WATERLOO -- The Cedar Valley's longest-serving economic development director is moving on.
Steve Dust, who shepherded the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber through its consolidation with the Cedar Falls and Waterloo chambers of commerce and the development of the Cedar Valley TechWorks campus, announced today his plans to resign from that organization by June 30 after 14 years at the helm.
Until then, he will remain with the organization in an interim capacity and help the group's executive committee find his successor.
"I'm not retiring," Dust said. "I think what made me successful here, to the extent that I was, was my experience and skills in helping organizations find that vision, refine it and create the organization and build the organization. That's what I've done. That's what I enjoy and that's what I'm successful with.
"Just as I arrived at a time when the community was trying to come together to create the Cedar Valley, now we have another generation of leadership that's emerging," Dust said. "There's a whole raft of new business owners and senior managers who are going to be making decisions about what this economy is going to be.
"My feeling has always been an organization should not be known by the individual who leads it. It should be known by its mission," he said.
Dust originally thought he might work up to another decade.
"Frankly I wanted to be intellectually honest with myself in terms of not being here too long. Frankly I've been here longer than I ever expected to be, given the nature of the work the community asked me to do," he said.
Alliance board chairman Bob Smith of Lockard Cos. said, "We need to not just raise money but have the person that's going to implement the use of those funds at the helm. So the timing of Steve's transition is good in a couple of ways. It's good for him. It's also good for GCVA as we identify that new leader.
"Thankfully Steve was a mature enough leader to put the organization ahead of personal aspirations or desires," Smith said. "He's chosen to step aside and allow us to continue and for him to pursue opportunities that take advantage of his abilities. He's got a lot of career left."
The Alliance, among other things, will be looking at additional revenues as part of its overall operations.
Former Waterloo Mayor Tim Hurley, who is board chairman for Cedar Valley TechWorks under the Alliance umbrella, said, "We definitely need to progress to a point where our government entities are supporting the Alliance" at a more extensive level. "In communities our size, or regions, we're woefully short," Hurley said.
"Alliance emphases have switched from just bringing in industry and jobs to the point where the No. 1 priority among all members is workforce development," Hurley said. "That needs to continue. We need to ignite a fire and find a way for entrepreneurs to flourish in the Cedar Valley. To me, we've got to foster and nuture and grow the (support) base that has happened during Steve's time."
Smith said the organization will be meeting over the next month to determine a process for picking Dust's successor, with his help. He also said the Alliance will be reaching out to longtime and potential supporters for focus and ideas for the organization's future direction.
Dust is believed to be the longest serving economic development director among the Alliance and its various predecessor organizations, dating back to the 1980s recession and farm crisis.
Dust took the reins shortly after the TechWorks campus concept was conceived -- a state-recognized ag-based product research, development, entrepreneurial and manufacturing center on two former John Deere buildings on what was part of the company's Westfield Avenue site.
The campus is now home to a recently opened Courtyard by Marriott hotel, John Deere Tractor & Engine Museum and the "Tech I" building that houses the Alliance office, the Cedar Valley Makers Space and elements of the University of Northern Iowa Metal Casting Center, as well as peripheral development around it.
"That is going to be a higher led emphasis in the organization now -- tech-led economic development," Dust said. "In a place like ours, new product development is as important as startups."
"We saw Steve bring business, higher education and community leaders, as well as educators and students, together," Smith said. "Steve has many talents including being a great builder, inclusive collaborator, and program and initiative developer—and the Alliance board is most appreciative of his leadership. "
Dust, 63, and his wife, Donita, have a grown son living in Waterloo and a son and daughter-in-law in California. Dust previously worked for a Des Moines commercial real estate firm and for MidAmerican Energy. He holds bachelor's and master's degrees from Central Missouri State University and the University of Iowa and served two terms as mayor of Sedalia, Mo.