Our Story: Sustainable Centerville


Centerville, Iowa, residents are making an in-depth economic assessment of their financial, social, and environmental well-being for long-term success through the Sustainable Economies Program. It’s a joint effort of the Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS) and the Community and Economic Development program of Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

Key players explain the impact of the Sustainable Economies Program on Centerville and Appanoose County.

Mark Reinig, CIRAS economic development program manager: “Appanoose County Sustainable Economies Program was developed from a grant from the Economic Development Administration to CIRAS at Iowa State University.”

Tod Faris, Appanoose Economic Development Corp. executive director: “Mark approached me at a conference and told me about the Sustainable Economies Program through CIRAS and Iowa State. Iowa State, in the end, created a great amount of data on Appanoose County.”

Jay Dillard, Centerville City Council member: “Iowa State University came and presented some information about Appanoose County, the pros and cons of what’s going on within the area, and from that spurred several subcommittees.”

Mark Reinig, CIRAS economic development program manager: “Each one of those committees has gone on and developed quite a few interesting programs to accomplish what they want to be able to bring forward for Appanoose County into the future.”

Jim Senior, mayor of Centerville: “The town looks better. People are planting flowers; they’re fixing up their yards, fixing up their houses. People started feeling better about themselves and what they could do because Iowa State showed us how to help ourselves. They helped us help ourselves.”

Neil MacArthur, rural business development adviser: “I’ve seen two impacts, both of them positive. The first is the number of people who are interested in getting involved in businesses, or entrepreneurs, mostly on a continuing business basis, but also new start-ups. Secondly I think the sustainability program has stimulated the other committees that are in town to actually get active and focus their efforts and to get involved and all move toward the same goal.”

Hannah Wiltamuth, Honey Creek Resort State Park interpretive programs director: “One of the things we looked at with the Sustainable Economies Program was the strengths of our community and we decided that natural resources were one of the biggest strengths that we have in our community. As a naturalist here at Honey Creek Resort State Park, it just made sense to include me in something that would help to draw people to the community.”

Jody McDanel, Appanoose County supervisor: “The data just showed that we were number one in natural resources. We have an 11,000-acre lake, and lots of wide-open territory. Our population is 12,700, so we’ve got plenty of room for people.”

Nichole Moore, Chariton Valley Planning and Development executive director: “The natural resources committee has been looking at three different areas since we started -- the natural environmental issues that are in the county, the wayfaring signage that we deal with in the community, and trails projects that could work throughout the county as well.”

Jeri Pershy, Centerville resident: “I took part in the Appanoose leadership class and it was great, because my daughter and I took it together. My kids and I all love being here. My children want to stay in Centerville. I just want there to be ways for them to make a good living for their families and help sustain our economy.”

Mike Bogle, Centerville Fire Department chief: “What I took away from the leadership class was being able to network with other groups and organizations in town, whether it be the religious organizations, private industry, businesses, educators; talking to them, seeing their leadership styles, taking bits and pieces away from how they do things, being able to implement that in how I do my leadership with the fire department, sending that back, giving them some input on my leadership skills, and being able to come up with a common goal for the community.

Bill Burch, president, Cline Companies: “It takes an investment on behalf of all the people in the community to do more than what would be typical, to do more than the average community, to try to reverse that cycle, and the Sustainable Economies Program is doing exactly that. They’re helping us focus on how can we do more? How can we be more engaged? How can we better compete? They were excellent at pulling together meetings, organizing activities, getting us to think, facilitate and make some things happen. They had a great impact, just in the time that they’ve been here.”

Jay Dillard, Centerville City Council member: “I’ve garnered the idea of being the change I want to see in my community. With leadership you don’t have to be perfect, you just have to get involved. That’s how I became part of the council and I look forward to what we can do together, along with Iowa State University, to better Appanoose County.”

Jim Senior, mayor of Centerville: “The ability of these people to give of themselves and how much they give of themselves is really the key to any community and to any community’s success.”

Jeri Pershy, Centerville resident: “I’m just hopeful that if we use all the things we learned, that we will be able to bring more people in and I can keep my family all here. I just look forward to keeping Centerville thriving, because it’s my town and I love it.”

Tod Faris, Appanoose Economic Development Corp. executive director: “I’m so excited that Iowa State University Extension and Outreach has come to us to assist us in this process. I believe that the value of the Sustainable Economies Program for Appanoose County and, really, for Iowa, is an opportunity to formally organize efforts to make things not just better, but to have specific projects that groups of volunteers can really see through from beginning to end. It’s going to improve their county, their city, whatever the case is, to improve that long-term. And then continue to have that sustainable long-term for the betterment of all that live there.”

Mark Reinig, CIRAS economic development program manager: “Iowa State University Extension and Outreach and the Center for Industrial Research and Service brings this type of programming out to the communities in Iowa to help them become better places to do business, helping businesses become more profitable, and the communities to become more sustainable, and a better place to live and grow in Iowa.”

ISU Extension and Outreach and CIRAS are helping Iowa communities become sustainable places to do business, live, and grow.