MASON CITY, Iowa - The face of North Iowa has changed over the years, from shrinking population to job loss and a housing shortage.
To reverse the tide, the Vision North Iowa plan was launched in 2018. The goals: bolster entrepreneurship, ensure smart economic growth, attract and retain a strong, diverse talent pipeline, attract, expand and retain high-growth companies, and improve quality of place.
So far, the plan is picking up steam. During the 'State of North Iowa' presentation at the Mason City Arena on Thursday morning, officials with the Mason City Chamber of Commerce, the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA), North Iowa Corridor Economic Development Corp., and others shared the news of great strides being made to accomplish those goals in North Iowa.
Debi Durham is the director of the IEDA, and has been an active proponent of the work being done in North Iowa, such as the River City Renaissance project.
"Diversity around population growth, workforce, reinvestment, investing in our community, creating places where people want to live, housing. We talked about a number of things today."
Don O'Connor is a Cerro Gordo County native, and has seen people actively reinvest in the area. He supports the county, and the communities of Clear Lake and Mason City, and their efforts to reach a common goal.
"I think we're a lot stronger as one unit than as three individuals. That's really encouraging to hear today, that is real collaboration really taking place."
"It's really nice to see things happening positive again. The vibrant economics that are going on here."
Within the last few years, Cerro Gordo County has seen a 2.2% increase in job growth (2017-18), a 1.3% increase in employment year over a year, a 20% increase in GDP to $2.47 billion (between 2014-18), enrollment increases in the Clear Lake and Mason City High Schools, 83 new business starts and 357 new jobs created thanks to the NIACC Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center, and over $319 million dollars in capital investment being plugged into projects, like the River City Renaissance and its spin-off projects.
North Iowa Corridor Economic Development Corp. CEO & Director Chad Schreck is upbeat about the progress being made.
"Now, it's really been about the implementation. How do we create the culture we want, the amenities we want? The arena is one of those major components. Getting everyone working together was just critical to getting this thing over the hump and getting it done."
So to help keep the momentum going forward -
"We want to ensure that we engage with the community, share this with them. It can't be lead by a few people behind the scenes. It needs to be community driven."