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Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 25, 2018

Reynolds, Gregg host first Growing Rural Iowa Task Force meeting at Access Energy Friday

The committee is part of the ‘Empower Rural Iowa’ initiative executive order signed in July
Sep 10, 2018
Photo by: Grace King Gov. Kim Reynolds takes a few minutes to thank and congratulate members of the newly formed Rural Iowa Task Force, a council through her Empower Rural Iowa initiative that aims to identify needed legislative, regulatory and policy changes in Iowa. The task force met in Mt. Pleasant for the first time on Friday, Sept. 7, at Access Energy.

By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News

 

Gov. Kim Reynolds and Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg hosted the first meeting for the Growing Rural Iowa Task Force at Access Energy in Mt. Pleasant on Friday, Sept. 7.

The Growing Rural Iowa Task Force is a committee out of Reynold’s “Empower Rural Iowa” initiative, an executive order she signed in July to grow and improve rural Iowa. The initiative aims to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes through the Growing Rural Iowa, Investing in Rural Iowa and Connecting Rural Iowa task forces.

The task force will create recommendations during their meetings to present to the governor in December. The second Growing Rural Iowa Task Force meeting will be held in October, with the goal of a third meeting in November or early December to finalize recommendations. At some point, all three task forces will meet together.

“I know you’re all excited to get to work and I already love the energy I’m seeing in rural Iowa,” Reynolds began. “Like many of you, I’m a product of rural Iowa, it shaped who I am today and how I approach problems and make my decisions … I believe Iowa is one big small town. That’s true in so many ways: how we put together a community, in the face of tragedy or celebrating a milestone.”

Rural Iowa is a priority for the current administration, Gregg added. Finding solutions to financing broadband connectivity to investing in housing are just a couple of things the task force seeks to do. The task forces are, while on a short timeline, a long-term effort for Iowa, Gregg said.

Members of the task force were just a few of the 180 Iowans to apply for it after the Empower Rural Iowa initiative was announced. Reynolds congratulated each of them on being selected for a task force and thanked them for their willingness to serve.

Reynolds said she spent some time perusing through their applications on the drive to Mt. Pleasant Friday and said everyone chosen is a very solutions-oriented problem solver.

“That’s exactly what we think is going to make a difference,” Reynolds said.

Vickie Larson, of Mt. Pleasant, while not a part of the Growing Rural Iowa Task Force, was present as an Investing in Rural Iowa Task Force member. She said as a farm girl, investing in the housing needs of rural communities is near and dear to her heart and is what motivated her to apply for the task force.

Members of the Growing Rural Iowa Task Force like Ashley Moyer, Executive Director of Continuing Education and Workforce Solutions at Indian Hills Community College, was motivated for similar reasons. As the seventh generation to live on her family farm, Moyer said she wants to see that lifestyle continue.

Jim Thompson, with the Iowa Economic Development of Ankeny and Growing Rural Iowa Task Force member said he has seen the good and bad of leadership development while traveling across the state of Iowa. Thompson stressed the importance of building strong generational leadership throughout Iowa to continue growing and maintaining rural communities.

Following introductions, the advisory panel for the Growing Rural Iowa Task Force said a few words. Gary Taylor, Professor of Community and Regional Planning at Iowa State University, echoed Thompson’s beliefs in building leaders in rural communities.

“Ask the younger generation to get involved in programs and initiatives rather than serving on boards,” Taylor said. “This is where volunteer fatigue comes from: too much process and too little outcome.”

Advisory panel member Kay Neumann, vice president of programs for the Iowa Association of Business and Industry, said building networks for leadership will create concrete changes in the state in the future.

The heart and soul of Iowa will remain in its small towns and rural communities, which is why Reynolds signed the “Empower Rural Iowa” executive order, she said.

“(The) goal of the executive order was to preserve and expand opportunities for rural Iowa,” Reynolds said. “That small town spirit and small town pride highlights what the entire state is made of and is part of what defines us as Iowans.”

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