Making things happen

Litwiller brings past experience to her role as Wright County’s economic development director

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson Cindy Litwiller, Wright County econonomic development director, left, visits with Deb Lukes, Wright County deputy auditor, at the Wright County Courthouse, recently.

CLARION — When Cindy Litwiller was the executive director for the Iowa Falls Development Corporation, she played a critical role in helping the community develop a former hospital into multiple living spaces.

“The county decided to approve a new hospital, and so the question was what would we be doing with the old hospital,” said Litwiller, who was recently hired as Wright County’s economic development director. “We worked at getting developers in to make it a multi-use facility. We worked for three years to figure out how to use that building.”

Part of her job was to inform potential developers about available tax credits.

“We were all so instrumental in making the corporation aware of the tax credits and providing as much information as we could on that end,” she said.

Ultimately, four businesses formed an LLC and the hospital was completely remodeled. About 20 town homes were constructed on six acres of land. The area is called Ellsworth Estates.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson Cindy Litwiller, Wright County economic development director, sits at her desk inside the Wright County Courthouse in Clarion, recently.

Phase two will involve the addition of single-family homes, condo units, and apartment complexes, according to Litwiller.

“That was made possible through some demolition funding from the hospital itself, through tax increment financing through the city of Iowa Falls, and then workforce housing tax credits through the state’s program,” she said. “That project proves what can happen with collaborative efforts.”

Litwiller, of Fort Dodge, is hoping similar developments will take shape in Wright County.

She began her duties on June 30. She will be paid an annual salary of $80,000.

Litwiller believes the addition of Prestage Foods of Iowa’s $300 million pork plant within the county will provide a huge economic boost to the region and will open up opportunities for additional businesses to move in.

An estimated 1,050 people will be employed there when the plant opens in November or December. The 700,000-square-foot plant is located 4 miles south of Eagle Grove.

“There’s a lot of opportunities in Wright County, especially with the Prestage facility,” she said. “The businesses that are interested in servicing some of their operational needs. The challenges of housing. Quality of life issues. There is just a lot of opportunity here. I am a strong believer in our rural Iowa communities. Rural communities have a lot to offer the region.”

She added, “There is a lot of spin-off businesses that are looking to locate in the area that help supply needed components, and finding a place for them to locate and providing assistance in those services.”

Litwiller said it will be important for each city in the county to work together.

“One of the things in economic development, you cannot live in isolation from one community to another,” she said. “It takes every community within a county to make the county prosperous.”

Prior to coming to Wright County, Litwiller worked in Iowa Falls for seven years.

While there, Iowa Falls became one of the first four communities in Iowa to attain site certification under the governor’s site certification program, she said.

“It’s a program that assists communities in becoming a certified site, which means you are basically shovel ready,” Litwiller said. “We certified 295 acres that are shovel ready and it is also a rail park that will include dual rail connections to UP and CN. We have 30 percent rail design approved by both the UP and CN.”

She learned that, “There’s always a way to get things done if you work hard at it.”

She added, “Oftentimes in life we face opportunities and challenges and sometimes you just need to make an effort to step forward. A lot of times, there’s opportunities you aren’t aware of and you just have to make an effort and examine ways to address those situations. That’s what economic development is all about — figuring out a way to make things happen.”

Before working in economic development, Litwiller was employed as a marketing specialist for Fort Dodge and Webster County Development from 2007 to 2011. That was before it became part of the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance.

She also served two terms on the Fort Dodge City Council from 2006 to 2010, representing Ward 3.

“My background is varied,” Litwiller said. “I have been in management positions with manufacturing. I have held positions in for-profit and nonprofit health care. I worked in juvenile court services.”

Her diverse background should benefit her as she moves forward in her career.

“Economic development kind of pulls all that experience together,” she said. “We deal with manufacturing, health care issues, public government. Being able to relate to all those industries and have a better understanding of what their needs are — those experiences are helpful in those positions.”

She also said support would be offered for the school system.

Part of her duties will include recruiting new businesses.

“I look at economic development as a resource for businesses looking to locate here and the ones that are already here,” she said. “Assisting them in whatever way we possibly can.”

She said the greatest challenge for the community remains housing.

“Adequate housing,” she said. “It seems like every community in Wright County is dealing with providing adequate housing for current businesses’ employees, as well as those coming from the Prestage plant.”

She’s looking forward to making Wright County a better place to live.

“Ideally what you hope to attain in a position like this is improved quality of life, good quality jobs for employees, potential employees here, and by our efforts to help improve on the tax base,” she said.