The University of Iowa

Webster City Chosen as the Next Community to Partner with the Iowa Initiative For Sustainable Communities

Webster City Made In Iowa Block Party

The Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities (IISC) at the University of Iowa is proud to announce Webster City as its next community partner. Webster City’s resilience and grass-roots recovery initiatives inspired the IISC advisory board to choose their community for IISC’s engaged-learning partnership that will bring 150 or more university students, faculty, and staff to work alongside Webster City officials and community members on 10-15 projects during the 2018-19 academic year. Webster City was selected in a competitive process from a pool of community applicants from across Iowa.


“This is a game changer for Webster City. This new opportunity will energize the community and lay the groundwork for future investments,” said State Rep. Rob Bacon, House District 48. “I’m very excited for Webster City and Hamilton County.”


“The IISC is thrilled to partner with Webster City. They are a community in which we can have a great impact. Webster City proposed challenging, substantive projects that provide University of Iowa faculty and students with opportunities for hands-on teaching, learning, and collaboration. Through the partnership with Webster City, students will gain valuable experiences that enhance their learning while also helping to create lasting, meaningful change to benefit the lives of Iowans,” said Travis Kraus, assistant director of the IISC.


Webster City Junquefest
Located in north central Iowa with a population of nearly 8,000 people, Webster City has weathered economic challenges in the past seven years following the 2011 closing of the Electrolux washer and dryer manufacturing facility. The domino effect of losing their major employer included other businesses closing and the city losing its sense of community identity. However, rather than leave, community members worked to revitalize their city.


“Webster City’s economy is strong again, not through the attraction of another large manufacturer to replace Electrolux, but rather through the strength of our locally grown businesses and entrepreneurs,” said Lindsay Henderson, community vitality director in Webster City.


“In today’s environment municipalities cannot accomplish great things alone. They require partnerships and collaborations not only within our communities but also with partners and institutions outside of it. Great things have occurred in Webster City with much more primed to happen. The partnership with the University of Iowa and its Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities is a testament to the capacity in the community and leadership of our community’s elected leaders to continue to guide Webster City in a positive direction well into the future,” said Daniel Ortiz-Hernandez, city manager for Webster City.


For the IISC partnership, Webster City proposed strategic planning, arts and culture projects, marketing, park design and planning, and many others. IISC works with faculty, students and staff across multiple colleges and departments at the University of Iowa to facilitate the community engagement projects, which address issues and challenges identified by the community.


“Our goal is to participate at the highest level in meeting the needs of our community partner while offering university expertise that coincides with the wishes of our Iowa citizens in Webster City,” said Linda Snetselaar, associate provost for outreach and engagement at the University of Iowa. Past projects have drawn on the expertise of faculty and students in urban planning, civil and environmental engineering, business, public health, art and art history, and more.


Webster City limestone cliffs over Boone River
"Being chosen for the Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities is a great honor. It is very exciting to partner with the faculty, staff, and students of the University of Iowa,” said Kent Harfst, assistant city manager/recreation and public grounds director, City of Webster City. “Through this process, it will be a great opportunity to review the accomplishments and amenities of Webster City, as well as brainstorm to make our community an even better place to live, work, and visit.”


"I'm excited to see the community coming out of its shell and old ways of thinking. We are looking more towards the future and how we can make it the kind of place where the next generation will choose to live. Working with the University of Iowa will help us realize our highest potential and accelerate our efforts to turn that vision into reality,” said Webster City mayor John Hawkins.


The Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities is a campus-wide, engaged learning program housed in the Provost’s Office of Outreach & Engagement at the University of Iowa. The IISC pursues a dual mission of enhancing quality of life in Iowa while transforming teaching and learning at the university. IISC is currently completing two-year partnerships in Mason City and with the East Central Intergovernmental Association (ECIA), which spans Cedar, Clinton, Delaware, Dubuque, and Jackson counties. In the 2016-17 academic year, IISC completed 22 projects with 23 community partners and involved 123 students, faculty, and staff from the UI. Some projects are already being implemented, including the Pearl Street Park project in Sioux City, which leveraged $500,000 in private investment to complete plans developed through the IISC partnership. To view past partnerships and projects go to the IISC webpage.


Through developing projects that address community priorities while engaging students in high-impact experiences, the IISC addresses Iowa's economic, environmental, and socio-cultural challenges in ways that build a more sustainable future for the state, and more successful, community-engaged futures for our students.