Ottumwa Economic Developmentpatrickluensmann
The economic development groups in our communities are crucial for not only bringing in new businesses but also developing programs to promote relocation, expansion, and retention to the area. The Ottumwa Area Development Corporation, also known as the Ottumwa Economic Development Corporation (OEDC), is no different.
Since 1962, they have been developing and implementing programs focused on their mission – “committed to promoting the overall economic health of Ottumwa and Wapello County by expanding and retaining business and industry, assisting in the development of a quality workforce, and supporting vibrant community improvement projects which will inspire additional growth.”
Sharon Stroh has been the Director at OEDC since June 2014 and she shared some of the exciting projects that OEDC has been involved with in recent years that will benefit the area.
A Potential New Industry for the Area
Partnering with the Ottumwa Regional Legacy Foundation, they worked on a feasibility study on biomass availability for an anaerobic digester project. The results, which are not final, show that Ottumwa could be favorably suited for such a project. When you consider the Iowa Economic Development Authority’s interest in renewable chemical production, and that Iowa has the largest supply of available biomass (14.4 million dry tons per year), this could be a new industry option for us.
Recruiting New Business
EDC was able to recruit Plastipak Packaging to Ottumwa in February 2015. They are a primary supplier of blow molded plastic bottles for Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, also in Ottumwa. Plastipak expanded a former warehouse location by 140,000 square feet, three production lines, and 30 new employees. “This is an example of how quickly OEDC can respond to inquiries from our existing industries. Plastipak’s first phone call to us was the end of October 2014, and four months later they’re moving production lines from Champaign, Illinois.”
Converting a Brownfield Site into a Clinic
Mercy Hospital and Clinics announced in late June their intent to buy a former grocery store and build the new Ottumwa Clinic. At almost 33,000 square feet, it will house Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, Urgent Care, and Physical Therapy. Cost is estimated at about $18 million. Mercy will retain 38 of its current staff and add another 19 employees, both professional and administratively. “This particular property had been identified as a brownfield site, so it reuse as a professional medical services center is an impressive change for our community.”
As an economic developer, Stroh attributes two of her strengths, motivation, and creativity, to her upbringing. With her father serving in the Air Force, she didn’t grow up in one place but instead went to kindergarten in Taiwan and high school in Honolulu. This allowed her to learn to adjust to a wide variety of circumstances and recognize there is almost always an alternative way to do things.
The road to Iowa began while working in Indiana as the Sales and Marketing Director for iMAN, a community-owned fiber optic communications network. It was through this project that she became acquainted with the city of Ottumwa, whose leadership was seeking options for building a more robust fiber broadband network and she jumped at the chance to become the OEDC Director when the opportunity presented itself.
She became a parent late in life and adopted twin daughters from China when they were just toddlers. As they start their freshman year of high school, Stroh comments that she realizes how far we’ve come together, and what an incredible opportunity it has been for all of them.