As policy makers, Cedar Falls City Council is tasked to create a business environment that fosters job creation, innovation and wealth creation. To grow our economic base beyond incremental ‘brick and mortar’ wins, we need to set our efforts on organic, new business based on innovation, productivity and Midwestern ingenuity.
Cedar Falls has experienced consistent economic expansion measured in job and property valuation growth. Cedar Falls was ahead of the curve when it developed economic zones (i.e. the TIF). However, in the ensuing years, economic development will have less to do with brick and mortar enterprises and more to do with tangible community assets, business ecosystems, leveragable infrastructure and workforce assets.
On rare occasions, we land established businesses as part of expansion or reorganization plans. Target Distribution was a major success that happened because Cedar Falls met Target’s logistics, workforce, and energy needs. While we need to “elephant-hunt”, we can’t lose sight of new business creation. To support new business creation, we need a business ecosystem that enables regional entrepreneurs, nascent companies, and synergistic enterprises to thrive by leveraging our professional networks, business infrastructure, ethic and urban amenities.
Job creators are attracted to certain locations for a number of reasons… proximity to customers, talent pool, costs of doing business, infrastructure (roads and data), and the ubiquitous quality of life. The city’s role in policy-making touches everything from urban planning (yes, young millennials like to move by bike, a quality of life thing) to regulations (regulation creates a ‘cannot’ culture, counter to business). Cedar Falls has a unique opportunity to distinguish itself as a magnet for commerce. A place where people want to build businesses, create jobs, and generate wealth. Cedar Falls has the assets - gigabit data, higher education, low-cost energy, quality living. Now we need to form the attitude, create the culture.
Over the next few months, I will introduce several economic talking points to form a framework for economic growth rooted in the new economy. It is a future that neither you nor I can predict or ‘target’; it is open to all possibilities. As a start, I will introduce a new goal… to make Cedar Falls the most business-friendly city in the state and the Midwest, to create a business ecosystem that rivals all others.
Cedar Falls Business First (this list will grow)
- Iowa Competitiveness Initiative - ECONOMY - EDUCATION - LIBERTIES - GOVERNANCE
- Code Cleanse - removing the regulatory straight jackets
- Incentives - broad-based incentives, leveraging assets first
- Connect Here - super fast broadband
- Quality of Life - creating a community and networks for professional links, mentors, and business connections
- Education - make Iowa #1 to prepare our workforce to work in the new, global economy