources out there to assist them,” said Paula Hazlewood, Executive Director of Advance.

Ferguson has been employed by Advance for the past two years as their Project Manager but also owned and operated her own business for several years. Hazlewood stated that Niki is innovative and a natural builder which made her the right choice to launch and ramp-up this new component of our programming. “I think there is an untapped group of innovators and entrepreneurs in Council Bluffs and throughout Pottawattamie County. These individuals and small businesses could have a monumental impact on future economic development. I’m excited to identify these innovators and be a resource and connector for them”, said Ferguson.

To connect with Niki or for further information, please call Advance Southwest Iowa Corporation at (712) 325-1000.

Questions relating to this press release can be directed to Paula Hazlewood at (402) 960-8505.

Advance Southwest Iowa offers a one-stop-shop for prospective Pottawattamie County businesses



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. 

Continue to Iowa DOT project  page

A Class All Their Own: Two Partnership Leaders Earn ED Master Practitioner Status


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...

Iowa hints at how it became a nation-leading wind powerhouse


By | 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...

News Archives

Timings & Locations of Laborshed Studies Released

A 'Game Changer': New River's Edge office building open for business

A Woman's World: Brunow overcame gender barriers to start thriving construction, clothing businesses

Warren Distribution looks at $12.8 million expansion in Council Bluffs

november spotlight business


A Charming family's path to entrepreneurship - Dusted Charm

In 2015 while on maternity leave with their first child, Maisy, Becca and Ryan Wiggins faced a tragedy that every parent quietly fears. At a two-month check-up for Maisy, the pair were informed that they needed to see a neurologist. At that appointment, they received a devastating diagnosis, Maisy had Spinal Muscular Atrophy, Type 1. SMA is a disease that robs people of physical strength by affecting the motor nerve cells in the spinal cord, taking away the ability to walk, eat, or breathe and is the number one genetic cause of death for infants. As Becca explained, “it’s similar to ALS but has infant onset. The Wiggins were given a grim prognosis with no treatment options - Maisy could have a life expectancy around two years and that they should take her home, love her and enjoy the time they had left with her.

Things took a potential positive turn when the family was informed of a clinical trial taking place with trial sites around the US, one being in Denver, CO. Like most clinical trials, there were some caveats to participation, one being that Miss Maisy would have to maintain oxygen saturation at or above 96% while sleeping. Unfortunately, the family faced a devastating setback while in Denver. The altitude exacerbated Maisy’s breathing difficulties, she ended up hospitalized and unable to qualify for the trial. Again, the Wiggins family went home, defeated. 

As they thought they had lost out on their last hope, they were notified by the trial board that Maisy would be allowed to try qualifying at another trial location at lower altitude. The Wiggins family packed up and headed to Chicago knowing this was the last hope for a better quality of life for Maisy. The same participation requirements would still need to be met and Maisy had not yet recovered from her decline in Colorado and was struggling to maintain her oxygen levels, but they had to try. They were immediately on their way to Chicago, during the qualification phase they called all of their family and asked for prayers, they needed a miracle for Maisy’s sats to even get to 96%, let alone maintain it. The family would get that miracle, not only did Maisy’s oxygen get to 100% - it maintained that level during the entire test – she had qualified for the clinical trial. However, like most trials, it was a double blinded study and they would never be told if Maisy had received the treatment or was in the placebo group, and if she had received the treatment, if it would even work. 

With many unknowns with Maisy’s life, one thing they did know was that Becca would not be able to return to her previous job at Iowa Western, Maisy’s care would be a full-time labor of love.

Going to a single income family was a struggle, not-to-mention the medical bills, so Becca was looking for ways to supplement their income. Becca bought 4 runs of graphic t-shirts with $150 and sold them online – and they sold quickly! She then reinvested her profits into more inventory, and again sold them. By the spring of 2018, her basement was full of inventory, and the constant stream of customers in their home wasn’t ideal for Maisy and her fragile state. Then Becca got a call from her older sister, Sara about a property she had seen for lease at 126 E. Broadway in Council Bluffs. Becca knew that with Maisy’s 24/7 care, she couldn’t commit to opening a brick and mortar on her own, but with her family on board it could happen. The whole family, all entrepreneurs at heart, took the leap together. Becca, her sisters, Sara Berge and Rachel Adams, and their mother, Tracy Linquist all took an equal 25% share in the business and Dusted Charm was opened in May of 2018.

Dusted Charm is an adorable boutique, with super-cute clothes and accessories, but what makes them unique is their focus on the customer and making shopping an experience. Dusted Charm has also made an effort to be very size-inclusive, carrying pieces from small to 3XL. Being in the store, you feel like you’re shopping with friends you’ve known forever – no judgement or intimidation, just fun, not to mention the ladies are hilarious and their positivity is infectious. Community and family are paramount to Dusted Charm’s business model. They hold monthly give-back events – donating 25% of an evening’s proceeds to a non-profit or school. Becca doesn’t forget how the community rallied behind her family when she and Ryan were in Chicago for Maisy’s clinical trial. A benefit event had been held in McClelland which raised nearly 30K for the Wiggins family. The generosity and support of the community meant the world to them and is why these give-back events and the sense of community are so important to Dusted Charm.

Maisy is now almost 5 years old, a living miracle and has defied the odds that were stacked against her. She is an awesome big-sister to her little brother, Hawk William. Needless to say, Maisy was in the treatment group and has made slow and steady gains the last 4.5 years. The devastation that would have caused many people to fold, became Becca’s motivation, Maisy truly taught her to shine in light of darkness. The dedication and love of these women-entrepreneurs, as well as the support of their entire family, ensures the success of the business they’ve built together.

Shop Dusted Charm at 126 E. Broadway, suite 3 in Council Bluffs. Shop Black Friday from 9am – 5pm, where the first 40 customers will receive a custom tote bag for 30% off your entire your purchases, and 20% off the rest of day. Plus, get doorbusters from 9am – noon. Come back on Small Business Saturday at 9AM where the first 40 customers will receive a tote bag, 10 bags will contain special surprises-one being a $100 shopping spree (to be used that day), shop and fill the bag and receive 25% off your entire purchase. 

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August Spotlight Business

Tapping the craft brew market in CB - Full Fledged Brewing Co.

While commercial beer sales have grown stagnant, even falling - the dollar sales of craft beers have increased 7% and now account for 24% of the U.S. beer market. In 2018 there were over 7,000 craft breweries in the US, with an expected 1,000 additional openings by the end of 2019 – one of those being Council Bluffs’ very own, Full Fledged Brewing Company. According to the Brewers Association, Iowa is ranked 16th with 4 breweries per capita,* so it may seem surprising that prior to Full Fledged opening this summer, there were no craft breweries located in Council Bluffs – a fact that did not go unnoticed by Marshall and Dessie Redmond. 

When Marshall approached his parents about attending an 18-month brewmaster program through the American Brewer’s Guild, they fully supported his dream with the stipulation that Marshall would own his own brewery by the time he turned forty. While in school, Marshall interned at a brewery to gain experience. After graduating, he found a job working in New Mexico under a brewmaster, before finally landing a job as a head brewer, himself in southern Nevada.

The Redmond’s were living in Texas when  they decided to take a leap of faith to start their own brewery. So began the search for the perfect location. Dessie, who had grown up in the Midwest, admits that Iowa was not originally on their radar as a possible location. While researching areas near family, Council Bluffs (and its lack of a brewery scene) came up as an option. Dessie remembered a close friend taking her on a tour of the city and the 100 block as a teenager, and that she liked the uniqueness of the area, but other than that the couple had very little knowledge of Council Bluffs. They planned a visit in November of 2017 and the rest, as they say, is history. Dessie was offered a job and moved to the area within the year, and after tying up loose ends in Texas, Marshall followed six months later. After two years, a location change, and even a name change for the brewery, Full Fledged held their groundbreaking celebration in February of this year and finally opened in July, Marshall’s dream had come to fruition – keeping his end of the deal to his parents . 

Although they initially knew they were taking a risk by choosing to locate in the spine of the Entertainment District, Marshall and Dessie are thrilled with how their space in Council Bluffs turned out! Located at the cross of interstates 80 and 29 - and right next to the MAC, Bass Pro, and the Iowa West Field House – The Redmond’s could see the potential for growth in the area and look forward to having new neighbors in the future. The brewery now has ten of their beers on tap, with three additional brews currently fermenting. “Marshall loves experimenting with new  recipes,” Dessie said, adding, “actually it’s probably what I admire most about him, his ability to use both sides of his brain simultaneously, being both creative with recipes and also knowing the science and chemistry behind it all”. Full Fledged has room for 20 taps, 18 will be their own brews, which they plan to rotate a few seasonally. The remaining two taps will feature ciders from Sacrilegious Ciderworks in Glenwood, Iowa – which provides a gluten-free option. Besides Dessie & Marshall, Full Fledged now employs five beertenders and a full-time tap room manager. “We want this to be a community and family-friendly space. We couldn’t be more thankful for the people of Council Bluffs, the positive support has been incredible”

 –Dessie Redmond 

Mark your calendar for Fall Fest at Full Fledged Brewing Company as the celebrate their Grand Opening on Saturday, October 12th with free lunch  from Rustic Cuts starting at noon, a corn hole tournament and live music by a Touch of Grey. Get all the details on the Full Fledged Facebook Event Page.

*per 100,000 21+ adults


July Spotlight business


*Not ClickBAIT* iGeners' Business Helps Your Fishing Game... and the Environment.


As Adley sat in his 8th grade class, he noticed the new kid, Clayt, looking at fishing websites, as he sat doing the exact same thing. The common interest was the catalyst for a new and lasting friendship - and eventual business partnership. Both boys, now 15, continue to spend as much time as they can fishing in farm ponds and quarries, (or anywhere they can get a ride) around Treynor. With the amount of time they spend fishing, it comes as no surprise that they had an interest in making their own soft plastic baits. What started as a google search for molds, quickly turned into a business plan for Salvage Bait Co.

Less than six months ago, Clayt and Adley pooled all of their birthday, Christmas, and any other money they could pull together to order the molds, aluminum injector, and materials to make their own bait. When it came to the material, the boys were looking for an alternative. Due to the high volume production, the sprue (plastic waste piece left after molding) is thrown away by the mass producing bait companies, as reusing isn’t cost and time effective. The boys began reaching out to the large plastic bait companies around the United States and asked them if they could buy their sprue. Acquiring the plastic in this way helped with cost and more importantly, helped the environment by keeping that waste out of the landfills. The boys soon realized that with the amount of their initial investment, they would need to try to capitalize on their hobby, and Salvage Bait Company began. Paula Hazlewood of Advance Southwest Iowa said, “Salvage Bait Co. are the type of young entrepreneurs we want to see in Pottawattamie County, they’ve identified and solved a problem we didn’t realize existed. Entrepreneurship is an essential part of modern economic development.” 

The process of hand-manufacturing their 100% recycled bait is somewhat time-consuming and involves heating the plastisol to 350-400 degrees and injecting it into the molds, waiting to cure, adding their scents to the baits, and of course packaging and shipping (this writer assured Salvage Bait that their entire process wouldn’t be revealed).  In the few months since they’ve started, these environmentally conscious entrepreneurs have already turned a profit. 100% self-funded, they are now reinvesting their profits back into the company.  Adley already had his own social media presence as a brand ambassador and influencer for the fishing industry and focused on social media advertising for Salvage Bait Co. Clayt and Adley then commissioned a website,, to sell their products online. Their bait, at $4 per pack, is the same price or less than their national competitors.

The goal of Salvage Bait Co. is two-fold, as Adley said, “We’re buying our product to help the environment, but ultimately we want to get more people engaged in fishing”. It appears to be working, since their launch, they have seen a sharp increase in kids at their high school fishing, some of them daily. Besides selling new soft plastic baits, Salvage Bait Co. also offers another innovative service. As plastic continues to fill oceans and landfills, the same is true for ponds and lakes. Plastic baits discarded in bodies of water can be eaten by the fish and other wildlife, and if too large to pass, will almost always result in death. Anglers now have an option – for only $15 per pound, Salvage Bait will recycle your spent soft plastic baits and return them to you. “It’s recycling you can see full circle, It would be kind of like if you recycled a pop can, and it was then returned to you refilled,” Adley laughed.

The young men hope that ten years from now Salvage Bait Co. is still in business, but point out that although no one else seems to be doing what they’re doing, maintaining supply may be difficult. Luckily both entrepreneurs have a back-up plan. Besides working, going to school, and running a company, the boys are both involved at Treynor High School, both participate in football and in the fishing club (yes, there is a fishing club!). Adley plans to go to college for engineering or in the medical field, but hopes to work as an engineer in the fishing industry. Clayt plans to go to school and major in agriculture and farm with his family. The owners of Salvage Bait Co. epitomize the promise and drive of the young iGen and Iowa’s future entrepreneurs and leaders.

[Stay tuned to ASWIC’s Facebook page to see my results with Salvage Bait Co.’s recycled soft-plastic baits] 

June Spotlight Business

Out of the Box Thinking Leads to Entrepreneurship Opportunities in Walnut, IA

Upon driving through the town of Walnut, Iowa, it’s easy to see why Trace and Claudia Frahm chose to raise their boys here 20 years ago.  Walnut, known as Antique City, is home to nearly 20 antique shops and hosts multiple events throughout the year, bringing in tens of thousands of visitors.  Walnut has an immediate familiar and comfortable feel, it’s the kind of town you’d expect to see in a Hallmark movie.  The quaint little city’s appeal is what Trace compares to, “a hug from grandma”.  The Frahms were considering many communities within a radius of Omaha before choosing Walnut as their home.  “We saw a town of 800 that had all the amenities we needed, and maybe some that it shouldn’t have had for a town of that size; plus you get the benefits and convenience of being located right off the interstate,” Trace commented.

In talking to Trace and Claudia, you’d never guess that they were transplants to Walnut, they have definitely adopted the city as their own, wasting no time becoming involved in the community.  Claudia continued her job with an Omaha bank, however telecommuting [possible with the fast internet available in Walnut] offered her the opportunity to work from home while raising their sons in Walnut.  Trace, a true dreamer and visionary, has been a longtime City Councilman and also sits on the WIDA Board of Directors.  Trace credits the local residents working side-by-side with the local government for a common cause.  When asked about Walnut’s economic development goals, Trace said, “We learn from the big cities and see the impact, but we think small when it comes to business”.  Shalimar Mazetis, manager of rural development for Advance Southwest Iowa, said, “Trace completely embodies a progressive builder mentality. He is always looking at things others are doing and is able to see how it can be applicable to Walnut or Pottawattamie County, in other words he is a genius at scaling ideas to fit. He is a true asset to have on the Walnut City Council and I just know we are going to do BIG things together for Walnut and Pott County”.

When Trace and Claudia purchased their dream home, a large historic home on a corner lot, it brought an opportunity for the adjacent lot next door.  There was an existing home on the property that Trace and his builder, Shawn had planned to renovate, however in the midst of the project it became apparent that the cost to renovate to code would exceed a new build.  Trace was inspired by Becky McCray of Small Biz Survival and had also learned of a pop-up shed village in Tionesta, Pennsylvania.  Being the entrepreneur that he is, Trace thought, why not replicate that model in Walnut?  So the house came down and the planning for Walnut Market Village began.  The project is a 3-4 phase endeavor, with phase 1 completed as of June 1st.  Phase 1 included two custom 500 square foot sheds with lofts and ADA compliant sidewalks and entries.  The sheds fit in with the existing streetscape down to the beautiful professional landscaping.  The remaining phases will allow for additional micro-retail spaces and potential unique Airbnb spaces.

The now completed sheds are available for daily, weekly, or monthly rental for businesses who may not yet be ready for their own brick and mortar storefront, or for those entrepreneurs who want to test their product with a pop-up store.  Officially open for less than a month, Trace has already received a lot of interest.  The Kringle Man Danish Pastries, Milk & Honey Restaurant, and Frosting, Inc, were all pop up shops during the recent Walnut Antique Walk on Father's Day weekend.   These aren’t your typical garden sheds, the heated and air conditioned buildings are beautifully finished with vaulted ceilings, plenty of natural light, wood floors, and modern light fixtures. - The attention to detail is evident.

If you are an entrepreneur looking for a retail space, or even curious about the pop-up village, it’s worth the quick trip from the metro to check out the Walnut Market Village and the other exciting things happening in Walnut.  Trace and Claudia can be reached at 712-579-2215 or by email at “The best thing a person can do is reinvest in their community, think unconventionally and out-of-the-box, while also keeping what’s worked in the past”. –Trace Frahm

Trace & Claudia Frahm at the Walnut Village Market beneath the restored Main Street clock.
Trace & Claudia Frahm at the Walnut Village Market beneath the restored Main Street clock.

April spotlight business


Fox Creek Fundraising - Catalyzing Carson


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”.

Midwest Ag Services

  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!


Rustic Cuts: MEATing farm-to-table demand in Council Bluffs


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. 

TiNik: Truck Accessories & Entrepreneurship in Oakland


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. 


The Hub Expands Options for Family-Friendly Entertainment

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.


EQ School of Hair Design: Cultivating Cosmetology Professionals


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.”


Tish’s Restaurant: A Favorite Among Locals and Tourists Alike

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.