Governor Tom Vilsack visited Amana Friday but it was official business, not a tourist trip. Vilsack bestowed a first-ever “Iowa Shines” designation on the community for its work to combine local efforts with public money. The governor says more communities will be honored. He says communities that have done an “extraordinary” job of improving quality of life will be patted on the back, as a challenge to everyone to make Iowa better. The “Iowa Shines” program is designed to honor those communities that have used state resources, coupled with a strong sense of determination and countless hours of volunteer work to improve the quality of life for their citizens by investing in community attractions, schools, and health care services. The Governor’s office works with state departments to identify communities eligible for an Iowa Shines designation. The state put 500-thousand dollars from the Community Attractions and Tourism or CAT program into a project in Amana, but he says Amana matched that with almost a million and-a-half dollars of local contributions. Vilsack calls that typical of the 119 communities that have won Vision Iowa and CAT grants. The governor says we’ve seen about 200-Million state tax dollars leveraged into “well over a billion dollars of investment” that he says has created many construction jobs and permanent jobs in the resulting completed projects. The governor contends that more college-educated Iowans are staying in the state to work and raise families, thanks in part to such local development. The Amana community is in the middle stages of their historic revitalization project that when finished will include a new Visitors Orientation Center, a festival gathering hall, green space areas, public bathrooms, retail space for craftspeople, an education/conference center, outdoor dining and entertainment venues and additional parking. The “Iowa Shines” award will consist of a proclamation and document showing the city was honored.
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