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County to join economic development region

Jasper County is apparently ready to be a player in a regional strategic initiative intended to improve economic development opportunities by targeting industries, supporting passenger rail service and encouraging entrepreneurship.

Kim Didier, executive director of Iowa Association of Business and Industry, gave the Jasper County Board of Supervisors information on a seven-county region in central Iowa, known as Innovation Gateway, the first region in the nation to receive a Department of Labor’s Region Innovation Grant of $250,000 for its formation. The plan is now being facilitated with the help of Didier, the Association of Business and Industry and a 17-member executive board composed of business, education and workforce leaders within the region.

The Innovation Gateway’s seven-county region of Story, Marshall, Tama, Jasper, Poweshiek, Marion and Mahaska counties hopes to collaborate to become more globally competitive. Its goals are to analyze workforce supply and demand; build partnerships to match workforce supply with demand; provide infrastructure for sustainable communities; and to foster a culture of entrepreneurship.

Didier said that the focus for the partnership this fiscal year is to collect industry data; support efforts to expand passenger rail to Iowa City and finally to Des Moines; introduce entrepreneurship curriculum to secondary students; and provide technical assistance to other regions to promote regional economic zones in Iowa.

Currently, Poweshiek, Marion and Marshall counties have provided funding for the partnership, as well as other government entities and utilities. Didier asked the supervisors to provide $2,500 this fiscal year to Innovation Gateway.

The supervisors agreed to provide the funding this fiscal year, with the stipulation that alternate funding sources be sought for next fiscal year.

In other action Tuesday, the supervisors:

• Approved the Mental Health Annual Report, delivered by Community Services Director Jody Eaton.

Eaton told the supervisors this was the third and final year for the strategic plan goals. There were four goals for the plan: to provide access to convenient affordable transportation to all eligible persons; to provide an opportunity to find and maintain competitive employment in the community; and to provide the means for all eligible persons to successfully navigate the service

delivery systems, and find adequate housing.

Eaton said the first goal was achieved. Ridership in rural areas has increased, and Heartland Senior Services is considering expanding hours of operations. Current economic conditions in Jasper County, however, have prevented achieving the second goal. Eaton said only about one-third of the potential job-seekers have found employment. Residential services provided in Jasper county are providing skill development to allow individuals to live in the community with the necessary supports. However, residential services for people with disruptive behaviors are not currently provided in Jasper County.

• Approved a request from the Newton Salvation Army to place an “Angel Tree” in the courthouse during the holidays. The tree will feature tags for boys and girls ages 3 to 18. Those wishing to participate may take a tag, purchase a gift and take the unwrapped gift along with the tag, to the Salvation Army.

John Jennings can be contacted at 792-3121 ext. 425 or via e-mail at

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