A state program that’s awarded roughly $350 million in funding to projects in 94 of Iowa’s 99 counties will likely be shut down soon after a nearly 11-year run. Governor Branstad did not include funding for the Vision Iowa program in his proposed budget.
Reginia Bailey of Iowa City is chair of the Vision Iowa Board. “Every board member knows that we’ve helped change the face of the state and communities understand that. It’s been a great program,” Bailey said. “Interestingly enough, there are states surrounding Iowa that are looking at the Vision Iowa model for their own states. So, we know it’s a success.”
In 2010, the Vision Iowa Board awarded more than $12.5 million to 53 projects in the state. The projects range from new libraries in small towns to large arenas or convention complexes in big cities.
Bailey believes the Vision Iowa awards help strengthen a community’s competitiveness for attracting businesses and new residents. “I know from my work in my own community of Iowa City on economic development issues – that’s an important component of what encourages companies…they look at the quality of the community and what amenities we have in the community that will enable their employees to feel good about living there,” Bailey said.
Bailey admits that many of the projects supported by Vision Iowa may not create a lot of jobs. But, she says they’re still important to tourism and making Iowa’s communities more attractive. “These kinds of projects make a huge difference in the economic vibrancy of our state,” Bailey said. “I believe it’s critical to have some kind of program that does something like Vision Iowa, even if it takes a different form or a different name.”
The Vision Iowa program was launched in July of 2000. Bailey believes the Vision Iowa Board will hold its final meeting in April.