GRUNDY CENTER — Paul Cooley doesn’t act like the successful business owner he is, according to Tom McLean, a friend from the Morris Inn Steakhouse in Cooley’s hometown of Morrison, who nominated Cooley for The Courier 20 Under 40 Awards.

“He doesn’t ask his people to do anything he wouldn’t do himself,” McLean said.

Cooley, 39, owns Grundy Center-based Cooley Pumping and Cooley Sanitation.

It’s a function he takes seriously, McLean said.

“Paul was recently awarded the Iowa Environmental Health Association industry award for ‘outstanding leadership in environmental health’ at the Iowa Governor’s Conference on Public Health in Ames,” McLean said. The award honored Cooley for his role in educating his customers on properly functioning septic systems and their impact on our environment, as well as his work to maintain and expand recycling efforts in Reinbeck and Morrison.

Every business entity in which Paul is involved impacts the environment in some manner, McLean said. “He takes this role very seriously and strives to be a good steward of the environment.”

Anybody who plies the Cedar Valley’s rural roads likely knows Cooley, or of him. During detasseling season, the blue portable toilets that dot the farm landscape are Cooley’s.

Business is good, he said, although he conveys a sense of humility about it.

“Dumb luck, I guess,” he said, when asked how he had been able to nurture his businesses. “Positive attitude. I’ve got a good name and good employees.”

Cooley also helps his father with the latter’s farm operation in Morrison.

He has shared his success, as well. Cooley is part of a planning committee trying to build a new Orchard Hill Church in Grundy Center to go with the church’s main campus in Cedar Falls. The committee has identified a parcel of land on which it would like to build and hopes to finalize a deal soon, Cooley said.

“If there’s a need out there, I like to help people,” Cooley said. “If they really want help and appreciate it, I like it even more.”

Cooley credits much of his success to a solid grounding in family life. He and his wife, Deb, a native of Humeston, were married in 1995.

Cooley said he had a chance to farm several thousand acres with Deb’s father and brother in southern Iowa, but he passed on that chance.

“I kind of had things rolling here, so I thought I’d see where I could go with it,” he said.

The couple have three children: a son, Josh, 14, who’s a freshman at Gladbrook-Reinbeck High School; a daughter, Rachel, 11, a sixth-grader at G-R’s middle-school; and another daughter, Megan, 7, who is in second grade at Gladbrook-Reinbeck.

“We’re close,” he said of his family. “We live in the country and don’t have neighbors. My kids are active in sports, and we try to stay active in the church.”

McLean points out Cooley tries to maintain close working relationships with his 20 full- and part-time employees.

“Paul serves as a mentor to employees, coaching them in providing best-in-class customer service and exemplifying a strong, Midwestern work ethic,” McLean said.

Business Editor at The Courier

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