Iowa is home to farmers, crafters, adventurers, and many small businesses. As of July 2020, Amazon reported that leading the nation in the per-capita of small and medium sized businesses is our one and only: Iowa. Iowa businesses are increasing their sales the fastest among Amazon stores with nearly 10,000 small and medium sized Amazon sellers. Additionally, Iowa is top ranking for most digital entrepreneurs per capita. As shoppers shift their purchases online in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Iowa sellers reported the fastest year-over-year growth at 57%. 

Let’s go Iowa!!

Amazon sellers are not the only businesses who are thriving in the Iowa. We had the opportunity to ask the digital entrepreneurs in the Cedar Valley some questions about why they chose the Cedar Valley to set up shop and how they are loving it so far. 

What led to your organization’s location or expansion in the Cedar Valley?

Banno: Banno, a digital banking solution that offers apps supporting a mobile-first strategy to advance near and long-term growth, strives to hire young, technology-centric talent from across the country for the high growth company. Members of the original team have remained in the Cedar Valley long after Banno’s conception. Sr. Director of Operations, Abby Wood, states, “You do not need to move to Silicon Valley to work on meaningful fintech software that supports millions of monthly active users. You can do it right here from the Cedar Valley”. 

Banno’s goal is their mission: to help their customers deliver useful, usable and delightful experiences.

LSBX: In the last couple of years LSBX, who merges traditional payment systems with new and emerging technology, has grown exponentially from their Mortgage, Commercial Lending, and Fintech business causing them to add positions in their share service department. To bring all these new positions, such as operations, marketing, human resources, accounting, IT, and others, under one roof, LSBX will be opening another location in downtown Waterloo. Erik Skovgaurd, President and CEO, states “At Lincoln Savings Bank, we are passionate about our communities, and we are excited about playing a part in the revitalization of downtown Waterloo.”

Photo courtesy of INVISION – www.invisionarch.com

“LSBX is a natural extension of the innovation occurring in the Cedar Valley Techworks Campus.   This project further diversifies the type of industry sectors already in Waterloo and the Cedar Valley,” Lisa Skubal.

SciPlay: Since the first opening in 1998 and formerly known as Phantom EFX and Scientific Games, SciPlay is a leading developer and publisher of digital games for mobile and web platforms, while providing highly entertaining free-to-play games located in the Cedar Valley. The startup has worked its way to a publicly traded company (SCPL) with 550 employees globally. However, SciPlay has a deep history with the Cedar Valley. Josh Miller, creative director, contributes some of its success to the outstanding midwestern work ethic and their high performing team here in the Cedar Valley. 

Formally known as Scientific Games, we were able to sit down with the team members and ask them why they chose to #LivetheValley

FarReach: FarReach knew they were already in the right place when developing their organization since Kate Washut, CEO, and partners have lived in the Cedar Valley for years prior. Founders of FarReach worked to create a custom web and mobile software solutions that solve problems and create growth opportunities for companies, all while staying in their hometown in the Cedar Valley. The roots they had already developed in the community helped grow and support their newly developed company. 

Threads: Threads turned performance evaluation into a scale comparing where an employee is ranked on results and how inline they are with the company values. Staying true to themselves, Threads chose to stay in the Cedar Valley to support the community and take advantage of the great place the Cedar Valley is to raise a family. Threads takes pride in their relationship with the community, President and owner Sean Abbas stated “Even though we are a smaller organization, our community knows who we are and what we do. We matter here”.

When you hire or relocate employees, what do you tell them about the Cedar Valley? 

Banno: Taking advantage of the career focused education systems in the Cedar Valley, Banno works to hire talent within the Cedar Valley to contribute to the economy and the advanced technology ecosystem that has been created. While local hires already know the things our community has to offer, Banno encourages being a part of the community to keep employees here. Employees at Banno are thriving professionally and personally by being able to create, build, and support leading-edge technology for the Banno Digital Platform all while living in the Cedar Valley.

LSBX: Excited for the move to downtown Waterloo, LSBX is relocating into a building with rich history which they hope to use to create a premier office space in the Cedar Valley. New employees get to become an integral part of Downtown Waterloo’s revitalization and take advantage of the many surrounding amenities. 

SciPlay: When encouraging employees to move to the Cedar Valley, SciPlay tells new employees about the slower place, better work/life balance, minimal commutes, low-cost real estate, and the great schools nearby. Employees who have never lived in Iowa or the midwest before, frequently want to come back to Iowa to start and grow their families after living here for a while. 

FarReach: The Cedar Valley has so much to offer new and remaining employees such as affordable housing, little traffic, educational opportunities, a supportive business community, and excellent recreational opportunities like our bike trails, affordable golf courses, state parks, and more. The Cedar Valley also offers easy proximity to large urban areas such as Minneapolis, Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City, Omaha, and Des Moines. 

Threads: Preconceived notions about Iowa are quickly turned to dust as relocating employees and visiting spouses experience the trails, entertainment, great food all around the Cedar Valley. Another plus is the gigabit internet access. 

What is your personal favorite thing about the Cedar Valley?

Banno:  Two of Wood’s favorite things are the recreational trails and the evolving local economy that is influenced by new businesses, tech startups, local shops, new restaurants, manufacturing companies and so many more. “It’s an honor to be a part of that ecosystem in the work we do on the Banno team at Jack Henry”. 

LSBX: Skovgard says some of his favorite things in the Cedar Valley are the locally owned businesses and restaurants, the University of Northern Iowa for the college town vibe and sports, Mainstreet Cedar Falls, and the revitalization and economic inclusion initiatives in downtown Waterloo. 

SciPlay: Miller loves how small the Cedar Valley feels while still giving access to great resources and events such as the local concerts, downtown shopping, or one of the many restaurants. Miller also loves how quickly you can get to a neighboring community for a small-town fair, festival, or main street shopping. 

FarReach: Washut loves how easy it is to live in the Cedar Valley. Some of the major benefits are how affordable and easy it is to get around. 

Threads: Abbas, after traveling, loves to come home to the perfect balance of location, size, and options. 

AKA: The Cedar Valley. 

No matter if you are expanding your business, career, or personal life the Cedar Valley is a great place to call home.

Trinity Kellenberger

Author Trinity Kellenberger

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