Woodbine Main Street was featured at the Southwest Iowa Planning Council’s annual meeting and mini-conference at Woodbine’s Roundy Center on Thursday, Sept. 19.
Following a welcome from SWIPCO’s Executive Director, John McCurdy, during which he introduced several team leaders and directors, those gathered broke into two groups to explore some of the projects that have been completed in Woodbine in recent years.
“The real point is to learn more about Woodbine and some of the things that are going on here, “ McCurdy said. “Obviously we have been involved in quite a few of them, and we are very proud of that, but that is not why any of this has happened. Why all of this has happened is because of locals and the efforts they have put in.”
Woodbine Main Street Director Deb Sprecker reviewed the positive impacts the community has seen since 2008 through downtown revitalization.
Sprecker added that housing has been a big part of developing the downtown district as well. Of the 36 housing units in downtown Woodbine, 30 upper-story housing units were added or renovated for downtown living since 2008.
“That has changed the dynamic downtown. People are walking to the grocery store, to church, the post office, restaurants and the bar,” she said. “We are also attracting a varied demographic to the upstairs apartments. It’s everything from a Tommy Gate employee, a new teacher, and a widowed farm wife. I really love that vibe we get because it is so many different people.”
Furthermore, the community has completed more than 60 projects in the downtown district, including building rehabilitation. This work has garnered a gain of 35 new businesses or business expansions and added nearly 70 new jobs in the community.
“The combined work we have done in our three-by-three Main Street District has increased our total assessed property values by $1.9 million,” Sprecker said. “Those are values that stay inherent in the tax base.”
While some of these projects were completed independently, McCurdy is proud of the support his organization offers communities.
“We have had projects in every county (we serve), and most towns receive some support,” McCurdy said.
SWIPCO is locally guided with a board of directors comprised of representatives from each of the eight counties the organization serves, as well as three at-large directors. Those counties are Cass, Fremont, Harrison, Mills, Montgomery, Page, Pottawattamie, and Shelby.
They focus on three specific priorities:
• Community Development – “We are very busy doing Community Development Block Grants, but we also help communities with planning,” Community Development Team Leader Alexsis Fleenor said.
• Housing – Housing is probably one of the top priorities, McCurdy said. He introduced Sandy Hansen as the team leader in this area.
“We do a lot of housing rehab, homebuyer assistance, a lot of repair, and we do new construction,” McCurdy said. “Another thing we deal with a lot is code enforcement.”
He then introduced a SWIPCO building inspector, Matthew Lee.
• Transportation (through Southwest Iowa Transit Agency) – Transportation Director Mark Lander reported that SWITA provides 350,000 rides annually to contracted workforce transportation as well as elderly and disabled riders, among others. However, SWITA is struggling with driver shortages.
“We are projecting 65,000 (workforce) rides in fiscal year 2020, but that’s very conservative. My guess is we will have a really good shot at hitting 75,000,” Lander said. “We are seeing a lot of growth here.”
The annual report was discussed during lunch, provided by Food Land of Woodbine.
Liesl Seabert, Rural Community Revitalization Program Manager, was the keynote speaker, and following her address, partnership awards were presented.
Partnership Awards were presented to Packers Sanitation Services, Inc., Washington County Bank, City of Woodbine, and City of Clarinda.
Additionally, several SWIPCO employees were recognized. Kathy Weyhrich was named Driver of the Year; Mark Lander, Transit Director, and Kristen Templeton, Transit Assistant-Operations, were each recognized for five years of service; and Karen Mauer, Human Resources Coordinator, was honored for 20 years of service.