It's hard to be humble in the advertising business, but Jim Mudd is trying.

In automotive advertising, where "tooting your horn" as well as your client's is practically second nature, Mudd is a relative picture of modesty.

That's because Mudd has never forgotten where he came from and where he's made his money over the past two decades.

That's why he's invested more than $1 million in a new corporate headquarters in Cedar Falls for Jim Mudd & Associates.

That's why he's throwing a "coming out party" with an open house from 1 to 5 p.m. today for his new digs at 6919 Chancellor Drive, in the "technology park" wing of the Cedar Falls Industrial Park.

Mudd "has a lot of confidence in our company to do that," said Mick Staebell, the company's chief executive officer. "A man who's worked 18 years to develop this thing and take that risk is really quite a statement of his faith and confidence in not only our values as employees, but in the economy."

The company, with customers "from Butte to Boston," according to Staebell, specializes in full-service or a la carte automotive advertising for car dealerships, mainly focusing on used car advertising.

It has doubled its employment and business volume in the past three years, at 37 employees, and billings of $20 million and adjusted gross revenue of $3 million.

Mudd & Associates figures to double that employment and business volume again over about two years.

"We want to be honest about it, and we're optimistic," Mudd said. "We're just pinching ourselves thinking about how good things are and how well it's grown. We're just thankful for all of the community and the people, all our staff and associates. And the sky's the limit.

"We think because of all the conditions of the global economy, the automobile business is going to continue to grow significantly, which enhances our opportunity to grow and develop," Mudd said.

Mudd & Associates has two divisions: a telemarketing or "teleservices" division, which concentrates on unsolicited "cold" calls to customers; and one-shot, "a la carte" advertising projects; and an agency division which works directly with several individual car dealerships, handling all their advertising.

To handle all that business, Mudd brought in key management staff, including Staebell, who's been with the company three years; and a relatively new acquisition, former Pioneer Graphics president Jim Volgarino, who manages the agency division.

Also, three brothers -- senior account executive Jim Jr., Chris and Rob Mudd -- work for their dad's company.

Mudd & Associates staff estimates the agency business will increase 35 percent and the teleservices business will double over the next year.

The building project allowed Mudd to "kind of stretch out," more than previous locations in downtown Cedar Falls and Thunder Ridge Court, and make a considerable investment in new technology to work with clients via e-mail and deliver advertising electronically.

"Everyone's got plenty of room to work; the building is beautiful; everyone's esteem has gone up by virtue of the surroundings they have here, Mudd said. "It's just a whole new environment. We have room in this building to add 10 to 20 people."

There's room for two additional buildings on Mudd's five-acre site. The existing building also houses the local sales office of School Specialty Co., which acquired the former J.S. Latta Co. and closed down its warehousing operation here earlier this year.

The city of Cedar Falls made the relocation happen.

"The city gave us the land and helped us a great deal. We've been blessed with what the city has done for us and the banks have done for us in getting this off the ground," Staebell said.

It's one of a cluster of local businesses Cedar Falls has tried to located in the fiber optics-equipped "technology park" to fuel its growth.

The new building also has given Mudd a new "front door" to show off services to car dealers by bringing them to Cedar Falls.

"That's one of our objectives -- to increase our invitations to dealers to come this way instead of always getting on a plane and going there. We now can make a very strong and indelible impression of our professionalism on a dealer by him walking in our building. He can see, he'll just feel it, that we are at the top of our game.

"We're in a position to work with the very largest dealers in the United States of America," Mudd said, noting he has just signed a contract with the third-largest auto dealer in the world, based in New York.

"The fact that we bring money into this company from around the country, and we hire Iowans and pay Iowa taxes and build in Iowa, we impact our community with monies that come in from outside the state. It's like new money that you bring in. That has a major significance.

"All of our business, save the Deerys, comes from outside Iowa ... And we're proud of the fact that we started here with the Deerys," Mudd said referring to the car dealerships of John Deery Sr. and sons John Jr. and Dan, who are among Iowa's largest car dealers.

"They have been loyal customers and they have been helpful to us by speaking on our behalf and being an advocate for us. As we stretched across the country, they helped us build our reputation."

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