UNI group helping city find its future

Collaboration pulling ideas from wide array of community sectors


FORT MADISON – Five different groups collaborating to create a new vision for Fort Madison held sessions this week to gather information from a wide variety of sectors on what a new path could look like.
Drew Conrad, the Director of Institute for Decision Making at University of Northern Iowa, helped facilitate the process that was rolled out this week by a planning team.
“The planning team will use that input as they work to develop a new community-wide strategic plan for Fort Madison,” he wrote in an email to Pen City Current Thursday afternoon.
“The planning team will be having a series of planning sessions over the next couple months, facilitated by our Institute for Decision Making team, that will lead to the development of that community-wide strategic plan.”
The group is a compilation of groups including the City of Fort Madison, Fort Madison Partners, Fort Madison Area Chamber of Commerce, Fort Madison Area Arts Association, and Lee County Economic Development Group.
The planning team held a series of community input activities at the Fort Madison Partners’ offices Tuesday and Wednesday and then Tuesday at Turnwater Bar & Grill at the new marina.
“A total of seven small group input sessions were held with a variety of target audiences. Those were held at Fort Madison Partners/Fort Madison Area Chamber of Commerce offices.  Additionally, a community input event was held on Tuesday at the Marina,” Conrad said.
“Between 40 and 50 individuals participated in the community input event.”
Conrad said prior to these activities, an online community questionnaire was completed with about 200 individuals providing input. The themes that surfaced out of the community questionnaire shaped the questions that were asked in the small group input sessions and at the community input event.
He said individuals were asked to share their thoughts and ideas on a variety of areas such as housing, childcare, community appearance, employment opportunities, and recreation/wellness.
“There were a lot of great ideas and suggestions about what Fort Madison should focus on moving forward.  All of the input gathered will be documented and organized and used by a planning team that represents a cross section of the community,” he said.
Fort Madison Mayor Matt Mohrfeld started a pillar program several years ago to start looking at changing the energy in Fort Madison. He said the two efforts connect with each other.
“They are symbiotic,” he said Thursday. “This is the next step of a total community plan.”
Mohfeld said local development officials sat down with the Institute and the information they gave them on background was from his seven pillars of growth.
“One of the things we agreed on is we would bring together as many entities as we could so that’s a city, a chamber, the communities, the schools, and the LCEDG so that the city is not doing a comprehensive plan that just gets shelved. We’re taking a look at it from a whole community standpoint.”
He said he likes the process because of the number of people that are involved, but the challenge comes with integrating all the information and creating a pathway forward.
“But then the bigger challenge is using it as a beacon for improvement – not to just make a book to put on the shelf and pat yourself on the back.”
Topics that came up in the meetings included housing, quality of life, continued riverfront improvement, adaptive rehab of properties, and maintaining history.

Fort Madison, City council, Partners, Chamber of Commerce, LCEDG, University of Northern Iowa, Institute of Decision Making, Drew Conrad, Tim Gobble, Matt Mohrfeld, Pen City Current, news, city, Lee County, Iowa,


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