Rural Development Council of Iowa Honors Bilyeu as ‘Rural Hero’ at Top | Community

Rob Hillesland Summit-Tribune

Beth Bilyeu credits partnerships and a shared love for the quality of life of rural communities as the key to two decades of successful development as Executive Director of Economic Development for Forest City.

On August 19, Bilyeu was first recognized as a “rural hero” at the fifth annual Rural Iowa Summit at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids. She was one of 13 people honored as Local Rural Heroes from across Iowa.

“The whole time that I’m here there have been a lot of partnerships,” said Bilyeu. “When I started in 2002, there was a million dollar infrastructure fund to expand water and sewer services to new subdivisions. Partnerships in Forest City are just a natural part of development.

About half of this effort was funded by the Hanson Foundation and a quarter by both the city and the Forest City business community.

Bilyeu quickly noted similar partnership efforts with the Forest City School District and Waldorf College / University during his tenure. She said everyone’s contributions were vital for the upgrade / sharing of the Waldorf and Forest City school athletic fields, the John V. Hanson Career Center and the 625-seat auditorium / Boman Fine Arts Center. She said it is a wonder for a rural area.

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Bilyeu also cited the shared success of community partners in the development of the Westown Place apartments in the west of the city and, more recently, of the Forest City Veterinary Clinic in the Nerem industrial park, to the south of the city.

The Irish Hospital Apartments in the Old Hospital and (later) the Winnebago County Law Enforcement Center are another project that Bilyeu has invested many hours of his life recently. She cited a $ 250,000 forgivable loan from the city for the fully electric apartment building as well as a $ 80,000 forgivable loan from Winnebago County, which was the amount budgeted for the demolition of the building. building. The city and county also worked with her and developer Kristen Fish-Peterson on a pending labor housing tax credit claim for the project.

Bilyeu called the veterinary clinic expansion and relocation site a “beautiful place” and a wonderful development for the whole rural community. She noted that the partnership with the Iowa Rural Development Council helped bring Iowa State University’s dean of veterinary medicine, Dan Grooms, to the inauguration of the veterinary clinic. August 7.

“I work on a lot of housing development,” said Bilyeu. “If I’m trying to say I’m going to do industrial recruiting for 12 months, it always depends on where the workers will live and who will look after their children. In our rural development, we do all of the above.

The Iowa Rural Summit brings together leaders from small towns in Iowa each year. This year it featured a rural recognition ceremony for the first time. It paid tribute to people who have made a positive difference in their rural community or region.

“Beth was selected for her impact in Forest City and northern Iowa,” said board chairman Mark Reinig of the Iowa Rural Development Council. “His work, particularly related to housing and redevelopment, shows how small towns can thrive through great leadership and innovative projects.

After taking place virtually in 2020 due to COVID-19, a crowd of over 200 people from 60 different small towns attended in person. The summit addressed issues ranging from arts and culture to childcare and entrepreneurship.

“I was quite surprised and very honored,” said Bilyeu. “I worked with them and introduced them to them. The Iowa Rural Development Council has far-reaching reach statewide and invests in many important issues, particularly in rural Iowa.

Other winners included Duane Asbe of Clarion, Barb Baker of Grinnell, Evan Blakely of Denison, Kevin Cabbag of Stanton, Jim Erb of Charles City, Lora Friest of Decorah, David Heiar of Maquoketa, Lyle Hevern of Estherville, Bill Morain and Cooper’s Carla and Chuck Offenburger, Jefferson’s Peg Raney, and Corning’s Beth Waddell.

“Looking at the other people who received this award, no one did it on their own,” Bilyeu said. “They all formed partnerships. It represents a good cross section of Iowa.

Bilyeu graduated from NIACC where she studied Marketing and attended a satellite center at Buena Vista University where she studied Business Management and Finance. She worked in sales and regional economic development and was General Manager of Winn-Worth-Betco from 1998 to 2002 before taking on her current role.

“We have things to offer here that are quite unique to rural life,” said Bilyeu. “We have a lot of the advantages of the big cities, but in a smaller setting, and everyone here is very friendly. “

Editor’s Note: The Iowa Rural Development Council and Norma Hertzer of the Forest City Chamber of Commerce contributed to this story.

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