BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
DES MOINES – The Lee County Economic Development Group continues to collect plaques for the walls of the Keokuk office as state groups recognize the local efforts to bolster business retention and expansion.
On Thursday, LCEDG COO Dennis Fraise and Dana Millard, the group’s marketing project manager, were on hand to receive the award from the Best in State Overall Business Retention and Expansion Program from Gov. Kim Reynolds at the SMART Economic Development Conference in Des Moines.
Millard said the award is the third in four years from the Professional Developers of Iowa and is a testament to the collaboration going on in Lee County between industry and manufacturing leaders and the LCEDG’S highly touted Grow Lee programs. She said it shows the power of what’s happening locally in Lee County.
“I believe it does. People want to be associated with successful organizations and programs and this is another third party validating that what we’re doing here in Lee County is a success,” Millard said Monday morning.
The award recognizes the overall efforts of LCEDG for healthy business retention, including the group’s 12-Plus program and the Basic Industrial Tech certification that was recently created.
She said a lot of communities are still trying to find their way with retention and this is just another example of Lee County being at the forefront of addressing retention, expansion, and workforce issues.
“A lot of communities are still trying to figure out how to connect businesses and education and we are leaps and bound ahead of that,” Millard said.
“We have a lot of different programs through Grow Lee that have industries’ and employers’ input that others don’t. We’re using this award to build on that momentum with our Bigger, Faster, Better campaign trying to impact more students and do it in a better way.
“We are thrilled and humbled to accept this award on behalf of all of our stakeholders and community partners,” commented Lee County EDG COO Dennis Fraise. “This recognition is a testament to Lee County Economic Development Group’s community focused, collaborative economic development strategy.”
Grow Lee is a collaborative effort spearheaded and facilitated by Lee County Economic Development Group to create bold ideas and action plans for their future workforce needs. The organization created the 12 Plus program to be led by local industry to provide STEM and career exploration opportunities for Lee County residents and students.
It includes employability classes, student team projects for local industry, industry tours, and more. Grow Lee affected over 3,800 students last year and is projected reach over 4,000 this year.
Outcomes of the program include:
- Over 3,800 students participating in Grow Lee or STEM programming
- Over 400 Lee County students exploring local careers
- 92% of Lee County schools participating in STEM Scale-ups in the past 4 years
- Grow Lee being featured at the Governor’s STEM Education and Future Ready Iowa Conference
Grow Lee has been a multi-year process that requires a range of individuals working together for a common goal; create a talent pipeline and connect it with local careers.