Successes Celebrated by Perry Economic Development Inc.
Members of the investment group Perry Industries Inc. and the non-profit Perry Economic Development Inc. (PEDI) gathered at the Pattee Hotel on Thursday evening for their annual meeting, honoring the outgoing members of their board administration and welcoming new members.
About 50 people attended this year’s meeting, which included an opening speech by longtime rural development scholar Bill Menner of Grinnell and special honors to longtime board members who were retiring. Day-to-day business also included annual reports and the election of new board members and officers.
Menner, a longtime advocate for rural Iowa communities, served as USDA’s rural development director for Iowa from 2009 to 2017 and currently runs a rural development consulting firm called the Bill Menner Group. He is also executive director of the Iowa Rural Health Association and executive director of the Iowa Rural Development Council.
No stranger to Perry, Menner remembers chairing the Iowa Great Places program when it started in 2005 and visiting Perry with the Great Places team.
“Perry was confirmed as an Iowa Great Place by acclamation on the bus ride home,” he said. “That’s how impressed we were with Perry.” He is also a friend of Eliza Willis, professor emeritus of political science at Grinnell College and a fourth generation descendant of Perry’s founding family, who believes “resilience” is Perry’s hallmark, he said. he declares.
Menner spoke about the challenges facing rural communities – economically, demographically, culturally – and highlighted Perry’s strengths in housing and community facilities. He also highlighted the importance and benefits of broadband internet access in rural communities. He called broadband internet an “essential public service” and praised Deb Lucht of Minburn Communications for working to bring fiber optic cable to businesses and eventually to Perry homes.
“For cities to step in,” Menner said, “and say,“ We think the internet is so important that we will do it ourselves. We’re going to lay fiber like we love to lay water and sewer to our residents, because we think it’s so important. And cities are actually the most interesting area where you see investment in broadband coming, because they are unable to convince their phone companies and cable companies to make those investments. “
After Menner’s speech and a delicious hotel dinner of stuffed pork loin, boiled new potatoes and green bean almonds, PEDI President Dr Tom Berkgren opened the annual meeting.
Berkgren capped off its Chairman’s report with a plaque presentation to two long-time Perry Industries board members, Bill Clark and Rich Jones, in appreciation of their long-standing commitment to growing the economic base of Perry.
For more than 40 years, Jones and Clark have been “foundational pillars” of business and industrial growth plans at Perry, Berkgren said.
“It’s fantastic to see all of the accomplishments over the years,” Jones said accepting the honorary award. Clark also praised the many hands, some of which have sadly disappeared, whose strength has helped build community over the decades.
Additional reports were delivered by PEDI Vice President Matt McDevitt and Secretary Eddie Diaz, who described the group’s recent successes, including the acquisition of Hotel Pattee and La Poste as possible city properties. PEDI board members Mike Van Houweling briefed participants on the progress of the fundraising campaign for the purchase and maintenance of the hotel.
PEDI also contributed to the growth of the Perry industrial park, achieving certified site status in 2015, then facilitating the recent expansion of Percival Scientific and the relocation to the TBD Wearables park. The list of accomplishments dates back to the mid-1950s and the initial appeal of a nationwide pork processor to Perry.
Before adjourning, two new board members were welcomed to PEDI: David Finneseth of Farm Bureau Insurance and Jeff Huitt of Tri-County Ag. Burkgren completed his two-year presidency of PEDI and became the new past president of PEDI by handing the hammer to new PEDI resident Matt McDevitt of the Raccoon Valley Bank. Deb Lucht of Minburn Communications will be vice president of PEDI. Eddie Diaz, Director of DMACC Perry VanKirk Career Center, will continue as Secretary of PEDI, and Monica Scheib of Osmundson Manufacturing Co. will continue as Treasurer of PEDI.