Unified Community Goals Is Something Flaherty Hopes To Develop

Tom Flaherty Named Mahaska Community Economic Development Executive Director

Tom Flaherty Named Mahaska Community Economic Development Executive Director

Oskaloosa, Iowa – Tom Flaherty has been hired to lead the Mahaska County Development Group (MCDG), and will be an integral part of the unifying presence that is desired by community leaders.

That unifying of efforts was highlighted by creating Mahaska Development Partners as the umbrella for a public, private effort to grow the Mahaska Community.

Flaherty has been getting down to work, meeting and discussing with stakeholders from the county, to city and business, to better understand “what’s important to people and just developing those relationships.”

“I think Mahaska County and Oskaloosa both have tremendous bones. Great manufacturing base. The fiber loop is something that communities all over the state will envy. Tremendous quality of life. I love this downtown.”

Developing housing options in the downtown area is something Flaherty would like to see for the community, and for himself as well.

“There’s a lot of opportunity here. A lot of synergy. When you see those four groups when you see the Main Street, MCARD, the development group and the chamber come together and say we want to focus in on economic development. That’s appealing,” added Flaherty.

Flaherty comes to the position after being a part of a similar effort in the Quad Cities, and says that the first steps are to develop “the broader goals the economic development partnership want to achieve.”

“We want to make sure we keep our Main Street and keep the accreditation and that personality that the Main Street has. How can Main Street then work towards housing?” Flaherty says that second story housing in the downtown is an example of that. “That’s how you would bring Main Street into the overarching goal of a larger partnership group.”

Flaherty says that working towards common goals is the desire of the Mahaska Development Partners. “Often the common goals aren’t that challenging, it’s when one group is doing it one way, and another group is attacking the challenge another way without coordination. Bring the two together, and the effort of group A is supporting the effort of group B.”

With tearing down the walls between the economic development groups and those that may have traditionally served just the rural portions of the county, those that have served the city will be figuring out how best to help and compliment each other. Flaherty once again goes back to working on common goals as a way to help the various groups work together. “You’re going to hear me talk about commonality, common goals, working together. Identify the issues that are important to the community and each one of those groups will offer different assets to attacking a certain problem.”

Flaherty will be the first to tell you he’s not promising that things will change “by the end of the calendar year. It’s going to be a slow, consistent change”, over the long term. “The consistency of working together.”

Counties like Mahaska struggle to retain population and their economic engine, versus more urban areas like the Quad Cities. Flaherty says that the size of the community is different, but his former organization also had several smaller towns and rural areas included within the organization. “The challenges we’ve been facing there are the same you are facing here. Lack of opportunity, lack of jobs in smaller towns. Everybody is coming into the larger cities, and I believe Oskaloosa’s one of those hubs people are going to start to be attracted to.”

Many times you will hear economic developers talk about attracting new businesses to the area, but retaining those employers and businesses is often the key. Flaherty says he’s a proponent of the Synchronist Suite software that is used for managing an existing business strategy or a business retention program.

The software is used around the state, and economic developers like Flaherty sit down with area businesses to help them become more aware of who to call if they “have a challenge and they don’t know where to go with it.”

“On a regular basis, I’m going to be sitting down with the leadership of all of our lead employers… and get to learn what they actually need,” said Flaherty.

A common need by employers is workforce, and Flaherty could help educators connect with area employers to help train a workforce. “It’s an example of getting to know each business and each business is going to have unique needs, and unique challenges. We’re going to sit down with them and figure out what the challenges are and work to address those challenges.”

Flaherty says one of those challenges will be speaking “with one voice and coming together and saying this is something we, the entire county, are going to focus in on and do everything we can to win.”

Flaherty likes to focus on what is going well in Mahaska County on building the community, which includes “a strong existing manufacturing base. You’ve got a downtown that’s clearly been invested in, and you’ve got community spirit. I feel so welcome here; it’s surprising how welcome I feel. I guess I shouldn’t [be surprised], it’s Iowa.”

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Posted by on Sep 13 2017. Filed under Local News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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