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Why Iowa? Q&A with Dan Culhane

Why Iowa? Q&A with Dan Culhane

Minnesota native Dan Culhane came to Iowa State University in Ames as a student athlete with every intention of returning to his home state after graduation. However professional opportunities and quality of life have kept him in Iowa 28 years after his college graduation.

Culhane has served as President and CEO of the Ames Chamber of Commerce and the Ames Economic Development Commission since 2006. With over 650 members, the Ames Chamber of Commerce strives to make Ames a better place to live, work, and do business by strengthening the economic vitality and the quality of life in the Ames community.

Dan has served on a number of boards and is currently on the YSS Foundation board of directors. He is past chairman of the ISU Letterwinner’s Club, the Iowa Chamber Alliance – a coalition of the state’s largest communities’ Chambers of Commerce, the Professional Developers of Iowa, the Mid America Economic Development Council, and is also a past campaign chair of the United Way of Story County. Dan and his wife, Stacey, raised their two daughters in Ames and had the benefit of them staying in the community an extra four years as they both attended Iowa State.

1. How does the Ames Chamber represent its member businesses and organizations?

I believe we are their fiercest advocates. We want our members and our business community to thrive. We are always looking for the next opportunity to help a business grow and expand. At the same time, we are always reaching for more community development and livability options to make the communities we work with, better. I believe we provide both direct and indirect assistance to our members by striving for more greater good, for the individual member, and the community.

2. How does the Chamber encourage and support innovation in the Ames area and across Iowa?

We are constantly helping entrepreneurs and innovators connect to the numerous resources that are available here in Iowa to assist them. Chambers are connectors and we are always willing and ready to make a connection for those that innovate.

We have a $3.5 million seed capital fund – the Ames Seed Capital Fund – to assist early-stage companies. Yet it is more than capital. Individuals in the vast network of fund investors are willing to meet with companies to provide advice and feedback whether the fund invests in a company or not. The regional infrastructure for startups is tremendous with the ISU John Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship, ISU Startup Factory, Cy-Starters, Ag Startup Engine, Small Business Development Center, and more. We are fortunate to have such intentional efforts in place to support the startup community in Iowa.

3. What opportunities are there for professionals to get involved in the community, network and build leadership skills?

I think the beauty of being in Iowa is access. One just needs to raise their hand to be involved. Sure, there are traditional leadership development programs, and they are terrific. There is so much opportunity and we need more people engaging. Iowa is a great place to build your leadership resume and that can be accomplished in a variety of ways. I think the best way to build a network and build leadership skills is to reach out to people you admire and/or are successful and ask for their time. The best compliment you can pay someone is to ask for their advice. Unfortunately, I do not believe many people are comfortable cold-calling someone they admire and asking for a few minutes of their time.

4. What advice would you give someone considering a move to Iowa?

Take the job, take advantage of welcoming communities, great schools, affordable living, and access to an abundance of professional and civic opportunities. Then, I would encourage them to lean in, plug in, and engage. Businesses, non-profits, civic organizations, and beyond are starving for leadership. We need more leaders and the positions are there for the taking.

5. Please give us three recommendations of things to do or places to go in Iowa?

Tailgate on a fall football Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames and cheer on the Iowa State University Cyclones. Ride the High Trestle Trail in Boone County and support the businesses along the way. Visit an Iowa brewery, like Alluvial Brewing or Torrent Brewing Company in Ames — you won’t be disappointed.