The Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber is looking for a new leader.

Steve Dust will soon be leaving the organization he helped bring together 14 years ago, when he was recruited to be the top executive of the area's newly formed economic development entity. Dust made the announcement at the GCVAC's Board of Directors meeting on Tuesday (Jan. 16, 2018).

“After thoughtful consideration, I’ve come to realize that the skills needed to unify, build and develop the Alliance & Chamber over the last 14 years are very different than the skills needed to move the Alliance & Chamber to the next level," Dust said in a press release. "Donita (wife) and I have decided that the best way I could serve the organization that I’ve worked to create and advance, as well as pursue the type of work that I’m best at, and most interested in, would be to leave the Alliance & Chamber.

“I’m not retiring, I’m transitioning out of my role as CEO,” said Dust, who hopes to remain in the Cedar Valley.

Dust said he notified GCVAC’s executive committee of his decision last November. Since then, they've collaborated on a transition plan, which could run through the end of June. During the interim period, Dust plans to assist the executive committee with the search for his replacement and continue to manage day-to-day operations while conducting calls for the organization's ongoing fundraising campaign.

“I’m so very proud of the Cedar Valley and what we’ve built together, starting with merging the Cedar Falls and Waterloo chambers together, and then merging the chambers into the Alliance,” Dust said. “The Cedar Valley is now a recognized leader in regional collaboration and impactful economic development. And, the Cedar Valley is now known for its innovation and technology-based strategies, talent recruitment and retainment initiatives, and as the center of manufacturing in Iowa.”

According to Tim Hurley, TechWorks board chair, Dust was instrumental in re-establishing the Cedar Valley as the center of manufacturing.

“Steve was always quick to remind people that we make things here in the Cedar Valley,” said Hurley. “He secured $12 million in funding for TechWorks and received legislative designation for TechWorks as the Manufacturing Hub.”

The TechWorks Campus is home to many entities including the University of Northern Iowa Metal Casting Additive Manufacturing Center and Design Lab, Hawkeye Community College Design Lab, the Iowa Advanced Manufacturing Network Hub, John Deere Tractor and Engine Museum and the newly opened Courtyard by Marriott. Soon, the campus will also include the John Deere Training Center and Blue Iguana Restaurant in what is known as the “Tech 2” building.

“Steve was honored by the Iowa Association of Business and Industry at its 2016 Advanced Manufacturing Conference for not only being a vocal advocate for TechWorks and the Cedar Valley, but for bringing Iowa business issues to the statehouse in Des Moines and to Washington,” said Hurley. “And, Washington took notice of the Cedar Valley too.”

Dust created the Gigabit Valley concept, emphasizing that broadband is the infrastructure of the future. In 2015, President Obama visited the Cedar Valley to applaud broadband leadership.

Bob Smith, chairman of the GCVAC board and president of Lockard, noted several successful milestones under Dust's leadership.

"We saw Steve bring business, higher education and community leaders, as well as educators and students, together to collaborate in forming the Inclusion Partnership, #LivetheValley, #WorktheValley, Leader Valley Foundation and more," Smith said. “We needed to establish programs for lifelong learning, leadership development, diversity and inclusion, as well as enhance quality of life attributes, including a strengthened retail and service sector. The Cedar Valley must be an inviting place to enjoy life, enhance a career, operate a business and retire."

As for the GCVAC's new leader, Smith said: "We now need to find the next CEO for Steve to pass the baton to lead fundraising efforts, develop new funding mechanisms and champion our vision to make the greater Cedar Valley, even greater.”