WORTH COUNTY, Iowa - If you've driven by the Diamond Jo Casino along Interstate 35 west of Northwood, you may have noticed more than just the bright lights eager to lure you in to gamble. The area also has restaurants, gas stations and lodging.
Now, a new proposed development means Exit 214 could have even more to offer, as Worth County is working to develop 11.25 acres of county-owned land to the south of the intersection of Highway 105 and Wheelerwood Road, directly to the west of I-35, opening it up for a prime commercial/retail area.
Jean Stowell is the Director of the Top of Iowa Welcome Center, and remembers when the center was the only building at the interchange. She's seen quite a bit of change since the early 1990s.
"The idea of this whole development in the first place was economic development and increase revenue for the state and the county."
With talk of more development across the road, Stowell is hopeful.
"Economic development has always been - regional development is always good for everyone. It employs people. It's marvelous."
In addition to the county owned land parcels, the county is hoping to also get around 13 acres of land the casino owns involved as part of the development.
Megan Woods works inside the welcome center, and she'd like to see some restaurants there.
"Something different than what Mason City has. Like even an Olive Garden or Fazoli's."
With Clear Lake also working on developing the area around Highway 122 and I-35, she finds that their development is complimentary to what Worth County is looking to do.
"I believe it's a win-win situation for the whole region. Regional development benefits everyone. Whether you're not necessarily a resident of that community, it still benefits everyone."
The Board of Supervisors recently awarded a construction contract to get sewer, water and utility hookups on the parcels, with construction set to begin next April.