Over the next year and a half, Drake University students from areas such as design, public relations, business entrepreneurship, education and planning will be working in Perry on a pilot project designed to boost the city’s image as a trail-friendly, family-friendly and investment-friendly place.
Mandi McReynolds, director of community engagement and service learning in the Drake University office of the president, met Thursday morning with a number of local community leaders to discuss preliminaries of the project, which is jointly funded by the city of Perry, Drake University and the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA).
“Perry has immense potential for successful development,” McReynolds said, “and that’s why the students in our community-development capstone course chose Perry for the pilot project.”
McReynolds said the next step in the process will bring grant-writing interns and research students to Perry, and then the capstone faculty will visit the town in late March to assess the project.
“This pilot marks another step in Perry’s steady march toward economic sustainability and brings a sense of unity to our downtown development efforts,” said Perry Mayor Jay Pattee, who attended the round-table session. “We want to invoke the kind of partnership between the public, private and non-profit sectors that have proved so successful here in the past,” the third-term mayor said.
Other attendees included Hotel Pattee owner Jay Hartz, Carnegie Library Museum volunteer Laura Stebbins, Iowa State University Extension Community Development Specialist Alan Vanderhaar, Iowa State University Extension Latino Business and Community Development Specialist Jon Wolseth, Perry-Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Bob Wilson, Nudgers Chairperson Cindy Sohn, Art on the Prairie Committee Chair Mary Rose Nichols, Perry City Council member Phil Stone, Perry City Administrator Butch Niebuhr, and Perry Assistant City Administrator Sven Peterson.
The two-hour discussion brought out many interesting ideas from the participants. Wolseth, for instance, made a strong pitch for dual-language signage in Perry’s public spaces, and he proposed a planning exercise for the capstone-course students: to develop a business model for marketing the new soccer field complex planned for Pattee Park.
Perry and Manning were the two Iowa cities chosen from among a number of applicants for the pilot study, McReynolds said.