Marketing Hometown America

John Lawrence’s message from April 30, 2018

Sometimes a close look in the mirror can be good for the soul: not so close that you over analyze every pore, but close enough that you acknowledge the negative while also recognizing the positive that was there all along. That’s how you end up with a new perspective. It’s true for people and it’s also true for communities. Some have lost population and businesses, but if they take a closer look, they can recognize the qualities they have to attract new people and jobs. Our Community and Economic Development unit is offering a new program to help our rural small towns gain this new perspective. Did you know?

  • CED is offering “Marketing Hometown America,” a program to help communities home in on what people are looking for when they choose a place to live and do business.
  • Communities in two counties are participating in the first round: Mapleton in Monona County and Mondamin, Modale and Pisgah in Harrison County.
  • Our CED specialists train local facilitators to lead study circles in these communities. For four weeks, small groups within each community study community connections and develop ideas for marketing and action plans. Mapleton’s 18 participants finished their study circles April 24. Harrison County’s 30 participants represent the school district, a 4-H group, an ag leaders group and a local business group. They have one more week of study circles.
  • After the study circles are completed, our CED specialists bring all the participants from the groups together for an action planning forum. The groups present their ideas, and our specialists help them write their marketing plan and form groups to implement their goals.
  • By discussing community issues in a relaxed, civil and welcoming space, participants are building social capital as they plan for their shared future.

Cooperative Extension services in Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota already have had success with the program. CED is working in partnership with the other universities to track impacts in expanded leadership, amenity improvements, increased networking, expanded civic awareness, marketing actions, and increasing adult and youth engagement in these communities.

One more thing: This summer 12 Rising Star interns from three colleges (three from Human Sciences, three from Design and six from Agriculture and Life Sciences) will be serving in four regions. This is the first year Region 2 is participating and these interns will focus on community and economic development. The interns in regions 1, 5 and 20 will focus on local foods and youth outreach. The interns participated in orientation April 21, learning about payroll requirements, advancement, social media and other topics they’ll need to know about as temporary extension employees. In mid May they’ll each begin their 480 hours collaborating as regional teams to make an impact in Iowa communities. We wish them all an educational and satisfying experience.

— John D. Lawrence
Iowa State University Vice President for Extension and Outreach

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