Benton Development Group and Iowa County Community Development board members gathered on Friday to celebrate their new partnership with a symbolic ribbon cutting. The two groups met at Hannen Park near the county border on the Benton / Iowa Highway.
Benton and Iowa County organizations are promoting the quality of life in their rural counties, actively recruiting new industries, and helping current businesses solve challenges ranging from expansion to labor needs. ‘work. The goal of the partnership is to compete more effectively for the attention of new businesses and potential residents. Current director of Benton’s development group, Kate Robertson, has been working part-time under a sharing deal with the Iowa County organization for several months and will be the director of the new joint organization.
“Members of the two economic development councils understand that economic development is not a zero-sum competitive game between our two small rural counties. Residents cross the county border to find jobs, health care and other services, and these interrelationships improve opportunities for everyone, ”said Robertson. “If competition is the lens someone wants to use, then the main competitors we should be concerned about are the larger, more urban areas of Iowa.”
Robertson is incredibly excited about a major initiative to familiarize high school students with the career and lifestyle opportunities available when they choose to live in or near their home community. “My office will continue to submit grant applications, respond to developer inquiries and provide resources to our businesses. But these activities are only the most basic requirements of the economic development role. A more critical role is to address the labor shortage, the erosion of our tax base and the decline in school enrollment caused when our youth choose to live elsewhere.
Iowa County Community Development Board Chair Kristie Wetjen said she was excited about the partnership as it will achieve some key goals. “Iowa County Community Development is excited about this partnership as it allows us to have two full-time staff who promote Iowa and Benton counties and present the two counties as a strong and attractive location. Benton Development has a great leader in Kate Robertson, and we value the expertise, energy and enthusiasm she brings to the organization. She is a strong advocate for Benton and Iowa counties.
“This partnership aims to capture the best of our countries and enable the two organizations to make better use of limited resources. I believe we will see results of the partnership that we would not have achieved on our own, and I look forward to expanding the opportunities for all who live in our two counties.
Dave Fish, Mayor of Belle Plaine and current Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Benton Development Group, has similar expectations. “We live in a vibrant economy where large urban counties are growing in population while the population of our counties remains essentially the same. The board of directors of Benton Development and I believe that this partnership will be an engine of growth in the years to come in all areas.
The two groups will remain independent and will rely on Robertson and an assistant who has not yet been hired to coordinate. Each group consulted with donors and other stakeholders before entering into the partnership.