OEDC luncheon gets city officials thinking of Ottumwa's future

OEDC held its State of the Economy luncheon Wednesday at the Bridge View Center in Ottumwa./KTVO

Over 60 business and community leaders in the Ottumwa area showed up at the Bridge View Center Wednesday for the Ottumwa Economic Development Corporation’s State of the Economy luncheon.

The event began with OEDC Executive Director Sharon Stroh updating folks on some of the things the organization has been working on, such as a target industry study and a new PR and Communications plan.

But the main focus was Zachary Mannheimer, who is the principal community planner at McClure Engineering, and the day’s guest speaker.

Mannheimer primarily talked about creative place making and what that can do for a city like Ottumwa.

“It’s more than just culture, but all of the ideas a community needs to take the next step from an economic development stand point and a population growth stand point,” said Mannheimer.

Mannheimer encouraged business and city leaders to think about the future of Ottumwa and ways to bring in younger generations.

“Think about what your community is going to look like in 30 years. Is it going to be super populated or is it going to be desolated, and the question is what are you going to do to keep it vibrant and how do you make sure that your store front in the downtown have great businesses in it,” said Mannheimer. “How do you make sure that your housing stock is where it needs to be? But, most importantly how do you make sure your community is unique? What’s unique about your town globally? That’s what people are looking for, that’s how you attract the next generation into the work force.”

Mannheimer says in order for Ottumwa to grow, it needs to capitalize on its two biggest assets: the river and the Amtrak.

But the biggest takeaway from Wednesday’s lecture is to start a conversation about the future.

“I would hope to see a lot of cooperation from the folks that were here today and by invitation those that support us so that we can have more concrete conversation on ‘this what we would like to see happen’ all be in agreement, all move forward, all riding on the same bus, all rolling in the same direction,” said Stroh.

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