WATERLOO — The head of the Cedar Valley TechWorks has been named interim CEO of the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber.
Cary Darrah, who has been with TechWorks since 2007, was named interim leader of the GCVAC as the economic development and business organization finishes a goal-setting process in its search for a new executive director.
Darrah also served 10 years as director of Cedar Falls Community Main Street from 1997 to 2007. She is the first woman to head the Alliance or any of its predecessor organizations since Kristi Ray headed the Cedar Falls Chamber of Commerce from 1997 to 2002.
The Alliance was created in 2004. The Waterloo and Cedar Falls chambers merged in 2007 and became part of the Alliance in 2008. TechWorks, a entrepreneurial campus of former John Deere buildings, is an Alliance subsidiary.
Darrah initially was TechWorks manager, then named Alliance executive vice president of community development in 2012 and TechWorks president in 2016.
“Make no mistake, Cary is in the interim CEO position because she is very qualified,” said Alliance board chairman Bob Smith Jr. of Lockard Cos.
Alliance and Chamber CEO Steve Dust announced last month he was stepping down after 14 years and would formally resign by June 30. His last day was Friday. Smith said it was easier to allow Dust to devote full attention to pursuing his next venture while the Alliance set its future course.
“Cary was just the logical choice, very qualified,” Smith said. “She’s well liked and trusted by the team there and the community.”
Smith said the Alliance and Chamber hope to begin a national search in April after completing “a long-term visioning and planning process.”
It will be facilitated by Randy Pilkington, executive director of business and community services and director of the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center at the University of Northern Iowa and Drew Conrad, director of the UNI Institute for Decision Making.The plan will focus on workforce talent, economic development, regional development and value and support to investors.
“It is time again to think outside the box and cast a new vision for the Cedar Valley,” Alliance officials wrote in a letter to investor members.
“We’re at an exciting point,” Darrah said. She said she might apply for the CEO post permanently if the goal-setting process indicates she’s a good fit.
“Either way, I’m here,” she said.
“All qualified applicants will be considered,” Smith said. Waverly Partners, an Ohio-based executive search firm will assist in the search.