Mount Mercy alumnus shares experience of meeting President Obama

Mount Mercy alumnus Joel Althoff '02 was sure the phone call was a hoax. When he was finally convinced that the White House had indeed invited him to spend a morning with the President of the United States, he was excited for the opportunity.

Althoff was just one of five local Iowa business owners who were invited to have breakfast with President Obama last August, an opportunity which allowed small rural business owners the chance to chat with the President and share challenges and concerns.

Althoff is the president of Infrastructure Technology Solutions (ITS) in Monticello, a business that provides services for over 30 K-12 schools and around 100 mid-sized businesses in Iowa.

His business provided the perfect snapshot of a successful, small Iowa entrepreneurship. In 2009, IFS was recognized with the Iowa Venture Award through the Iowa Area Development Group (IADG), which helped grab the attention of the White House as they were searching for ideal candidates.

Getting the chance to chat with the President is a rare opportunity. "Eating breakfast in such a small group with such a powerful world leader – no matter which political side you take – and being asked to share the story of my business, my hopes and dreams for the future, and my ideas on how to grow business in our area, is quite an honor," says Althoff.

Having joined his family's business when he was just 14 years old, Althoff knows first-hand the value of work ethic, entrepreneurship and capital, and Althoff appreciated the opportunity to share his experiences and perspectives with the President.

"I have always believed that small business is the backbone of America – we employ more than half of the Country's workforce," says Althoff. "I think he [the President] took away from the conversation an awareness of the need to support small enterprises, and a better understanding of the challenges facing those organizations."

While the breakfast provided an opportunity to share insight and reflections on key aspects of small town businesses, there were also moments of levity that sparked some humorous anecdotes.

"President Obama is amazingly adept at eating while listening," says Althoff, who remembers that the President ordered a side of bacon, despite the fact that the White House panel moderator remarked, "Michelle [Obama] is not going to be happy about that."

Althoff graduated from Mount Mercy in 2002 with a degree in computer science and mathematics. 


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