Prairie Portrait: Brian Waller of the Iowa Economic Development Authority
Name: Brian Waller
Bio: Born in Sioux City, Iowa. Colorado State University alumni. Current Manager of IT Business Development of the state of Iowa and former Executive Director of the Des Moines Downtown Chamber of Commerce. His wife, Dr. Callie Waller, is a physician with Iowa Lutheran Hospital. Waller is an avid golfer, songwriter and music historian with a passion for laughing, faith, friends, family and his trusty border collie, Mr. Jenkins.
Title: Manager of Information Technology Business Development for the Iowa Economic Development Authority
Residence: Des Moines, Iowa
Intro music: "Highwayman," by The Highwaymen
Silicon Prairie News: In the nine months since you started your gig with the IEDA, what are a couple of the most important things you've learned?
Brian Waller: 1. Know your role. When working for a state agency such as IEDA, I realize that sometimes we lead, sometimes we follow and sometimes we get out of the way, but we always advocate for our state’s business community, both big and small.
2. There are no “stop and dance” moments after victories in economic development. You simply move on to the next project and try to advance your state’s cause in a way that would benefit its citizens today and build a platform for the future.
SPN: What's your typical elevator pitch to IT companies for why they should set roots in or relocate to Iowa?
BW: The goal of the “elevator pitch” is to simply plant a seed and invite them to the party. There is a movement and shift in culture that is HAPPENING in Iowa right now in the IT, entrepreneurial and startup scene. Everyone wants to be a part of progress and something special … Iowa is just that right now. I acknowledge a hurdle is the stigma that Iowa isn’t a place to live, so I invite you to Iowa to try it on for size. I am so confident in my state that I am willing to give out my personal cell phone number (515-418-3553) so I can help when you take me up on my offer and visit. So that’s my pitch … and if that doesn’t work I just talk about Dwolla and Ashton Kutcher.
SPN: As someone whose work involves lots of cultivating relationships, what are three tech tools you find handiest in managing those relationships?
BW: Email, Twitter, Linkedin. However for me cultivating and managing relationships has very little to do with technology and everything to do with empathy.
SPN: This year, you made your debut at both South By Southwest and Big Omaha. What do you look to bring away from tech conferences like those that you can apply in your day-to-day work?
BW: The future of the world exists at these tech conferences, and that is something the state of Iowa will be a part of. I personally try to apply the honesty and creative solution-oriented spirit at these tech conferences into my job. I believe deeply that I need to put my own personal creativity into how I go about my job in representing and selling the great state of Iowa and that spirit comes from these conferences.
SPN: You're a golf and music enthusiast. Time to fuse those two interests. Imagine you're forming a golf foursome with any three musicians of all time. Who makes the cut, and why?
BW: Awesome question …
1. Bob Dylan is riding in my cart. I respect a man who can set the truth on fire, and that’s Dylan, the greatest songwriter the world has ever seen.
2. Elvis Presley, the first rock star. He would have great stories and I bet when he drains a long putt he does a celebratory “old Elvis” Kung Fu move.
3. Sam Cooke, the greatest singer of ALL TIME, and he liked to have a good time (which makes for a fun golf partner). I’m pretty sure Sam Cooke’s music is played in the lobby of heaven as you check in.
Credits: Photo courtesy of Waller.
Prairie Portraits: To learn more about this series, see our introduction post, or visit our archives for past Prairie Portraits. To suggest an individual for a future Prairie Portrait, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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