This article is from the Spring 2007 edition of the Extension Connection newsletter.
A meaningful partnership for economic development: That’s how Gary Carlson, president and CEO of the Greater Muscatine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, describes Iowa State University Extension teaming up with businesses and organizations to create and support the position of executive director of West Liberty Economic Area Development (WE-LEAD).
Jerry Melick, president of Liberty Communications in West Liberty, said, “Economic development needs to be worked on a regional basis because companies are not going to be locked to a specific location. ISU Extension is a natural fit in this partnership because Extension already has a regional focus.”
Both Carlson and Melick were quick to point out that Iowa State’s willingness to provide training for Karen Lathrop in this new position is a real advantage. Lathrop said the tie to Iowa State gives her instant credibility. ISU Extension pays 25 percent of her salary.
Lathrop has 16 years of corporate sales and marketing experience and a degree in sociology. She grew up in West Liberty. She’s lived in Florida, North Carolina, Colorado, Wyoming and Wisconsin, and is now back home. She started this job in October 2006.
Melick said WE-LEAD can help identify weaknesses, things the community needs to work on to be ready to compete for new business and industry. He believes Lathrop will help his area be “plugged in,” ready for development and ready to approach new businesses and industries.
Carlson said, “Rural population growth is all about creating good jobs. It’s a lot about those who have three employees and grow to 10. We’re approaching this from a county-wide perspective, so having a counterpart in West Liberty who can supply local information on property and companies gives the entire county an advantage.”
Melick said Lathrop has the talents needed in organization and communication. “With Iowa Sate providing training, we could hire a local person with ‘stickiness,’ someone who probably won’t use this position as a stepping stone to another job.”
The partners believe this position and the tools they develop can be a model for other communities. Lathrop’s position is funded for three years.