BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Lee County Economic Development Group’s President Dennis Fraise has been named one of the top 50 Economic Developers on the continent.
Consultant Connect, a consulting agency that is bridging the gap between economic developers and site consultants, announced this week that Fraise has earned the honor.
Fraise said Monday that he feels fortunate to be honored, but said the honor really is an indicator of what is happening in Lee County
“It’s a partnership between Dana (Millard, LCEDG project director), the board and the stakeholders. It takes a good team and we’re fortunate to be honored, but I think it’s a real reflection of what’s happening here in Lee County,” Fraise said.
LCEDG has received national and international recognition for it’s Grow Lee and Grow Lee 2.0 efforts The group also has a mark in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most people simultaneously planting tulips. Fraise is also a sought after speaker at economic development events in and outside the United States.
He also is a co-host on a podcast with former Greater Burlington Partnership director Jeff Hutcheson, that was downloaded more than 60,000 in it’s first year.
Fraise said the Grow Lee efforts, the podcast and the attention LCEDG has received statewide, nationally and internationally all contributed to the recognition.
“I think it was a couple of things. We got some recognition for our Grow Lee programs that caught the attention of the International Economic Development County, which is the largest economic development group in the world,” Fraise said.
“I’ve also been asked to present at conferences in the past two years including Toronto and Atlanta, and we’ve done some academic peer reviews and that got us some attention as well.”
The podcast, called ‘Develop This!’ is the No. 1 economic development podcast on ITunes with listeners in all 50 states. Fraise said that’s where he’s learning the most because he gets to interview the top economic development officials and leaders in the world.
“It’s kind of for fun, but it gives me a chance to interview movers and shakers in economic development and broadened my horizons. That’s really kind of cool for a couple guys from Iowa,” he said.
Fraise said Ron Kitchens is the managing partner of Consultant Connect as part of the Southwest Michigan First economic development arm in Michigan.
Kitchens wrote in the announcement that the distinction is aimed at acknowledging those who are creating a buzz around economic development.
“This annual list recognizing North America’s Top 50 Economic Developers is designed to acknowledge the hard work of the top leaders in this field and elevate the conversation around economic development and job creation,” Kitchen wrote.
“Each of the leaders represented on this year’s list are beyond deserving of this recognition for their efforts in building our communities.”
Fraise said it reflects the innovation of LCEDGs work
“I think its a reflection that we’re doing some good, innovative work. And what I’m most proud of is the partnerships that exist here between educators, business, industries and economic development,” Fraise said.
“Every time I see them sitting down at a table together I know we were a catalyst for that.
“I think were doing the kind of work that’s important for the long term of the county and region and that gets noticed. We’re doing the work that people think magically happens.”
He said economic development has changed dramatically over the years.
“Economic Development is changing so rapidly and gone is the day of chasing smokestacks. It’s workforce and being able to respond quickly to requests. You have to be on top of your game and things are moving incredibly fast,” Fraise said.
“I think that’s good when organizations or companies are looking for us and see this type of news.”
Fraise said the most important thing for communities and developers to focus on is understanding the need to blur traditional lines and boundaries by working together in substantive ways for the greater good of the community.
“Economic developers will need to take a more proactive approach to help communities understand and address workforce issues.”