NORTH LIBERTY– The Iowa City Area Development (ICAD) group wants more investment for its return.
The City of North Liberty is willing to give it to them.
The North Liberty City Council informally approved setting aside $50,000 for ICAD in fiscal year 2013, an increase of $35,000 from its previous $15,000 annual allocation to that group. At a budget work session Jan. 31, the council reviewed its Capital Improvements Plan, and discussed ICAD’s request for more funding in the upcoming year.
ICAD is an economic development organization that serves the communities of Iowa City, Coralville, North Liberty, Solon, Tiffin, Tipton, the Amana Colonies, West Branch, Kalona and West Liberty, as well as unincorporated Johnson County. Its function is to help attract business, commerce and a strong workforce to the Corridor area. The organization relies on fiscal partnerships with the various communities it serves, as well as other organizations and larger businesses, to meet its operating expenses.
North Liberty was not the only community asked to increase its allocation to ICAD, noted City Administrator Ryan Heiar. ICAD raised its request to the City of Iowa City from $100,000 to $120,000, and to the City of Coralville from $75,000 to $100,000, he said, in addition to requesting another $100,000 from Iowa City for the development of a collaborate office/work space in which small businesses would purchase memberships.
Heiar recommended the council approve the request.
“I think it’s a good investment. They do a number of things for new and existing businesses,” Heiar said.
Councilor Gerry Kuhl was the only member to balk at the additional $35,000 ICAD sought from North Liberty.
“I would be in favor of $30,000, but not $50,000,” said Kuhl. He questioned why the communities of Iowa City and Coralville were only asked for $20,000 to $25,000 increases, while North Liberty was asked for $35,000 more.
Nobody offered an answer, but member Chris Hoffman disagreed with allocating a smaller amount.
“I think it shortchanges our position in the Corridor,” said Hoffman. “In my mind, it represents a great value for North Liberty.”
Councilor Terry Donahue concurred.
“I know [$50,000] is a lot to choke down, but we are not in a position to hire our own economic development expert.” Donahue said the annual report furnished to the city by ICAD contained some measureable criteria of their positive performance.
“We need a strong advocate for us, that’s something we desperately need. I’m willing to give it a shot.”
ICAD President Joe Raso said in a telephone interview after the meeting that ICAD made the request for additional funding of all its partner entities as part of its 5-year investment campaign.
According to a report furnished to Heiar during recent meetings between ICAD and North Liberty officials, ICAD has set and/or met a number of objectives for increasing economic development in the North Liberty/Coralville/Iowa City area, including:
• attracting 15 targeted interstate commerce companies, creating 860 high quality jobs;
• creating16 new interestate companies, adding 170 high quality jobs in the short term;
• increasing employment by 6.6 percent in the corridor area;
• assisting 24 exiting companies with expansion projects.
In December 2010, Raso presented a report to the North Liberty City Council about ICAD’s economic impacts on the North Liberty area. Since 2007, the 2010 report indicated, ICAD has helped attract businesses to North Liberty such as Riverbend Industries, NIS, Inc., LeanCor Supply Chain Group and J.M. Swank. At that time, Raso estimated the payroll created by those businesses that would be spent in the region at about $16.6 million, and the property tax revenues generated by their employees living within the city to be about $195,000 annually.
Four of the five council members gave a nod to increasing the city’s contribution to ICAD to $50,000 in FY13.
Heiar serves as a public sector representative on ICAD’s Board of Directors, along with City Administrator Kelly Hayworth of Coralville, Iowa City’s City Manager Tom Markus, Iowa City Mayor Matt Hayek, and Johnson County Supervisor Janelle Rettig. There are 25 additional ICAD board members representing the area’s private sector, local education and the area chamber of commerce.