A hard working and highly skilled workforce, association involvement, challenging jobs, diligent attention to employee safety, and a willingness to embrace changing technology are just a few of the reasons Cedar Valley Corp is celebrating 40 years in business.
Having worked many years in the construction industry as president of Jackson Construction Company, Nevada, Iowa, Robins Jackson founded Cedar Valley Corp. in 1971 after purchasing Diesch Constructors in Waterloo. Cedar Valley Corp. started out by building city reconstruction projects using steel concrete forms and a form riding paver. The final paving grade was cut using a form riding tail blade. The projects were very labor intensive and the technology of the time limited production. "The new generation of equipment has certainly increased production and often quality. However, a well trained, highly skilled crew is still essential to the success of a concrete paving contractor" said Steve Jackson, Cedar Valley's President/CEO.
Robins Jackson handed over the reins of the company to his son, Steve, in 1992 but remained involved until his retirement in 1999. Robins passed away in 2009. Steve and his team of leaders at Cedar Valley Corp. have continued what Robins started by keeping up with changes in the industry.
Dedicated employees are key to the success of any company. Cedar Valley Corp. has 37 salaried employees who have an average tenure of 16 years. Four of the salaried employees boast over 35 years with the company. During the construction season over 140 seasonal employees typically work in Iowa, Nebraska and Missouri.
Steve Jackson feels very strongly about his staff being involved in industry associations. "AGC of Iowa is one of the vehicles Cedar Valley has successfully used to help our staff gain industry knowledge. We have always encouraged our people to be involved in industry associations as we have a strong belief that this involvement helps both the individual's career and the company. Association involvement is an investment in professional credibility and is a key to personal development and growth. Cedar Valley Corp. is proof that association involvement promotes leadership and professionalism," said Steve.
"Furthermore, as a member of AGC of Iowa, we are able to positively impact our largest customer, the Iowa Department of Transportation, since we gain strength in numbers," commented Steve.
Cedar Valley Corp. has numerous staff members who serve on AGC of Iowa committees and also attend many of the association events and training held throughout the year. Steve is an AGC of Iowa Past President and is also a National Life Director for AGC of America and has attended at least 35 AGC of Iowa conventions. Willie Calderwood, Sr. Vice President, is also a Past President of AGC of Iowa and serves as a National Director for AGC of America.
"AGC of Iowa has many great benefits. The big three are training and recruiting, lobbying for construction industry interests and industry involvement, and interaction with owners and other contractors, suppliers and subs," noted Calderwood. Calderwood said, "Personally my involvement in AGC of Iowa has given me insights into all facets of the highway construction business. Serving on the board and going through the chairs has made me much more comfortable than I ever thought possible being in front of large groups of people."
Jeff Rost, Vice President of Finance, regularly participates in the AGC of Iowa Controllers Council. According to Rost, "Presentation topics are relevant and diverse. The speakers offer a local perspective that is often more significant than national sources of information and education."
Along with company involvement in industry organizations, Cedar Valley Corp. is dedicated to their local community. They annually donate funds to the Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa which semi-annually grants money to deserving local nonprofit agencies. They have also participated in the Adopt a Highway program, collecting trash along a designated stretch of highway. Cedar Valley Corp's dedication to community service has earned them a Bravo award every year since the award's inception in 2001. Cedar Valley Corp's attention to employee safety has been acknowledged by the AGC of Iowa Rose Safety award. Furthermore, Cedar Valley was recently certified by the Green Cedar Valley Initiative as a leader in sustainable business. Cedar Valley has taken numerous steps to make its environmental impact smaller and human capital more efficient.
When asked about some of Cedar Valley Corp's favorite, challenging and unique past projects, Jackson had many from which to choose.
First mentioned was the rebuilding of SE 14th Street in Des Moines. At the time, the $4.4 million project was the largest in Cedar Valley Corp's history. Between 1984 and 1985 Cedar Valley rebuilt SE 14th Street in Des Moines from Army Post Road to the Des Moines River Bridge. It marked the first time a contractor was financially rewarded by the Iowa Department of Transportation for finishing a project in less than the specified working days.
Cedar Valley ventured to Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha, Nebraska in 1986. "Building work at an Air Force base is intriguing, extremely difficult, and political as you are forced to deal with government and military people at the same time," said Jackson. After much bidding, re-bidding, politics and letters to senators and congressmen, and much discussion with the Corps of Engineers, Cedar Valley was awarded two projects with Offutt Air Force Base totaling over 6.3 million.
"Both of these projects were very difficult but extremely interesting. Part of the transient apron project was built in a highly secure portion of the air force base. We were warned that if any of our personnel wandered out of our limited construction area that they would be shot without any questions asked. Working for the Air Force and the Corps was also a paperwork nightmare, where submittals and approvals were required for every line item of work and were extremely tedious," said Steve.
Over the years, Cedar Valley Corp. rebuilt almost the entire 1-35/1-80 corridor in Polk County between the East and West mixmasters. The largest project in Cedar Valley Corp's history, over 40 million dollars, was built in the vicinity of 14th Street and Second Avenue. Cedar Valley Corp. brought together a highly qualified contractor team and used the partnering process to build a very successful award winning project that reached the expectations of both the contracting authority and construction team.
Another group of projects the company is extremely proud of were built between 2004 and 2008 as part of the new Highway 60 corridor in Northwest Iowa. They won four American Concrete Pavement Association Excellence in Concrete Pavement awards for these projects. Jackson said, "Cedar Valley Corp. was featured in an international publication of equipment manufacturer Guntert & Zimmerman that included the headline One Million Square Meters! No Grinding! Remarkable!" Cedar Valley paved five different projects on Highway 60 which included over 163 lane miles of mainline paving without any corrective grinding.
Cedar Valley has worked very hard to maintain its highly skilled workforce over the past 40 years. To celebrate 40 years in business, Cedar Valley is hosting a company wide family event for all employees in July at Adventureland Park in Des Moines. They are also upgrading their website, giving out commemorative company apparel and will be featured in various publications.
"With fewer and fewer new alignment projects, the focus for the future of Cedar Valley is going to be the preservation and reconstruction of existing routes," said Calderwood. Cedar Valley feels confident they have the management team and equipment fleet to meet future construction challenges.
"The future for Cedar Valley has the management team committed to seeking new, better, and more efficient ways to improve the design, quality and construction of infrastructure with the goal of continually broadening and strengthening our company," said Steve Jackson.