An organization that works year-around for the betterment of Cherokee County, asks the citizens and businesses for support once a year in the fall.
The Cherokee Area Economic Development Corporation (CAEDC) is kicking off its annual fundraising campaign.
"We feel it is important to the citizens of Cherokee County to understand who we are, how we are funded, as well as what our goals are and the challenges we face," said Jean Benson, CAEDC staff member.
CAEDC is a non-profit organization and represents the entire county. Support is received annually from Cherokee County government, the cities in the county, the Cherokee Industrial Corporation (CIC), financial institutions, businesses and individuals.
The CAEDC office is comprised of a certified Economic Development Director, Mark Buschkamp, and three part-time staff members, Beth Ogren, Jean Benson, and Penny Pingrey. The director and staff work for two boards. The president of the CAEDC board is Tom Kellen, the vice president is Mark Hecox, the secretary is Terry Graybill, the treasurer is Tim Haupert, and other board members are Bruce Amundson, Curtis Cockburn, Mike Dunn, Mike Hunter, Scott Jones, Ramona Nitz, Jim Peck, Jon Simonsen, Bruce Schmadeke, and Les Todd.
The CIC is a for profit organization that represents the city of Cherokee. The president of the CIC board is Eric Comstock, the vice president is Jeff Osborn, the secretary/treasurer is Darren Zwiefel, and Carol Snapp handles the financials. Other CIC board members are Jeff Fuller, Ron Halverson, Jim Nelson, Brenda Perrin, Don Rahn, and Dan Winchell. CIC is funded by stockholders.
The CAEDC works with and has the support of the Iowa Department Economic Development as well as the regional Northwest Iowa Developer's Coalition. The organization helps existing businesses with low interest (gap financing) loans through the USDA, Tax Increment Financing (TIF), Enterprise Zone (EZ) tax credits, Employee Tax credits, City Tax Abatements.
Sustaining and growing existing businesses is CAEDC's top priority with attracting new businesses being a close second. Businesses looking to relocate or start up are looking at many aspects of the community.
According to CAEDC, the area scores high in some areas and not so high in others.
Positives listed by CAEDC include:
• Beautiful, safe communities
• Revitalized downtown Cherokee
• Excellent schools
• Regional medical center and clinics
• The wellness center in Cherokee
• The aquatic center in Cherokee
• The river, lakes and parks
• The Sanford Museum, the Cherokee Symphony, the Cherokee Community Theatre, and a designated cultural district that offers many cultural opportunities.
• Existing industry and MHI
The biggest challenges identified by CAEDC are:
• Lack of a four-lane highway (Buschkamp serves on the Highway 20 Commission)
• Lack of available buildings zoned industrial or commercial
• Lack of existing infrastructure and available land close to the city limits and zoned industrial or commercial
• Lack of a qualified workforce
An estimated 80 percent of businesses looking to relocate or start up will not consider a community without all of the above. They will go down the road and find it from another community. We are competing with other communities that are giving away buildings and land and forgiving property taxes. We know these are big hurdles we have to overcome but we are working on each of them.
CAEDC efforts have included:
Partnering with Harvest International -- bringing this new auger business to Cherokee and employing 12 people.
Promoting the area throughout the US as well as internationally by attending trade shows with the Northwest Iowa Developers in Chicago and Tulare, Calif.
Securing $3.5 million in state and local incentives for Little Sioux Corn Processors expansion in Marcus.
Securing $5.4 million in state and local incentives for Soy Energy, a 30 million gallon biodiesel plant.
Facilitating efforts and coordinating programs for The Gardens, a new assisted living facility in Cherokee.
Working with Marcus Hometown Guesthouse committee to establish a motel for the community.
Collaborating with the Cherokee Chamber of Commerce in developing the Redevelopment Incentive Fund for existing stores to improve their storefronts.
Developing with the Cherokee Chamber of Commerce the New Business Incentive Program, which provides incentives for businesses moving into Cherokee.
Facilitating a tour of Dutch Dairymen looking to relocate in Iowa and coordinating efforts between the host communities of Marcus and Aurelia in their enticement efforts.
Expediting efforts for the cities of Cleghorn and Aurelia on developing their new community centers.
Pushing through legislation to provide $750,000 in tax credits for projects in Cherokee County.
Obtaining a Cherokee County Landfill grant and low interest loans for $450,000 for new equipment and business prospects for a solid waste pelletizing project.
CAEDC has provided revolving loans to eight businesses in Aurelia, Washta and Cherokee. CAEDC has organized the annual Cherokee County Legislation Day at the state capitol.
CAEDC will be sending out fund raising letters to all businesses and industry in the county. CAEDC can be contacted at 418 West Cedar in Cherokee, 225-5739.