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At their regular meeting Monday, April 4, the Mount Ayr city council voted unanimous support for the creation of an economic development director position for Ringgold County, but not before an unusual vote.
Brandy Shay appeared before the council to outline the benefits of employing an economic director dedicated solely to attracting new businesses to the county as well as aiding existing businesses to flourish in the marketplace.
Shay, the former director of the Small Business Development Center in Creston and currently an assistant professor of accounting at Graceland University, added the director position could also work with youth leadership groups, provide continual education workshops, and advance tourism and recreation opportunities in relation to local business.
Shay shared that Decatur and Adams counties have had economic directors in place for some time, both of whom are showing positive results for their respective counties.
During her tenure at the Small Business Development Center, Shay covered a nine-county area in south central Iowa. Businesses would approach her office for ideas and support to expand sales and improve their business models.
While working with up to a couple dozen Ringgold County businesses in that capacity, her support helped increase sales in Ringgold County $300,000 one year and $2.5 million the following year.
She asked the council to imagine what a full-time director focused entirely on Ringgold County could accomplish, not only to increase sales tax revenue but also to recruit new businesses with the accompanying new jobs, new families with children to increase enrollment in county schools, new housing, and new economic activity overall.
Shay also stressed that the director would serve all existing businesses and potential businesses in Ringgold County, not just those in Mount Ayr, Diagonal or other population centers.
While details of the position are still in the planning stages, Shay said the director would be employed by the Ringgold County Development Corporation at a salary yet to be determined. She said it is hoped the director could begin duties by July 1.
While not a member of the Development Corporation herself, Shay said she is serving as an advisor to the group to get the position off the ground.
She said she hoped the council could see fit to support the efforts to create the director position with a contribution of $5,000.
Attending the council meeting in support of the director position, Ringgold County supervisor Ron Landphair stated the supervisors that morning had pledged $25,000 toward the position.
As the roll call vote came to pass the motion to contribute the $5,000, council member Don Soliday, the first to vote, stated he would vote yes but wished the amount would have been higher.
Next in line, council member Brent Ricker echoed Soliday’s sentiments for a higher amount.
“If you agree with me” Soliday said, “then I’ll change my vote to no.”
The original motion to contribute $5,000 was then defeated on a 5-0 vote.
A second motion was then made by Solliday and Ricker to increase the contribution to $10,000, with that motion passing 5-0.
In other business the council:
• approved repairs to 12 storm water intakes located throughout the city at a total cost of $16,000 to $20,000.
• approved the rental of a street patching machine for one week to fill potholes in city streets.
• approved the list of Little League coaches for the upcoming summer season. They include Kathy Vogel, Beth Larsen, Amanda Cannon, Matt Hudson, Kristen Graham, Chelsey Dailey, Chelsey Armstrong, Katie Smith, Laura Greenwell, Andy and Becky McAlexander, Jacque Verbick, Jamie Brobst, Stephanie and Nolan Newton, Renea Still, Melissa Friedrich, Ryan Reynolds, Matt West, Josh Barnes, Thad Streit, David Greene and Jentry Graham.
• approved a liquor license renewal for the American Legion.
• approved a tax abatement application for Quincy and Hannah Main in the amount of $8,500 for a new storage shed.
• announced that City Hall will be closed April 10, 11, and 12 for staff to attend conferences.