State leadership tours Great Lakes Communication
Reynolds, Gregg get inside look at unique family business model
Josh Nelson, CEO of Great Lakes Communication Corp., along with his staff and family -- interchangeable terms at the local business operation -- had an opportunity to showcase the company's innovative business model with an audience including the state's highest elected officials Wednesday morning.
As part of the Iowa administration's annual 99-county tour stop effort, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg began their day in northwest Iowa at the locally grown family business' Generations complex in the West Spencer Industrial Park.
"We're family," Karli Kelley, operations director with IGL TeleConnect, told Reynolds and Gregg.
"I love it," Reynolds responded. "That's what we do."
Kelley was one of several staff members who shared a little information about the many businesses represented under the Generations roof. Many of the company leaders presented to Reynolds and Gregg along with local elected officials, District 2 Rep. Megan Jones and District 1 Sen. David Johnson.
Great Lakes Communication was born from a partnership between Nelson and his parents, Candie and Jerry Nelson, who sold the family farm to help finance the startup of the company as it looked to break into the communication industry. Josh Nelson, who took a job with a local phone company in 1995, straight out of high school, installing fiber, telephone and cable television, would gain more experience as a fiber optic tech with Iowa Network Services and communications manager with Spencer Municipal Utilities before entering into the family partnership in 2005. Josh Nelson's entrepreneurial spirit led him to expand his business interests into a new partnership with Kevin Robinson and John Zulk, creating On Point Strategic Group.
OPSG has since started or invested in multiple businesses. Iowa Great Lakes has also added staffing and construction services under its continually expanding business umbrella which includes services ranging from telecommunications and STEM programming to golf balls, ammunition and personalized weight training.
"There is a lot of opportunity and progressive things being done right here in northwest Iowa. We want her to see that," said Kellie Beneke, president of GLCC. "... The advantages we have in northwest Iowa and highlight all the things we do to make it a place to live, work and play,"
Key to the business' recent success, according to its leadership team, is the "family-friendly" environment which encourages bringing kids and pets to work, taking time off as needed, and working side-by-side to get the job done in partnerships that span all of the companies.
"Having all of our employees under one roof has allowed us to capitalize on our strengths," Beneke explained.
"The various companies use the employees?" Reynolds asked.
"We cross-share everything," Josh Nelson responded, noting the use of the IGL Staffing base.
"That's so smart," Reynolds said
"Our employees are important to us," Beneke said.
"They make us," Jerry Nelson added.
Reynolds was impressed with the On Point Strategic Group which cultivates, invests and partners in development of business concepts and ideas including All Star Pro Golf, Golf Ball Country, Nature's Fury, Blue Lakes Brass, Blue Lakes Ammo and Mock Medical.
"This is perfect," she said.
The governor, having just visited with the Okoboji Entrepreneurial Institute participants a day earlier, asked if the OPSG had reached out to the educational program? The response came amidst grins as the GLCC hosts informed her they were scheduled for a visit Thursday.
Reynolds was equally impressed with the local impact IGL Construction was having in residential development efforts in the Great Lakes Corridor business region.
IGL Construction built a 23 home development in Spencer and an additional, similar housing in a development at the Lakes to help address demand for homes under $200,000. The construction group partners with local governmental bodies, economic development groups and financial institutions to offer buyers special financial incentives.
"How can I take what you're doing into other parts of the state?" Reynolds asked, suggesting that Iowa's available housing demand is a drawback to the state's business expansion efforts.
"We get a lot of requests from other towns, 'Can you do it here?'" Josh Nelson said, suggesting the local community partnerships are the key, citing many of the area government and civic relationships.
He added, "Our local banks are really supportive of what we're doing."
"This is really what we need to see happening," Reynolds said. "There has to be community involvement with total engagement. It just doesn't happen otherwise."
A former Reynolds' staffer now serves as GLCC executive manager. Greta Rouse, who joined the group for the tour, served as deputy communications director and scheduler in the office of Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Reynolds from January 2013 to December 2014. During that time Rouse coordinated Reynolds' schedule, assisted with press and media communication, and often traveled with Reynolds.
"Great Lakes Communication Corp., and its family of companies enjoyed hosting Governor Reynolds and Lieutenant Governor Gregg this morning," Josh Nelson said following the visit. "We hope they witnessed firsthand the progressive work environment we try to create for career-minded individuals in northwest Iowa."
He added, "GLCC has a commitment to the diversification of companies so it was a great opportunity to show Governor Reynolds and Lieutenant Governor Gregg a glimpse of what goes on in the Generations building."