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Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Nov 23, 2017

Workforce Development meeting is Wednesday

Nov 10, 2017

By David Hotle, The JOURNAL

 

The Washington Economic Development Group (WEDG) is holding its annual Workforce Development meeting beginning at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday at Dallmeyer Hall on the Washington County Fairgrounds.

WEDG director Ed Raber said the event is for employers from Washington County and the southern end of the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City Corridor. He said the point of the meeting is to provide information about programs that exist in Iowa as well as creating an opportunity for networking. Raber said the state has sponsored a program that hadn’t caught on in Washington County called “Homebase Iowa.”

“Our event is just after Veterans Day and Homebase Iowa is a program that the state has to try to hook up employers who are willing to consider veterans who are getting done with their active duty and are looking to go back to civilian life,” Raber said. “They might be anywhere in the country. Regardless whether there are Iowans there they may have a representative from the state who attends to help those individuals look at Iowa and get a resume and employers who are part of the program are able to look at those. it is a way to grow the labor force, even if it is very small numbers. If we can get them to move to Washington County, that is a big win.”

He said another program deals with apprenticeships. Raber said the Kirkwood Regional Center offers academies in many areas that might lead to a trade or vocation that can stand on its own without a 4-year degree. He said the state has a program called Iowa Registered Apprenticeships. He said the state is encouraging companies hiring apprentices. Raber also said WEDG encourages employers to accept job shadows.

“When we have such low unemployment and such a small number of people to match up with the jobs that are out there, nurturing people when they are still in school to think about careers around here is really a requirement for most employers to be engaged in that process,” he said.

Raber said according to the latest information he has collected, unemployment in Washington County was at 2.6 percent. He also said that the total labor force numbers hadn’t declined and has remained steady at 12,800. He said the highest the workforce has ever been is 12,900.

“There are about 300 people listed as unemployed and seeking employment,” Raber said. “In Washington County that number tends to be 300 or 400 people in the entire county.”

He also said that only about one-third of the people listed as unemployed are actually drawing unemployment benefits. Raber also said this is the same trend for the entire state.

For more information, see the WEDG website at http://wedg.washingtoniowa.org or the WEDG Facebook page.

Comments (2)
Posted by: Glen Peiffer | Nov 23, 2017 16:57

Runway attracts activity, development to Fairfield

By Andy Hallman, Ledger news editor | Nov 21, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s no secret that Fairfield has one of the nicest airports in the region.

Not only does it sport a terminal building less than two years old, it also has one of the longest runways in southeast Iowa. For years, the Fairfield Municipal Airport’s runway measured 4,000 feet, the same as the runways in neighboring Washington and Mt. Pleasant. But in 2008, the airport expanded the runway to 5,500 feet, making it longer than those in larger cities like Oskaloosa, Pella, and even Iowa City.

The result has been a steady stream of jet traffic through the airport ever since. Airport manager Bob Lyons said a jet landed at the airport last week that really caught his eye.

“A big jet called a Challenger 350 landed here,” he said. “It can travel close to 500 miles per hour, and can fly from California to Hawaii. It’s 69 feet wide and 69 feet long. We’ve had bigger jets come through, but this jet was brand new.”

Lyons said the jet’s trip to Fairfield was its maiden voyage. He said the crew on the jet did not reveal who the passenger was. In a good month, the airport sees about six or seven jets come through. Lyons said many of the jets’ passengers are here to visit Cambridge Investment Research.

 

Big whigs

Executives who need to visit the area will often fly to Fairfield, and then take a car to a nearby town. For instance, when Pilot Travel Center was building its gas station in Mt. Pleasant, the company’s owner Jimmy Haslam flew to Fairfield because of its longer runway, and drove the rest of the way to Mt. Pleasant. Haslam also owns the National Football League franchise the Cleveland Browns.

Lyons mentioned that many celebrities have come through the municipal airport because of its ability to accommodate jets. The list includes talk show host Oprah Winfrey, actor Jim Carrey, singer Brian Wilson, and singer Toby Keith, who Lyons said visits the area to hunt deer.

 

FAA approval

Credit for Fairfield’s runway extension goes to Fairfield Mayor Ed Malloy, Lyons said. The project cost $10 million. The Federal Aviation Administration was to pay 95 percent of the cost, leaving the city to pay the remaining $500,000. Lyons said the city had to convince the FAA it needed the longer runway to accommodate the two jets based at the airport, and to welcome many more that wanted to land here.

“The mayor even went to Washington, D.C., to argue our case, and he deserves a pat on the back for what he did,” Lyons said. “It’s difficult to get a runway this long, and it has been so important for economic development. There’s no way the planes coming to Cambridge could fit on a 4,000-foot runway.”

The city earns money each time a plane lands at the runway to refuel. The pilots pay Lyons for the fuel, who then pays a 5 cents per gallon flowage fee to the city. The flowage fee generates between $2,000 and $3,000 annually, Lyons said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Posted by: Glen Peiffer | Nov 10, 2017 16:30

FEDA highlights housing, business expansions

By Andy Hallman, Ledger news editor | Nov 10, 2017
Source: PHOTO COURTESY OF JOSHUA LARABY TrafFix Devices, seen here in the foreground, recently has added 68,000 square feet. It was one of several success stories mentioned during FEDA’s annual meeting.

Fairfield Economic Development Association hosted its annual meeting Nov. 2 at the Fairfield Golf & Country Club.

The meeting was an opportunity to review FEDA’s accomplishments during the past year, and to welcome a visiting dignitary to town: Debi Durham, director of Iowa Department of Economic Development. Durham spoke at the meeting and spent the night here so she could tour businesses in Fairfield the following day.

 

Population growth

One of the most intriguing finds in recent months was the discovery Fairfield’s population had grown by about 750 people from 2010 through 2016, according to an estimate by the United States Census Bureau.

The census bureau reports that the majority of that growth has come from the 25- to 34-year-old demographic. FEDA executive director Joshua Laraby said he is looking into the matter, but if the figures do represent a genuine influx of young people to town, it is a promising sign for Fairfield.

A report released earlier this year by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach noted Jefferson County was one of only five counties in the state to grow by more than 7 percent, and one of only two rural counties to exceed the overall state’s growth rate.

 

North Campus Village

FEDA helped foster a couple of housing projects that will add a few dozen units to town by the time they finish in the next few years. The largest of those is the fifth phase of development at North Campus Village on the north edge of town just off B Street. The current phase will add 56 units, 24 of which are finished and have been turned over to their homeowners. Together they are expected to add $6.5 million in new assessed valuation.

Developer Martin Brett of Vastu Partners LLC said he starts building a new triplex about once every six weeks. Five buildings are under construction now, all triplexes.

He said the project would not have happened without FEDA and Laraby’s help, and incentives from the city and state.

One incentive from the state is the workforce housing tax incentive, which developers are eligible for provided they sell the homes under a certain amount of money and they can prove the community needs that type of housing, which Vastu Partners LLC did. The other is tax increment financing from the city, whereby the city agrees to reduce future property taxes on the improved portion of a parcel.

Brett said the development is attracting people from outside the area to move here, and people who live here now but want to downsize. He credits business partner and co-developer Doug Bachar of DRB Contracting Inc. as being the “genius behind the bricks and mortar.”

 

Lincoln Court Subdivision

A local development group known as Neighborhood Builders and Developers began constructing multi-family residential buildings earlier this year south of First Christian Church (Discples of Christ) just off South Highway 1. Six units are under construction, and three have already been sold. The group plans to build up to 40 units, eventually expanding onto land east and north of the church.

Laraby said that, just like with the North Campus Village expansion, the workforce housing tax credit was an integral part of this project, which FEDA helped the group secure.

 

Senior housing survey

Pathfinders Resource Conservation & Development conducted a senior housing survey in tandem with FEDA and the city in late 2016. The survey was done to get a sense of what senior citizens want for housing, which is particularly relevant for Jefferson County since its population is about 10 years older than the state average. In fact, about 43 percent of the county’s residents are over 50 years old.

The survey revealed that seniors want housing near the things they frequently visit, places like the grocery store, drug store, and entertainment venues. They also want simple and easy living such as entrances without steps and bathroom aids.

 

Business expansions

FEDA has helped foster several business expansions in the past couple of years. Dexter Apache Holdings added 30,000 square feet, and TrafFix Devices added 68,000. Global ID announced it will add 27 jobs in the near future, and has already filled several of those slots.

FEDA was also hard at work retaining existing businesses. Fairfield Castings was sold to Faircast in June, which has been growing since the summer and hopes to employ the same number of employees active at the time of Fairfield Castings’ closure when it had 221 workers. It now employs 110.

Faircast received tax credits and loans totaling $855,000 from the High Quality Jobs Program administered by the Iowa Economic Development Authority. It also participated in a job-training program through IEDA and Indian Hills.

Alcast Company Midwest Works LLC purchased Fairfield Aluminum Castings in August. Alcast preserved the 50 jobs at the foundry and has even added 27 more.

 

Shell building

Fairfield’s city council and the Jefferson County Board of Supervisors signed an agreement in 2016 to each contribute $78,000 toward a shell building on 227th Street in the new FEDA business and industrial park. The building will be 30,000 square feet and located near the Iowa Department of Transportation’s office. It would be a single-story skeletal structure, which could either be rented or sold at the time of its completion.

Laraby the building will have a gravel floor with basic lighting and a few exhaust fans. To top it off, 1,400 feet of sewer infrastructure was also added to the recently acquired 55-acre business and industrial park.

“Our goal is to assist a local business in expanding, or attract a new business to Fairfield,” he said. “We hope to see 22-25 jobs created through this project.”

Access Energy is supplying a form of power to the building known as three-phase power to the facility, which will allow it to handle heavy electrical loads.

 

Daycare retention

Agapeland Daycare in Foursquare Church in Fairfield went through a tumultous time in 2017. It was able to stay open under a new name, Fairfield Foursquare Daycare, and a new director, Jennifer Dooley. Laraby said FEDA worked with the daycare to remain open. The daycare has since taken steps to improve food quality and security, and by hiring degree-trained staff.

 

New location

FEDA moved downtown in the summer of 2017, into the Iowa State Bank building on Court Street. Laraby said FEDA is more visible and more connected to the community since the move.

FEDA also partnered with Cedar Rapids firm CR Signs on a new billboard at the Highway 1 interchange on Highway 34. FEDA has control of the side viewable to eastbound traffic, and used it to promote Fairfield’s restaurant scene, the Jefferson County Health Center, and an advanced manufacturing career path program called Elevate Iowa.



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