Fairfield Ledger
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Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Nov 24, 2017

FEDA highlights housing, business expansions

By Andy Hallman, Ledger news editor | Nov 10, 2017
Source: PHOTO COURTESY OF JOSHUA LARABY TrafFix Devices, seen here in the foreground, recently has added 68,000 square feet. It was one of several success stories mentioned during FEDA’s annual meeting.

Fairfield Economic Development Association hosted its annual meeting Nov. 2 at the Fairfield Golf & Country Club.

The meeting was an opportunity to review FEDA’s accomplishments during the past year, and to welcome a visiting dignitary to town: Debi Durham, director of Iowa Department of Economic Development. Durham spoke at the meeting and spent the night here so she could tour businesses in Fairfield the following day.

 

Population growth

One of the most intriguing finds in recent months was the discovery Fairfield’s population had grown by about 750 people from 2010 through 2016, according to an estimate by the United States Census Bureau.

The census bureau reports that the majority of that growth has come from the 25- to 34-year-old demographic. FEDA executive director Joshua Laraby said he is looking into the matter, but if the figures do represent a genuine influx of young people to town, it is a promising sign for Fairfield.

A report released earlier this year by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach noted Jefferson County was one of only five counties in the state to grow by more than 7 percent, and one of only two rural counties to exceed the overall state’s growth rate.

 

North Campus Village

FEDA helped foster a couple of housing projects that will add a few dozen units to town by the time they finish in the next few years. The largest of those is the fifth phase of development at North Campus Village on the north edge of town just off B Street. The current phase will add 56 units, 24 of which are finished and have been turned over to their homeowners. Together they are expected to add $6.5 million in new assessed valuation.

Developer Martin Brett of Vastu Partners LLC said he starts building a new triplex about once every six weeks. Five buildings are under construction now, all triplexes.

He said the project would not have happened without FEDA and Laraby’s help, and incentives from the city and state.

One incentive from the state is the workforce housing tax incentive, which developers are eligible for provided they sell the homes under a certain amount of money and they can prove the community needs that type of housing, which Vastu Partners LLC did. The other is tax increment financing from the city, whereby the city agrees to give a developer money up front for infrastructure, which is then paid back through future property taxes. (Note: This paragraph has been updated to provide a clearer understanding of TIF)

Brett said the development is attracting people from outside the area to move here, and people who live here now but want to downsize. He credits business partner and co-developer Doug Bachar of DRB Contracting Inc. as being the “genius behind the bricks and mortar.”

 

Lincoln Court Subdivision

A local development group known as Neighborhood Builders and Developers began constructing multi-family residential buildings earlier this year south of First Christian Church (Discples of Christ) just off South Highway 1. Six units are under construction, and three have already been sold. The group plans to build up to 40 units, eventually expanding onto land east and north of the church.

Laraby said that, just like with the North Campus Village expansion, the workforce housing tax credit was an integral part of this project, which FEDA helped the group secure.

 

Senior housing survey

Pathfinders Resource Conservation & Development conducted a senior housing survey in tandem with FEDA and the city in late 2016. The survey was done to get a sense of what senior citizens want for housing, which is particularly relevant for Jefferson County since its population is about 10 years older than the state average. In fact, about 43 percent of the county’s residents are over 50 years old.

The survey revealed that seniors want housing near the things they frequently visit, places like the grocery store, drug store, and entertainment venues. They also want simple and easy living such as entrances without steps and bathroom aids.

 

Business expansions

FEDA has helped foster several business expansions in the past couple of years. Dexter Apache Holdings added 30,000 square feet, and TrafFix Devices added 68,000. Global ID announced it will add 27 jobs in the near future, and has already filled several of those slots.

FEDA was also hard at work retaining existing businesses. Fairfield Castings was sold to Faircast in June, which has been growing since the summer and hopes to employ the same number of employees active at the time of Fairfield Castings’ closure when it had 221 workers. It now employs 110.

Faircast received tax credits and loans totaling $855,000 from the High Quality Jobs Program administered by the Iowa Economic Development Authority. It also participated in a job-training program through IEDA and Indian Hills.

Alcast Company Midwest Works LLC purchased Fairfield Aluminum Castings in August. Alcast preserved the 50 jobs at the foundry and has even added 27 more.

 

Shell building

Fairfield’s city council and the Jefferson County Board of Supervisors signed an agreement in 2016 to each contribute $78,000 toward a shell building on 227th Street in the new FEDA business and industrial park. The building will be 30,000 square feet and located near the Iowa Department of Transportation’s office. It would be a single-story skeletal structure, which could either be rented or sold at the time of its completion.

Laraby the building will have a gravel floor with basic lighting and a few exhaust fans. To top it off, 1,400 feet of sewer infrastructure was also added to the recently acquired 55-acre business and industrial park.

“Our goal is to assist a local business in expanding, or attract a new business to Fairfield,” he said. “We hope to see 22-25 jobs created through this project.”

Access Energy is supplying a form of power to the building known as three-phase power to the facility, which will allow it to handle heavy electrical loads.

 

Daycare retention

Agapeland Daycare in Foursquare Church in Fairfield went through a tumultous time in 2017. It was able to stay open under a new name, Fairfield Foursquare Daycare, and a new director, Jennifer Dooley. Laraby said FEDA worked with the daycare to remain open. The daycare has since taken steps to improve food quality and security, and by hiring degree-trained staff.

 

New location

FEDA moved downtown in the summer of 2017, into the Iowa State Bank building on Court Street. Laraby said FEDA is more visible and more connected to the community since the move.

FEDA also partnered with Cedar Rapids firm CR Signs on a new billboard at the Highway 1 interchange on Highway 34. FEDA has control of the side viewable to eastbound traffic, and used it to promote Fairfield’s restaurant scene, the Jefferson County Health Center, and an advanced manufacturing career path program called Elevate Iowa.

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