Lumsden looks back on five years with JCED

Derek Lumsden
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     Over the past five years, Jones County has seen improvements to several downtowns, as well as new businesses, and an increased presence throughout the Eastern Iowa region.

   In May 2018, Derek Lumsden was hired as the executive director of Jones County Economic Development by the Board of Directors. In just five years of working in Jones County, he’s made many strides and improvements throughout the county, in communities large and small.

   “Some days it seems like I’ve been here for no more than a couple of years,” Lumsden remarked of hitting his five-year mark. “But then with two years of COVID, it feels like a lot longer.”

   He came into this role with an impressive background in Main Street Iowa and Enhance Iowa. That experience recently proved a plus with his assistance in helping with the grassroots efforts in Monticello. Last August, Monticello was designated a Main Street Iowa Community.

   Lumsden said despite his background in the program, he had no preconceived notion as to whether a Jones County town would go after the designation or not.

   “Not every community can do it well,” he said. “It depends on the community’s goals.”

   Lumsden’s involvement began in 2019, the first time Monticello showed interest in Main Street via the Hometown Pride committee. Unfortunately, those efforts were unsuccessful.

   “The second time around,” recalled Lumsden, “there was much more local enthusiasm, local people running the charge.”

   There have been success stories in Anamosa, Wyoming, Oxford Junction, Onslow, and Cascade, too!

   JCED helped pursue a grant with Wyoming to fully rehab an old building in their downtown to create room for Lalo’a Mexican Bar & Grill and upper-story housing. JCED also worked with the city to finalize a contract to attract Dollar General to build in town.

   The buildings on the south side of Anamosa’s downtown have all received new façades. Lumsden said he hopes grant funding continues to come through to proceed with the north side, which will be split into two phases due to such interest in the program. The second phase will be going out to bid next month.

   Also in Monticello, JCED assisted the city in pursuing grant opportunities to remove the asbestos and replace a roof on the former Compadres building. JCED followed this up by securing a Community Catalyst Grant for the building. This allowed The Market at The Tap to open.

   Lumsden was also involved in funding for the façade of the Creative Adventure Lab in downtown Monticello.

   In Oxford Junction, next to Schakey’s Place on W. Broadway Street, much like in Wyoming, JCED worked on funding for a full-building renovation project, also with upper-story housing.

   Other projects in the past five years included: expanded broadband, phase two of the Wapsipinicon Trail Project in Anamosa, the CAT Grant for a new swimming pool in Cascade, wayfinding signage in Anamosa, and outdoor holiday lights and decorations for Onslow.

   In the past year or so, Lumsden also helped reignite the Jones County Young Professionals group, of which JCED is the financial umbrella.

   Lumsden maintains a presence in the Monticello Express with a monthly, informative column. During the legislative season, he hosts several forums with Jones County legislators, trying to focus on topics beneficial to economic development. Lumsden also sits on the Arts Court board, with a goal of enhancing culture and art in the county.

   “All of our communities know me relatively well by now,” shared Lumsden of having a presence throughout the county.

   He spends two days a week working in Monticello, two days in Anamosa, and a fifth day assisting the other communities as needed.

   JCED’s mission mentions “attracting new investment and jobs.”

   “I meet with about 30-ish (business) prospects a year,” noted Lumsden. “That’s been constant since I started. But some things just are not a good fit here.”

   When Lumsden started here five years ago, JCED also found they needed to pivot their mission a bit.

   “We can’t just be only about businesses as a silo,” explained Lumsden. “Businesses need housing and quality of life amenities to survive.”

   This change in structure now focuses on “total community development,” something Lumsden alluded to during his first week in this role. In the past five years, that scope of work has included trails, helping to address childcare needs, looking at upper-story housing options, transportation needs and barriers, and retaining more young people to live, work, and raise a family in Jones County.

   Aside from Jones County, Lumsden serves on regional boards through ECICOG and Envision East Central Iowa.

   “That work all ties into what we’re doing here, and utilizing the resources that we have (at our disposal).”

   Lumsden enjoys his job here for the fact that he has the freedom to tackle work and projects as he sees fit.

   “I can be more free-wheeling,” he said of his job. “I have the ability to be flexible and do different things to function. That’s the benefit of being a one-person office.”

   Knowing all JCED can offer, Lumsden admitted that it’d be great if more businesses, across the spectrum, could see the benefit and value of joining JCED.

   “It’s about the long game, not just one round of poker. Our continued investment drives long-term growth and development.”

   Lumsden is always available to answer any questions or concerns.

   “I think I’ve done a good job of building relationships,” he said.

   You can contact JCED at or 319-480-7446.


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