WATERLOO — Cary Darrah was named CEO of the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber in September 2018 after seven months as interim CEO of the economic development group.
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.
A native of Cedar Falls and Iowa State University graduate, Darrah was named general manager of Techworks, an Alliance subsidiary, in 2007. She was then promoted to GCVAC executive vice president of community development in 2012 and TechWorks president in 2016. Prior to joining the Alliance & Chamber, Darrah was director of Cedar Falls Community Main Street from 1997 to 2007.
What drives you?
I’ve always said “I have a healthy fear of failure”, and while that is somewhat true, I can also say that I’m driven by listening, assessing needs and connecting resources for successful outcomes — not mine but others. It could be helping an employer connect with a new employee or a friend find a new recipe for their event. I love solving problems or removing barriers.
What was your biggest accomplishment in 2018? Accepting the honor of CEO of the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber, which allows me to collaborate with others and celebrate this amazing community. There is always work to be done, and I am proud to lead a team committed to making the Cedar Valley a great place to live and grow both professionally and personally.
What are your goals for 2019?
Our team is in the process of re-branding and refreshing the organization. With the help of our stakeholders, we listened to input through many methods of research about the business and community needs of the Cedar Valley. There were several themes that are leading us to carve our path for the future — with workforce and talent development at the top of our priority list. My goal is to work with community partners to move the needle in addressing those concerns both for our businesses and to affect the quality of life for our residents.
What makes the Cedar Valley a great place for business/education?
With a community priority of education and access to quality education at all levels, we have a solid base to attract, retain and grow businesses while also contributing a rich environment for the current and future workforce. There is no doubt that pride and investment is critical for the business and educational climate of any community, and the Cedar Valley is made up of several individual communities, representing rich and diverse contributions — all who are swelling with pride about their heritage and future.
What’s a lesson you’ve learned in your career journey?
With gratitude, the career lesson that I’ve learned is that every person, every perspective has value and a story. Once again, listening is key. I don’t know that I was always a good listener, but I’ve learned that in order to satisfy what drives me – making connections that help others meet their needs — it starts with a deliberate effort to listen and understand those needs.