Great Final Board Meeting of the Year - Monday Memo 11/20/23

November 20, 2023

ABI Holds Last Board Meeting of Calendar Year; Geilenfeld, Kadansky Elected

Last week in Des Moines, members of the ABI Board of Directors met for the final board meeting of 2023.  During the meeting, two new board members were elected.  Congratulations to Rachel Geilenfeld (Chevron REG, Ames) and Richard Kadansky (LYB, Clinton)

Strong attendance and great discussion marked the day.  While there were several highlights, robust board participation was chief among them.  Another highlight was definitely the ice cream treats brought by ABI Board Member Lesley Bartholomew (Wells Enterprises, Le Mars)!  Everyone enjoyed the treats and mention was made of the famous sketch from NBC’s Saturday Night Live television show that featured Well’s Blue Bunny brand (though Wells had nothing to do with the sketch and did not know about it beforehand).  If you wish to see it, click on this link:  In the meantime, thank you again for the tasty treats, Lesley! 

And, thank you to all board members and former board chairs for your participation in a great meeting.  On behalf of ABI Vice Chair Chad Reece (Winnebago Industries, Forest City), thank you for helping the final 2023 board meeting go so well. 

ABI to Host Connecting Leaders Event December 7 in Fairfield

ABI will soon host another event designed to bring value to your company.  On the morning of December 7, ABI will host the next in a series of Connecting Statewide Leaders events.  Following that event, which features a terrific panel of great manufacturing leaders, attendees will join the Leadership Iowa class for lunch.  Former ABI Chair Lori Schaefer-Weaton (Agri-Industrial Plastics Company, Fairfield), ABI Board Member Rich Dwyer (KENT Corporation, Muscatine), and ABI member company executive Kevin Gaul (Pella Corporation, Pella) are on tap for the panel.  You can register for the Connecting Statewide Leaders event now at Summary - Connecting Statewide Leaders - Fairfield (      

December Executive Committee Teleconference in Three Weeks; January 10 is Date for Next ABI Board Meeting

The final meeting of the ABI Executive Committee for 2023 is scheduled to be held three weeks from Wednesday, on December 13.  The week after next, committee members will receive the usual packet to help in preparing for the meeting, which will be called to order by ABI Vice Chair Chad Reece (Winnebago Industries, Forest City) at 10:00 a.m. 

The board will meet the next month.  The ABI Board of Directors will hold its regularly scheduled January meeting on Wednesday, January 10, 2024.  Because it falls on the same day as the annual ABI Legislative Reception, the January meeting is typically one of the best-attended of the year.  Please mark your calendars now for January 10. 

Next ABI Automation Summit in Carroll December 12th

As I mentioned in last week’s memorandum, ABI’s series of automation summits have proven wildly popular.  After holding the first one in a blizzard very early in the year and drawing almost a hundred people, attendance for each of the summits has been terrific.  They are a great forum for learning more about how automation can help your company, how to get into it easily and efficiently, and how to do so cost-effectively.  

The next summit will be held on the Carroll campus of DMACC (Des Moines Area Community College) on December 12thABI, DMACC, CIRAS, and ABI member company Kinetic Technologies are partnering to produce this event.  To register and/or find more information, go here: Summary - Automation Summit (

Leadership Iowa Class Heads to Fairfield in December; Foundation Highlights #GivingTuesday

Fairfield is the site for the third session of ABI’s 2023-2024 Leadership Iowa Class.  The class will meet there for a session focused on manufacturing on December 6-8.  

In other ABI Foundation news, the ABI Foundation is gearing up for #GivingTuesday, which is a global generosity movement. The hashtag signifies a global day of giving fueled by social media and collaboration.  The event is celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving and the widely-represented shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  Please support the ABI Foundation through #GivingTuesday.  Click here to donate: Pay Online | Iowa Association of Business and Industry (  

Annual Shine Bros. Holiday Event is December 15

Each year, the good folks at longtime ABI member company Shine Bros. Corp. host a terrific holiday gathering.  The 2023 event will be held December 15 from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m. at the company’s Spencer headquarters.  Many of you have attended this event in past years and know that it is a great time for fellowship and good cheer.  If you have questions or need information, please contact/RSVP to Vicki at Shine Bros. at (712) 262-5579, extension 113, or  For now, thank you to former ABI Chair Toby Shine (Shine Bros. Corp., Spencer) and former ABI Board Member Eva Shine (Shine Bros. Corp., Spencer) for the invite! 

Brad Hartkopf Returns from ATRA Conference

ABI Senior Director Public Policy Brad Hartkopf represented ABI during the annual meeting of the American Tort Reform Association last week. ATRA has long been an ABI partner and the annual conference provides great information from a variety of speakers and experts.  The event was held in Atlanta, Georgia and Brad came back with information that will help ABI advance its public policy work in the upcoming legislative session.  Thank you, Brad, for attending. 

Michele Farrell to Serve as ABI Consultant through the End of the Year

As was announced at last week’s board meeting, though Michele Farrell’s last official staff day was Friday, she will remain a consultant to ABI through the end of calendar year 2023.  This is terrific news and we are grateful to Michele for working with us to complete projects and confirm relationships with ABI members and partners.  Starting in 2024, Michele will remain an enthusiastic ABI advocate and partner.  Thank you and very best wishes, Michele! 

State Leaders Will Attend 2024 ABI Legislative Reception; Register Now

Key state leaders such as Governor Kim Reynolds, Lieutenant Governor Adam Gregg, and all 150 members of the Iowa General Assembly have been invited to the 2024 ABI Legislative Reception.  As you know, this event is one of the most popular events ABI hosts all year long.  Past receptions have regularly drawn in excess of 500 people, including more legislators of both parties than at any other similar event.  

The attendance of these state officials is one more confirmation of your importance to Iowa policy makers.  They attend because YOU attend. 

You can register by clicking on the following link: Summary - Legislative Briefing and Reception (  The 2024 ABI Briefing and Reception will be held Wednesday, January 10 at the Iowa Events Center in downtown Des Moines.  Plenty of convenient parking is available nearby.  

I hope you will attend the reception, which is a very important event.  Of course it is a lot of fun and you’ll see great ABI colleagues from all over Iowa.  Even more vital, however, is your discussion with your local legislators.  Building relationships between legislators and ABI members is what the event is all about.   Your perspective is a crucial component in helping Iowa policymakers understand the needs and concerns of business people in our state.  On behalf of our ABI officers, I look forward to seeing you in Des Moines on January 10. 

NAM Report Highlights Wins in the Battle Against Inflation

This week's Monday Economic Report from the National Association of Manufacturers, carried a feature story on wins in battling inflation, but noted the Federal Reserve Board is not likely change interest rates next month.  The NAM also noted manufacturing production fell slightly last month; there was more news as well.  If you would like to see the report for yourself, please reply to this memo and I will get it to you at once. 

Mike Happe Named E&Y Entrepreneur of the Year

ABI members well recall remarks delivered by President and CEO Michael Happe (Winnebago Industries, Eden Prairie) at the annual manufacturing conference a few years ago.  People STILL talk about his visionary comments and leadership.  Well, Mr. Happe has been named National Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young.  This prestigious honor has long been recognized as an elite award for business leaders who think and act boldly.  Go here to read more: Winnebago Industries’ Michael Happe Captures Top Honor as Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2023 National Overall Award Recipient - Winnebago Industries (  ABI sends congratulations to Mr. Happe, to ABI Vice Chair Chad Reece (Winnebago Industries, Forest City), and to everyone at Winnebago!  

Rick Tollakson Receives Easter Seals Honor

Longtime ABI Board Member Rick Tollakson (Hubbell Realty Company, West Des Moines) was honored by Easter Seals Iowa last week.  Rick received the prestigious McAninch Family Philanthropy Award in recognition of his leadership and generosity.  This is a terrific honor and well deserved.  Read more here: Tollakson awarded McAninch Family Philanthropy Award (  ABI salutes Rick Tollakson; congratulations, Rick! 

Chip Reeves Featured in CBJ Cover Story

It was fun to pick up the current edition of the Corridor Business Journal because as you know it includes the latest edition of ABI’s Business Monthly.  However, that wasn’t the only fun thing to read. 

The cover story in the CBJ this week is about why athletes often become successful business leaders. One of those featured in the story is bank CEO and new ABI Board Member Chip Reeves (MidWestOne, Iowa City).  It’s a great read and you should have received this edition because of your membership on the ABI Board of Directors.  If you didn’t receive it, reply to this memo and we’ll make sure you get it.  Chip talks about the importance of assembling a good team, quick thinking, and grit as some of the factors that lead to success (and there is a fun photo of Chip included in the article).  Great stuff from him and others quoted in the article.  Congratulations on the great press, Chip! 

Merrill Manufacturing Former Exporter of the Year

During last week’s meeting of the ABI Board of Directors, mention was made of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s desire for nominations for the national Small Business Person of the year and the Exporter of the Year Awards.  See last week’s memo or reply to this message and I’ll get you more information. 

In the meantime, it was a pleasure to learn that longtime ABI member Merrill Manufacturing was named the Exporter of the Year for the Midwest Division of the United States by the SBA in 2012.  Belated congratulations to ABI Board Member Steve Anderson (Merrill Manufacturing, Storm Lake) and his team for this big honor! 

The Business of ABI: Cash and Cash Flow

Because it was discussed at the November meeting a year ago, I included some information about ABI’s cash position and our cash flow in the Monday Memo following that board meeting.  And because it demonstrates the strength YOU have built for ABI, let me recap that information again this week. 

The bottom line is that, thanks to the board’s leadership, the financial performance of ABI is dramatically different than it was 18 years ago.  While we could focus on many others, two financial metrics demonstrate this success.  1) 18 years ago, the equity on ABI’s balance sheet was less than $147,000.  2) The association’s cash position stood at $79,000 – not $790,000, but $79,000.  That’s like having $50 in your checking account… it’s not sustainable.  Today, equity is closer to $1.7 million.  The cash position also routinely hovers around $1 million. 

You will recall that following the discussion of cash and cash flow last year, the board adopted a policy of reviewing it every few years.  So, look for more information in the future.  In the meantime and because I’ll never forget the dark days of years past, believe me when I say that I follow this metric VERY closely. 

As I have in the past, I would note that former ABI Chair Kirk Tyler (Atlantic Coca-Cola Bottling Company, Des Moines) was the first ABI leader to suggest to me that we needed to develop cash reserves of a million dollars.  When Kirk said it, I thought we could never get there.  But, we put a plan together, got to work, and made it happen.  Specifically, as I shared during the board meeting, that cash position is what we utilize for cash flow and to fund daily operations. 

It’s that way with regard to so many things at ABI.  So many former board chairs and board members have led us to so many new things I can’t name them all (I can, but it would make for a longer memo than you want to read).  YOUR leadership is the spark for some big initiative, some change that leads to greater value and improved performance.  THANK YOU for all of it and for the opportunity to work for you and with a great team.