Plan aims for hundreds of new jobs, housing units in Spencer

Plan aims for hundreds of new jobs, housing units in Spencer

Spencer’s new economic development plan sets the ambitious goals of adding hundreds of new jobs and housing units.

The Spencer City Council on Monday approved a resolution to implement the local economic development plan developed by Toyer Strategic Consulting that seeks to create new, high-quality jobs and expand the local population.

The plan’s goals, determined by the Grow Spencer Commission, are stated as creating 300 “new high-quality jobs” in the next five years and constructing 250 “new houses with emphasis on workforce housing.”

David Toyer, owner of the consulting firm, attended the city’s council’s meeting on Monday. Toyer Strategic Consulting was hired in July to create the plan for $24,317.

“Really, the planning part of this process is the easy stuff,” Toyer said. “It’s the implementation and the kind of putting these elements into your daily operations that’s always the more difficult task for a community.”

The final report (PDF), which includes a proposed work plan, is the result of meetings between Toyer, city staff, the Grow Spencer Commission and others.

Toyer’s final report includes an overview of his findings in addition to the economic development plan. The plan focuses on what it calls “critical elements” for Spencer:

  • Business retention, expansion, attraction and creation
  • Placemaking, amenities and infrastructure
  • Retail and restaurant recruitment and attraction
  • Housing
  • Planning, zoning and future land use
  • Administrative procedures

The plan recommends that the city develop an “initial economic development marketing program” to reach “younger companies” in technology, research and innovation industries. To do this, the plan states, the city should – among other suggestions – partner with accelerators from Des Moines, Ames, Sioux Falls and Ames; create a list of targeted businesses; create local events that would attract target companies and partner with local education institutions.

The plan also discusses the city’s Riverfront Plan. It recommends the city consider developing a request for proposal to send to development firms that can evaluate the city’s vision and propose projects.

As for housing, the plan notes that, for a population increase of 5 percent, Spencer would need 254 additional housing units. It adds that “housing can only work to attract new workers (and increase population) if wages are in line with available housing options.”

Steve Hallgren, a member of the Grow Spencer Commision, also attended the meeting on Monday. He described how the commission has been meeting with Toyer and city staff over the course of the last five months to help develop the plan.

“We feel the commission has done our due diligence in working (on this plan) and obviously David has put in a ton of effort and a lot of work,” Hallgren said.

Several council members thanked the commission members, Toyer and city staff for their work to create the plan.

Council member Steve Bomgaars said the plan will provide as “a guide for a lot of good conversation in the future.”

“And like with any road map, there are lot of different roads you can travel down and you can make detours on that map,” he said. “I think that we might not agree with all of it, but I think for the most part, this was work that really needed to be done.”

City Manager Amanda Mack said the city will begin moving forward right away.

“It’s a relatively overwhelming plan when you look at it, but it’s also exciting to have some of these things laid out clearly,” she said. “We’re all on the same page about what’s happening. I think it’ll be some fun work starting now.”

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