State Awards $400,000 for Innovation Projects and Housing Studies in Rural Communities Across Iowa

July 2, 2020

For more information contact:

Staci Hupp Ballard, Chief Strategic Communications Officer,
Iowa Economic Development Authority, 515.348.6245

State Awards $400,000 for Innovation Projects and Housing Studies in Rural Communities Across Iowa
Grant programs are an outcome of the Governor’s Empower Rural Iowa Initiative

July 2, 2020 (DES MOINES) – Today, the Iowa Economic Development Authority announced $400,000 in Rural Innovation grants and Rural Housing Assessment grants that have been awarded to 21 communities across the state.

This is the inaugural round for the Rural Innovation and Rural Housing Assessment programs, which were developed in 2019 by the Governor’s Empower Rural Iowa Initiative. The Rural Innovation Grant Program supports creative, non-traditional ideas that focus on current issues and challenges faced by rural communities associated with the themes of community investment, growth and connection. The Rural Housing Assessment Grant Program supports the use of publicly available online information through the “Profile of Iowa” tool and rural community efforts to interpret the hard data; it also helps implement changes to development codes, local ordinances, and housing incentives specific to a community’s needs in partnership with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

“Investments awarded through the Rural Innovation and Rural Housing Assessment programs help our rural communities overcome the challenge of access to quality housing,” said Governor Kim Reynolds. “These programs apply data into real strategies and build innovative solutions for communities to thrive in all corners of Iowa.”

For example, Bellevue Community School District plans to use its Rural Innovation funding to develop the "Innovating Bellevue" program, which will connect local entrepreneurs and business owners with Bellevue youth within a new Innovation Lab designed to foster creativity and collaboration. Located in a renovated historic building on the banks of the Mississippi River, the lab will become an incubator for new, locally owned businesses. There will also be opportunities for local business owners to create succession plans that involve youth becoming apprentices and taking over a business, especially for skilled trades like plumbers and electricians that are essential for small towns to thrive.

La Luz Hispana will use its Rural Innovation grant to develop the new La Luz Centro Cultural building into a dynamic and welcoming space for the Latinx community in and around Hampton, which is home to 4,236 residents. With this funding, La Luz Centro Cultural will be able to offer important programming, such as English classes, Spanish classes, nutritional and financial classes, safety and city ordinance informational sessions, a youth gathering space, cultural cooking classes, support groups for survivors of crimes and more. For many Latinx living in rural communities, finding a welcoming gathering space and culturally competent services can be a challenge. La Luz Centro Cultural seeks to overcome that challenge and offer a Comunidad Vibrante within the community.

In addition to the Rural Innovation grants, the cities of Creston, Central City, Manning, Springville, Keokuk and Stanton received Rural Housing Assessment grants and will be working with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach to undergo a facilitated readiness assessment and implementation process.

“With access to supportive programs and creative ideas from the awarded communities, the projects will be used as models to be replicated across the state, serving as best practices,” said Debi Durham, director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority and Iowa Finance Authority. “Both of the rural grant programs align with the Governor’s Empower Rural Iowa Initiative to revitalize communities, and we are proud to support our rural areas.”

For more information on the Rural Innovation or Rural Housing Assessment programs, visit or contact Liesl Seabert at

A full list of the of the 2020 Rural Innovation and Rural Housing Assessment Grant recipients (applicant, population, project type, description, amount, total project cost) is available online.

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