‘Come Home’ aims to get graduates back to area
The Fairfield Economic Development Association has assigned a task force to head the “Come Home” initiative aimed at attracting young Fairfield graduates back to the area.
Chaired by Dave Neff of Iowa State Bank, the task force’s directive is to “successfully implement a plan to encourage former residents of Fairfield and Jefferson County to come home for career, family and community.”
Lori Schaefer-Weaton of Agri-Industrial Plastics Company, Seth Miller of Cambridge Investment Research Inc., Laura Atwood of Fairfield Community School District, city councilman Michael Halley of Danaher Oil Company and Jessica Ledger-Kalen of Royale Concrete have been named to the task force.
The “Come Home” task force was formed in response to FEDA’s Fairfield Existing Business and Industry survey and business leaders’ expressed need to recruit employees to fill current and potential job vacancies.
“One of the best ways to help fill our business and industries employment needs is to reach out to former graduates and residents of Fairfield and ask them to come home,” Neff said. “Our first item of business will be to meet with our local human resource managers to see how we can complement their current recruitment efforts.”
The task force will collect information for a marketing and outreach plan for the FEDA Board of Directors’ approval in the first quarter of 2012.
“Our existing business and industry is the foundation of our economic base, and it is important that they are successful. FEDA’s mission is to help them be successful and to meet the challenges that are impediments to that success,” FEDA President Pat Doyle said. “I would like to thank the members of the task force for their willingness to step forward with their time and talent to help us in this mission.”
Waughs return to Fairfield
By LACEY JACOBS, Ledger staff writer
Fairfield native Kara McWhirter Waugh and her husband, Libertyville native Barry Waugh, fall into the demographic FEDA’s “Come Home” task force will be targeting.
The Fairfield High School graduates recently discovered reasons on their own for returning to the area after 17 years in Des Moines. Kara Waugh said having a child helped put the small community and proximity to family in perspective, but she understands the challenges the task force will face.
“I didn’t think there would ever be the opportunity to come back. I was never really interested in that,” Waugh said.
She had hoped to one day live someplace larger than Des Moines. Her husband, on the other hand, was looking to go smaller.
“There were a lot of people out of Barry’s class that came back after they had kids, and I thought that was kind of odd,” Waugh said. “I understand wanting to be in a small town for kids, but I thought there’s a lot of small towns. I just never really got it until we had a kid, and we would come back and visit family.”
The Waughs felt their 2-year-old Kerrick deserved the sort of childhood they both had here.
“Kind of on a lark, Barry applied for a job at Cambridge,” Waugh said. “I think Fairfield is lucky to have a place like Cambridge.”
With its job opportunities and widespread recruitment, Cambridge reminds Waugh of the presence Books Are Fun once had in the community.
Waugh, however, is taking the return to Fairfield as a chance to stay home for a while and maybe pursue a career change. She had most recently been working at Iowa State University.
When her husband started at Cambridge in late April, Waugh and their son stayed in Des Moines until just a few weeks ago while selling their home and searching for a house in Fairfield.
Finding a suitable home was the Waughs’ biggest challenge. She concurs with local realtors who say there aren’t enough medium-priced homes on the market.
“Growing up here, I though Fairfield was always a very middle-income, blue-collar town. It seemed like people really took a lot of pride in their houses. It didn’t matter how big or how small or how fancy it was, people made sure it looked nice,” Waugh said. “Coming back to look at houses, we were just disappointed. People have really let stuff go.”
Fairfield has changed a lot since the Waughs grew up here.
“There’s more of some things and less of other things,” Waugh said. “There’s less retail and places to shop than there was when I was growing up, but there’s more culture and arts, with the art walk and farmers’ market and that kind of stuff that we didn’t have before.”
The trails were another big plus for the family, having lived near a trail in Des Moines.
“I know people who live here who say, ‘There’s nothing to do here.’ Other people said, ‘Why would you move back here?’” Waugh said. “There’s a lot of stuff to do, you just have to go find it.”
But even with all the great publicity Fairfield has gotten for its attractions, events and designation as a Great Place, Waugh pointed out, “You have to have the jobs for people or they’re not going to come no matter what.”