How. Cty. to share the party!

By Marcie Klomp

“It’s our time to shine. It’s our time to brag,” said Alison Holten, President of HCED (Howard County Economic Development). She is referring to finally letting the cat out of the bag about what a great place Howard County is to live, work and play.

A second Grow Howard County task force meeting was held on Feb. 1 with another good group, about 30, attending.

Howard-Winneshiek School Superintendent John Carver led the Saturday meeting. He wants to “Share the party going on in Howard County.”

He asked attendees to watch the big game on Sunday to see a commercial made in the “Corridor” of Iowa (Cedar Rapids/Iowa City and area). It featured zombies and a take off from “Duck Dynasty.” As with Howard County, and most of Iowa in general, the area southeast of Howard County is trying to entice 20-30 years olds to live and work.

“We can [work off] that,” Carver said. If people investigate moving to Cedar Rapids, they might take a look around and find Howard County.

Carver knows northeast Iowa has potential. He sees it in the businesses, the school districts and recreation areas. He’s not the only one.

Even state officials are tuned in to Howard County. While attending meetings in Des Moines, Carver said he saw Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds three different times. “Each time they asked, ‘Home Base Iowa. You’re running with that, right?’” That’s what these task force meetings are about. That and Connect Iowa.

Home Base Iowa

Home Base Iowa is a program to get soldiers to come to Iowa after leaving the military. All over Iowa, there are jobs needing to be filled, including in Howard County.

Robin Schluter, CEO of Regional Health Services-Howard County doesn’t think it will be hard to get families to move here. She moved to Cresco from a big city. She stated that some of her friends felt sorry for her for moving to rural Iowa. “I told them, ‘You’ve got it wrong.’” The quality of living is so much better in a small town than a large town and, she added, “You are only an hour from a large shopping area in any direction.”

Communities working toward enticing these and other workers will be recognized by the state. The goal of the task force is to be one of the first to be named a Home Base Iowa Community.

Some members of the group have volunteered to get employers to list their jobs on Iowa Workforce Development and Home Base Iowa. Veterans can just type in their preferred occupation and up pops a list of positions available.

An ambassador group is being formed that will show potential workers around and offer gift package. Hopefully that will be the edge Howard County needs to get a young family to move within its borders.

Connect Iowa

Another way to bring folks to Howard County is to get better high-speed broadband service to all corners of the county and in between.

Helping with that is a Connect Iowa team who battled the weather to attend the meeting.

 

 

 

Amy Kuhlers said, “Howard County can be a poster child for the rest of the state.” She added, “Howard County has nowhere to go but up.” She was referring to the poor broadband service available in the county. Carver said, “We are ready to do the heavy lifting.”

Local Vanette Grover gave an example of service in the country. The district has gone to a 1:1 initiative, with students having their own computer device. That’s great, but not if students can’t get their homework to download due to poor service. “Some stuff that should take three seconds to download, takes three hours.” The family has been forced at times to go to a neighbor’s home that has better service.

Another concern about this is for those students who don’t even have Internet service at their home. They have to go to a library or other WiFi hubs to access the Internet.

Kuhlers understood. “We can’t leave anyone out.”

The task force is hoping to show the need for broadband for personal and business uses and wants to be first county in line to be a guinea pig on getting the entire county connected.

As with Home Base Iowa some hoops need to be jumped through, including addressing a few issues.

Goals include getting more people to access information online. This can be online banking (which is being done locally), looking online to get a water bill amount, city information, business information and so much more.

Programs need to be available to show those with little or no knowledge of computers how to use them. With a large elderly population, those would be one of the target groups. Some classes may be available to show basic computer usage, perhaps how to Skype with grandkids. Libraries will be a great place to educate individuals.

When the hoops have been conquered, the county could get a certificate, presented by the governor or lieutenant governor.

The task force is hoping to accomplish both Home Base Iowa and Connect Iowa status in the next few months and be way ahead of other communities in the state.

Howard County is moving forward. If residents continue to push for better living in Howard County, it will be noticed, and folks will be clamoring to live, work and play here.

The next meeting is Feb. 22 at 9 a.m. at NICC-Cresco. Everyone is invited to attend.

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