The Union County Development Agency is looking to make a big push for growth this spring and summer as the impact of COVID-19 appears to be letting up. Director Wayne Pantini said the UCDA is a county-wide, non-profit organization that has two paid staff members, but works with over 100 volunteers.
At Home UC is the UCDA’s housing development arm, which created the James Subdivision between Lincoln and Cottonwood streets. Pantini said At Home UC has focused on infield and corridor development on South Elm street as well as a house in Afton.
“So that is creating a variety of housing opportunities, whether we are the developers directly ourselves or we work with other partners, builders, developers to come in and work and build more housing for this area,” he said.
The UCDA is working with an outside developer on Adams Street to build a multi-family housing unit which will likely break ground this summer and is expected to be completed by the end of this year.
After recognizing the challenge of access to childcare facilities, the UCDA is researching creating more facilities. Pantini recognizes it’s a workforce issue.
“If people don’t have childcare, they can’t go to work,” he said.
Pantini said the UCDA has four main areas of emphasis.
“There is Grow UC, which is our business development arm, which works with existing businesses to help them grow and expand,” he said.
Through Grow UC, the UCDA has begun to work with internet service providers to have broadband access to rural areas using federal funds.
“Then we work with startup companies and help them get established, and for this facility, is not only providing cowork space, but also we have some programs that we work with people out business ideas and trying to help them through that feasibility in part with the small business development center,” Pantini said.
Coworking space is similar to typical office space, but more often concerns different teams and organizations working around each other. The UCDA promotes its Cowork at the Roundhouse, which provides conference rooms, kitchen space and more for $30 a month.
The third area of emphasis, Pantini said, is the UCDA takes any opportunity to recruit businesses to Union County and other communities.
“Whenever I say community, I really mean this region,” he said. “We’re Union County, and we’re located in Creston, but because we’re a regional hub community, a lot of everything we do is really about the larger area of this region of this state.”
An additional reason for this framing, Pantini said, is Union County’s labor pool spreads well outside of Creston.
“That’s business development, which leads to out other areas of emphasis, which is workforce development,” Pantini said. “Trying to grow and expand the workforce and fill the jobs we do have in this area and of course attracting residents to the community.”
Pantini added the UCDA has created leadership programs to connect youth and adults with business and education partners.
The UCDA is a county-wide, non-profit organization with two paid staff members and over 100 volunteers. For more information on the UCDA’s current projects, visit unioncountyiowa.com.