Six communities were named today as “Iowa Great Places” for this year. Bill Menner chairs the Great Places Citizen Advisory Board, which made the recommendations adopted by the director of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. Before choosing places that had promising projects to propose, Menner says the board took a bus tour of every applicant. They wanted to see all twelve finalists and share that experience, instead of listening to one member who’d seen one place, somebody who’d seen another…so, he says, they “jumped on a bus and drove a thousand miles and saw twelve really wonderful communities.” The six new Great Places include Adams County and Corning, the county seat; Dubuque; Fairfield; Guttenberg; Jackson County including projects in both Maquoketa and Bellevue; and Mason City. Now, Menner explains, organizers from the six Great Places will it down with representatives from state agencies. They’ll talk over how their projects fit within the agencies, where they may be able to find funding for their projects, and get technical assistance through the relationships between the “places” and state government. It’s not clear whether there will be another round of the applications next year — Menner says that depends on state lawmakers. Ideally, it’ll become a system where places move along a continuum — organizers will prepare their plans, meet the criteria for a Great Place and just “achieve that on their own,” he says, without the need for a selection process. Menner says the board will start working on that with the legislature and Iowa’s new governor, whoever he is, beginning in January.
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