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Let’s work together

Published: Wednesday, May 17, 2017 10:57 a.m. CST

We passed our two-year anniversary for Hometown Pride in Jasper County on April 9. Where does the time go! We have accomplished some great things, and there is much more to come in our final three years. In our first two years the nine Hometown Pride communities in Jasper County obtained $718,000 in grant funds for projects that we determined are priorities. That’s a pretty good return on investment for the Hometown Pride program.

When we started in 2015, one of my first tasks was to find the partners in Jasper County that would help us make Hometown Pride a success. It was important that Hometown Pride be about cooperating, coordinating and moving projects forward. I figured our best assets would be the folks who have been here for years, committed to making Jasper County a better place.

Certainly the nine municipal governments who elected to participate in Hometown Pride would be advocates, but we needed to find those private individuals with a passion to make their communities better places.

The assistance we have received from organizations in Jasper County has exceeded my wildest expectations. It has been one of the most enjoyable parts of getting Hometown Pride established. Almost without exception people have been welcoming and interested in working together to accomplish things. There is an undercurrent throughout the county that we have so much potential— great people, great schools, and we’re 25 minutes from a 600,000 population major metropolitan area. Working together is how we reach that potential.

No better example of how working together has been greater than the sum of its parts than the Jasper County Conservation Department. Keri Van Zante and her team have been great to work with, and provided an incredible amount of assistance to Hometown Pride. Five of us put our heads together— Hometown Pride, County Conservation, the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge, the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, and the City of Prairie City— and we came up with a $510,000 Federal Lands access grant which will help move along the construction of the recreational rail trail between Prairie City and Monroe. A great project will come together sooner because we are all working together.

Historic preservation groups in Lynnville and Colfax have been great to work with, and certainly Ken Barthelman at the Jasper County Historical Museum. A lot of parks committees are working with our Hometown Pride groups— Sully, Monroe, Kellogg, Mingo, Colfax and Newton for sure. The Newton and Lynnville Chambers of Commerce have been great partners with Hometown Pride; and we’re looking at forming a Chamber of Commerce subcommittee at Baxter Hometown Pride. Economic development groups in Baxter, Newton, Sully and Prairie City have all participated in Hometown Pride projects, and Jasper County Economic Development Corp. has been one of our biggest champions.

In Prairie City we are using Hometown Pride to strengthen the relationship between Prairie City and the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge — a relationship that will benefit both groups. The Friends of the Chichaqua Valley Trail are great collaborators with our Baxter and Mingo Hometown Pride committees, and they will be helping us get a Friends group formed for the Monroe-Prairie City trail. The superintendents of the Baxter, Lynnville-Sully and Newton Community School Districts serve on our Hometown Pride committees, and we have had good cooperation from PCM and Colfax-Mingo schools when we have asked for it. Newton Hometown Pride is helping to coordinate an exciting project in Newton with the green space between DMACC and the former Maytag campus — stay tuned!

We have one important collaboration yet to go in Jasper County— housing. With leadership from Chaz Allen and JEDCO, we recently completed a housing market study for Jasper County. Each of the nine Hometown Pride communities were highlighted. The main conclusion: we need more housing in Jasper County.

We need housing for people who work at our growing businesses in Jasper County, and for people working in the Des Moines metro. We need more quality rental housing. We need more starter homes for families. We need senior housing.

Not everyone who works in Des Moines wants to live in the big city. Many of them want to live in: (insert the name of your favorite town in Jasper County). We need to make sure our towns in Jasper County are reaching their potential as great places— join us at Hometown Pride if you want to be part of it. It’s a great collaboration!

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