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MASON CITY | The goal was to get North Iowans and Mason City residents on the front end of planning for the future.

So far, it's working, according to Chad Schreck, head of the North Iowa Corridor EDC.

The Mason City and Clear Lake chambers of commerce and the Corridor EDC are working with TIP Strategies of Austin, Texas, a consulting firm to put together a workable, meaningful strategy for the future in North Iowa.

Once a plan is developed, TIP representatives have pledged to work with local officials to implement it, to make sure the results don't end up in a study that nobody uses.

And the planners want to start with the people. They are asking North Iowans to complete a survey that can be found at www.visionnorthiowa.com.

"We've received about 200 so far," Schreck said Friday. "TIP thought that was really good for being out less than week. "I personally want to blow that number out much larger."

He said another survey will be coming. "From there, we will develop a more specific rating/ranking multiple choice type survey to drill down on some of the key points to further specify the areas the public deems most important," he said.

Shreck said it's too early to draw any conclusions from the surveys. But EDC personnel and TIP consultants conducted nine focus groups in Mason City and Clear Lake in the past week.

"We hit about 100 people in these more personal small-group settings. It was a great way for open discussion and to dive into detail on what people thought," he said.

Schreck said strengths that were pointed out include the area being a regional hub with great recreational opportunities and a low cost of living, strong health care and strong work ethic. 

"The big common concern that came up in every group is the need for attracting people to the region for jobs, which then led to discussion on need for amenities and things to do, and then need for housing, the need to keep our youth here," he said.   

Schreck said TIP personnel will be back in late March or early April. "That visit will include several more opportunities for public input," he said. 

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