• Collins investing $225M in brake, landing system facilities
• Great Western Bancorp names new CEO
• The Early Bird to close in downtown Cedar Rapids
• James named new GM at Prospect Meadows
• In the CBJ: Building a better recruitment system
Collins investing $225M in brake, landing system facilities
Collins Aerospace has announced plans to open a new Landing Systems facility in Fort Worth, Texas, and expand its carbon brake manufacturing facilities in Spokane, Washington, and Pueblo, Colorado.

The new Landing Systems facility will create 40 new jobs in a 110,000-square-foot facility in Fort Worth, which will perform wheel and brake maintenance, repair and overhaul operations, and assemble landing gears. It will replace another landing gear facility in the city that is scheduled to close in March , the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports.

Adding wheel and brake maintenance and repair will bring the company closer to key airline customers in the region, Collins officials said in a news release.

Collins Aerospace also plans to expand its carbon brake manufacturing facility in Spokane by 75,000 square feet, or 50%. The space will be spread out in three different buildings. Work on a 40,000-square-foot expansion in the Pueblo carbon brake manufacturing site is expected to be complete in 2021, the company said, and has already resulted in the addition of 50 employees.

The Landing Systems business of Collins Aerospace has been growing due to increased demand for wheels, brakes and landing gear from commercial, military and business aviation customers, the company said. The brakes utilize a patented carbon friction material, DURACARB, that delivers longer brake life than competing materials, reducing aircraft maintenance costs for airlines.

"As one of the aerospace industry's leading providers of wheels, brakes and landing gear, we are committed to investing in our business to better serve our customers," Ajay Mahajan, vice president, Landing Systems at Collins Aerospace, said in a release. "Once our projects in Fort Worth, Spokane and Pueblo are complete, we will have invested $225 million, while creating more than 100 new jobs across those communities."

IMAGE: A look inside Collins Aerospace's existing landing gear operations in Fort Worth, Texas. CREDIT Collins
Great Western Bancorp names new CEO
Great Western Bancorp, the parent company of Great Western Bank, has named Mark Borrecco as its new president and CEO, effective March 9.

Mr. Borrecco has more than 20 years of banking experience, most recently as CEO of California-based Rabobank, which was sold to Mechanics Bank in 2019. Prior to that appointment in 2015, he served as executive vice president and chief retail banking officer with Rabobank.

Great Western President and CEO Ken Karels will now move into a role as special advisor to assist in the transition of duties to Mr. Borrecco. He will also continue to serve as chair of Great Western’s board until his retirement in October.

“It has been a privilege to lead the organization for the past 10 years and through its initial public offering,” Mr. Karels said in a press release. “I am proud of the organization that we have built and believe Mr. Borrecco is the right person to lead us into the future. We engaged in an extensive search for my successor and with his extensive banking background and leadership experience, Mark should contribute well to the overall growth of the organization.”

Great Western Bank currently serves customers through more than 170 branches in nine states. It counts Corridor branch locations in Cedar Rapids and North Liberty .
The Early Bird to close in downtown Cedar Rapids
A popular downtown Cedar Rapids gathering place will be closing its doors next month as its owner and self-styled “top chickadee” flies off in search of new horizons.

Brooke Fitzgerald, owner of the Early Bird Coffee Shop at 333 First St. SE, announced yesterday she would be closing the business March 6. In a Facebook post , Ms. Fitzgerald said she had been transitioning into a new role as a commercial real estate agent for Skogman for about a year and had “realized my time with the Early Bird is complete.”

Ms. Fitzgerald, a 2018 CBJ Woman of Influence , opened the Early Bird in 2011 in the Towne Center building, moving to the former Smulekoff’s on First Street in 2016. Over the years, her café became known as “the heart of downtown Cedar Rapids,” as she gathered a reputation for volunteerism and philanthropy, as well as “making connections and helping build ideas that grow the Corridor,” according to Cedar Rapids Mayor Brad Hart. It was named the Best Coffee Shop for a Business Meeting five times by CBJ readers, as part of the CBJ's annual Best of the Corridor program.

“This has been an important chapter in my life,” Ms. Fitzgerald told the CBJ. “A lot of things have happened at the Early Bird, a lot of memories, so this is definitely bittersweet.”

Ms. Fitzgerald said her decision to close the coffee shop was prompted by getting a commercial real estate license and her children entering elementary school.

“I knew I was not doing this forever, in my mind,” she said. “It was getting hard to go into a coffee shop everyday at 5 a.m. and kiss them goodbye … In small business, there is never a time you’re not thinking about the business. When you’re on family trips and on weekends, you’re thinking about it. The time has now come to move on.”

The Early Bird had been leasing space from developer Steve Emerson and Ms. Fitzgerald said it was possible the café could continue under new management.

“I think the community would love that,” she said. “Hopefully, some other ‘top chickadee’ will come along.”

In her Facebook goodbye, Ms. Fitzgerald expressed her pride in what the Early Bird had built.

“The community is a better place because of ‘The Bird,’” she wrote, adding that “people are going to be able to cherish these memories for years to come and still remember ALL OF THE THINGS there. It’s a special place.”

IMAGE: Brooke Fitzgerald, shown behind the counter of The Early Bird as part of her 2018 Woman of Influence profile. PHOTO Brian Draeger
James named new GM at Prospect Meadows
Steve James has been named the new general manager at Prospect Meadows, Marion’s growing baseball-softball complex.

Former General Manager Jack Roeder will now serve as president and CEO of the facility.

“When we hired Steve, we felt good about it. And I would say we feel even better today," Mr. Roeder said. "We knew that Steve would become the general manager at some point. That point is now.”

Mr. James, 37, worked at Perfect Game in Cedar Rapids for 15 years before becoming assistant GM at Prospect Meadows in June 2018. He learned the inner workings of a major baseball operation at Perfect Game and was serving as a scouting coordinator and Iowa League director when he left. He will gradually assume more day-to-day duties from Mr. Roeder, while Mr. Roeder focuses on strategic planning and future developments - including a possible paintball tournament facility - at the complex.

Mr. Roeder said the general public might not see any big changes right away, but they will as time goes by.

"Steve needs to become the face of the organization," said Mr. Roeder. "That's what we're gearing for."

Mr. Roeder has served as its public face for the last 10 years, taking Prospect Meadows from concept to reality with a May 2019 opening . Phase one of the project, featuring eight regulation fields and one Miracle Field for special needs players, has already attracted hundreds of traveling teams from across the region and pumped an estimated $3 million into the local economy, according to leaders. Staffers and volunteers are preparing to embark on new fundraising and advertising campaigns to “enhance the experience” and prepare for phase two in 2023.

Prospect Meadows Board Chair Tim Strellner said Mr. Roeder's new titles as president and CEO are well-deserved.

"I think it is a tribute to Jack," he said. "It's a reflection of Jack's past, present and future. Without Jack's dedication the last 10 years, Prospect Meadows would not be a reality."

IMAGE: Jack Roeder (l) and Steve James. CREDIT Metro Sports Report
In the CBJ: Building a better recruitment system
A quick scan of regional job boards suggests manufacturers are in a race to the top when it comes to creatively finding and retaining employees.

Kraft Heinz is offering production workers starting pay of between $17.33-$25.26 an hour and perks ranging from an Employee Assistance Program to pet insurance. Red Star Yeast advertises a long list of benefits effective from day 1, including medical, dental, vision, life insurance, disability and paid time off. And Frontier Co-op touts a “holistic approach to employee benefits” that encompasses transportation to its Norway plant for all three shifts, employer-subsidized childcare, a 24-hour gym and an in-house organic café.

With unemployment rates hovering at a 50-year low nationally and below 3% across much of the Corridor, keeping staffed up is tough all over. But the problem is especially acute in manufacturing, with 2.4 million jobs expected to go unfilled between now and 2028, according to Deloitte, and Bureau of Labor Statistics figures indicating nearly 500,000 positions sit vacant right now.

“It’s been the challenge of our time really,” said Brian Olesen, president and CEO of Centro, in response to brutal 2-3% unemployment rates across most of the company’s 10 locations, including its North Liberty headquarters. “It’s been an extraordinary challenge to find people that we could work with to produce product when we had increasing demand. Like many manufacturers, we choked on a lot of it at first, to be frank.”

In Iowa, where manufacturing represents almost 19% of the state’s economic output, employment has grown at a dizzying average pace of 10.8% annually since 2010.

Local companies have launched extensive outreach and education efforts to students, educators and parents, while the state’s Future Ready Iowa initiative aims to help build the talent pipeline of tomorrow for industries facing crippling shortages, like advanced manufacturing. For today, though, manufacturers are turning to pay increases, more benefits and perks, greater attention to employee satisfaction, and, in some cases, paying relocation expenses to entice workers from elsewhere to pack up and move.

Read the full members-only story in this week’s print or digital editions of the CBJ.

IMAGE: An employee fabricates equipment at Marion Process Solutions in a photo from 2016. CEO Lee Eilers says the company has taken a targeted approach to recruiting and incentives for new employees.
Short Term Event Planner

Feb. 13
Project Management Institute, by PMI Eastern Iowa Chapter, 7:15-9 a.m., Comfort Inn & Suite Airport CID, 710 America Drive SW, Cedar Rapids. Jessi McQuerrey, director of programs at the Iowa Association of Business and Industry Foundation, will present “Cultivating Iowa’s Talent Continuum.” Cost: $13 for members, $20 for guests. To register, visit .
How Not to Fail at Business, by SCORE of East Central Iowa, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., Hills Bank, 3905 Blairs Ferry Road NE, Cedar Rapids. Learn to understand fear and how it holds you back, how to develop key relationships and how gratitude will help you focus. Free. To register, visit .
Annual Banquet 2020, by Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce, 5-8 p.m., Coralville Marriott, 300 E. Ninth St. Akwi Nji, an award-winning speaker and writer, will tell stories that motivate, inspire and empower. Cost: $75 for members, $95 for non-members. To register, visit .
Feb. 14
Health Care Summit, by Corridor Business Journal, 7:30-11:15 a.m., Coralville Marriott, 300 E. Ninth St. The CBJ’s annual Health Care Summit examines national health policy issues and refocuses them to the regional level through speakers and panel discussions. Cost: $65 or $450 for table of 10. To register, visit . For more information, contact Ashley Moore at or (319) 665-6397, ext. 311.
Diversity and the Impact of Social Norms in the Workplace, by Association for Talent Development Hawkeye Chapter, 8-9:30 a.m., ESCO Group, 3450 Third St., Marion.
Discuss the impact of diversity on business and how understanding cultural norms can affect performance in the workplace. Cost: Free for members, $20 for non-members. To register, visit .
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A new bill in the state legislature would expand parts of Iowa's medical cannabis program, including more regulations on THC. The bill moved out of a House Public Safety committee Tuesday. The bill would limit patients to 25 grams over a 90-day period. Currently, there is no legal limit on how much THC Iowans can buy. Last year, Gov. Kim Reynolds vetoed a bipartisan bill on medical cannabis, citing concerns about giving patients too much THC. THC is the chemical that causes the high in marijuana.

In the cold of winter, the city of Cedar Rapids is already thinking about the summer. This is the season to start hiring seasonal workers for 2020. The city is planning a job fair at the downtown Cedar Rapids Public Library on Feb. 29 at 10 a.m. People can come and talk to the city about all of the open positions and fill out a job application. This is the second year for this job fair. City officials said they have struggled to fill seasonal jobs in the past, and the event really helped them out last year. The city is looking to hire hundreds of positions. Many are related to aquatics, like lifeguard positions, which the city likes to fill early because of training requirements. The city also hires for youth sports, park workers and jobs on the golf courses. Read the full story here.

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Today's system is still on track with a good chance of snow developing this afternoon into the evening hours. While overall snowfall amounts are still looking low and mainly in the 1-3 inch range, we encourage you to not overlook the potential impacts of this front when it hits. Temperatures will drop quickly this evening and wind will sharply increase. A temperature drop this sharp will likely cause very slick roads to develop this evening and especially during the overnight as snow continues to fly. Slick roads are also likely on Thursday morning's commute. Wind chills at that point will be well below zero as well. The coldest night still looks to be tomorrow night where all areas will fall below zero. After this, temperatures will rebound nicely for the weekend.