The University of Iowa’s Institute of Public Affairs is leading a pilot project to help a handful of small communities in the state boost their local economies by working more closely with nonprofit organizations. Institute director Jeff Schott says the cities chosen for the project include Belle Plaine, Chariton, Pocahontas, Prairie City and the Lee County communities of Donnellson, Franklin, Montrose, and West Point.

“The ultimate goal is working with them to develop long-range economic development or economic recovery strategies specifically for their communities,” Schott said. The training and technical assistance will be provided at no cost to the local governments and nonprofits. Only cities with populations under $5,000 were allowed to apply. Schott says small town governments in Iowa are facing dwindling resources, so working more closely with nonprofits makes sense.

“They may have some experience working together, but there may be new ways they can collaborate to try and achieve common goals,” Schott said. Preliminary work in each of the communities will begin this summer, but more intense training sessions are planned in September. Schott is hoping results from the pilot projects will eventually help other nonprofit organizations and local governments in Iowa.

“We want to try and put together some best practices so there would be information and materials we can provide both local governments and nonprofits as to how to improve collaboration and work together to meet the goals of the community,” Schott said. The program is funded by a $250,000 federal grant.