Building Business Relationships For A Diverse Iowa

Members of the 2012-13 leadership Iowa class and community members during the ‘Connecting Statewide Leaders Reception’ at the Musco Technology Center on Thursday evening.

Oskaloosa, Iowa – The Leadership Iowa Class of 2013 has arrived in Oskaloosa for Session 3 of its 10 session swing around the state. The focus of this stop is Economic Development involving entrepreneurship, innovation and technology.

Michael Ralston, President of Iowa Association of Business and Industry, says that ABI is Iowa’s oldest and largest business network. He explained that one of the programs of ABI is the Leadership Iowa program. The group that consists of the Class of 2012-2013 will be in Oskaloosa through Friday afternoon.

The Class of 2012-2013 has 40 members from around the state. They travel to different Iowa communities and learn about issues facing Iowa. A fresh class starts every fall, Oskaloosa is the 3rd stop of 10, and the class will finish up in June.

“The real goal of the program is to get these people educated about issues and get them fired up about potential solutions. Send them back to their companies and communities and have them be active there,” explained Ralston.

During Thursday’s tours and meetings, attendees heard about the work that Oskaloosa along with William Penn that has lead to the growth not only to the school, but the community as well. “One of the themes of this whole thing has been, we need the cooperation between various institutions within a community,” said Ralston.

During Thursday afternoon, the group heard from three William Penn University professors discussing innovation. Dr. Jim Drost, Dr. Jim Hoeksema and Tami Wiencek, all of William Penn University, spoke with the group before breaking out into class discussion.

Networking is a fundamental building block of business. The group enjoyed a statewide leaders reception at the Musco Technology Center that gave just that opportunity.

Ralston says that it helps to make those connections, where business leaders from various communities can potentially help grow the economies of individual communities. An example of this would be a class member visiting Oskaloosa, and would learn of a business or industry, locally, that might benefit theirs, or an Oskaloosa company learning about the class member’s business that could help the local business grow.

“We want them to think about things that will work in their community,” Ralston says.

In closing with Ralston, I asked him what he would be taking away from his visit to Oskaloosa. “I haven’t been to Oskaloosa in awhile and it’s incredible to see the growth. The downtown looked great, it looked busy… One of the things I’m taking back is the fact that, this is a community that’s getting a lot done. Investing in itself.”

The groups next stop in January will be in Des Moines and will focus on state government.

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