SXSW Rewind – Highlights from a Week of Innovative Talks

The 2015 #IowaHour was held on March 15 in downtown Austin.
The 2015 #IowaHour was held on March 15 in downtown Austin.


SXSW is a three week long event where people from around the world come together in Austin, Texas, and celebrate their core beliefs of creativity, innovation and inspiration. The first week is the Interactive week where over 800 sessions, led by the world’s industry leaders, are held and endless networking opportunities begin. The second week focuses on the music industry and the third week focuses on film.

SXSW is a fantastic experience and great for professional training. With over 800 sessions to pick from, the Interactive schedule was a catalog of over 240 pages. I actually went through the catalog page by page trying to pick the perfect sessions that would assist me in my professional development. I am so thankful that I am employed at a City that believes in professional training and outside the box thinking.

With so many sessions to pick from it was hard to narrow down the list. Following is a brief overview of a couple sessions I attended …

  1. My first session was entitled, “Startup Success from Formation to Exit.” Adam Hull, Evan Loomis and Rick Jordan presented and their piece of advice … “Don’t take money from people that can’t afford to lose it.” An interesting concept, yes???
  1. Steve Case, CEO of Revolution and cofounder of AOL presented at a session entitled, “Pardon the Disruption: Steve Case on Entrepreneurs.” Steve presented how AOL was started and showed clips of early television commercial’s airing the AOL message. These were comical for us in the audience; but in 1990’s, they were, of course, ahead of their time.
  1. Some of the titles of other sessions I attended were, “Trilogy: A Killer Network Can Transform Your Town.” “What does an Art and Design Incubator Look Like?” “Designing Austin’s Economy – An Innovation Uproar.” “Confident Women: Ditch the Bitch Stigma.” “How to Build It: In Conversation with Ben Milne.” “The 21st Century Skillset: What You Need to Succeed.” The one liners that stood out most to me in these sessions included:
  • “The key to great paychecks is STEM education.”
  • “Our children in this country need to learn coding. We need to make algebra interesting and make coding a language to learn just like Spanish, Italian and German.”
  • “Ten years from now an employee must be a hardcore, intense problem solver who will be able to manage a team from around the globe.”
  • “Politicians need to stop looking at the next election and look at the future of their city, county, state.” Yes, that actually came from a politician, Tony Cardenas, Congressman from California’s 29th district.
  • “After you reach 15 employees, silos start happening.”
  • “Every person has the ability to reinvent the team. Everybody should be taking a risk. Everybody should be thinking like an entrepreneur.”
  • “Ask for forgiveness, not permission.”
  • “Towns think about recruiting companies, not people. This attitude needs to change, we need to recruit great people. You don’t get great people from sales and property tax breaks.”
  • “The next election will be won with the digital voice.”
  • “What is utility without wonder and delight?”
  • “By 2020, 40% of the workforce will be entrepreneurs.”
  • “Economic development should be utilized to fund jobs and ideas.”
  • “Millennial’s don’t care about their car or driver’s license.”
  • “Follow your passion; start doing things that you are interested in; empower people to reach their full potential.”
  • “Politics is too important to be left to politicians.”
  • “If you have an opinion, express it!”
  • “Risk and failure are part of success.”
  • “Solve problems in new ways for the benefit of others.”
  • Challenge the old saying, “this is the way it’s always been done.”
  • “Innovation is only built by passionate, talented, cross-discipline teams working interactively.”
  • “Innovation comes in all shapes and sizes, hire the right team.”
  • “There is no substitute for doing something that will inspire someone.”
  • “Decisions made in the 20th century, are devastating in the 21st century.”

The trip to Austin and the connections I made were extremely beneficial to me and the Economic Development department of the City of West Des Moines. The City hosted, along with the Iowa Economic Development Authority and others, the #IowaHour on Sunday, March 15, 2015, at a venue in Austin.

A recent article I found entitled, “Building and Connecting Communities for the Future,” solidified all the discussion, panel sessions and networking that I experienced at SXSW and throughout the country the last few years. The landscape is changing, that’s for sure, and the need to keep up is great. I plan to, do you?

Jo Eckert, City of West Des Moines and the West Des Moines Business Incubator

Guest Post – CF Industries’ Sioux City Expansion on Track for 2016 Completion

CF Industries is closely linked to the Midwest agricultural community. Starting as an alliance of farmers’ cooperatives seeking stable fertilizer supplies in the 1940s, we have undergone dramatic growth in the last 75 years. Today, CF Industries is a worldwide leader in nitrogen fertilizer manufacturing and distribution. We operate seven nitrogen fertilizer complexes in the central U.S. and Canada as well as an extensive network of fertilizer distribution terminals and warehouses in the Midwest.

In 2012, CF Industries invested heavily in the Iowa economy with the announcement of their planned construction of new nitrogen facilities at their Port Neal Complex near Sioux City. This project will triple the site’s ammonia production capacity, enable the manufacture of granulated urea, generate more than 100 permanent CF Industries jobs and create up to 700 other positions in related industries. In addition to jobs, the additional fertilizer capacity at the Port Neal plant will provide a more certain supply of plant nutrients at lower transportation costs.

Construction workers at Port Neal location, March 2014. To complete the expansion, nearly 2,000 construction workers will be needed. Photo by: Dawn J. Sagert, Sioux City Journal
Construction workers at Port Neal location, March 2014. To complete the expansion, nearly 2,000 construction workers will be needed. Photo by: Dawn J. Sagert, Sioux City Journal

The Iowa agricultural community has played an important role in the success of CF Industries over the past 75 years. More importantly, the hard work and commitment of the men and women in this sector has helped to provide a safe and abundant world food supply. CF Industries is proud of Iowa’s role in American agriculture.

-CF Industries

Improving Animal Health & Nutrition Worldwide – Diamond V

The Agriculture Council of America (ACA) has marked a day each year, National Ag Day, for public awareness of agriculture’s impact. It’s been a day of celebration across the nation and globally and especially in Iowa. Iowa farmers and agricultural companies around the state have celebrated ongoing success in helping to grow Iowa as a leader in agricultural innovation. Following another great National Ag Day, we can reflect on Iowa’s leadership in agriculture and how proud we are to be an Iowa company.

At Diamond V, we have worked hard to become a leader and trusted expert in all-natural nutritional health products that improve nutrition, health, and performance in livestock, poultry, aquaculture species, and companion animals. For more than 70 years, research by our teams of scientists worldwide has lead to the development of innovative products that promote safe, efficient, animal production and enhance food safety. We’ve made ensuring the health and well-being of animals around the globe a top priority. Just as important, however, has been to ensure the cost efficiency of our products for the world’s farmers. With our global headquarters and research and innovation center located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Diamond V has built on its prime location in a state ideal for companies looking to stay at the forefront of agriculture.

National Ag Day is the perfect chance to highlight the role Iowa has played in our nation’s agricultural history. Iowa is not only the leading producer of corn, pork, and eggs, but also ranks second in overall national agricultural exports. Our state also provides companies access to top resources to spur new development and technology in the ag industries. Iowa’s leadership is integral to feeding the world. We could not be more excited to continue our growth in Iowa and applaud the ACA’s National Ag Day program for increasing awareness of U.S. agriculture and its importance to consumers everywhere.

– Jeff Cannon, President & CEO, Diamond V