Business People Fall 2018 - Page 15

5 QUESTIONS WITH Steven Dust CEO, Ottumwa Regional Legacy Foundation QUESTIONS AND PHOTO BY TRACY GOLDIZEN WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO OTTUMWA? I’m in Ottumwa because of the special opportu- nity to lead a private foundation that is focused on the growth and development of the area, to the benefit of our current and future residents. The Legacy Foundation is unique: there are few if any other private foundations that are committed stra- tegically to local economic growth and community development. WHAT VISION DO YOU HAVE FOR THE COMMUNITY? Ottumwa must prepare itself and create the future it wants. Otherwise, we will respond to whatever hap- pens. My vision for Ottumwa is to become an eco- nomic and cultural leader by bravely anticipating and taking action to be the place where talented people want to live, learn, build a career and/or business, and enjoy life. We have to lead in developing the ame- nities to attract and keep talented people. We have to lead in modern educational facilities, initiatives and thinking to prepare our students for a world that’s hard to predict. We must be the technology backbone and center of Iowa for the business sectors that we want to encourage to locate, grow and operate profit- ably, here, our students, and the critical health care sector. That’s just where we begin. Just think: technol- ogy and talent; technology and talent; technology and talent. WHAT, TO YOU, IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE IN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT? In a time of massive and increasingly fast change in learning, work and life in general, our biggest chal- lenges are not to keep up, but to get ahead of the curve. We have to move at the speed of our employ- ers’ customers. That’s where our employers will be going to serve them, and we need a place with attri- butes to help them operate in constantly changing conditions. The same goes for our key institutions – health care and education. We have to think Future Ready Ottumwa. Right now, that term applies to a spe- cific talent initiative, but we need to think that way about everything we do, whether a spec industrial building, more new housing, improved broadband, a sports complex or whatever. If you want me to get more specific, I’ll say, of course, the ability to attract and keep a talent supply with the knowledge and skills to fill the jobs we have open and the great jobs that can be attracted with a well-prepared workforce and great amenities; We need to welcome business startups, especially for people who make things, and support them when they do. I know this is a long answer, but doing things to truly move the needle for economic growth is not easy. I really applaud the Ottumwa community leadership, especially at the city, Indian Hills, area school districts, Greater Ottumwa Partners in Progress organizations and the Legacy Foundation for understanding that and acting to make Ottumwa that kind of place. WHAT ARE, IN YOUR EYES, OTTUMWA’S STRENGTHS AND CHALLENGES? Ottumwa’s history as a key economic engine of southeast Iowa is a huge strength. Cultural and ethnic diversity is amazing, and we benefit from that. Ottumwa is a place that appreciates the arts and art- ists. Ottumwa has the basic infrastructure — physical and human — and resources to support new busi- nesses of all sizes and types. The challenges are to catch up in infrastructure and amenities — above and below the ground — allocate resources to aggressively market our attributes for employers, people and visitors to join us; and to tell the world about Ottumwa and all the great place we call home. This amazing city surprises anyone who visits. Now let’s get more people here, engage them in our work to make our place even better, and feel even better about our future. HOW DO YOU THINK YOUR PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE WILL TRANSLATE TO THE WORK YOU DO IN OTTUMWA? The opportunities and issues we have in Ottumwa align very well with what I love to accomplish: com- plex, multi-faceted and layered, private-public part- nership projects and initiatives that drive a place for- ward. My experience in business and nonprofits/gov- ernment, especially in new projects and redevelop- ment, and strategic policy and communication — in places that share many attributes of Ottumwa — gave me the ability to jump in and have a positive impact immediately on results and direction-setting for what comes next for Ottumwa. BUSINESS PEOPLE 15