Director's Report on Empower Rural Iowa Taskforce

Friday, January 04, 2019

There have been a total of three "Ideas Summits" since OEDC executive director Sharon Stroh was appointed to the Governor's Taskforce of Growing Rural Iowa in July, 2018. The challenge of each taskforce was to address one of three challenges as follows:

  1. Investing in Rural Iowa was asked to examine the rural housing shortage
  2. Growing Rural Iowa was asked to address leadership development in rural Iowa, and
  3. Connecting Rural Iowa's mission was to take on the issue of financing broadband connectivity

Here are some initial recommendations given to the Governors office, although none are considered a "silver bullet" solution. Rather, they represent the possibility of what can be achieved that would make a meaningful difference in rural communities.

Common Themes

  • create an Office of Rural Affairs to assist in rural policy development and to serve as the day-to-day connection to rural Iowa
  • create a common resource with up-to-date information regarding existing programs, best practices, and success stories from rural communities

Investing in Rural Iowa

  • assist rural communities in obtaining housing needs assessments

Growing Rural Iowa

  • create a recognition program for "Empowered Rural Communities"
  • create leadership pathways for recognized empowered rural communities

Connecting Rural Iowa 

  • optimize the existing broadband grant program to ensure state funding can stretch as far as possible
  • identify a consistent source of funding for the broadband grant program

This report, and the recommendations herein are just a beginning. Clearly, the efforts of the Governor's Empower Rural Iowa remain a work in progress. Further team sessions and ongoing assessment is necessary to prioritize and consider ideas as they emerge. More reports to follow.

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Ottumwa Economic Development Corporation 217 East Main Street Ottumwa, IA  52501
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