April 23, 2015 by Douglas Burns
A pressing concern for local economic-development leaders is capturing labor as taxpaying, contributing-citizen residents of Greene County as the region enjoys what by rural Iowa standards is explosive job-and-business growth.
Jefferson and surrounding communities are producing the jobs—at a pace envied by most other rural Iowa reaches. But will there be enough place to live for the growing number of people who are interested in calling Greene County home?
“Housing is going to be our single, biggest problem,” Ken Paxton, executive director of the Greene County Development Corp., said Monday night during a county-wide town-hall session at the Greene County Community Center.
Relaying an anecdote, Paxton said demand for housing is so strong that one person who publicized a single rental home in Jefferson received 55 inquiring phone calls in just two days from potential tenants.
But there is good news on the housing front: A Huxley-based property developer key in the reshaping of Ames’ residential stock in the last decade has announced plans to build 24 town homes and 32 apartment units in Jefferson.
JCorp owner Duane Jensen, an Audubon native who lives in Ames, said his company, which includes son Ben, has signed a purchase agreement on property contingent on city site-plan approval.
In an interview Monday, Duane Jensen—who had publically announced 12 town homes—doubled down and said his firm has made an offer on land to develop an additional 12 town homes. More residential construction could follow that, he said.
“We hope so,” said Jensen, who attended the town hall.
Jefferson City Councilwoman Lisa Jaskey said availability of the rental units in coming months is vital to the city, and she’s encouraged by prospects for more JCorp projects in the city.
“I think you’ll be seeing them around Jefferson and Greene County a lot,” Jaskey said,
Jaskey, who heads up the city and GCDC’s housing committees, said there are additional developers scouting Jefferson, including ones from Ames and Des Moines. There are discussions about turning city owned lots into homes in the range of $150,000, she said.
What’s more, 73 people toured available buildings in Jefferson last week, and Paxton and Jaskey see opportunities for development of rental housing on the second levels of downtown structure.
In the interim, in order to prepare for demand for employees, a Greene County Development Corp. Labor task force is working with Region 12 Council of Governments on a possible shuttle system to ferry part-time workers from Ames, Boone, Carroll, Denison and Perry to Jefferson and back.
Courtesy of Douglas Burns, The Jefferson Herald, 4/23/15.