2018 was an exciting year for the Monona County Economic Development Partnership for Growth.
This year has been filled with much needed time making connections with groups in the county and region. Monona County Economic Development has built on it’s existing partnership with Iowa’s West Coast Initiative and the Small Business Development Centers to promote entrepreneurship and provide resources for start-up businesses in the area. We are actively working with several brand new start-ups in various parts of Monona County. All of those startups are untapped markets in Monona County, meaning not only are we steadily growing, we are adding new types of businesses.
Our main focus in 2018 was working with existing businesses to determine growth needs and assess their experiences with our community. We completed interviews with five major employers and industry owners to find that workforce was the top concern. We are still working to become qualified as a Home Base Iowa county, which gives participating employers an additional avenue for recruiting.
We also created a business recognition program to shine a bright light on businesses going above and beyond in the Monona County Community. We awarded 5 businesses with the following acknowledgments and trophies: Market Leader, Top Employer, Innovation, Business Expansion, and Community Support. This program was to give much needed recognition as well as encourage other businesses to stay competitive and strive for growth.
A major hurdle to growth in a rural area is that retail businesses are competing with online companies. We have worked with over 12 businesses in the last 6 months to help them increase their presence on the web. Some of those businesses have implemented online ordering and have increased sales because of it. We also assisted several businesses with placing their business on Google Maps, so they are able to be found by people searching online for their types of product or service.
We started making connections with the agriculture community by introducing the Lincoln Premium Poultry project alongside WIPCO. We had a few Monona County farmers interested in this project. We had two outside sources interested in purchasing land in Monona County to invest in this project, and a majority of the farmers we met with were interested in other ideas for diversification, so we will continue to research opportunities and present to them.
Site Selection & Business Attraction
We have made it our goal to continue working toward land acquisition for the purpose of recruiting businesses that will provide jobs. We have also been working with building owners to help market vacant building to entrepreneurs seeking homes for their new businesses.
Education & Economic Development
In 2018, we started making connections with Monona County schools. Discussions that took place included encouraging the path of entrepreneurship for students who choose not to take a traditional career path as well as connecting our businesses to students looking to enter the local workforce.
Eighty percent of a community’s growth comes from existing businesses and there are top-notch studies available saying the same for workforce development. We will continue this approach and focus more on building on existing talents that are already within our Monona County communities.