Iowa Lakes Tietz Center Wants to Connect with Local Entrepreneurs

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This is the first in a planned series of stories about entrepreneurship and the Iowa Lakes Community College Tietz Entrepreneurial Center in Algona.

As a prelude to National Entrepreneurship Week, celebrated the third week of February annually, it is fitting to spotlight local entrepreneurs whose passion and perseverance have contributed to Kossuth county’s strong economic development. At the intersection of Highways 169 and 18 in Algona, you can see the work of local entrepreneur Don Tietz.

In the 1970s, Tietz saw a need for commercial development along this major highway location. His initiative and fortitude spurred the development of Algona’s first shopping centers, McDonald’s and Godfather’s Pizza on the west side of Highway 169, and a shopping center including Hy-Vee on the east side of Highway 169. Today, the four-corner area continues to evolve and thrive and is the gateway welcoming many into our community.

Tietz recognized and seized the opportunity. That is what entrepreneurs do; they see a problem or opportunity and create solutions. Being an entrepreneur can be rewarding, but identifying a need and pursuing a business does not come without challenges and risks.

As a young man, Tietz set his career sights on law enforcement. He was a patrolman with the Algona Police Department for several years before migrating to Tampa, Florida, where he joined the Tampa Police Department, serving three years and climbing the ranks of law enforcement when an on-the-job brush with death experience caused him to reevaluate his mortality and what he really wanted to do with his life.

Tietz returned home to Iowa, worked with his father on the family farm, and built a house. That was his first experience in home construction. Building one house led to two, then four, and the rest is history. His work ethic and entrepreneurial determination led to the creation of a successful construction and commercial real estate development company, Build-A-Rama, that constructed commercial properties in Algona, as well as throughout Iowa and into Minnesota.

Tietz encountered opposition and adversity throughout his commercial real estate developer career, much like the headwinds he battled as a young pilot. Yet, he understood challenges were part of the process on the path to attaining his goals. Like many entrepreneurs, Tietz surrounded himself with mentors who shared their knowledge, encouragement and support. He is one of thirteen original members of the YPO (Young Presidents’ Organization) in Iowa, a group dedicated to connecting successful young executives with their global network of peers.

Today, Don Tietz’s entrepreneurial endeavors continue to center on Algona, the community he has invested in and helped build. Tietz’s lifelong love for Algona and Kossuth county is visible beyond the developed four-corner intersection of Highway 169 and 18. Take a drive south on Hall Street, and you will come upon the picturesque natural habitat, Wildhaven, a preserve spanning 100+ acres that is home to the likes of white-tailed deer, wild turkey, bald eagles, and many fish and micro-organisms living in the Des Moines River. Tietz bought the property, which was a farm and abandoned gravel pit, in the mid 1960s. Now owned by the Donald R. Tietz Foundation, the property is used by area science educators to teach students about ecology, natural habitat, Native American settlers, and the importance of protecting and enjoying our natural environment. The Wildhaven campus mission challenges the people of Kossuth County to “Create a diverse local economy that is entrepreneur driven” and “Invest in youth who want to learn and make our community their home.”

Don Tietz and the Donald R. Tietz Charitable Foundation, comprised of members Conley Nelson, Darren Tietz, Susan Doster and Donna Kitzinger, are strongly committed to entrepreneurship for youth and community members. The Foundation, inspired by the lifelong work and success of Don’s friend and mentor, John Pappajohn, collaborated with Iowa Lakes Community College to establish the Tietz Entrepreneurial Center.

The Center is based at the Algona college campus and serves to provide area youth and entrepreneurs with resources, information, and education to pursue their vision, with the goal of business creation and retention to sustain a strong, vibrant Algona and Kossuth county. The entrepreneurial initiative is one way in which Tietz pays it forward, striving to nurture the entrepreneurial spark of many others who will continue to keep Algona progressive. The motto of the Tietz Entrepreneurial Center reflects Don Tietz’s lifelong mission and passion to encourage and support local entrepreneurs to “Dream It Achieve It.”

The Tietz Entrepreneurial Center welcomes the opportunity to connect with and assist entrepreneurs and businesses in the region. Watch for continued spotlight stories of local entrepreneurs.

Tietz Entrepreneurial Center Coordinator Shelly Brown: sbrown@iowalakes.edu or 515.295.8531.