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ICEDC advisor submits resignation

By ANDREA FURLONG

Shortly after securing the memberships of Iowa County’s seven incorporated cities to form the Iowa County Economic Development Commission (ICEDC), the person who led the commission is leaving it.

Deb Collum-Calderwood began to develop a county economic development group in her position as an Iowa County Extension education director one year ago. At the time, Iowa County was one of five counties in the state without any countywide economic development group.

When a reorganization of the Iowa State Extension service cut Collum-Calderwood’s position in late August of 2009, the county extension council hired her part-time Sept. 1, as a program coordinator to continue development of the ICEDC through Feb. 28, 2010. Through all or part of the county board of supervisor’s $25,000 donation to the ICEDC, Collum-Calderwood anticipated working in a part-time position for the ICEDC beginning Oct. 1. The two positions together would have afforded Collum-Calderwood a full-time salary for four months.

Collum-Calderwood assured the supervisors in August she was “not worried where things will be in six months,” when her Extension position would end, leaving her with a part-time salary. She would fund raise toward a full-time salary after Feb. 28, 2010, she said. Yet, one month later, Collum-Calderwood has resigned as an Iowa County Extension program coordinator effective Sept. 30, to accept a job with an economic development group in Poweshiek County.

“Once Feb. 28 rolled around, I would only have part-time employment (with) the ICEDC. For sure, there would be four months of full-time employment (through the Extension and the ICEDC together), and then we would have to go to the incorporated cities and the business sector to seek money for full-time employment with no guarantees it would be there,” Collum-Calderwood explained.

“All the governmental bodies do their budgets in January and February. We would be looking at four months of me working part-time (March 1 to June 30, the end of the fiscal year) and I can’t do that to my family. (Plus), there’s no guarantee that it would be full-time July 1.”

Collum-Calderwood cited a guaranteed full-time salary to help support her two children, and benefits, as the main reasons she accepted a position as executive director of Poweshiek Iowa Development.

“The Poweshiek position offers full-time position with benefits right away. Obviously, if the Iowa County Economic Development Commission were to offer full-time employment it’d be different, but they’re not in a position to do that right now,” she said.

Proximity to family also played a role in Collum-Calderwood’s decision, as she is a native of Grinnell, a town in western Poweshiek County.

“A lot of my friends and family still live there. I know a lot of people in that county,” she said.

Collum-Calderwood begins her new position Oct. 1. Although she will no longer be serving the ICEDC, she has offered to continue giving the commission occasional guidance from her new office.

“I’m only a phone call or e-mail away if they have any questions,” she said.

ICEDC’S FUTURE

Collum-Calderwood said she is fully confident the 20-member commission will follow up on the 18-24 month strategic plan she helped draft, and finalize its 28E agreement, which will render the commission an official independent organization once it’s filed with the Secretary of the State of Iowa.

“I really believe they will move this forward and be successful. They know what they need to focus on in the next 18-24 months (and) there’s a lot of resources out there that can help,” she said.

Iowa County Supervisor Linda Yoder, who is also a commission member, confirmed the group will carry on according to plan, starting with the development of an executive committee at its next meeting, Oct. 21.

“There will be an executive committee . . . and there will be a chair, vice chair, secretary and treasurer,” Yoder said.

The ICEDC will also look at hiring an interim director to “do administrative work (and) keep everybody on track,” she said. Yoder said the temporary position would likely be part-time for approximately 10 hours per week. The director will be selected based on an executive director job description previously drafted by the commission, according to Yoder.

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

The absence of Collum-Calderwood — who was assumed to be the IDEC’s first choice for executive director — days before the commission was scheduled to hire the commission director Thursday, Oct. 1, has left the Iowa County Extension Council and the commission with many questions.

The ICEDC, which did not have any other known candidates in mind for the director position, has yet to determine how it will select an interim director, who that temporary director will be, the number of hours for the position and more. The commission is especially uncertain about the total salary, which would depend on the Iowa County Extension Council’s decision to continue funding the position.

Iowa State University Regional Extension Director Gene Mohling said the county Extension council is currently unsure about its continued involvement with the ICEDC, which was slated to end in five months.

“We have no idea at this point in time what we’re going to do. The first thing we’re going to do is sit down and talk about the options,” he said.

Mohling said the Extension council will begin discussing its options at its next meeting, Oct. 13, at 7 p.m. at the Iowa County Extension Office, Marengo. He added he does not believe the council will come to a conclusion any time soon.

“I doubt if they’ll make a decision for the next three to four months,” he said.

Because Collum-Calderwood was an Extension employee, in addition to the part-time salary, the council provided her with an office, lap top, office equipment and paid for her utilities and communications, etc. Mohling said the Extension is unsure whether it will continue to provide these services, as well.

“We really don’t have an answer to anything,” Mohling said.

PARTING WORDS

In reflecting on her year with the commission, Collum-Calderwood said she has truly enjoyed her time spent advising the organization.

“I have enjoyed working in Iowa County and getting to know city leaders, community leaders and businesses, families and youth. I’ve enjoyed providing services to the residents of Iowa County. It’s been a really positive experience for me and I’m appreciative of having the opportunity,” she said.

WHAT THE ICEDC IS

The Iowa County Economic Development Commission is made up of 20 commissioners — two representatives from every incorporated town in the county, two representatives from the Amana Society, two representatives from Iowa County Farm Bureau and two representatives from the Iowa County Board of Supervisors. Its purpose is to serve as an independent entity that promotes the growth of new businesses in the county, the retention of current businesses and provides educational support on economic development.

All of the county’s seven incorporated towns (Ladora, Millersburg, Marengo, North English, Parnell, Williamsburg and Victor), the Amana Society, Iowa County Farm Bureau and the Iowa County Board of Supervisors have signed a 28E agreement with the Iowa Economic Development Commission. Once the agreement is filed with the Secretary of the State of Iowa and recorded with the Recorder of Iowa County, the commission will be an official entity.

Cities and organizations are not required to pay until the second year of membership with the commission. Beginning with the second year, partnering units are to pay a share of the expenses of the commission’s operation. The cost to the incorporated cities will not exceed $1 per capita.

The agreement will be renewed annually, beginning on June 30, 2010, unless written notice of intent to withdraw is given to the commission by Feb. 1 of the given year.

Meetings of the ICEDC are open to the public. The next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 21, at 6 p.m. at Parnell City Hall.

UPDATED September 30, 2009 12:32 PM

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