Monticello selected in pilot rural initiative program

City Council
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

The City of Monticello was selected to take part in a regional pilot program geared toward rural business growth and entrepreneurship. 

Cammie Greif and Lisa Stadtmueller, both associated with the Monticello EXCEL Center, met with the council at their Oct. 7 meeting to discuss the program and all that it has to offer. 

The Rural Innovation Initiative connects five rural communities, including Monticello, with the Creative Adventure Lab based in Dubuque. This lab spurs the idea of co-working and entrepreneurship. 

The rural sites would serve as co-working space for potential entrepreneurs in and around those communities. Rather than working from home, they can come to the designated spaces in each community and work around like-minded professionals. The centers offer private working space for individuals, as well as larger space for meetings. 

“All of the locations will also provide training and networking opportunities throughout the year, not only to members but to others who wish to take advantage,” explained City Administrator Doug Herman. 

The idea is to cater to those jobs that allow people to work remotely from home. 

“A person who works for a large firm in Chicago can now choose to live in Monticello,” added Herman. “Having co-working space to utilize will allow them the office environment when necessary.” 

Herman, Greif and Stadtmueller all attended an informational workshop on the Rural Innovation Initiative in Dubuque on Sept. 30. 

Greif has much experience in business start-ups, and knows what it means to have limited resources in a small community, unlike Dubuque, Cedar Rapids or Iowa City. She said the Rural Innovation Initiative could expand those resources right here in Monticello, attracting and keeping entrepreneurs. 

“I’ve mentored a number of start-ups,” she said. “I help businesses get started and find funding solutions. I’m excited about the innovation lab, which focuses on rural Iowa.” 

Greif said each of the five communities chosen faces similar problems when it comes to business retention and entrepreneurship. 

“We really have a need in Monticello,” she said. 

Aside from small businesses, Greif said non-profits would also benefit. 

“It brings a network of people helping, all from different perspectives,” she said. “It’s great opportunity for Monticello. 

Greif and the State of Iowa is also backing the initiative, and will help fund the build-out of innovation centers in each of the communities. 

Stadtmueller, who works at Kirkwood’s regional center in Monticello, has been involved in youth STEM programming for a number of years. 

“This has amazing potential,” she praised. “We can have a creative center here and be able to reach out to students to see the innovation process.” 

Stadtmueller said the initiative would also connect Monticello to Dubuque’s Creative Lab, bringing a wealth of services to rural Iowa. 

“This cutting-edge business model will help put Monticello on the map,” continued Stadtmueller. “It’ll help ensure our town stays relative to business.” 

Stadtmueller said $45,000 has already been pledged by the state to help with the build-out of a center in Monticello. 

While more details are yet to come, the council approved moving forward with a letter of support for the program. 


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