Grow Greene tells plans for gaming revenue

Grow Greene County logo~by Rick Morain for Grow Greene

Grow Greene County Gaming Corporation (Grow Greene), the local non-profit license holder for Wild Rose Jefferson, is developing its operational plans for distribution of casino grant funds.

Under the agreement between Wild Rose and Grow Greene, five percent of the adjusted gaming revenue from the new casino in Jefferson will go to Grow Greene to distribute to worthwhile civic organizations and projects. With annual gaming revenues estimated at $30 million, that means some $1.5 million is projected for distribution.

Up to $270,000 each year will be designated for organizations in the six counties contiguous to Greene County, in keeping with the agreement. Grow Greene plans to work with the community foundations of the six counties for the distribution. It’s a unique arrangement in Iowa – no other casino agreement explicitly provides for sharing grant money with neighboring counties. That provision makes Wild Rose Jefferson a truly regional facility.

That leaves a projected $1,230,000 annually for Greene County projects. The eight-member Grow Greene board for several months has been discussing how to go about making decisions concerning the distribution.

Some decisions have been penciled into the plan. For one, Grow Greene will be providing money to the Greene County Community Foundation so that that organization can continue to fund worthwhile projects throughout the county. Although no definite amount has been pegged as yet, it’s Grow Greene’s stated intention to make sure the Community Foundation receives at least as much money, and probably more, each year than it now gets from the state gambling funds.

(Under Iowa law, the 85-plus counties that have no gambling facility share equally in one-half of one percent of the total adjusted revenue from the 19 state-regulated gambling enterprises in Iowa, and those funds go to the county community foundations. Greene County has received its share of those funds—about $130,000 a year—in the past, but the construction of the Wild Rose casino in Jefferson removes the Greene County Community Foundation from the beneficiary list for state gambling funds.)

The Grow Greene board is planning to set up a system under which grant requests for amounts up to $35,000 will be directed to the Greene County Community Foundation, and requests above that level will go to Grow Greene.

Applications for the Grow Greene grants will be available online Oct. 1. They can be submitted anytime before Feb. 11, 2016. Awards will be made in early April. Since by then the allocated funds from the Wild Rose Jefferson casino will have accumulated for only part of a year, the total of that allocation for requested grants will be half the normal amount. In the future the total to be awarded will represent a full 12-month accumulation.

Another decision Grow Greene has made is that the seven municipalities in the county will each receive a lump sum grant for projects, based on a formula using per capita population.

Also in line for lump sum grants are the two school districts in the county, based on student enrollment numbers.

The municipalities and school districts will be asked to provide a letter of intent for how they plan to use the grants, and also a final report on the projects that are completed with the funds.

The Grow Greene board is also looking at a “nest egg” fund to which money will be contributed each year, to provide for future needs as yet unspecified.

Finally, the amounts now being considered for all the above allocations would still leave about $400,000 each year for “impact” project grants within the county, to be determined based on grant applications from local non-profit groups.

After researching how the non-profit partners of other casinos in the state operate, the board is considering the possibility of hiring a paid staffer to manage Grow Greene affairs.

A full-blown Grow Greene website is currently under development, where residents can obtain information about the entire operation and where frequently asked questions can be answered.

Grow Greene’s plans are still progressing at this point. Town meetings held throughout the county provided crucial input on which the board continues to draw in making its decisions.

The new Wild Rose Jefferson casino is now providing funds on a weekly basis to Grow Greene County Gaming Corporation.

The eight Grow Greene board members represent every portion of Greene County: Bob Allen from rural Churdan, Norm Fandel from rural Jefferson, Lori Mannel from rural Scranton, Craig Marquardt from Paton, Rick Morain from Jefferson, Brenda Muir from rural Rippey, Kate Neese from Grand Junction, and Peg Raney from rural Jefferson. Mike Mumma of Jefferson serves as legal counsel.

The Grow Greene board enjoys a strong working relationship with the leadership team of Wild Rose Entertainment, headquartered in West Des Moines. Both groups view the Wild Rose Jefferson casino as a key development asset for the Greene County area, and are optimistic about what it can do to “grow Greene County”.

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