Governor Kim Reynolds and the Iowa Economic Development Authority today announced more than $500,000 in grant funding will be awarded to rural communities across the state through the Governor’s Empower Rural Iowa Initiative.
“The Empower Rural Iowa Initiative has played a key role in transforming our rural communities by expanding broadband access and affordable housing options, which are essential to the growth and retention of our state,” Gov. Reynolds said. “These programs help turn innovative ideas into reality for small communities across Iowa, paving the way for opportunity and prosperity for generations to come.”
The grants cover 38 projects across the state. For example:
Sac Development Corp will put Rural Innovation funding toward a feasibility study for a soon-to-be-vacated school building and adjacent green space. Communities across the state struggle with vacant school buildings, which can create an eyesore and financial strain on cities. Sac City is taking steps to ensure the building has a transformative use.
In its inaugural year, the Rural Return grant is funding five innovative recruitment programs across the state, including a business incentive strategy in Jefferson. The program through Jefferson Matters: A Main Street & Chamber Community will provide a start-up incentive fund for new businesses and complimentary use of shared workspace for remote workers.
"Rural communities are the backbone of our state, and this latest round of grants will help them tackle tough challenges like housing, childcare, and recruitment," said Lt. Governor Adam Gregg. "The Empower Rural Iowa initiative looks forward to building on this success and further ensuring opportunity and prosperity are present in all corners of Iowa."
The Governor’s Empower Rural Iowa Initiative developed the following grant programs for rural communities:
The Rural Innovation Grant program supports creative, nontraditional ideas to overcome rural community development challenges, such as workforce development and housing shortages.
The Rural Housing Assessment Grant program supports efforts to expand access to quality housing tailored to communities. The program leverages data from the Iowa Finance Authority’s Profile of Iowa tool and provides support through a partnership with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.
The new Rural Return and Rural Child Care Market Study grant programs: The Rural Return Grant program supports creative programming that attracts new residents to move and/or work in rural communities. The Rural Child Care Market Study Grant program supports the use of data and analysis by rural communities, in partnership with First Children’s Finance, to determine the specific needs and solutions for their area.
In addition to the Rural Return and Rural Innovation grants, the cities of Red Oak, Albia, Ocheyedan, Emmetsburg, Columbus Junction, Ashton, Sibley, Wapello, Keota, and Buffalo received Rural Housing Assessment grants and will be working with Iowa State University Office of Extension and Outreach to undergo a facilitated readiness assessment and implementation process. The cities of Keosauqua, Emmetsburg, Lee County, Clarinda, Grinnell, Forest City, and Wayne County received Rural Child Care Market Study grants and will be working with First Children’s Finance to undergo a data and analysis study.
A full list of the of the 2022 Rural Grant recipients is available here.