Import Commuting….here is the issue or opportunity as described by the University of Iowa Marketing Institute during the recent Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities project here in Muscatine: “Despite being the headquarters for well-known companies…Muscatine does not appeal as a place to live for a significant portion of people employed by these companies. This has led to the phenomenon known as “import commuting.” This has become a major concern to Muscatine’s community and business leaders who have invested a great deal of resources to make the city a more attractive and self-contained community for its residents.” 2014 Community Flows in the Bi-State Region IISC Branding Report, 2014 Community Flows in the Bi-State Region
We would love to hear your insights into how the City can address this issue. The attached reports and links offer some insights into the issues. Please feel free to comment here or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I would also like to offer the following evidence of programs our community has adopted or begun to address this issue of “import commuting”. Please feel free to share and comment!
- Blue Zones Muscatine: According to Bluezones.com, “Blue Zones are places in the world where people live healthy, happy lives well into their nineties, even 100s. The Blue Zones Project is a health and well-being initiative designed to make the healthy choice the easy choice. To learn more visit: www.bluezonesproject.com/bluezones. According to Bluezones.com. “The State of Iowa takes the first major step in creating a healthier community for all of its citizens and becoming a national leader in well-being improvement by implementing the Blue Zones Project™. In ten communities throughout the State residents will commit to change their environment, policy and social networks to increase their health, well-being and longevity.” For more information on Muscatine’s process, please visit: https://www.bluezonesproject.com/communities/muscatine. There have been several built environment changes that have come about through this process – trails, better crosswalk design, round-a-bout, safe-routes-to school sidewalks, and many more! Our local team has reaped numerous rewards in working with the Dan Buettner Blue Zones Team, the Healthways Team, and multiple experts. Their expertise, vision and infectious attitude has been a welcome addition to our community planning efforts! The community has completed the initial process and submitted our blueprint for success. We hope to hear in the next 30 days that we are a Blue Zones Certified Community!
- University of Iowa – Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities (IISC): According to IISC, “The IISC chose Muscatine as one of its three community partners for the 2013 – 2014 academic year after receiving requests from and interviewing numerous communities throughout eastern Iowa. The IISC – Muscatine partnership consists of students and faculty at the University of Iowa partnering with the city, community organizations, businesses and individuals in Muscatine to identify, design and implement sustainability-focused projects. The purpose of this partnership is to enhance the capacity of Muscatine to address the economic, social and cultural and environmental issues it faces today and build a more vibrant and sustainable future. In doing so, the IISC not only seeks to transform the Muscatine community, but also teaching and learning at the University of Iowa.” IISC and the City of Muscatine cooperated on 13 different placemaking projects (Dog Park, Connectivity & Way Finding, Riverfront Improvements, Transportation Improvements, Branding and more) that will help to shape the community and raise quality of life. Here is a list of those projects: 2013 IISC Projects List Muscatine. Additionally, the student reports can be found at the following website: http://www.muscatineiowa.gov/index.aspx?nid=819. City Staff and City Council are excited to be working the the Mayor’s Community Improvement Action Team to bring this plans forward to reality! Volunteers are welcome!
- Planning: The City recently complete a new comprehensive plan and is now in the process of implementation through the Capital Improvement Plan and a complete rewrite of the 1973 Zoning Ordinance. http://www.muscatineiowa.gov/index.aspx?NID=518
- Tax Abatement: The City Council for the City of Muscatine, Iowa, has approved a plan to place designated areas in a program identified as the “2013 Muscatine Housing Urban Revitalization Area”. Property owners within the Area will be able to receive an abatement of taxes on eligible improvements to their property that increases the assessed value of the property by meeting one of several thresholds. For more information: http://www.muscatineiowa.gov/index.aspx?nid=726
- $41 Million Dollar Iowa Reinvestment District: As you may know, the City of Muscatine has submitted an application in support of Tom andAnn Meeker’s (Muscatine Downtown Investors) $10 million request for Iowa Reinvestment District funds. This project has been given provisional approval subject to submission of the final application. This downtown investment includes a hotel (Riverview Suites), convention center, parking ramp, and associate walkways. For more details, please see the following Muscatine Journal article: http://muscatinejournal.com/news/local/article_fccc26a9-218e-55ab-a94b-676027f1112e.html
- Property Taxes: Muscatine is a great place to work, live and play, but there is a cost to providing city services. The City has done a great job implementing street, trail, and other quality of life improvements and providing a high level of service to our residents and business community – all while doing more with less. The City has not seen a property tax (tax rate) increase over the past five (5) years. To continue down this path, we have joined the Iowa Lean Consortium and with the assistance of local industry (HNI), we have implemented a “lean” program here in Muscatine (opportunity for a future post). City of Muscatine Tax Rate History
- Economic Development: Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Projects (Most Recent)
- Meeker Downtown Project: Projected to receive $6 million maximum TIF rebate by City after a $41 million dollar investment and generate 110 jobs.
- Heinz: $24 million dollar investment/expansion, $880,000 maximum TIF rebate by City, generating around 130 new jobs.
- Wal-View: Construct 576,000 square foot warehouse, 25 new employees with minimum payroll of $750,000.00, $5 million maximum City rebate.
- Fridley Theatres: $4 million investment in theatre plus street and related infrastructure, created 5 outlots for development, $1.5 million maximum TIF rebate by City,
- Heinz: Manufacturing plant addition and substantial investment in equipment , retained 90 full-time jobs, $425,000 maximum TIF rebate.
The above items are mainly city-related activities and are not an exhaustive list of the activities and projects going on around town, i.e. HNI expansion and renovations, Kent Corp./GPC renovation, and much more. These are substantial investments in the downtown and around town, ongoing investments in high quality jobs, and in the overall quality of life in Muscatine.
Thanks for listening ! We would love to hear your comments!
Attached are several resources for review:
1. Muscatine: Insights and Rebranding Recommendations, The University of Iowa Marketing Institute, May 8th, 2014 IISC Branding Report
2. 2014 County-to-County Commuting Flows in the Bi-State Region, Bi-State Regional Commission, March 2013 2014 Community Flows in the Bi-State Region
3. Tax Increment Finance 101 and Important Statistics, Iowa League of Cities 2014 Tax Increment Finance 101 & Important Statistics (Iowa League of Cities)