September 22, 2017
Contact: Bill Menner
Iowa Rural Council Picks Staff, Sets Summit Site and Date
GRINNELL, IOWA – The Iowa Rural Development Council (IRDC) has selected former USDA Rural Development state director Bill Menner to serve as its executive director and has announced it will hold its 2nd Rural Summit April 5-6, 2018, in Grinnell.
The Council, which has existed for more than 25 years as a rural-focused partnership of government agencies, schools, non-profits, ag associations and utilities, has not had a staff person since 2005. Menner, who served from 2007 until earlier this year as USDA Rural Development’s state director, launched his own consulting business in January.He also spent eight years as a rural economic developer in Poweshiek County.
“We have been working to expand the role of the IRDC for more than a year,” said Council Chair Sandy Ehrig. “Bill was very active while he was at USDA and he’s a perfect fit to help move the Rural Development Council forward.”
The IRDC has moved from a focus on information-sharing and partnership to more targeted rural advocacy, technical assistance and capacity building. The Council is part of the National Rural Development Partnership, which is a Farm Bill-authorized organization intended to support rural development efforts beyond those that USDA can provide on its own, but with USDA as a partner and contributor. Those efforts include Iowa’s first-ever Rural Summit last November in Jefferson attracted more than 300 individuals from 62 communities.
“The commitment to hold a second Summit demonstrates the overwhelmingly positive reactions we received following the Jefferson gathering,” said Ehrig, who leads the Iowa Farm Bureau’s ‘Renew Rural Iowa’ program.“And we believe the facilities in Grinnell will allow us to expand our capacity to allow many more communities to participate.”
The Rural Summit will once again target non-metro communities with populations under 20,000. The two-day session will focus on issues ranging from housing to broadband to community resources. Each participating community will be required to bring a delegation of three. More information can be requested by emailing iowaruralcouncil@gmailcom.
Iowa Rural Development Hosts First Summit, Attracts Huge Crowd!
The Iowa Rural Development Council stepped outside its comfort zone in 2016, moving from an information-sharing organization to resource provider and catalyst for identifying and addressing rural issues.
IRDC developed a plan to bring rural residents together to discuss the challenges and opportunities that currently exist. But rather than simply host an event and invite everyone, the Council extended invitations to a diverse group of communities. There was a catch, though. To attend the community had to bring a three-person team.
On a snowy November day in Jefferson, Iowa, more than 300 rural leaders, elected officials and interested residents convened to discuss their collective futures. RUPRI’s Chuck Fluharty and Center for Rural Entrepreneurship’s Don Macke spoke. Presentations focused on key issues. Much discussion and networking took place. Throughout the day, the group focused on the theme: “Inspire. Inform. Involve. Implement.”
With that taste of success, IRDC is now positioned for additional activity and engagement. A strategic planning retreat will help the Council shape its future direction, with the possibility of an expanded membership base, annual dues, an operating budget and a new focus on broad engagement, public/private partnerships, targeted assistance and training, and enhanced advocacy for the 900+ small towns and rural areas in the state.
Iowa Rural Development Council Partners:
Federal—HUD, SBA, USDA Farm Service Agency, USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service, USDA Rural Development
State—Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, Iowa Economic Development Authority, Iowa Finance Authority, Iowa State Univer-sity, University of Iowa, University of Northern Iowa
Non-Governmental–Association of Business and Industry, Des Moines Area Community College, Iowa Telecommunications Alli-ance, Iowa Area Development Group, Iowa Farm Bureau, Professional Developers of Iowa