Ready to grow
Gowrie offers TIF grants for new housing with help from Fort Dodge alliance
GOWRIE — Kevin Black sees a lot of potential at the corner of Webster Street and Riddle Street in Gowrie.
Three empty lots sit there, platted and ready for builders to put up the town’s next new housing.
To encourage growth here and throughout the town, the city of Gowrie is now offering grants of up to $40,000 for new construction, with help from the Gowrie Development Commission and the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance.
“We want to bring families in,” said Black, the president and chief executive officer of Heartland Bank who serves on the Gowrie Development Commission. “We want to bring taxpayers in, we want to fill the schools with kids.”
“There hasn’t been a lot of new housing construction in Gowrie in the last several years,” Mayor Gayle Redman added. “We’re always on the lookout to attract new people to town.”
For some time now, Gowrie has offered tax abatement programs for new home construction, Black said. Now, new builders can choose instead to get the funds at the beginning, instead of tax relief over 10 years.
“We’re finding people need that equity up front,” he said.
The program uses Tax Increment Financing. After a property is developed, TIF allows the city to collect 100 percent of the increase in the tax value of the property for a number of years.
It takes about seven years for funds to be made back through TIF, he said.
The city provides the funds from money it had on hand, Black said, in what amounts to an inner-account loan — from one city fund to the TIF fund.
A proposed new home must cost at least $150,000 to qualify, Black said, and the grant funds will pay 10 percent of the project’s cost. To get the $40,000 maximum amount, a proposed house must cost $400,000.
And other types of buildings are also eligible for the grant.
“This program is focused on housing, but it’s also available for commercial or industry,” Black said, “with pretty much the same parameters as the housing.”
The GDC joined with the GFDGA over a year ago.
“The partnership is going very well. Especially with this program, they provided a lot of expertise,” Black said.
Black is the Commission representative that sits on the board of the Growth Alliance. He also spearheaded the Gowrie housing project.
“I was dealing directly with the Growth Alliance because they do have the expertise with the tax increment financing,” he said. “It was very beneficial to partner with the Growth Alliance in getting this rolled out.”
Not only is the Commission a member of the Growth Alliance, it also contracts with the Growth Alliance on a part-time basis when other specialized services are needed.
“They provide us resources and personnel in the different areas of expertise they offer,” Black said. “So if we need some marketing, we call the Growth Alliance.”
The two groups are also working on a main street rehabilitation project, which has been a goal of the Development Commission.
After approval by the City Council, the housing grant program has been in place for about 30 days.
“It’s pretty new,” Black said. “Everything is in place to go.”
The mayor also stressed the importance of the partnership.
“When you look back over the last year, the thing’s we’ve accomplished and all the things we are still working towards, it’s more than what you think,” Redman said. “We’ve gotten a lot accomplished with their help.”
Black said the housing program also comes with a number of other benefits. Construction permit fees will be waived, the Webster-Calhoun Cooperative Telephone Association will run fiber to the house for free for a roughly $1,000 value, and Gowrie Municipal Utilities will provide free electric installation and waive the water connection fee.
The package also comes with a one-year free membership to the workout facility, municipal golf course, swimming pool and roller rink.
“I feel like every meeting I ever go to, every kind of economic training I go to, they always talk about the need for housing to attract young families with children. In this day and age, young families want newer houses,” Redman said.
Incentives aside, Black said there are a lot of reasons to build in Gowrie — including affordable lots and a good cost of living.
“We’ve got all the amenities. We’ve got a golf course, a pool, a roller rink, a grocery store,” Black said. “We’ve got two banks, we’ve got a very strong telco company. … And we’ve got a great school system. I think we have a lot to offer.”
For more information, contact the city at (515) 352-3999.