Acting in Catalytic Ways

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Iowa State University Extension and Outreach acts in catalytic ways — creating opportunities and building relationships throughout the state. Last year companies that worked with our Center for Industrial Research and Service  — CIRAS — reported making $43 million in new investments and creating or retaining more than 6,000 jobs. We bring the right people together to move Iowa forward. We’re people advancing people.

Karen Lathrop is the executive director for West Liberty Economic Area Development (WE-LEAD) and an ISU Extension community economic development specialist. Karen says:

Six years ago West Liberty Economic Area Development created a partnership with Iowa State University Extension. The partnership has focused on creating economic development in rural communities. As part of WE-LEAD, we’ve been working a lot with our downtown, trying to make sure that we keep the storefronts filled.

We work with West Liberty Foods, which is our major employer. They employ about 800 people in our community. Their West Liberty Foods Market is their retail outlet for turkey products.

This is Local Grounds, a company that we helped get started. It’s a coffee shop and a community gathering place.

Through this position with Iowa State and WE-LEAD, we’ve really been able to be a catalyst for change in the community — being able to utilize university resources and expertise, and to be able to connect people to other resources that are in the field with Extension. The fact that Extension actually came in and allowed us to do this — look at rural economic development, really focusing on the business base … really improving them and helping them grow — is a critical factor. Iowa State’s involvement … has really made all the difference in the world.

Cindy Danielson is general manager of Hy-Capacity, a manufacturer and remanufacturer of agricultural parts. For several years the company has worked with CIRAS. With 145 employees in Humboldt, Iowa, the company has seen about 10 percent growth per year. Cindy says:

CIRAS was introduced to Hy-Capacity in 2006 and from there we started doing job training. We looked at lean; we looked at green; we looked at team building. We looked at all training available through CIRAS. They’ve come up with some really hands-on, specific answers to problems that we’ve struggled with.

It certainly has been a catalyst for our growth. We have never been disappointed by CIRAS. We’re really proud to be associated with them. Any manufacturer in Iowa should look to CIRAS for any type of help that they might have — whether it’s green, whether it’s lean, whether it’s geothermal, whether it’s teaching and coaching … just trying to learn. … You’d be surprised, if they’re not the answer, how they get answers for you. They’ve been a big part of our success and they will continue to be a big part of our success.

Teresa Wiemerslage is the ISU Extension Region 4 communications and program coordinator working with the Northeast Iowa Farm to School program, which connects schools with their local agricultural communities. Part of the program involves engaging high school students as farm-to-school educators. These older students teach younger students about local foods. Teresa says:

Those initial discussions with Extension brought many people to the table. Extension served as a catalyst to be able to bring those people together to talk about different roles that they can play in this work.

Cross-age teaching is one of the components that we use to help bring some of that nutrition and local food education directly into the classroom. ISU Extension and Outreach staff have prepared a lesson. … The students practice the lesson and then they go into the classroom. They are going to lead an activity — some sort of physical activity, some type of hands-on activity — and then (the younger students) get to taste the food that they’re talking about.

We create a bond between those younger students and the older students. By going in every month and having that interaction and that relationship with an older youth role model, we’re finding that the younger students are really captivated and enthralled and develop a really neat relationship with those students in their school.

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WE-LEAD in West Liberty

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