The town of Boone is one of four communities in Iowa honored with the BEST of Iowa Achievement Award.
BEST stands for Business Expansion and Strategic Trends and is a collaboration between local economic development groups, the Iowa Economic Development Authority, and Iowa utility companies.
Boone was recognized for going “beyond expectations throughout the data collection process” which helped identify labor challenges and supply issues. The initiative in 2021 obtained data from interviews with more than 1,065 companies in 66 Iowa counties.
“The reason this award is important is that it sends a direct signal to the mayor, the city administrator, the city council, that they place a high priority on understanding the needs of their current employers,” said Dan Culhane, President and CEO. of the Ames Economic Development Commission (AEDC).
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“They don’t get this award unless they have the leadership and the understanding of the importance of this,” he added.
Boone entered into a contract with AEDC to support its economic development goals.
“The Town of Boone is honored to receive this award, along with the other communities,” Boone Town Administrator William Skare said in a news release. “Mayor (John) Slight and City Council understand the importance of our current businesses to the economic vitality of our city. They deeply appreciate their commitment to our community and work hard to support them. Our relationship with the Ames Economic Development Commission has proven effective in continuing our progress in economic development.
“We were thrilled they received the award,” Culhane said. “They went from no visits in 2018 and 2019 to where every visit was hit last year. So that was a big jump in the number of visits.
He said it’s a staff bandwidth issue for many communities that simply don’t have the staff available to do the tours. And this is where entities like AEDC can help.
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Learning the data surrounding local business trends helps retain and grow existing businesses as well as attract new ones to the community, he said.
“It’s basic blocking and struggle – the basic tenet of economic development,” Culhane said. “About 80% to 85% of your job growth will come from companies that are already there, so you better deal with that.”
There are 16 businesses in the Town of Boone and a total of 110 businesses in Boone and Story Counties that AEDC targets for visits each year.
The AEDC primarily targets employers in interstate commerce, Culhane said.
“If someone is producing a product or service – it could be a software company or a durable goods manufacturer – if they’re selling it out of state, we’re most likely in touch with him,” Culhane said. “One way to do that is to have a lot of communication with them, to have a relationship with them and ultimately to know what their needs are to maintain their presence in your community but also grow in your community.”
Getting first-hand insights from Iowa businesses is critical to setting the stage for economic success, Drew Conrad, director of the Institute for Decision Making at Northern Iowa University, said in the release.
“We hope this information will help leaders determine how best to support the hardworking people of Iowa,” Conrad added.
Iowa City Area Development, Mahaska Chamber and Economic Development, and Urbandale Economic Development also received the BEST of Iowa Achievement Award.