John Hall’s business card has two sides.
On one side he’s director of business development and marketing for the Ames Chamber of Commerce & Economic Development. On the other, he’s executive director of the Nevada Economic Development Council. He became the latter on April 1, following the retirement of longtime NEDC executive LaVon Schiltz. So, both sides of his business card are correct. He serves in two capacities.
After considering several ways to replace Schiltz, the NEDC chose to enter into an agreement with the Ames Economic Development Commission (AEDC) by contracting with them for an executive director and the services that accompany that role.
Hall, who will manage the NEDC board and be the “boots on the ground and front face” for Nevada’s NEDC, said it’s a huge benefit for Nevada and the entire area to have this partnership between Ames and Nevada.
“The benefit is the team that will actually wrap around (what he’s doing for Nevada),” he said. And Nevada’s not the only town that benefits from the Ames Chamber & Economic Development team. “We maintain contracts with the city of Huxley, with Story County for communities with under 2,000 population to help with their economic development, with Story City for marketing their land and buildings, and now with Nevada. Economic development is now so regional,” Hall said, that it just makes “good sense” to have these partnerships.
The wrap-around team that Hall speaks about includes the following major players:
• Drew Kamp, director of business retention and expansion, who focuses on business growth for existing industry.
• Brenda Dryer, director of workforce solutions, who assists companies in developing new ways to attract and retain workforce. Dryer also assists all of the communities throughout Story County, under population 2,000, with economic development services.
• Dan Culhane, president and CEO of the Ames Chamber of Commerce & Economic Development Commission, who oversees all the staff and is a valuable resource for the team, Hall said.
• Ron Hallenbeck, executive vice president of the organization, who, Hall said, has worked in every other role in the past throughout the organization’s growth, and now runs the Ames Seed Capital Fund.
Hall said one reason he was the pick for taking this role in Nevada is because he had previous experience working with boards. For two years before he joined the Ames organization, Hall, 27, who hails from Johnston and is a graduate of Iowa State University, was the chamber and economic development director in Story City.
Now, focusing on Nevada, Hall sees certain strengths for the town. “Nevada has an incredible employment base for the size of community they are. They also have a strong sense of community,” he said, noting that’s good for “attracting businesses and growing businesses.”
One area he sees himself working with the city of Nevada on is housing. Nevada can offer a little different price point than Ames, he explained, so it makes sense to first-time homebuyers. Nevada also needs more executive-type housing as well, he noted.
In his first 90 days on the job, what’s been important for Hall and other members of the team is to visit with all major employers.
Also important, he said, is to plug in with some of the biggest assets/properties available right now. The two biggest, he said, are DuPont’s vacated facility, and Printgraphics’ vacated plant along Airport Road. Printgraphics moved out of that building and into the GFS building, leaving what Hall feels is a very marketable plant in the West Industrial Park.
When it comes to existing businesses and industry, Hall said there are a lot of Nevada businesses considering projects, and that’s one thing his team can help with right away. “We see that as low-hanging fruit,” he said.
As he starts to get his feet on the ground in Nevada, Hall has a couple personal hurdles coming up in the near future that he must also clear. He’s getting married at the end of June to Brianna Schwind of Ames. The two met when he was working in Story City. “She was working for a small print company there. She is now marketing manager for the Iowa State Center at Stephens (Auditorium),” he said. Then, of course, will be the couple’s move to a new home in Nevada in July.
Hall said he’s also attended a Nevada Rotary meeting and hopes to become a Rotary member here in the near future.
When he’s not working, Hall said his pastimes include hanging out with friends, walking the dog outside and being outside in general. “We (he and Brianna) love a good bonfire, and love football season and tailgating (at ISU games),” he said.
Hall is optimistic about taking on his new role, and about Nevada’s future. He only has to look back to see how promising Nevada can be. “LaVon (Schiltz) did a great job for this community for the 22 years she was here,” he said. “She’s responsible for bringing in a lot of industries … no doubt Nevada would not look like it does now without her.” He said she also made sure the NEDC was composed of strong members, which he now has the honor of serving.
“This is an opportunity for me to have some ownership over (what he accomplishes for the NEDC), but to be part of a team (with the Ames organization) as well.”