hardin county iowa map (cropped)

Placemaking Action Plan
Hardin County, Iowa

Every community has the opportunity to cultivate a creative economy and leverage cultural capacity as a community building and talent development tool, especially to attract young people. Seven Hardin County communities – Ackley, Alden, Eldora, Hubbard, Iowa Falls, New Providence, and Steamboat Rock – are no different.

Given their combined population of just 11,729, community leaders recognize the necessity of working collaboratively to grow both the population and the economy. By employing placemaking to achieve this growth, Hardin County is poised to lead north central Iowa’s success for decades to come.

Visioning

This placemaking action plan is rooted in the desires of Hardin County residents representing a variety of perspectives and communities. Three visioning sessions uncovered both the existing amenities that residents value as well as the areas they see as opportunities.

Residents overwhelmingly noted the significant conservation efforts and abundant natural resources in Hardin County as a point of pride. They also shared their appreciation for the prevailing Midwest values and the neighborly feel that permeates throughout the county.

While this community pride frequently translates to volunteerism throughout the county, many current volunteers shared feeling burnt out. They noted that, generally, the same ten people are on multiple committees bringing events to life and fundraising throughout the community.

To help overcome this volunteer fatigue, a number of residents noted the need to build the bench of future community leaders and to enhance communication between organizations. Further, the four percent unemployment rate coupled with retirements and the lack of in-migration to the county has created tremendous challenges in filling open jobs, especially when considering skilled trades.

Housing issues compound the workforce challenge in Hardin County. The overwhelming majority of residents feel the county needs to collectively address these challenges, in terms of both quality and quantity. In every visioning session, residents noted the lack of mid-range opportunities for both rentals and for sale units along with the general lack of affordable units.

In terms of amenities, residents contemplated a number of missing features in their community. A business class restaurant is at the top of the list for almost all residents. Many residents shared the need for more activities of all ages. Nightlife in Hardin County revolves around bars, while another resident observed, “There’s no day life either.”

A complete summary of the visioning sessions is available in Appendix A.

Action Plan Description

Looking at quantitative and qualitative data along with community tours and capacity assessments, a number of ideas emerged to revitalize Hardin County. These concepts cover both individual communities as well as the entirety of the county. However, they all must work in concert with one another to fully realize the vision imagined within this action plan.

Regional:

  • Skilled Trades Enhancement Program
  • Regional Brand & Marketing
  • Code Enforcement

Community:

  • Ackley: Mixed-Use Public Market
  • Alden: County Creative Center
  • Eldora: Sports Academy
  • Hubbard: Fourplex
  • Iowa Falls: Bowling Alley
  • Iowa Falls: Brewery
  • Iowa Falls: Riverside Restaurant
  • New Providence: Community-Wide Beautification
  • Steamboat Rock: Outdoors Outfitter

Skilled Trades Enhancement Program

Attracting and retaining talent is the single most challenging issue facing nearly every community. More and more people are choosing where to live based on amenities rather than on a job, and the people moving to areas like Hardin County generally have a connection to the area (e.g., family or in-laws live there).

Keeping people in these communities is even more challenging; if a community does not offer key amenities, what entices them to stay there? Of course, the inability to attract and retain talent limits economic growth, which drives the demand for additional community amenities.

One way to overcome this attraction and retention challenge is to develop an incentive program for a specific industry. For Hardin County, that industry should be skilled trades. In initial visioning sessions, the current and growing need for skilled trades repeatedly surfaced.

Residents recognized the presence of thirty-six businesses in Hardin County (see Appendix B) that rely on the skilled trades, driving a significant share of the county economy. However, many people employed at these businesses are retiring or nearing retirement, and there are not enough people to fill these jobs. This in turn drives the need to leave Hardin County for essential services, to rely on providers from surrounding areas, or, even worse, to relocate outside of the county.

To withstand this impending wave of retirements, Hardin County needs to launch a talent incentive program focused on the skilled trades. The Skilled Trades Enhancement Program (STEP) should not only encourage people with expertise in skilled trades to move to Hardin County but also to remain in Hardin County.

The attraction piece of STEP is to offer a student debt forgiveness program for those working in the skilled trades. Considering the average trade school degree costs $33,000, STEP should offer up to $20,000 in student loan repayment assistance per person. To ensure companies retain talent, these payments should be made in thirds at a rate of $6,667 each year the person is employed at a participating company. If an employee does not have student debt, this money could be used for rent and/or mortgage assistance.

STEP should be funded collaboratively funded by the aforementioned 36 businesses, the Iowa Area Development Group, Ellsworth Community College, the State of Iowa, and the six school districts in Hardin County (AGWSR, Alden, BCLUW, Eldora-New Providence, Hubbard-Radcliffe, and Iowa Falls). Each school district should commit $500 annually, while the others should commit $2,500 annually, allowing STEP to support 15 people each year and re-energize the skilled trades in Hardin County. Of course, these figures are flexible, and community leaders may consider various tiers for different sizes of businesses. The draft business plan can be found in Appendix C.

While not every business will hire each year, pooling resources will, in the long run, result in cost savings for each participating business. Each entity would only have to tap into STEP once every eight years to see a one-for-one return on investment.

The businesses also will benefit from the program being administered by the Hardin County Development Alliance as an in-kind contribution to STEP. This will reduce the amount of overhead each organization needs to commit to such a program and ensure all 36 businesses share in the benefits of the program: A skilled workforce that likely will bring with them families, creating a multiplier impact across the economy. The Alliance will have fiscal management responsibility for STEP and also will ensure that all businesses have the chance to tap into the funding as needed.

It is important to recognize there may not be 15 applicants in the initial years of the program. Any remaining funds should be redirected to marketing efforts to grow awareness about the program. Additionally, remaining funds could be used to support the six local school districts in developing the skilled trades pipeline for the employers. Ideally, the program will sunset at a time to be determined based on employers’ ability to fill skilled trades jobs.

The FIND Project – Fulfilling Iowa’s Need for Dentists – provides an optimal model for Hardin County as leaders look to implement a talent incentive program. The FIND Project is “committed to connecting dentists and underserved communities with the resources needed to combat Iowa’s dental shortage so that dental care is close to home for every Iowan.”

A partnership between Delta Dental, the Iowa Area Development Group, the University of Iowa College of Dentistry & Dental Clinics, the Iowa Department of Public Health, Aureon, and the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines, FIND works with communities and dentists to recruit and establish private dental offices in rural and underserved areas around the state.

FIND offers up to $100,000 for dental education debt over a five-year period. Dentists participating in FIND must be fully trained and licensed, interested in a public health role but in a private practice setting, and committed to serving in a rural or underserved area of Iowa. They also must be willing to allocate 35 percent of their patient load to underserved individuals, such as the elderly, very young children, nursing home residents, Medicaid participants, Dental Wellness Plan members, non-insured, etc., during the program period.

  • Electrical and electronics repairers
  • Extruding and drawing machine setters
  • Electrical and electronics engineering technicians
  • Stationary engineers and boiler operator
  • Maintenance workers, machinery
  • Electricians
  • Computer-controlled machine tool operators
  • Welding, soldering, and brazing machine setters
  • Welders
  • Grinding, lapping, polishing, and buffing machine tool setters
  • Industrial machinery mechanics
  • Computer numerically-controlled machine tool programmers
  • Chemical technicians
  • Cutting, punching, and press machine setters
  • Drilling and boring machine tool setters
  • Chemical equipment operators and tenders
  • Multiple machine tool setters, operators, and tenders
  • Lathe and turning machine tool setters
  • Machinists
  • Tool and die makers
  • Separating, filtering, clarifying, precipitating, and still machine setters
STEP sidebar

Action Steps

DESIGN DETAILS OF STEP

Ellsworth Community College & Hardin County Development Alliance

Using this action plan and the associated business plan as a starting point, develop details of STEP, potentially including tier structure for funders. Determine eligibility, stipulations of receiving support, prioritization, etc. Work collaboratively with funders to ensure buy-in and financial support.

Q2 2018

SECURE BUY-IN AND FUNDING

Ellsworth Community College & Hardin County Development Alliance

Develop two-page handout showing highlights of program. Make asks of potential funders identified in business plan.  Show return on investment and impact on their work. Paint the picture of addressing the worker shortage collaboratively.

Q2-Q4 2018

LAUNCH & MARKET STEP

Ellsworth Community College & Hardin County Development Alliance

Work with participating businesses to advertise STEP as they post jobs. Determine target audience. Design and launch marketing campaign for STEP using various channels.

Q1 2019

marketing sidebar

REGIONAL BRAND AND MARKETING

Hardin County is part of or associated with a number of regional economic development organizations: The Region 6 Planning Commission, the Mid Iowa Growth Partnership, the Small Business Development Center, IowaWorks, Iowa Valley Community College/Ellsworth Community College, CIRAS, the Highway 20 Association, the Greater Des Moines Partnership, International Traders of Iowa, the Mid-America Economic Development Council, and the International Economic Development Council. The lists are just as long for other focus areas.

While these partnerships are essential to continued success in the area, they also present some challenges in differentiating Hardin County from its neighbors. Namely, how can Hardin County successfully separate itself to achieve population and economic growth if it is routinely seen merely as one of a group of north central Iowa counties?

Developing a regional brand and marketing strategy will enable Hardin County to achieve that separation. While collaborations with other counties, businesses, and nonprofit entities must continue to support growth, launching a shared county-wide brand will position Hardin County entities to better tell their story, which, in the information age, is imperative to continued success. After all, if the communities, for-profit and nonprofit entities, and residents aren’t telling their story, who will?

The key to developing a successful regional brand is twofold:

  • For audiences beyond Hardin County, the brand must convey a compelling vision that captures people’s imaginations and paints the picture of the unique experiences found in the county.
  • For audiences within the county, the brand must weave the thread of a shared identity that resonates throughout the county while still allowing each community to have its own identity.

Keeping these audiences in mind, Hardin County leaders should look to develop a shared identity around the county’s natural resources and outdoor recreation opportunities. The County has stunning overlooks, instances of protected species not normally found in central Iowa, and a culture of getting outside; residents and visitors to the county embrace all four seasons to a greater extent than most other Iowans.

The pride that residents take in these amenities became apparent throughout the three visioning sessions. In each session, the prevalence of natural resources in the county – the Iowa River Greenbelt, Pine Lake State Park, Calkins Nature Area, a multitude of trails, and active conservation opportunities, among others – was a recurring theme throughout discussion on a number of topics. Building an identity and brand around a topic that already is embraced and championed by residents will undoubtedly make implementing the marketing strategy an easier process and will help spur its success.

The Bahamas are comprised of 700 islands with 17 major tourist destinations. Each destination has its unique draws, ranging from luxury accommodations to scuba diving to historical sites. Still, The Islands were struggling to differentiate themselves from other Caribbean destinations.

The project design team quickly realized they needed to develop a brand that worked for everyone from government to souvenir manufacturers. They knew the brand had to have mass appeal as well as flexibility in its uses.

Building on the vibrant colors and the grouping of The Islands, the designers developed a brand based on a stylized map of the country. The brand is rooted in what the designers experienced in the Bahamas and conveys the energy of The Islands. It also allows for each destination to be singled out while using the brand to tell their individual story.

The design is nearly limitless in how it can be applied and adapted. With each application, the brand – and, ultimately, the draw to the Bahamas – is strengthened.

Action Steps

CONDUCT BRAND AUDIT

Hardin County Development Alliance

Hire branding consultant. Assess internal elements (brand structure, management, policy, budget, standards, etc.). Conduct market segmentation. Identify differentiators.

Q2 2018

ESTABLISH VALUE PROPOSITION & MESSAGING

Hardin County Development Alliance

Work with county leaders to analyze and synthesize information into descriptive messaging that tells the county’s story. Develop tagline. Test messages with target audience(s) identified through market segmentation.

Q3 2018

DEVELOP CREATIVE ELEMENTS OF BRAND

Hardin County Development Alliance

Determine colors, fonts, logo, and overall style to give the brand a feel and voice. Test creative elements with target audience(s). Consider how elements can be applied on different materials (billboards, banners, mugs, digitally, etc.).

Q3 2018

IMPLEMENT BRAND

Hardin County Development Alliance

Build social media and online presence, prioritizing channels used most by target audience(s). Ensure website is mobile friendly. Create and implement public relations strategy. Analyze and refine brand to ensure it remains competitive.

Q4 2018

Code Enforcement

A recurring concern throughout the three visioning sessions was the presence of dilapidated housing stock throughout Hardin County. According to the Census Bureau, 47 percent of occupied housing units were built in 1959 or earlier. The challenge of this older housing stock is compounded by, according to visioning participants, “a lack of pride in upkeep” from some property owners. Visioning participants believe the communities need to raise the bar to attract population and economic growth.

To most effectively do this, the cities and county must work in lockstep with one another. The jurisdictions need to collaboratively adopt minimum property maintenance standards for all structures and premises. Such a code would shift maintenance from an option to a legal requirement, protecting and growing property values throughout the county. It also would protect the health, safety, and welfare of residents.

A minimum property maintenance code, though, is not enough. The county and cities must commit to enforcing the policy; it does no good to create a policy if there is no action behind it.

Iowa Falls and Eldora already have staffed code enforcement programs in place, and the county should mirror these programs. It will be important for all of the other cities in Hardin County to buy into the program philosophically and financially. The county will then need to determine if there is staff capacity for this work within the county’s Environmental Health Department. If there is not, additional part-time staff should be added. Regardless, it will be imperative to ensure the staff member receives proper training and earns their certification.

Hardin County should develop a 28E agreement with the cities that outlines the specific scope – including the enforcement officer’s duties as well as those of the county and cities – and fees, including the structure for the payment of funds. Given their existing programs, Iowa Falls and Eldora do not need to be part of this primary 28E agreement; however, they may consider entering into a secondary agreement to work collaboratively with the county program.

To ensure program success, the agreement(s) and funding commitments should initially cover a three-year period. As the three year window comes to a close, the county and cities will need to assess early successes and outcomes and modify the program as needed to ensure long-term success.

Funding for the position should be shared amongst the county and cities, excluding Iowa Falls and Eldora. It should be calculated based on population and the number of housing units. Since the code enforcement officer’s work will be based largely on the number of units, this element should be weighted more than population; of course, the two typically go hand in hand.
An example agreement for an employee supported by a county and multiple cities can be found in Appendix D.

During a minimum housing inspection, a number of elements should be considered. They include:

  • Sanitation
  • Grading and drainage
  • Sidewalks and driveways
  • Weeds
  • Accessory structures, such as fences, detached garages, sheds, and retaining walls
  • Street numbers
  • Exterior surfaces
  • Foundation walls
  • Windows and doors
  • Roofs
  • Drainage
  • Chimneys
  • Porches and decks
  • Structural members
  • Life safety
  • Interior surfaces
  • Stairs, railings, handrails, and guardrails
  • Heating facilities
  • Electrical system
  • Plumbing system
Population Housing Units Persons per Unit Population Fee Unit Fee Total Fee
Hardin County 5,761 2,380 2.42 $5,761 $6,545 $12,306
Ackley 1,546 699 2.21 $1,546 $1,922.25 $3,468.25
Steamboat Rock 309 146 2.12 $309 $401.50 $710.50
New Providence 225 91 2.47 $225 $250.25 $475.25
Hubbard 834 356 2.34 $834 $979 $1,813
Alden 762 338 2.25 $762 $929.50 $1,691.50
$9,437 $11,027.50 $20,464.50
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Action Steps

Develop and adopt minimum property maintenance standards for all structures and premises

County and Cities

Review International Property Maintenance Code and other area codes as a starting point. Amend as necessary to tailor code to county. Adopt code at county-level.

Q2 2018

Design local enforcement mechanism

County and Cities

Determine needed staffing. Determine priority nuisances to address. Determine means of resolving nuisance complaints (consultation and regulation). Determine funding commitments needed from each jurisdiction.

Q3 2018

Commit to ongoing collaboration in code adoption and implementation

County and Cities

Work with lawyer in pro bono capacity to draft 28E agreement. Include language to grant county regulatory authority in cities. Ensure understanding and buy-in from councils and county supervisors. Obtain signatures for 28E agreement. File agreement. Secure funding from jurisdictions to support position.

Q4 2018

Hire code enforcement staff

County

Analyze existing county staff capacity. If capacity exists, revise existing job description. If need to create new position exists, draft and post job description. Ensure proper training for effective enforcement.

Q1 2019

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ACKLEY: MIXED-USE PUBLIC MARKET

In 2014, the Ackley-Geneva-Wellsburg-Steamboat Rock (AGWSR) Community School District moved its elementary students into a new $7.2 million modern building a few blocks from the old school in Ackley. While the new building enhances positive student outcomes, it also left the former elementary school – built in 1929 – as a vacant space in the midst of town.
Ackley certainly is not alone in facing this phenomenon. According to the Des Moines Register, there were 13,433 school houses in Iowa in 1894; most of these were considered their own public school district. Today, there are 338 districts across the state.

According to AGWSR officials, the school district has “exhausted all possibilities for that building,” with a number of groups touring the building with no further action. The district has maintained the outside of the building and has kept electricity running to the building as well. A comprehensive assessment of the building can be found in Appendix E. The adjacent parking lot is used for daycare and preschool parking, too, but the site obviously is underused, especially considering its prime location and strong architecture.

Located in the heart of Cedar Rapids’ New Bohemia District, the NewBo City Market is bustling space that promotes “health, happiness, and well-being.” It is home to food and retail business startups, farmers and artisans markets, and community arts, entertainment, and educational events.

NewBo highlights local talent and resources and offers the community an example of sustainability and resilience. NewBo employs sustainable business practices and is a testament to the community’s resilience after being flooded by 13 feet of water in 2008. NewBo has become the community hangout for residents and visitors alike, enriching Cedar Rapids’ social fabric and strengthening the tie between local producers and consumers.

To re-energize the former school, the building should be repurposed as a mixed-use facility. The two upper levels should be converted to one- and two-bedroom apartments, while the main floor should be transformed into a restaurant and multi-county public market.

The first floor should be modeled in the vein of Cedar Rapids’ NewBo City Market, Grand Rapids’ Downtown Market, and Napa’s Oxbow Public Market. The restaurant should showcase locally-sourced ingredients and offer a seasonal, rotating menu. This kind of menu will highlight and support healthy eating habits. Additionally, the restaurant will be able to source produce directly from the market vendors, giving those vendors a steady customer with significant needs.

Besides produce, the market vendors should offer a variety of goods for sale and also should function as a community gathering space. The market should offer regular programming designed to bring a mix of community members together and should support local entrepreneurs. Ideally, the market should have a mix of regular and rotating vendors, spurring repeat visits and enabling burgeoning businesses to test the market for their respective offerings. A business plan for the market can be found in Appendix F.

Meanwhile, the apartments – former classrooms – should be a mix of one- and two-bedroom units. The designs should seek to maintain and celebrate the building’s history as a school while offering modern amenities required by potential tenants. Achieving this balance will differentiate the apartments from other units in the area and will be a selling point.

For the concept to work financially, the building should be divided via a condominium plan, with the first floor included in one unit and the other floors comprising the second unit. A developer should acquire the entirety of the building and, upon completion of the renovation, the first floor condo should be sold back to the City of Ackley or another community-focused entity. The City or other community entity could then either operate the first floor itself or lease the space to a group focused on managing the restaurant and public market.

While a more in-depth analysis of the building and renovation needs to be completed, it will be imperative to attract an investor with at least $500,000; initial estimates show this amount should be recouped within ten years while earning a 12 percent return. To accomplish this, the developer will need to pursue a mix of development incentives, including state and federal historic tax credits, workforce housing tax credits, TIF, tax abatement, and other grants. It should be noted, too, that the school district is willing to sell the building for $1 to the right developer and also is willing to take care of the necessary asbestos removal, providing significant cost savings for the developer.

Action Steps

Establish non-profit to manage public market

Ackley Economic Development

Work with attorney in pro-bono capacity to incorporate as 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Develop other necessary guiding documents.

Q3 2018

secure developer and design buildout

Nonprofit

Vet developers with comprehensive search; consider RFP process. Select preferred developer. Enter into development agreement with company as “preferred developer,” giving it exclusive rights to negotiate details of the agreement but leaves the nonprofit in control of all parameters of the project.

Q1 2019

conduct economic feasibility study

Nonprofit

Hire consulting team to review cost of renovating the building into two condominiums. Determine total development costs as well as potential funding sources. Develop pro forma, including estimated rents for apartments. Give project a go-no go recommendation. If project is a go, secure necessary financing.

Q2 2019

construction, marketing, and opening

Nonprofit

Complete renovations of building. During construction process, share videos and pictures to generate community interest and excitement. Begin pre-leasing apartment units and spaces for market vendors. Hold grand opening event. Continue regular marketing efforts.

Q1 2020

alden: creative center

Study after study has demonstrated the importance of having a creative outlet. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan’s A Healthier Michigan program notes benefits such as a break from anxiety and stress, a healthier body and mind, scheduled time for oneself, a chance to meet new people, and a healthy outlet as just some of the benefits of exploring one’s creative interests.

Despite these proven benefits, Hardin County residents can’t easily access places to let their creative juices flow. They must travel to a larger community or, worse yet, completely miss out on the opportunity to connect with their neighbors and explore their creative side.

Establishing a creative center in downtown Alden will draw more people to the community and also will continue activating the community’s main street.

Hardin County should develop a 28E agreement with the cities that outlines the specific scope – including the enforcement officer’s duties as well as those of the county and cities – and fees, including the structure for the payment of funds. Given their existing programs, Iowa Falls and Eldora do not need to be part of this primary 28E agreement; however, they may consider entering into a secondary agreement to work collaboratively with the county program.

To ensure program success, the agreement(s) and funding commitments should initially cover a three-year period. As the three year window comes to a close, the county and cities will need to assess early successes and outcomes and modify the program as needed to ensure long-term success.

Funding for the position should be shared amongst the county and cities, excluding Iowa Falls and Eldora. It should be calculated based on population and the number of housing units. Since the code enforcement officer’s work will be based largely on the number of units, this element should be weighted more than population; of course, the two typically go hand in hand.
An example agreement for an employee supported by a county and multiple cities can be found in Appendix D.

Downtown Alden is two-block stretch of assorted small businesses, some of which back to the Iowa River. Some of the businesses serve people using the river, while others fill basic community needs. None of the existing entities, though, offer services or supplies that are unique to the county.

The building at 1109 Water Street in downtown Alden provides an ideal venue for a creative center. Inside and out, the currently for-sale building is a blank slate. The space offers over 6,000 square feet on 0.20 acres in a highly visible location. It is zoned for commercial use and ripe for redevelopment.

The creative center should include studio space as well as larger classroom space(s). A survey of the broad Hardin County community should be completed to understand how to prioritize obtaining special equipment for the creative center; this will help maximize usage of the space. It will be imperative to offer a variety of classes for all ages throughout the week; a sampling of these classes and suggested fees are included in the business plan in Appendix G.

The creative center should be organized as a nonprofit and should partner with Ellsworth Community College for as many programs as possible. The College offers degree programming in apparel merchandising, art, and graphic arts, among others. Students and teachers in these programs should be looked to as potential instructors for the creative center. The creative center also should partner with local schools as a means of supplementing standard educational offerings; arts funding is being cut across the nation, and the creative center should help fill the growing gap.

The exterior of the building currently stands out from other structures in downtown Alden. Nearly all of the buildings are brick or feature significant brick detailing; 1109 Water is a stark contrast with its metal structure. Community leaders should consider retaining a muralist to envelop the building in artwork, hinting at the space’s use. In addition, a living wall should be considered as a sustainability showcase as well as an artistic installation. Leaders should consider a variety of funding sources for these components and again may consider partnerships with Ellsworth Community College or even Iowa State University.

creative centers
  • Animation
  • Bookmaking
  • Calligraphy
  • Ceramics
  • Drawing
  • Fabric Dying
  • Jewelry Making
  • Mosaics
  • Painting
  • Photography
  • Printmaking
  • Sculpture
  • Watercolors
  • Woodworking
creative sidebar

Action Steps

establish non-profit to oversee creative center

Don Hirt and placemaking steering committee

Work with attorney in pro-bono capacity to incorporate as 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Develop other necessary guiding documents.

Q2 2018

survey community to determine priority mediums

Nonprofit

Ask community members about key areas of interest, class frequency, cost, membership, etc. Distribute to as many people as possible within a 30-mile radius. Be sure to include open-ended questions for more robust answers. Analyze results and determine emerging priorities and themes; leverage these for the business plan and buildout.

Q2 2018

develop business plan and design buildout

Nonprofit

Personalize business plan in Appendix G. Consider range of classes based on survey results and capital investments. Consult with Ellsworth Community College regarding potential collaboration. Develop buildout concept. Determine fundraising campaign needs for capital and annual gap needs.

Q3 2018

secure financing and complete buildout

Nonprofit

Create funding roadmap. Secure contributions; be sure to build in operating costs for the first year. Complete buildout and secure equipment for various class offerings.

Q4 2018

opening and marketing campaign

Nonprofit

Push marketing campaign throughout buildout. Create website and show buildout progress with pictures and videos. As possible, make exterior improvements, including the mural and/or living wall, early in process to draw interest. Plan a grand opening event.

Q2 2019

sports-academy-sidebar

ELDORA: SPORTS ACADEMY

The County Health Rankings & Roadmaps program is a partnership between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. In short, the program aims to build a culture of health, recognizing this looks different in rural areas than in urban areas.
County Health Rankings & Roadmaps research found higher obesity rates in rural areas than in urban and suburban areas; it oftentimes is easier to find opportunities to exercise in these areas than in vast rural areas. While there are a number of factors that can help decrease obesity rates, a key strategy is to provide a convenient place for physical activity.

Developing a sports academy would do just that. The academy should offer camps and clinics for youth along with regular classes for all ages. To support additional revenue generation, the academy should offer the space for rent for various community gatherings.

The academy should offer camps and clinics during the off season of the sport (for example, football and volleyball camps would be during the summer). While there already are a plethora of sports camps for youth to attend, the costs associated with these camps often hinder participation. A premiere volleyball camp costs over $300 to attend in addition to transportation – and opportunity – costs to and from the camp. Academy leaders should keep accessibility front of mind when personalizing the business plan found in Appendix H and should consider scholarships for those that otherwise cannot afford to attend.

In terms of partnerships, the academy should seek to work with area school districts as well as surrounding colleges, including Central, Coe, Ellsworth, Grinnell, Marshalltown Community College, Simpson, Waldorf, Wartburg, and William Penn, among others. The academy should look to share facilities with these entities if it does not have sufficient space to host its offerings. The academy also should look to the colleges for coaches and educators for its camps and clinics.

The academy should start with a lean staff of two full time employees. It will be imperative for these staffers to develop strong relationships with area coaches, educators, and community leaders.

To generate revenue beyond regular classes, camps, and clinics, the academy should consider a membership model. There should be individual and family offerings and different levels to provide access to a selection of amenities. For instance, a gold level member may be able to reserve a portion of the space online for a fee, while a platinum level member may be able to do the same with no additional fee beyond their membership.

The academy should be set up as a nonprofit, with a mission of increasing opportunities to healthy living. By operating as a nonprofit, the academy will be positioned to support access for all, regardless of socioeconomic status, and also will be well-positioned to secure funding for both capital as well as ongoing expenses. If the academy experiences great success, leaders should consider offering more scholarships, transportation assistance to the facility, or helping with equipment and other amenities in the schools themselves.

Ideally, the sports academy will be located on the western edge of Eldora along Highway 175. The preferred property currently is owned by the State of Iowa. State departments generally follow a four-step process after they determine that property is excess and no longer needed; details on this process can be found in Appendix I.

Action Steps

ESTABLISH NON-PROFIT BOARD TO GUIDE THE ACADEMY

Jeff Fuller and placemaking steering committee

Work with attorney in pro-bono capacity to incorporate as 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Develop other necessary guiding documents.

Q2 2018

establish non-profit to oversee creative center

Nonprofit

Personalize business plan in Appendix H. Look across the spectrum of sports and ages as well as at potential rental opportunities. Develop buildout concept, designing floorplan in collaboration with potential users and stakeholders. Determine fundraising campaign needs for capital and annual gap needs.

Q3 2018

LAUNCH CAPITAL CAMPAIGN TO SUPPORT
BUILDOUT AND INITIAL OPERATIONS

Nonprofit

Create funding roadmap. Secure contributions, including those for building.

Q4 2018

COMPLETE BUILDOUT UPGRADES AND HIRE STAFF

Nonprofit

Complete buildout. Determine interior finishes as well as necessary equipment; consider phasing in different activities to smooth financing. Hire and train staff.

Q3 2019

OPENING AND MARKETING CAMPAIGN

Nonprofit

Push marketing campaign throughout buildout. Create website and show construction progress in pictures and videos. Plan grand opening (budget for this).

Q4 2019

hubbard: fourplex

Contrary to most rural communities, the City of Hubbard’s population grew approximately 5.4 percent from 2010 to 2016. While this bodes well for the community in general, it exacerbates the community’s housing shortage.

Rental units are extremely limited in Hubbard, and it is rare for existing single family homes to come up for sale. Further, the opportunity to develop new housing is fairly limited due to flooding concerns and by the fact that few area farmers are willing to sell their land.

City leaders have long recognized the housing challenge in Hubbard but have been unable to attract any development. In fact, no units have been constructed since 2010, and just 14 units have been built since 1990.

Still, with the right development concept, both greenfield and infill opportunities are available to address the housing shortage and to create a range of housing choices for both existing and potential Hubbard residents.

Hardin County should develop a 28E agreement with the cities that outlines the specific scope – including the enforcement officer’s duties as well as those of the county and cities – and fees, including the structure for the payment of funds. Given their existing programs, Iowa Falls and Eldora do not need to be part of this primary 28E agreement; however, they may consider entering into a secondary agreement to work collaboratively with the county program.

To ensure program success, the agreement(s) and funding commitments should initially cover a three-year period. As the three year window comes to a close, the county and cities will need to assess early successes and outcomes and modify the program as needed to ensure long-term success.

Funding for the position should be shared amongst the county and cities, excluding Iowa Falls and Eldora. It should be calculated based on population and the number of housing units. Since the code enforcement officer’s work will be based largely on the number of units, this element should be weighted more than population; of course, the two typically go hand in hand.
An example agreement for an employee supported by a county and multiple cities can be found in Appendix D.

  • 35% built before 1939
  • $78,500 median home value
  • $572 median rent
  • 23.9% households with children under 18
  • 73.6% with one or two people

To begin, a single fourplex building should be developed. The building should include two two-bedroom units on either side and two one-bedroom units in the center of a one-level building. The cost to build is about $132,000 per unit. At this price point, a one-bedroom would need to rent for $850-$900 per month, while a two-bedroom would need to rent for around $1,200 per month.

Recognizing a developer is unlikely to be successful at these price points, it will be imperative to develop a partnership with local businesses to make the project work financially. Each business should commit to renting one or two of the units for a minimum of three years. In this manner, the developer is assured of monthly rental income from these entities, minimizing their risk, while also providing units for their team members. At the same time, this leaves a couple of units open for community members at large.

Further, the local businesses that commit to renting units will need to subsidize monthly rents so that the rates paid by occupants align with the market; there is no way to build modern units for less than $132,000 per unit without something like 3D printing technology; estimates show this technology could reduce construction costs by about $15 per square foot. The City of Hubbard should consider supporting the units that are not supported by businesses or work with the developer to explore other incentives for the apartments. Again, without this kind of financial support, the development is unlikely to be successful.

Hubbard leaders recognize the community’s status as a “bedroom community” as well as the value it provides as an inexpensive place to live. To attract young people and entice them to put down roots in Hubbard, the community needs to expand its housing choice. More specifically, the community should focus on attracting a developer to bring more apartment units to town.

There are currently two fourplex apartment buildings in town, both of which are at capacity. If there is vacancy at one of these units, the window to secure a unit is minimal. Without this entry point to the community to test the proverbial waters, attracting new people – those without a connection to the community – is nearly impossible.

Hubbard Fourplex

Action Steps

create community housing program

City leadership, Hardin County Development Alliance

Develop pro-forma. Vet with City Council and local businesses. Obtain initial commitments from local businesses.

Q3 2018

secure and develop property

Architects, engineers, contractors, city leadership, and Hardin County Development Alliance

Identify and secure property. Pursue donation of site from current land owner. Work with professional services to design floorplan and price out development. Look at city staff and Hardin County Development Alliance to see where skill sets align for development; hire contractors to fill gaps.

Q1 2019

launch community housing program

City leadership, Hardin County Development Alliance

Work with local businesses to determine how strong interest is for existing staff to rent apartment units. Create marketing materials for recruitment and retention of current and future team members.

Q2 2019

bowling sidebar

iowa falls: bowling alley

In most small towns, the bowling alley is a central gathering place. It’s the hangout spot for teenagers on weekend evenings, the place families go to recreate together, and, in Iowa Falls, a top pick for older adults to gather.

Despite the cross-generational appeal, Iowa Falls’ Pla-Mor Bowl closed its doors in December after serving as a recreational destination for over sixty years. Business at Pla-Mor slowed with the Great Recession and never bounced back; once vibrant bowling leagues drew less than 100 bowlers following the downturn.

Community members and leaders alike are concerned about the newly created recreation void and its impact on talent retention and attraction. Fortunately, it’s not too late to re-open the bowling alley and expand its offerings to make it a true community gathering space.

The biggest challenge in re-establishing the former Pla-Mor Bowl is how to transform it into a 21st century attraction. While all ages enjoy bowling, the space must offer additional activities and amenities in order to thrive. At a minimum, these supplemental amenities should include bocce ball, ping pong, a bar, and a food truck on a generous patio, which should be located where the sand volleyball court previously was located. This combination of amenities will position the venue to be financially self-sustaining while minimizing capital costs.

The space should combine the best of Nashville’s Pinewood Social, The Vortex in Austin, and Bacchanal in New Orleans. These three venues each have leveraged explosive population growth – 9.84, 19.93, and 13.86, respectively, from 2010-2016 – to drive their respective business successes.

To minimize individual investment risk, a group of area residents should come together to purchase the Pla-Mor Bowl and then have one person manage it on a day-to-day basis. The investors should serve as the board of directors and guide major decisions impacting the entertainment venue. When the venue becomes successful, the board may consider selling a larger percentage of the business to the day-to-day manager, freeing up their capital for other community investments.

Action Steps

identify potential investors for entertainment venue

Placemaking steering committee and Iowa Falls leadership

Measure initial interest via informal conversations. Determine best fit to lead effort. Determine other potential investors.

Q1 2018

determine needed updates and develop buildout concept

Investor group

Retain architect. Design floorplan in collaboration with potential users and stakeholders. Determine fundraising campaign needs for capital and annual gap needs.

Q2 2018

create business plan

Investor group

Review numbers from Pla-Mor Bowl, if available. Estimate attendance and offerings (both regular and special events). Determine necessary fees for various events. Consider venue rentals. Build the plan to show three years, at a minimum.

Q2 2018

complete buildout and hire staff

Investor group

Determine interior finishes as well as exterior improvements. Complete buildout. Hire and train staff; look to investor group for day-to-day manager.

Q3 2018

OPENING AND MARKETING CAMPAIGN

Investor group and day-to-day manager

Push marketing campaign throughout buildout. Create website and show construction progress in pictures and videos. Host four soft openings. Plan and execute grand opening.

Q4 2018

iowa falls: hardin county brewery

owa has 70 craft breweries and ranks 14th for number of breweries per capita at 3.2. However, Iowa ranks 41st for production per capita at 0.9 gallons per year. While Hardin County’s population is relatively small, Iowa Falls and the surrounding communities in Hardin County are well positioned to welcome visitors not only to a brewery but also to the beautiful water trails and natural amenities. Being only one hour from Waterloo, Ames, and Mason City provides the area a viable evening and weekend visitor population. Additionally, with future housing development, the area is poised for growth.

Though grocery store shelves are becoming more crowded, there is still room in Iowa to produce more beer, and the trend is toward hyper-local. Currently, there are no breweries within 10 miles of Iowa Falls; however, there are breweries within 50 miles, including Old Main and Alluvial in Ames, Mason City Brewing and Fat Hills in Mason City, and Single Speed, Lark, and Second State in Cedar Falls/Waterloo. Taprooms are popular gathering spots, and, as the industry grows, so do to the potential beer-knowledgeable customers.

The best model for Iowa Falls is a taproom operating under a native microbrewery license to keep costs low and allow flexibility for distribution. The focus should be on high quality beer with a qualified commercial brewer as an owner or key employee. A nearby restaurant and other strategic partnerships would enhance the business. Light snacks could be offered regularly with more substantial food options for delivery or during limited business hours.

Selling beer to go in growlers or crowlers would be important as would some limited draft self-distribution to key accounts, both local and strategic, to create awareness of the new brewery. Crowlers – large cans that can be sealed and potentially, resealed – would make great take aways to the local water trail and other recreational opportunities.

Because of the agricultural nature of the area, a farm to glass concept would make the Iowa Falls location unique in Iowa. While hop production is labor intensive and uncertain, the brewery could source at least part of its hop bill from the local area. Additionally, an orchard and area farmers markets could create ample opportunities to collaborate with small farmers for unique inputs such as honey, fruits, or herbs.

The Hardin County Brewery will produce and serve craft beer and soda. Craft beer has been on the rise for the last several years and is seen as a beverage with value that is best enjoyed in a social environment and often generates community building just by its nature. Brewing beer in-house adds to the uniqueness of the service establishment and creates a reason for people to visit. It would be important to have 15-30 draft lines for the variety expected by the craft beer consumer.

The brews will need to be an authentic reflection of the brewer and must have a high focus on quality and originality. As more and more brewers enter the market, quality and authenticity will be what sets new breweries apart. With the history of the land and a focus on local foods, procuring ingredients locally would be a great way to set this brewery apart.

In addition to beer, the native brewery status in Iowa now allows brewers to serve wine. This may be an important addition in a small market like Hardin County to attract mixed parties of beer and wine consumers. Cider is also a great option for customers, and it is getting easier to find more quality local producers.

The Hardin County Brewery should offer alternative beverages such as house made soda for non- drinkers and minors to keep it family friendly. Kombucha or other gluten free or low alcohol offerings also allow for variety to keep groups happy and returning.

A potential add-on opportunity would be to incorporate coffee service either by offering only cold brew or a combination of cold and hot brews, which would allow the business to expand their hours and generate revenue at alternative times of day. This could be done as a sublease to a coffee business or as an addition to the current business depending on the owner and staff competencies.

Further details and the full business plan can be found in Appendix J.

Brewery sidebar

Action Steps

determine brewery owner

Placemaking steering committee

Ascertain if there are interested brewers in the area. Determine investor options. Work with attorney and accountant for business formation.

Q3 2018

design buildout

Owner(s), operator, architect, engineer, interior designer

Develop architectural plans for building. Consider the location and desired ambiance. Be sure to include a mix of areas within the space – bar, tables, lounge, etc.

Q4 2018

finalize business plan

Owner(s), operator

Begin with business plan included in Appendix J. Refine based on building ownership and investment options and estimated construction costs.

Q2 2019

secure financing and complete buildout

Owner(s), operator

Explore local, state, and federal incentives. Depending on ownership structure, look for opportunities that support small businesses.

Q4 2019

develop marketing strategy, hire staff, and open

Owner(s), operator

Design all marketing materials, using preliminary business plan as a starting point. Share photos and videos of construction progress to generate excitement. Hire staff. Again, refer to preliminary business plan for details. Hold soft opening events. Celebrate with grand opening.

Q2 2020

Restaurant sidebar

iowa falls: riverside restaurant

In its prime, Iowa Falls’ Camp David was a successful destination restaurant, featuring a smokehouse menu and wilderness lodge ambiance. The location was, and remains, a prime spot for a hospitality venue. The building has a number of unique natural and décor features that could be retooled relatively easily to fully use the spaciousness of the building and its proximity to the river as well as to better leverage the beauty of the view overlooking the Iowa River bluffs.

The current Iowa Falls property is too large to successfully house a single restaurant concept regardless of menu type or price point. However, this nearly 10,000 square foot property does have strong potential to be refurbished as an incredibly interesting multi-concept development, blending retail, restaurant, and recreational opportunities. This one-of-a-kind location could be used as a river recreation hub for Hardin County and draw people from across Central Iowa.

Des Moines Register Clipping

The former Camp David site should be transformed into a multi-use development with two distinct food and beverage concepts, linked to a retail and river recreational rental network. Research from the National Restaurant Association’s Household survey shows that 61 percent of adults would rather spend money on an experience, such as a restaurant or other activity, compared to purchasing an item from a store. This proposed multi-use riverside hospitality venue fully invests in this notion by combining a current food and beverage strategy with a unique regional recreational activity.

Restaurant Examples

Finally, a third sister venue will be housed in Steamboat Rock.  Called The Outpost, this should be sited at the same location as the outdoors outfitter and offer grab-and-go packaged food and beverage items for those kayaking, biking, or hiking between venues. With its close proximity to the campground, the river, and various attractions, the cross-marketing possibilities are endless.

A more in-depth description and business plan can be found in Appendix K.

For the purpose of this multi-use proposal, the primary restaurant will be called the Iowa River Supper Club. This casual “throwback” table service restaurant and bar will pay homage to the supper clubs of days gone by but without the pretense. It will occupy a significant portion of the upper levels of the former Camp David restaurant.

The lower level of the building will house a second independent hospitality concept called The Exchange Swim Grill.  In addition to partnering with an outpost location in Steamboat Rock to provide recreational river and trail rentals, it will have healthy grab-and-go items and quick-fire foods. There also will be a small retail space offering goods needed for river fun (sunscreen, hats, shirts, packaged soda and beer to-go, Gatorade, Cliff Bars, etc.) There will be riverwalk seating for those who have taken a break from being on the river and stopped for a bite as well as locals who want to sit overlooking the water and enjoy a casual meal or a drink. This “shabby chic” bar and grill also will pay homage to nostalgia with an ambiance reminiscent of a camp canteen but with decidedly better food and adult beverage offerings.

Action Steps

recruit owner/operator with a blend of culinary expertise and strong operations experience

Iowa Restaurant Association, Iowa Falls Chamber/Main Street, Hardin County Development Alliance

Secure building. Work with city and county to secure incentives. If owner is not operator, secure a favorable lease structure to attract tenant. Look for someone with both front of house and back of house experience.

Q2 2018

develop buildout concept

Architect, owner, operator

Personalize business plan in Appendix K to create a clean and contemporary prairie style aesthetic that intertwines the natural beauty of the bluffs with the interior. Address both interior and exterior recommendations.

Q3 2018

secure capital to complete buildout

Owner

Seek local incentives and local financial institution to ensure a favorable, low-risk plan.

Q1 2019

new providence: community-wide beautification

New Providence, like Hubbard, has steadily grown over the last seven years. Since 2010, the community has increased its population by nearly 20 percent – approximately ten times the state’s population growth rate during the same period.

Community leadership has taken an active role in supporting this growth. The community recently made enhancements to Heritage Park and has long worked proactively to ensure the community is well-kept. About fifteen years ago, the community revamped its downtown, which is home to a hardware store, a flower shop, a soda shop, and a woodworking shop, among others.

Downtown New Providence benefits from its close proximity to Heritage Park and the historic New Providence Roundhouse. The Roundhouse is frequently used for weddings, receptions, and other community-focused events. The community club hosts three breakfasts per year at The Roundhouse, with each drawing 400 to 500 people. Downtown’s Soda Fountain is home to a weekly breakfast, too, which regularly draws 100 people; funds from these breakfasts support refurbishing the city as well as scholarships for local high schoolers.

New Providence should build on its existing downtown beautification theme: Significant brickwork, green planters and light posts, and hanging baskets and ground-level planters.

City leadership should prioritize the installation of planters and light posts, beginning with East Main Street. Iowa River Trail officials expect that the trail will be opened up – at least in a rough form – to Gifford by the end of fiscal year 2019. There is a possibility that the trail could be extended to Union at this time, but this is dependent on funding. Assuming the temporary termini of the Iowa River Trail will be Gifford, New Providence is poised to lead a growing bicycle tourism market in Hardin County. Creating an inviting eastern gateway will get people into the community and spending their money at places like the Soda Fountain and New Providence Hardware.

Weaving the beautification project together with other placemaking projects as well as existing efforts in the area will be imperative for the project’s success. For instance, community leadership must work with the county-wide branding effort to implement wayfinding signage on Highway D-55. The green wall on Alden’s creative center could function as a nice complement to New Providence’s beautification and underscore the county-wide emphasis of this plan.

In terms of existing efforts, the horticulture program at Ellsworth Community College should be at the top of the list for New Providence leaders. The horticulture program exposes students to soil science, pest management, horticultural crops, perennial crops, organic crop production, and environmental biology. Additionally, students in the certificate program are required to have an apprenticeship or practicum, giving New Providence a steady stream of interested candidates to assist with growing and caring for the plants.

Beautification Sidebar

Action Steps

work with landscape architect to develop community beautification design

City and community volunteers

Explore design assistance opportunities with Iowa State University landscape architecture department. Determine how to build on existing beautification efforts, prioritizing Highway D-55. Consider wayfinding signage placement as a component of the beautification effort.

Q2 2018

obtain cost estimates

City and community volunteers

Work with consultant (either hired or working on a pro-bono basis) to obtain cost estimates. Consider maintenance costs of all items.

Q1 2019

develop project phasing

City and community volunteers

Determine community capacity to support installation and maintenance. Group project areas or elements into discrete phases. Determine appropriate sequencing of phases, being sure to consider other planned investments in the community.

Q2 2019

secure funds and begin implementing beautification strategy throughout community

City and community volunteers

Determine public dollars, if any, available for beautification effort. Develop fundraising goal and roadmap, targeting a mix of local, state, and federal supporters. Share status updates throughout campaign to maintain and build excitement around project. Hold community celebration upon completion of phase one; consider partnering with the Iowa River Trail team to celebrate progress on the trail and on the beautification of New Providence.

Q2 2019

steamboat rock: outdoors outfitter

In conversations with community members, the pride in the county’s natural resources quickly became apparent. Residents and visitors alike embrace the outdoors year round. However, the county has yet to maximize the impact their natural resources can have on the local economy.

While Rock-n-Row Adventures offers tubing, camping, and other summer activities, no entity in Hardin County offers bike, canoe, and fishing equipment rental. The lack of an outdoors outfitter hinders quick, easy access to the full array of the county’s natural resources and inhibits growth in the local economy. If an outdoors outfitter located in Hardin County, it would not only fill a gap but also support other components of the local economy; a study from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance found that every $100 spent at local independent stores generated $45 of secondary local spending compared to $14 for chain stores.

Little RiverThe Little River General Store is located in Lanesboro, Minnesota, population 739. The General Store has been open for 30 years, renting a variety of equipment out to support fitness and fun. The store buys all new equipment at the beginning of each season and offers people the opportunity to buy any of their equipment rather than just renting it.

The outfitter should offer a variety of rentals, tours, and items for purchase to maximize its customer base. Retail items could include clothing, equipment, accessories, and basic supplies, while rentals could include a mix of bicycles, canoes, kayaks, fishing rods, and other equipment. Given the close proximity of Rock-n-Row, the outfitter should not include tube rentals.

The tours should be another tool for the outfitter to make the outdoors more accessible for Hardin County residents and visitors alike. Initially, the tours should include bike adventures, paddle adventures, and a combination thereof. In the future, the outfitter should expand these offerings based on demand and profitability possibilities.

The outfitter should be located on the west edge of Steamboat Rock on River Road South. The target site features two old granary structures that the owners would like to restore and repurpose. The owners envision short-term accommodations in the smaller building (3,612 SF) and then a small woodworking studio (1,000 SF) and the outfitter (6,688 SF) in the larger building.

In addition to a restoration opportunity, the site is adjacent to the Iowa River Trail. When complete, the 34-mile trail will stretch from Steamboat Rock to Marshalltown. The site is just south of Pine Ridge Park, a 131.9 acre county park with timber and prairie land, and an existing low-head dam lies between the park and contemplated site. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has held preliminary discussions about mitigating this dam, which ranks high in its relative risk analysis. If the dam mitigation moves forward, it will open up another unique amenity in Hardin County less than a quarter mile from the outfitter.

Action Steps

develop business plan

John & Joan Schuller, Outfitter Operator

Take business plan created in this plan and personalize to fit vision for the outfitter.

Q2 2018

design space

Architects, Engineers, Contractors, Lender, Investors, Schullers, and Outfitter Operator

Work with professional services to price out concept. Work with local lender for financing. Look to local community for up-front investment.

Q3 2018

begin buildout and hire staff

Architects, Engineers, Contractors, Lender, Investors, Schullers, and Outfitter Operator

Work with professional services to price out concept. Work with local lender for financing. Look to local community for up-front investment.

Q3 2018

opening and marketing campaign

Outfitter Operator

Push marketing campaign throughout buildout. Create website and show construction progress through pictures and videos. Plan for soft opening. Officially open doors.

Q2 2019

Appendices

CONCLUSION

Seven Hardin County communities have collectively shown visionary leadership and taken the first step toward creating a thriving future with this placemaking action plan. While each community has its own unique opportunities, true, sustained success in the county will only be achieved by working together towards implementing the projects outlined here.

While they will stand on their own, the catalytic impact of each of these placemaking projects will be maximized when they all are realized. A synergistic effect has been embedded in the various projects, underscoring the necessity of maintaining the county-wide approach. While some projects will come to fruition more quickly than others, it will be essential to not leave any projects – or communities – behind. After all, a rising tide should lift all boats.

City and county leaders, both elected and not, must be bold in advancing the vision laid out in this action plan. Timelines may seem aggressive, and capital needs may seem daunting. The money to implement these projects, though, is out there; groups like ArtPlace America, local and statewide institutions, philanthropists, or governmental entities are good starting points. While there will be challenges, local leadership must be persistent in seeking and securing these funds. Apply for grants regularly, and strategically develop and nurture relationships with existing and potential donors. Show them the economic and social impact of their contributions, and paint the picture of how additional support could further transform the community.

Be persistent. There will be setbacks and disappointments. It will be important to remember that community development is a marathon, not a sprint. Potential developers may walk away from a deal, and nonprofit champions may leave a board. The faces may change, but the vision should remain: An even better Hardin County. The placemaking steering committee must find more local champions for these projects and help build the leadership bench for the coming decades.

The communities, county, and residents must continue thinking towards the future – not just next year, but five, ten, and even twenty years down the road. What do we want our communities to be when they grow up? How will we evolve to keep up with ever-advancing technology? How will we prepare that next generation of leaders?

The manner in which Hardin County leaders answer these questions will determine if the county simply maintains the status quo or if it flourishes in the future. The playbook to flourish is in hand. Now it’s time to act.

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