Mr. Cross recently sent me an email and said that it had been a while since I had done a column. So, I told him I could put something together and here we are. My column isn’t necessarily about Osage Municipal Utilities, but more about leadership and our community.

I am currently taking part in a leadership program called Leadership Iowa. Leadership Iowa was founded in 1982, and is Iowa’s premier issues-awareness program for Iowa professionals. There are 40 participants each year that represent public and private sectors throughout the state of Iowa. The class meets once a month from October through June in various communities throughout Iowa. Each session covers a different topic. The topics this year include leadership, economic development, education, government, entrepreneurship, agriculture and changing demographics.

We have completed the first two sessions. The first session was in Winterset and the second session was in Jefferson. Both communities are very comparable to Osage and share a lot of the same visions and challenges. Both communities want growth of population and are struggling to put together a skilled workforce and find housing. Common themes we see in Osage and Mitchell County.

Throughout these classes a couple things have been said that really took hold:

1. A company will not invest in a community that does not invest in itself.

I would give Osage/Mitchell County an A- on investing in the community. We have some remarkable things to offer people living in our small rural part of Iowa. The key moving forward is we continue to act as a Mitchell County group as we can’t afford to go at this alone.

Osage does need to address the aging school infrastructure. I spent five years in that high school and its academic infrastructure was antiquated 20 years ago. I have been in enough districts to know how lacking we are in Osage. Throughout these classes they keep emphasizing how important your school is to the growth of your community. The positive is there are conversations being had and progress is being made on addressing that issue.

2. Train your employees to sell your community.

When Apple announced it was coming to Iowa they had sent a lot of employees to Iowa to investigate the area before investing. Much of this research was very secretive and they asked a lot of people questions about Iowa and the Des Moines area. Can you imagine if a potential company sent people to Mitchell County and visited a restaurant and started asking the employees questions and the employees were negative about the area? It is a must everyone share a positive story about our Mitchell County region. You never know who is stopping by your business to ask questions.

3. If a community is to grow and prosper, the leaders of your community must grow and prosper.

When I was nominated to be part of Leadership Iowa, I almost didn’t fill out the application form. I was looking at the schedule and thought I am too busy for this program. At the end of the day, we need to make time to better ourselves and gain innovative ideas from others. Employers need to make sure they are offering their employees opportunities to get more training and education. Small rural communities must be more aggressive at growing leaders than ever before.

Lastly, Jefferson, Iowa is part of Greene County and they have really put a lot of emphasis on community development and created a vision and developed a plan for what Greene County should look like in 2020. I personally feel that if address community development/betterment you will automatically grow economically.