Conference Starts a Week from Today - Monday Memo 6/1/21

June 1, 2021

It’s Almost Here; 118th Annual ABI Convention NEXT WEEK

The 118th Annual ABI Convention, the 2021 Taking Care of Business Conference, kicks-off a week from today, starting with networking activities right out of the gate that morning and afternoon.  Various locations around Coralville/Iowa City will be the focus next Tuesday.  The terrific brand new Xtreme Arena is the setting for the Gala Opening Reception, which will be held Tuesday evening.  The Reception, a fun, high energy event, will be something you do not want to miss.  

As with every ABI convention, there are many program highlights from which to choose.  However, it is clear that the keynote sessions featuring internationally-known speakers Dr. Tarika Barrett, Geoff Colvin, and Tom Bedell will draw fantastic crowds.  In keeping with tradition, Governor Kim Reynolds and Lieutenant Governor Adam Gregg will also address the conference.  Informative workshops will fill the afternoon on Wednesday.  

As I noted last week, the Chair’s Dinner Wednesday evening will be unlike any ABI has ever seen.  Held at Big Grove Brewery (, this event will be fabulous, fun, and tasty!  The annual ABI Foundation Auction, Leadership Iowa graduation, and a final session Thursday will make this a conference for the ages.  Always the source of the very best business networking in Iowa, come to the conference and choose your own highlight from the great series of events, speakers, and venues that await you.  

If you haven’t registered, that is not a problem… but almost 500 people HAVE already registered!  Go now to and click on the conference icon on the page.  Or simply reply to this message and I'll make sure you are registered right away.  On behalf of ABI Chair Steven Bradford (HNI Corporation, Muscatine) and our other officers, we look forward to seeing you next week in Coralville/Iowa City! 

FABULOUS Items for Foundation Auction

As I noted last week and above, the ABI Foundation holds an auction in conjunction with ABI's annual Taking Care of Business Conference.  Each year, the auction items are spectacular.  This year is no exception and there are truly terrific items included in this year's auction.  

The Online Silent Auction launches on June 1 at 8:00 a.m. and silent bidding concludes on June 9 at 8:00 p.m.  The In-Person Live Auction, containing exclusive prize packages, will take place during the Chair’s Dinner at the Annual Conference on Wednesday, June 9.  Click here for more information:  

A special thank you goes to former ABI Board Member Nate Weaton (Weaton Capital, Fairfield), who will again serve as the auctioneer for the evening.  We are deeply grateful to him and to all of you for your support.  

5-Meeting ABI Regional Policy Tour Kicks-Off Next Week; Concludes in Ottumwa in July

Following adjournment of the Iowa General Assembly each year, the ABI public policy team hits the road for a series of meetings about the session, how actions taken impact your business, and to gather your views about policy issues for the next year.  While last year’s regional meetings had to be held by Zoom, in the weeks ahead, the ABI staff is coming to you in person. 

The first regional meeting will be held next Wednesday as a part of the Taking Care of Business Conference at the Coralville Marriott.  Four more stops will be held around Iowa, including visits to Council Bluffs, Sioux City, Des Moines, and Ottumwa.  The tour ends with the event in Ottumwa on July 15th.  Click here for more information:  The agenda includes a review of the 2021 session of the Iowa General Assembly and a focus on obtaining your thoughts about ABI's priorities for 2022.  The participation of so many members across Iowa is what makes the meetings so successful.  

Fantastic ABI Okoboji CEO Forum Drawing Lots of Registrations

While it was not possible to hold the ABI Okoboji CEO Forum last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is coming back bigger and better than ever in 2021.  In fact, registrations are already pouring in for the event, which will be held July 29 and 30. 

The Iowa Great Lakes Region is the setting for the terrific event, which as you will recall was created at the request of ABI members all over Iowa.  Register now at to hear terrific speakers, tour a classic ABI member company, and network with ABI member executives. 

The program features a high-value presentation by members of the ABI Advisory Council, a family business panel involving ABI board members/owners of iconic Iowa companies, a keynote address by company Chairman, President, and CEO Dan Houston (Principal, Des Moines), and an address and tour led by ABI member and well-known Lakes Area businessman Butch Parks (Parks Marina, Okoboji).  This is a fantastic program; register now using the link above! 

Register Now for ABI Executive Open

It is time for me to share the story I often tell of the time an ABI staff member approached me with an idea for a late-summer, early-fall golf outing.  I said something like, “No one wants another golf outing, but sure let’s try it.” 

Well, the event sells-out every year and this was one more example (there are many) of me being wrong.  This year’s ABI Executive Open will be held at Des Moines Golf and Country Club on Monday, August 30.  Everyone loves the venue, as Des Moines Golf is one of the Midwest’s finest and most beautiful private clubs.  Learn more about it here:  While the course is fantastic, the real reason the event is so popular is because of the terrific networking and fun that are a part of it. 

Register now by clicking on this link:  You can register yourself or as part of a foursome.  And, even if you don’t golf, join the crowd for the reception that caps the afternoon.  See you at Des Moines Golf! 

Miller Products Mentors Clarke Community Schools Students

In Osceola, ABI member Miller Products Co. has long worked with metal.  And students! 

The company, a longtime ABI member, was recently recognized for its mentorship of students at Clarke Community High School.  Miller employees sponsored a student group that participated in an annual welding event that took place at Southwestern Community College’s Osceola Campus.  Read more about this cool event here: Miller Team Mentors Local Manufacturing Hopefuls (  Congratulations to the students and to everyone at Miller, including company president and ABI Board Member Jack McFarland (Miller Products Co., Osceola) for the program and the partnership! 

CBJ China & Trade Symposium

Last Wednesday, ABI member Corridor Business Journal hosted a China & Trade Symposium.  Forum speakers shared some very interesting information. 

The keynote speaker at the forum was former Iowa Governor and former U.S. Ambassador to China Terry E. Branstad.  Governor Branstad has a well-known personal relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping.  Given that, I thought perhaps the former ambassador’s comments about China would be somewhat subdued.  I should have known better. 

Governor Branstad was sharply critical of China’s lack of reform.  He believes China can and must do much more to be an equitable trading partner.  There was more, and you can go to and read the current edition of the CBJ to see it. 

In the panel that followed Governor Branstad, four China experts weighed-in.  Two were particularly interesting, with real world counsel about China.  One was Doug Hundt, who is President, Industrial at ABI member Vermeer Corporation.  Doug is a leader in Vermeer’s China operations.  The other was Seema Shah, Chief Strategist at Principal Global Investors

As for your business’ investment in China, Ms. Shah says that you must invest.  But be strategic, don’t just “invest in China,” study and make targeted investments.  And when it comes to doing business in China, Mr. Hundt says to first benchmark against other companies who are already operating in China.  Find out what they are doing to be successful.  Next, study the mandates the Chinese government imposes on foreign operators and be sure you are able to comply.  Then, you must have a rock-solid commitment from company leaders to steward the resources (financial and otherwise) it will take to be successful.  It will take time and resources and without this commitment, you might not succeed.  Lastly, find a trusted local partner.  

Mr. Hundt, Ms. Shah, and other panelist also discussed supply chain issues and the rising cost of steel.  Again see the CBJ for more and thank you to the CBJ for a fascinating event.  Note: It was a pleasure to see former ABI Chair David Bywater (Bankers Advertising/Tru Art, Iowa City) at the event. 

Former Chair David Fisher Passes

News came Sunday that former ABI Chair David Fisher (Onthank Company, Des Moines) passed away in his sleep Saturday night.  David had not been ill and had been feeling well.  David had been a great leader and ambassador for ABI for many years.  He was a leader in Des Moines and in our state, having chaired the commission on reducing government waste and restructuring that came to be known as The Fisher Commission. 

We just saw David last month at the ABI May board meeting.  He looked great and as always, was cheerful and positive.  He will be greatly missed and I will share more news when it is available.  Thank you to former ABI Chair Charese Yanney (Guarantee Roofing and Siding, Sioux City) for making sure I heard of David’s untimely passing.  We celebrate David’s life and our prayers are with his family. 

Scholarly Corroboration of Importance Emotional Intelligence

In last week’s memorandum, I shared some interesting information from longtime ABI Board Member Kelly Barrick (CIBC Bank, West Des Moines).  Kelly shared some notes related to information gleaned from discussions with business leaders (many of them ABI members) around the state. 

One thing Kelly mentioned was something called emotional intelligence.  After reading the memo, this factor and its importance was corroborated by a scholarly source.  Dr. Peter Ralston, who is a member of the faculty at the Ivy College of Business at Iowa State University, has written (with colleagues) about emotional intelligence.  In fact, Dr. Ralston passed along some recent research he completed with some co-authors from the University of West Florida. 

The team surveyed supervisors of trucking dock workers and warehouses to assess supervisors’ thoughts on their own emotional intelligence impacting the performance of employees they supervised. The supervisors passed along that they felt their emotional intelligence did positively impact the operation from reduced employee turnover, a better commitment to the organization, and improved quality (a reduction of errors). The reason why the research authors thought this was so cool was because emotional intelligence can be developed in employees. 

The researchers believe a case can be made that it would be easier to develop the emotional intelligence of supervisors than to continuously pay workers higher and higher wages. So companies should start with high wages for employees, ensure a positive workplace environment, have a good benefit package, and have supervisors that can positively interact with employees through emotional intelligence and there are immediate dividends. 

In an article about the study, authors laid out 7 steps for organizations to develop the emotional intelligence of their supervisors. If you wish to see the article for yourself, please reply to this message and I’ll get it to you at once.  In the meantime, thank you again to Kelly for her insights and thank you to Peter for his additional information. 

The Business of ABI: Serving Members

Remember to call on ABI.  Your investment in our association each year comes with an expectation from us that we will provide a return on that investment.  We want to help. 

For some members, thinking about ABI doesn’t come naturally.  It should.  For example, you might recall that last year at this time, ABI helped members with many things.  We found and connected ABI members with Plexiglas vendors and with personal protective equipment.  We helped find new vendors for supply chain issues.  We provided clear guidance on policies and state and federal laws.  We helped arrange financing in a couple of cases.  We continued to press (successfully) for changes in laws and regulations that had genuine benefit for Iowa employers.  Later, we helped arrange COVID vaccination clinics for members. 

The point is that is what we do, and we’ll keep at it.  While ABI maintains a host of existing programs and services, during special circumstances, we’ll try to add value in other ways, however you need us to do so.  Don’t forget to call on ABI when can be of assistance.  And thank you for your support which makes that assistance possible.