Community and Economic Development Extends to Keokuk Community

AMES, Iowa – Iowa State University Extension and Outreach has begun a trend in southeast Iowa aimed at enhancing economic development and quality of life by partnering with Iowa communities. The effort has yielded three shared positions specializing in community and economic development.

The most recent ISU Extension and Outreach Community and Economic Development (CED) collaboration is with the Keokuk Area Chamber of Commerce to hire an executive director/extension community development specialist for the chamber. Charles “Chuck” Betts was hired for the position. He began in January.

“I know our area will benefit from this,” said April Girard, chamber board president. “Community and Economic Development is an opportunity for Keokuk to utilize Iowa State resources and programs to provide a coordinated effort in making Keokuk a better community. We have confidence in Chuck’s ability to lead and look forward to the contributions he makes to the chamber.”

Betts will offer the best of both worlds to Keokuk and the surrounding area: economic development expertise at the local level plus access to the resources of ISU Extension and Outreach.

“We see this as a unique combination where Chuck can attend university training and have access to all our information. Through hiring him, we have gained an experienced practitioner for our educational programming who is engaged in economic development,” said Tim Borich, Community and Economic Development program director for ISU Extension and Outreach and associate dean for outreach in the ISU College of Design.

Within his first year, Betts hopes to get a grasp of the full resources Iowa State University provides, coordinate efforts for economic development volunteer groups and strengthen and multiply chamber committees.

“The connection with ISU Extension and Outreach was a happy coin that was tossed at the right time. This will be very beneficial to this community,” Betts said.

This partnership is based on a small-town economic development model piloted in West Liberty. The City of West Liberty and ISU Extension and Outreach created West Liberty Economic Area Development (WE-LEAD), along with a joint position serving as WE-LEAD executive director and extension community development specialist. Karen Lathrop serves in that shared position.

“The collaboration was designed to grow economic development in West Liberty, and it has,” said Lathrop. “Extension offers credibility; it offers small communities the ability to provide professional development and training. One of the best aspects of this collaboration is that it is fun to be a part of.”

ISU Extension and Outreach also shares a joint position specializing in sustainability in the City of Fairfield. Scott Timm leads the program.

“Fairfield needed the outside help and resources including people power to make things happen in its green initiative,” said Timm. “A lot of communities make plans and often those plans just sit on the shelf. With this partnership, things can happen and they do happen.”


Additional Contacts
April Girard, Keokuk Chamber of Commerce board president, 319-524-6921,
Tim Borich, ISU Extension and Outreach Community and Economic Development program director, 515-233-3896,
Karen Lathrop, ISU Extension and Outreach program specialist, 319-325-5465,
Scott Timm, ISU Extension and Outreach program specialist, 515-291-2560,