New businesses build change in Ames

Frances Myers

With all the construction occurring this summer, changes are taking place all over Ames, including the presence of new businesses.

Dan Culhane, president and CEO of the Ames Chamber of Commerce, has talked of several new businesses coming to Ames. Included in these is Texas Roadhouse on Duff Avenue, which is scheduled to open July 23. Other new businesses are Kohls, T.J. Maxx, Chipotle Mexican Grill and Aspen Dental. 

Also, some Ames businesses are expanding.

“Theisen’s out on Dayton [Avenue] is expanding, and then we’ve got some other companies that are expanding too,” Culhane said. “United Supplier is going to be moving their corporate headquarters here to Ames from Eldora. A company out of Mountain View, Calif., Solum Technology, is opening an operation here in Ames and is opening 25 to 40 pretty significant employment opportunities.” 

Culhane also said the renovations being performed on North Grand Mall is encouraging as well.

“North Grand Mall has a long history in this community and has some wonderful tenants in the mall but is in need of real revitalization,” Culhane said. “Fortunately, we’re seeing some of that now with the T.J.Maxx store and Kohls store under construction.”

Part of Culhane’s job in the Chamber of Commerce is working to bring new businesses to Ames, implementing new plans and looking at businesses that will bring meaningful employment opportunities to Ames.

“Under the Chamber of Commerce fall several affiliate organizations,” Culhane said. “The Ames Economic Development Commission, the Main Street Cultural District, Campustown Action Association and then the Ames Seed Capital Fund. Our role here is to call on companies, retailers, restaurants, industries of all kinds to talk to them about the attributes of being in Ames.”

Culhane said the amount of economic development occurring in Ames is very encouraging. 

He believes the new intermodal facility will help generate a lot of new business, especially in Campustown.

“The intermodal facility in Campustown, we think, is going to be a huge, huge benefit to Campustown,” Culhane said. “Campustown is a unique shopping district yet it has room for additional shopping opportunities and food opportunities, things of that nature. We think with the opening of the intermodal facility, that will generate more interest in that part of the community. You look around the rest of the community, you have Deery Brothers [Chevrolet dealers] planning to break ground on a new car dealership this fall and Theisen’s is expanding; Wilson Toyota-Scion is expanding right now.”

Culhane said the level of construction in Ames currently, is a good sign of the times ahead.

“There is an enormous amount of construction going on within the community,” Culhane said. “And if you look at the rest of Iowa or the rest of the Midwest, you won’t see that level of investment right now. You will in some pockets, but we’ve got almost three-quarters of $1 billion in construction going on right here in Ames, which is pretty significant for a market this size. “

Culhane said Ames is a very attractive spot for businesses, due largely in part to the university.

“It starts with Iowa State,” Culhane said. “Ames is a highly vibrant place, and the driver is Iowa State. A lot of towns are deemed company towns. You get Milwaukee — they say Milwaukee is a beer town. You go to Forest City, Iowa, and you’d see Winnebago Industries is there. Well if we’re a company town, our company is Iowa State. We’ve got a lot of really cool, vibrant private sector companies here, too, but the real driver of the Ames economy is Iowa State. 

“The university is a driver not only of the vibrancy of the community; it’s also a driver of the human resource side that is so important to helping those businesses grow and survive.”