Sarah Gomez, a Jefferson-Scranton High School alum, has returned to her roots at a heady, go-go time for the region.
Gomez, 29, serves as the executive director of the Midwest Partnership, an economic-development collaborative that includes Adair, Audubon, Greene and Guthrie counties.
Her job: find connected interests for business growth in those counties so the sum of the four is greater than their parts. To that end, Gomez, whose office is in Stuart, directs a 30-member board of business and community leaders from the counties.
She also interacts with state-level officials, and works with larger cities in the region, such as Carroll.
“There’s a lot happening, all the way from small startups to tourist attractions to job opportunities,” Gomez said.
Gomez, who lives on a family farm in Earlham, graduated from Jefferson-Scranton High School in 2004. She went on to AIB College of Business in Des Moines where she earned her bachelor’s degree in accounting in 2008.
She started with the Midwest Partnership in 2009 as office manager, and in November 2014, following the departure of former executive director Chad Schreck, a Carroll County native, to an economic-development position in Mason City, Gomez took the Midwest Partnership helm with the unanimous support of the board.
“Each of the four counties requires something different from me,” Gomez said.
Adair County is host to key historical locations, such as the Wallace Centers of Iowa in Orient and Warren Cultural Center in downtown Greenfield. Audubon and Guthrie Center are the midst of downtown revitalization. Guthrie County is bookended by Lake Panorama, to the east, and Whiterock Conservancy, just east of Coon Rapids. Two national east-west highways cut through the Midwest Partnership, Interstate 80 and U.S. Highway 30.
Then there is Greene County, a catalyst for growth in the region with manufacturing development and the expected Aug. 1 opening of Wild Rose Jefferson, a $40-million casino-and-entertainment complex.
“It’s hard to picture what it’s going to be like in 10 years,” Gomez said. “I, in a heartbeat, would encourage people to move their families to Greene County.”
Before joining the Midwest Partnership, Gomez worked for McAtee Tire and Krieger’s Flower Shop in Jefferson and served as the city clerk in Rippey for a year.
Gomez comes from a deeply rooted agricultural background. Her grandparents, Ike and Marjorie Gomez, had 19 children, including Gomez’s mom, Joyce, the 18th of the 19 children.
Joyce and her husband, Dave, a correctional officer at the men’s prison in Rockwell City, live in Jefferson.
Gomez is the oldest of five siblings: Carrie, 25, of Mount Ayr; Jessica, 21, of Sac City; Brian, 16, and Nicole, 13, of Jefferson.
Nicole has Down syndrome, which has sparked a lifelong interest on the part of Sarah Gomez in assisting the disabled.
Gomez is an independent contractor for the Family Resource Center who works with disabled children.
Gomez also enjoys country music, farmers’ markets, gardening and canning.
Working in a rural area allows Gomez to forge strong connections with businesses, she said.
“Ultimately, I think it’s because of the people who are here,” Gomez said. “The people seem to know you.”
Courtesy of Douglas Burns, The Jefferson Herald 5/28/15, Guthrie County Vedette 6/4/15, The Adair County Free Press 6/10/15, and the Daily Times Herald 5/28/15.