Posted: April 21, 2020
For Immediate Release
Re: Winneshiek County Development Secures Federal Funding for Two New Projects
Stephanie Fromm, Winneshiek County Development and Tourism
Winneshiek County Development and Tourism (WCDT) announced Friday that they had secured federal Rural Business Development Grants (RBDG) for two new projects. WCDT Executive Director Stephanie Fromm said that WCDT was awarded an RBDG grant from USDA Rural Development to provide technical assistance, including architectural services and planning, for a new Northeast Iowa Child Care and Discover Center. “The award will help us double our local contributions for the project and give us an opportunity to develop high quality plans for the proposed facility.”
Fromm said WCDT has been exploring the potential for development of the new facility for several months in response to the shortage of child care in Winneshiek County and Northeast Iowa. She noted that several factors influenced development of the project, among them reports from several local businesses and employers who are having difficulty recruiting workers because potential employees can’t find daycare. Daycares have reported long waiting lists and, as regulations have increased, several in-home daycares in the county have closed. Several local businesses provided letters of support for the project.
“We understand and support our existing child care facilities. In fact, development of the new facility is just one strategy we are working on to meet the need and strengthen our workforce. WCDT recognizes that we can’t solve every aspect of the problem, but we do believe that we can turn the challenges we have into opportunities. To do that we will implement a multi-faceted approach that considers children first, recognizes that different families will select different types of child care options for their children, and maximizes local resources to benefit as many children as possible.”
Fromm went on to note that WCDT’s goal is to build on existing nonprofit, private, and public facilities and programs while creating new spaces for child care, child discovery and creative play. WCDT has helped licensed child care facilities maximize their opportunities and secure funding for programming and facility upgrades. WCDT is seeking additional partnerships and funding to help unlicensed child care facilities become licensed if they desire and working with partners and legislators to increase awareness about child care costs, wage issues, and infrastructure needs.
The second RBDG was awarded to Northeast Iowa Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) to work with WCDT to conduct research and planning to explore the potential for the North Winneshiek School to be developed into a Business Enterprise Center. The application was completed as a joint effort between WCDT and RC&D. Fromm noted, “Although we could only apply for one RBDG a year, we felt strongly that the window of opportunity for the North Winn School to be developed into a Business Enterprise Center was something we didn’t want to miss. We didn’t want to have to pick between the two projects. Our partnership with the RC&D made it possible for us to make progress on both projects at the same time.”
WCDT and the RC&D will use the grant funding and local matching dollars to conduct a site assessment, feasibility study, develop a business plan, and work with local entrepreneurs, businesses, and partners to develop a plan for how to move forward with use of the North Winn School as an Enterprise Center will foster business development far into the future. Josh Dansdill, RC&D Grants Specialist and Business Development Planner, worked with the WCDT team to develop the application from the RC&D. He said, “When Lora Friest, Stephanie Fromm, and I toured the building with Mark Lane, Superintendent of Decorah School District, we could see the potential immediately. I have visited and studied enterprise centers throughout the Midwest and am excited to have the opportunity to be part of the project.”
Fromm noted that several citizens from the northern part of the county had contacted her asking for help to consider uses for the vacant facility and that during development of the grant, several entrepreneurs and small business owners provided letters of support. “We know there is support for the project and that the RC&D will be a wonderful partner. They have a great deal of experience with business planning, feasibility studies and working with entrepreneurs. They have also completed extensive research on enterprise centers, so we are very excited to work with them to complete this project over the next year,” said Fromm.
Fromm noted that local contributions made to WCDT or the RC&D for either project will be tax deductible and will be doubled through the grants. “These federal dollars give people a chance to double our local investment in our children and grandchildren, as well as to foster business development in Winneshiek County through an exciting new venture”.