Making the Cedar Valley one of the Best Job Markets in the U.S.

posted on Tuesday, October 9, 2018 in Blog

Waterloo, Iowa – Sept. 28, 2018—Joel Robinson can still remember his first day at Advanced Heat Treat (AHT). “I was the 50th employee hired in 1999.” Fast forward 19 years, and Robinson is now the continuous improvement manager at one of the best heat-treating companies in the country, and he couldn't imagine working anywhere else. Robinson says the people and culture at AHT are what make coming to work every day, “We have a lot of external people that come in and visit, and they frequently comment about our people and the services that we provide.”

Galya Hoppenworth has worked at AHT for 15 years, and says the people in the Cedar Valley are the key to the company's success, “Our CEO, Gary Sharp, chose to have the business here (Waterloo) and continues to keep it here. I think that says a lot about the Cedar Valley and the people that we have working for us.”

In a recent national survey done by Zippia, a San Mateo, Calif.–based job search site, the Cedar Falls-Waterloo area was ranked ninth in the country for job markets in the U.S. The site used data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to rank the top job markets in the U.S. based on how much local wages rose, unemployment dipped and the current jobless rate. While the national unemployment rate is 3.8 percent (May 2018), the Cedar Falls-Waterloo metro stands at 2.7 percent.

One important aspect of business in the Cedar Valley that stands out from the rest of the state is the company culture and people here.

“Our mission really is one reason why I love what I do; creating those fulfilling lifestyles,” explained Amanda Lynch. Lynch is a Cedar Valley native and has been the wellness coordinator at Western Home Communities for the past six years. “It's not just for our residents, but it is also for our employees and their families. We have flexible schedules. I have an amazing boss who, if I have something come up or have a sick kid, they understand that, they make it work, they work around that, and not every boss is like that.”

Having a company that understands the realities of life and having a true work-life balance is exactly why Therese Stevens was drawn to a career at BraceAbility, now serving as the chief operations officer/COO.

“I was definitely in a higher pressure, high stress, high expectation, fast-paced position previously, taken its toll on me,” says Stevens. “I think our culture, attitude and whole approach is genuine, honest and adult. We have realized that we live and work in a 24/7 world, so no one here is really worried about which hours you choose to work, it's more about getting the work done, and that's a breath of fresh air to know when you show up every day.”

For Waterloo-based VGM Group, highlighting a unique company culture, non-traditional benefits and workplace amenities are key factors in employee recruitment and retention efforts. Along with being employee-owned, offering a free health clinic for employees and their families and other work perks, VGM's recent expansions in the Cedar Valley have included distinct amenities to enhance the work environment for its employees.

Renovations to its annex building located at 4024 Alexandria Drive in Waterloo included redesign of 8,200 square feet of workspace to accommodate VGM's programmers. The new Tech Center includes collaboration rooms, treadmill desks, a Lego wall, custom built bar and a four-player video game console with more than 2,000 games. The break area offers strength and fitness equipment, golf simulator, ping-pong, pool table and a lactation room.

“We've made substantial investments in our business to position us for future success,” said Mike Mallaro, CEO of VGM Group, Inc. “The Tech Center serves as a central hub for all things related to data and programming for VGM's companies. The new workspace creates an environment that fosters idea creation and promotes collaboration for our programmers – all in a non-traditional, comfortable space designed to serve any generation of worker.”

As businesses in the Cedar Valley compete for new talent, it's no secret that catering to today's workforce is key in drawing new recruits through the front doors. Today's employee looks for flexibility, a relaxed work environment and opportunities to connect with the community they call home. With Zippia's ranking of Waterloo-Cedar Falls as #9 on its Top Job Markets list, coupled with Iowa ranked best state by U.S. News & World Report, the opportunity to recruit talent to the Cedar Valley has never been more attractive.