Editor's note: This is the seventh in a series of articles with various business leaders on Marshalltown's strengths and weaknesses as a community.
Sometimes, the grass isn't always greener on the other side. Some realize that sooner and others realize it later.
Fortunately for Marshalltown, Chris Clover, CEO of Mechdyne Corporation, realized it sooner. When he saw the opportunity to locate a business in Marshalltown in 1996, he said he didn't think twice about returning to his hometown.
Chris Clover, CEO of Mechdyne, said when the time and opportunity came for him to start his own business, Marshalltown was at the top of the list. Mechdyne is a large-scale virtual reality designer and manufacturer that does what very few other companies in the world can do.
"Iowa in general, but Marshalltown in particular, has a lot of strengths that make it a great place for us to be," Clover said.
Iowa's high-quality educational system and exceptional workforce, coupled with Marshalltown's geographic location and entrepreneurial spirit, have been key factors in Mechdyne's success, Clover said. Marshalltown has a long history of entrepreneurship with companies such as Lennox and Fisher Controls starting in the city and growing into global companies. Both still maintain a presence here and this area serves as Mechdyne's main headquarters and production facility.
"Marshalltown is centered geographically with respect to our North American customer base. We're also close to many universities, colleges, and community colleges which means we have an outstanding recruiting base," Clover said.
While some see Marshalltown's smaller size as an obstacle, Clover said the city also has some unique charms.
"I travel all over the world and there are certainly a lot of interesting places to visit, but I very much enjoy the 10-minute commute to my office and knowing my family will be safe and my kids well educated," he said.
In order for Marshalltown to realize its full potential, Clover said local residents must first understand what they have. An inability or unwillingness to recognize the community's strengths is one of the areas that Clover feels needs to improve.
Clover acknowledged Marshalltown is not perfect, but also said that all cities have their own unique challenges and issues.
"We need to remember all our community has accomplished in the past and look to the future with a sense of pride and a 'Can Do' attitude," he said.
As he looks to the future, Clover spoke of some other areas the community can focus on in order to build upon the assets that are already here in Marshalltown.
"We need to be willing to make sacrifices for our kids and invest heavily in schools and education. The next generation of employees will need an even higher level of technical skills to compete successfully in a global economy," Clover said. "And we need to continue investing in infrastructure and unique community attractions like the newly remodeled Orpheum Theater to help entice people to come here and spend money."
But above all else, Clover said it is important that companies appreciate the quality of workforce available in Central Iowa, which includes components of honesty and a strong work ethic.
"Having people on our team with those traits is a key competitive advantage and makes it much easier to produce a quality product to sell in a global market," he said.
And he feels that competitive advantage will continue with the company situated as it is.
"We've doubled down on our investment in Marshalltown by expanding our facilities and hiring additional teammates. We've continued to grow despite the economic downturn," Clover said.
Contact Ken Black at 641-753-6611 or firstname.lastname@example.org