2018 Annual Award Winners

Legacy AwardFulfilling the Vision of One AwardBusiness of the Year 51-plus FTEsBusiness of the Year 1-50 FTEsJohn Deere Treating Capital WellHarold Brock InnovationCedar Valley PartnerEconomic Inclusion


Legacy Award

Tom Penaluna, Chairman, CBE Companies, Inc. [video]

Tom Penaluna

Tom Penaluna is the visionary founder of CBE Companies, Inc., which he has led through multiple expansions including the acquisition of several credit service companies and substantial employment growth since 1986. What began with only 25 employees has expanded to over 1,100 today working from three operational centers in the United States and one overseas in Manila, Philippines.

Always working to develop others, Tom has served our community as a Waterloo City Council Member for eight years and past Chairman of the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber Board of Directors. He also had been appointed by the Governor to serve on the board of the Iowa Partnership for Economic Progress, which consists of CEOs from around the state who give the Governor advice on strategic initiatives to improve Iowa. Tom’s passion is around developing leaders; he has been instrumental in founding Leader Valley, an education-business partnership formed to enable Cedar Valley K-12 education to go from good to great and deliver better job candidates. However, his involvement does not stop in the Cedar Valley: he is also a valued member of a statewide board, Reaching Higher Iowa, an initiative to improve K-12 education across Iowa. Tom is a devoted husband, father of four accomplished daughters, and grandfather of four.


Fulfilling the Vision of One Award

Sue Armbrecht, North Iowa Regional President, MidWestOne Bank [video]

Sue Armbrecht

Sue Armbrecht is an action-driven leader with over 40 years of experience within multi-million dollar banking operations combining proven management abilities and consultative sales, coaching, cross-selling, marketing, and customer service. Over the years, Sue executed bank conversions and participated in the design, testing, and installation of new systems and enhancements; managed a $1 billion Loan Operations department; oversaw a Residential Mortgage department where she was instrumental in moving into the Secondary Market; integrated centralized consumer underwriting; and implemented a retail sales management philosophy to enhance growth of consumer loans, deposits, small business banking, and investments. Sue enjoys the financial industry because of the constant change – it’s never boring – and knowing that banks are here to assist customers in achieving their financial goals.

Sue enjoys giving back to her communities by getting involved in organizations. She has served as the Treasurer, Vice President, Chair, and now Past Chair for the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber Board of Directors. She served on the United Way board for six years and was the Chair person for the finance committee; she currently continues to serve on the United Way Finance Committee. She has also served on the YWCA Board and Waterloo Symphony Finance Committee. Sue is a member of the Waterloo Rotary and continues to participate on the MWOne UNIque Academic Advising Award team at University of Northern Iowa. In her personal time, she enjoys golf and fishing, and hopes to someday get back into refereeing volleyball.

Sponsored by PDCM Insurance


Business of the Year Award (51+ FTEs)

Omega Cabinetry/MasterBrand Cabinets [video]

Omega Cabinetry

When Bob Bertch and his brother Gary started in business decades ago, they operated out of their father’s barn in Washburn, Iowa. Although what began as Omega Cabinets has changed hands more than once, today Omega Cabinetry is a leading employer in the Cedar Valley with nearly 1,000 employees.
In the mid-1970s, the Bertch brothers went into business separately, Bob with Omega Cabinets and Gary with Bertch Cabinet Manufacturing. After 20 years, Bob Bertch sold his company to HomeCrest Corp. of Indiana. Since 2002, Omega has been in the MasterBrand Cabinets cabinet brand portfolio. MasterBrand Cabinets includes more than 14,000 specialists at manufacturing and service centers in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
Omega Cabinetry/MasterBrand Cabinets is one of only three certified brands with the Environmental Stewardship Program of the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association. This program recognizes manufacturers that demonstrate an ongoing commitment to sustainability and encourages practices that benefit the environment and communities served by cabinet manufacturers. By achieving this certification, the company, which exceeds the minimum requirements, has demonstrated leadership in growing a sustainable company.
Sponsored by NXT Bank

Business of the Year Award (1-50 FTEs)

Bloom Manufacturing, Inc. [video]

Bloom Manufacturing

Bloom Manufacturing’s forward-thinking approach in winch manufacturing is built upon over a century of experience. In 1901, a patent for a corn crushing and cutting machine was granted to J.S. Bloom of Winthrop, Iowa. This would become the founder’s flagship machine at J.S. Bloom Manufacturing Company, which was founded in 1910. The company specialized in wooden grain-moving elevators and other labor-saving agricultural technology.

The turn of the millennium also turned a new page for Bloom Manufacturing under the direction of current owner Mark J.H. Collett. The company places an emphasis on the design and manufacturing of industrial and mobile hydraulic winches and speed reducers under the Bloom™ Winches and Lift-Safe® Winches brands. The company’s winches are manufactured for naval boat manufacturers and the U.S. Department of Defense.

Company leadership is proud of the company’s community involvement. The company’s CEO has been on the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber Board of Directors for five years, is involved with Winnebago Council Boy Scouts of America and Lions Club, and is Past President of the Cedar Valley Manufacturers Association.

Bloom Manufacturing employs a crew of more than 20 members. Together, they support the economy of Independence, Iowa, while being worldwide leading innovators in the field of winch manufacturing.

Sponsored by Beecher, Field, Walker, Morris, Hoffman & Johnson, P.C.


John Deere Treating Capital Well Award

KWWL Television, Inc. [video]


KWWL finished a multi-year, multi-million dollar renovation of its facility in Waterloo, Iowa in 2017. The facility, formerly known as the Overland-Hanson building, is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. Built in 1916, it housed an Overland car distributor and became KWWL’s home in 1958.

KWWL leadership decided to rehabilitate the old building instead of more quickly moving to a facility in Cedar Falls which was virtually turnkey. Even though renovation was the more difficult option, the decision was made for two reasons. First, company leadership believed in being downtown: as a local broadcaster and conscious of the history, leaving downtown Waterloo didn’t feel right. Second, they did not want to expand the perception of east Waterloo as stagnant by leaving an empty 50,000-square-foot building.

Historic tax credits at the state and federal levels were employed as well as an agreement with the City of Waterloo to restore the structure. Energy tax credits were the result of improved energy efficiency of the building, including the installation of more than 50 energy-efficient windows and LED lighting throughout.

The building had strong bones, but everything else was in terrible condition. Every element of the rehabilitation was designed to “make new what was once old.” This included all mechanical, plumbing, and electrical architecture to support investment in broadcast technology. The result is a stunning, state-of-the-art digital broadcasting facility which may be the best in the state.

The finished project, which cost nearly $10 million, has dramatically improved the appearance of the entire block and ensured KWWL’s presence in downtown Waterloo for decades.

Sponsored by John Deere Waterloo Operations


Harold Brock Innovation Award

Talk to Me Technologies, LLC [video]

Talk to Me Technologies

Talk to Me Technologies was founded in 2006 with the goal to better the lives of individuals who have lost the capability to communicate. Founders Matt Dunning, Marty Gallagher, and Kate Dunning share a deeply felt conviction that everyone’s voice is, and should be valued because the ability to be heard and understood magnifies the quality of a person’s life ten-fold. They wanted to provide speech devices in a new way. In 2018, the team is celebrating its twelfth year of breaking down barriers for those whose voices have yet to be heard.
The company’s first location was a little blue house across from Overman Park. The company partnered with other small businesses to benefit from local talent to create the needed tools. During 2014-2015, an environmentally conscientious construction company helped Talk to Me Technologies leadership convert 3508 Terrace Drive into the office of their dreams.
During this time, the focus expanded to the rest of Iowa and surrounding states. The company diversified from vending machines to researching, creating, and manufacturing an array of dedicated speech generating devices.
Company leadership and employees have acquired a reputation for innovation and quality customer service, based on a belief that going that extra mile for clients should be the standard and not the exception. Clients have given them an overall satisfaction rating of 95 percent.
The team has grown as founders/co-owners have sought out community individuals who believed in the company’s mission. The company thrives on its belief of building better lives for everyone. Many on the team volunteer throughout the Cedar Valley year after year. Adding new positions has catapulted the team to 55, a mixture of full- and part-time employees who take pride in calling the Cedar Valley home.
Sponsored by ACES


Cedar Valley Partner Award

University of Northern Iowa Business & Community Services [video]

UNI Business & Community Services

In 1985, the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) began a new collaboration after it was recognized that businesses across the state were in need of knowledgeable assistance in starting, maintaining, and growing their companies. With this in mind, business development programs were created with a mission to provide statewide outreach. Over the next decade, UNI leadership and outreach programs staff devoted considerable time to better understanding local level economic development needs across the state. The outcome was the development of programs addressing specific needs such as community and economic development, entrepreneurship, and the environment. Business & Community Services (BCS) created a single point of contact for outreach and a source of information for businesses, citizens, and entrepreneurs.

BCS works with businesses, entrepreneurs, communities, and governments, providing a wide array of services from marketing research and business incubation to environmental compliance assistance and economic development. The BCS brand continues to grow and provide unsurpassed expertise and knowledge to fill the needs of Iowa businesses. Currently, 13 programs are housed under the BCS umbrella; assistance is delivered to clients in all 99 Iowa counties. In Black Hawk County alone, over the last 10 years, BCS has served more than 26,000 clients. In 2017, BCS was recognized nationally by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) with an Excellence and Innovation Award for Regional and Economic Development.

Sponsored by Access Systems


Economic Inclusion Award

UnityPoint Health - Allen Hospital [video]

UnityPoint Health – Allen Hospital takes an active role in the community to be an advocate of diversity and inclusion in the Cedar Valley.
UnityPoint Health-Allen Hospital is the only site for Project SEARCH in the Cedar Valley. Locally, Project SEARCH is a partnership between Allen Hospital, Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services, Waterloo Community Schools, and Inclusion Connection. This unique program gives students and young adults with disabilities valuable employment training by completely immersing them into a hospital environment and community.
Program participants experience total immersion in the workplace. For an entire academic year, students are onsite at the business each school day for a minimum of six hours. They interact with patients and other employees as would any other employee.
At the end of the year, each student is actively coached and mentored to apply and take on a job at Allen Hospital or elsewhere in the community. Last year, out of 11 interns that began the program, all 11 were employed, four of them with UnityPoint Health – Allen Hospital.
Not only does Project SEARCH allow for career exploration, it also builds awareness of the staff and community that individuals with disabilities can be equally contributing members of society.
Additionally, the health care facility is analyzing its customer/patient ethnicity base. Based on that information, UnityPoint Health – Allen Hospital is reaching out to associations and specialty groups to offer job opportunities to individuals who will create a more diverse employee group who can more closely meet specific needs of a more diverse customer/patient base.
Sponsored by Hy-Vee