Strong turnout for Greene County Latino project
Jefferson Herald Staff
The final of a well-attended series of town hall sessions on Nueva Vida en (new life in) Greene County was held May 5 in Jefferson.
Sessions around the county have drawn dozens of people and generated positive input for a plan aimed at attracting Latino employees and shoppers, and eventually more residents, to the county.
“First and foremost, it is about supporting our local employers, stopping the bleed,” said Carlos Arguello, founder and vice president with Latino IQ, a Grimes-based group consulting Greene County. “Right now, our employees are the most important thing. This is truly a special project for us.”
Latino IQ and the Greene County Development Corporation hosted town halls in Jefferson, Rippey, Grand Junction, Paton, Scranton, Churdan with a second Jefferson event planned for tonight (Thursday, May 5).
The first Jefferson event drew more than 70 people. Dozens of people have attended in other communities.
Sid Jones, the president of the GCDC, said filling jobs around the county is essential for the communities to leverage so much other positivity occurring in the region.
“We don’t know if this is a solution for everything, but it is a part of it,” Jones said. “You have to have a little vision here. It doesn’t just happen overnight.”
In Grand Junction, Chuck Offenburger, who is chairing a steering committee on the project to increase the ranks of the Latino population in the county, said he sees the effort as a career highlight. Offenburger has been involved in a raft of public-minded projects around Iowa in his career in journalism, education and community betterment.
“People are going to be talking about this for a century around here,” Offenburger said.
Several local employers, from Scranton Manufacturing/New Way to Landus, discussed challenges with finding employees, bringing what they see as urgency to the project.
B.J. Hill, the Jefferson lead for Landus, said the cooperative has a number of positions open, but that the labor pool is not yielding applications.
“When this started it seemed like a great opportunity,” Hill said of the Latino IQ plan.
Arguello, a native of Nicaragua who grew up in Carroll, noted that Latinos are the fastest-growing demographic in Iowa.
Added Offenburger, “We have to give this a try because the future hangs on it. I get to remind you how good you all are in Greene County.”