Cedar Valley's road to economic inclusion and grow

Cedar Valley's road to economic inclusion and grow

COLUMN: Cedar Valley's road to economic inclusion and growth

The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier 

Raj Kalathur

Oct. 22, 2019

I recently had the honor of hosting the Iowa Business Council’s Vision to Vitality forum in the Cedar Valley region. Our discussion focused on making inclusivity a priority and working with leaders in business, public office, and education to strengthen Iowa’s economy and develop the state’s future workforce.

This year, the Iowa Business Council research revealed Iowa’s relative stagnate population growth and low diversity ranking when compared with other U.S. states. Couple this with low unemployment and Iowa businesses face a tough environment in which to grow.

At the recent forum, we learned that Cedar Valley is making great strides to cultivate its workforce and a conscious effort to engage all members of the community. The Cedar Valley region is working to create an inclusive and diverse atmosphere with the belief that everyone should have the opportunity to participate in the economy.

Grow Cedar Valley, the economic development arm of the region, has created a toolkit for employers to help improve inclusion and diversity in business. The kit outlines techniques to overcome common barriers to employment and to work toward conscious inclusion in recruitment and workplace culture.

In terms of educational outreach, we learned from Dr. Jane Lindaman how the Waterloo Community School District improved its graduation rates by nearly 15 percent in the past six years by integrating career and technical education, connecting with regional businesses to engage students, and showing students how their academic curriculum can connect to careers.

Finally, the importance of increasing the work skills of current employees and providing apprenticeships, internships and externships for the future workforce are all important elements as we work together to nurture talent and create a sustainable workforce.

These efforts are important to Cedar Valley residents as well to all of Iowa and the companies that provide jobs in Iowa communities. Employees of John Deere are proud to partner with schools serving as mentors as well as providing equipment and learning opportunities.

Interdependence is a key factor for success, showing strength through an invested community, inclusive culture, and thriving workforce. We are encouraged by the efforts brought forward at the forum. We know through dedicated and consistent effort; we can carry these initiatives forward to make a real impact.

More than 5,000 Cedar Valley residents are John Deere employees, thousands more work across the state for John Deere and other member companies of the Iowa Business Council. We are working to support efforts to ensure the Cedar Valley and all of Iowa remains an outstanding place to live and work.

The Iowa Business Council is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization of leaders from many of Iowa’s largest employers. With a goal to elevate Iowa’s long-term economic vitality, we organize community forums around the state where people discuss ideas to address challenges and work together to improve the region.