Midwest Partnership celebrates successful year of economic development

~by The Scranton Journal

Midwest Partnership, the four-county economic development corporation, highlighted continued success in recruiting and retaining businesses in Greene, Guthrie, Audubon and Adair Counties at their annual meeting held at the Lake Panorama Conference Center on Thursday evening, Jan. 28. 

Warren Varley of Stuart was honored as out-going president of the organization. He handed the gavel over to Brett Irlmeier of Audubon who will serve as president for the next year. Other officers for 2016 are: John Rutledge, Panora, vice president; Norm Fandel, Jefferson, treasurer; and Cheryl Marks, Stuart, secretary.

Nominated for the board of directors for 2016 were Varley, Irlmeier, Lyle Hansen, Jr, Jason Hocker and Troy Wessel, Audubon County; Travis Warnke, Greene County; Marty Doud, Jerry Sullivan and Mike Underwood, Guthrie County.

Retiring board members were recognized: Eric Tiernan, Amy Milligan and Angela Mortoza. 

Sarah Gomez has a year of experience as the executive director of Midwest Partnership. Her annual report highlighted business retention efforts including 32 visits to the larger employers throughout the region through the Business Connections Program. She related maintaining a qualified workforce as the number one issue for all of the firms. Other topics discussed included technology, utilities, transportation and community-level support.

Gomez noted Midwest Partnership helps organize an Employer-Educator summit each fall with the third annual event in the planning stages for October. More than 200 participants attended the 2015 event where business owners and educators discuss ways to work together to retain youth in local communities.

“Business recruitment is another priority at Midwest Partnership,” said Gomez, explaining the firm works with Western Iowa Advantage, an eight-county marketing group with the addition of Carroll, Crawford, Sac and Ida Counties. A new regional profile was created showing a snapshot of the region and how it appears to prospective businesses. 

Targeted Industry profiles have been updated and include data and IT, advanced manufacturing, value-added food processing, ag technology manufacturing and services. Hopefully the final papers were signed on Friday on a new business taking ownership of the former Cargill facility in Panora. This firm, Nutriom, takes liquid egg and dehydrates it into a crystal powder form. 

“At MWP, we also help to assist start-up companies anywhere from a local one person shop to very large project,” explained Gomez. She highlighted Paton in Greene County, commenting that MWP is working on another project there.

Gomez noted working with a prospect interested in constructing a truck stop / convenience store in Audubon that will also include a full service restaurant and 36-room motel with swimming pool.

“Entrepreneurship is also one of our priorities,” added Gomez. “We are in the middle of a five-year grant that we received from UNI to revitalize rural entrepreneurship.” 

EntreBash is planned on Febr.8 from 6 to 8 pm in Greenfield at the Warren Cultural Center. There will be one-on-one business consultants to meet with; four very specific learning labs set up with experts on a variety of topics; and about 20 other booths that will act as resources to businesses. This is a free event with everyone invited.

“Through the entrepreneurship project, we have seen success within our region. One of the projects that Greene County took on was an empty building tour last year,” added Gomez. She praised the group who worked to put together information on all of the available buildings in downtown Jefferson with tours available of the buildings along with information on starting a business. 

“It’s been really exciting to be a part of Midwest Partnership,” concluded Gomez. “Thank you for allowing me to be a part of this community and this region.”

Two awards are presented annually. Eric Tiernan of Stuart from Town and Country Insurance received the Guy Powell Award. Tiernan was a friend of the late Guy Powell and was honored to receive the award. The Entrepreneur of the Year award was not presented as the winner did not attend the banquet.

Deal’s Orchard of Jefferson presented a very interesting program on their business. Now in their fourth generation of ownership, the business has grown and evolved from raising apples, sweet corn and pumpkins to other products including hard cider, apple pies, caramel apples, cherries, sweet corn, Christmas trees and more. Deal’s has been part of the Greene County business community for almost 100 years.

Deal’s sells apples and cider wholesale to about 50 grocery stores, operates a retail business at the orchard, and has in recent years expanded to agri-tourism. Their well-known fall festival has evolved to include a year-round playground and other activities to allow families more things to experience, making memories to last a life time and hopefully return frequently. Pictured are (from left) Jerald and Cindy Deal and sons Chris and Benji Deal.

Scranton Journal photo
Scranton Journal photo

 

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