Since 1992, the Iowa Rural Development Council (IRDC) has been engaging partners and assisting small towns.

The IRDC was created as part of an Executive Order and ensuing Farm Bill in 1992. It received federal funding for many years and was later housed in the Iowa Department of Economic Development. But both state and federal funding dissolved and the group has operated informally without paid staff since 2005.

In 2016, the IRDC hosted the first-ever Iowa Rural Summit, bringing together 300 individuals from more than 60 rural communities. That event sparked a resurgence in interest among rural advocates and convinced IRDC partners, who include federal and state agencies, Regents’ institutions and community colleges, utilities, non-profits and statewide associations, to revitalize the Council’s ability to support rural development.

“This is an organization that has impacted rural Iowa for a quarter century and is positioned now to do more,” said IRDC chair Sandy Ehrig, who runs the Iowa Farm Bureau’s “Renew Rural Iowa” program. “Our rural summit in Jefferson last year was a big step and the Council is ready to build on that momentum.”

Beginning in 2018, IRDC developed sponsorship levels open to partners, including for-profit businesses, seeking to support strategies and policies that benefit small towns and rural places. These sponsorships will allow the Council to bring on a paid executive director, former USDA Rural Development state director Bill Menner.

Menner, who served at USDA from 2009-2017, was previously economic development director in Poweshiek County. He helps the IRDC connect with new partners, resource providers and innovative rural communities who can provide successful case studies for other places.

The financial resources created through sponsors and engaged members will position the IRDC to launch new programs that address rural issues, build capacity with small towns, and capitalize on opportunities that exist to enhance the viability of rural communities.

Those opportunities may revolve around issues the IRDC sees as central to rural development, from housing to workforce to broadband to entrepreneurship.

For more information about the Iowa Rural Development Council or the 2018 Iowa Rural Summit, contact Bill Menner at director@iowardc.org or 641-990-4757.

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Iowa Rural Development Council Leadership Team (left to right):

Rand Fisher, Center for Infrastructure & Economic Development; Liesl Seabert, Iowa Economic Development Authority; Bill Menner, IRDC Executive Director; Bruce Nuzum, Iowa Area Development Group; Sandy Ehrig, Empower Rural Iowa; Troy Weary, ITC Midwest; Iowa Lt Governor Adam Gregg (honorary IRDC board member); Mark Reinig, Iowa State University;  Jim Thompson, Iowa Economic Development Authority; Kim Didier, Des Moines Area Community College; Brittany Morales, Iowa Communications Alliance; Amy Kuhlers, Iowa Economic Development Authority; James Hoelscher, University of Northern Iowa Institute for Decision Making. Not pictured: Madison Burke, Bolton & Menk; Dave Duncan, Iowa Communications Alliance;  Theresa Greenfield, USDA Rural Development; Gary Taylor, Iowa State University Extension; Ashley Thompson, UnityPoint Health