Residents in Bellevue, Iowa, launched Community Heart & Soul® to focus on getting everyone involved in setting priorities for strengthening their town. In considering the town’s assets, natural beauty, heritage, neighborhood pride, and support for youth all ranked high. Attracting and retaining more Millennials (born 1981-1996) was identified as an opportunity for growth. That prompted taking a closer look at childcare needs, finding creative solutions to increase housing, and restoration of commercial space on the river. “We want the message to be, ‘You can thrive here, not just survive here,’” said Claira Sieverding, a Millennial who works and lives in Bellevue and was a leader in Community Heart & Soul.
Attracting and retaining Millennials
Residents in Bellevue, Iowa, launched Community Heart & Soul with a focus on involving everyone in setting priorities to strengthen their town. The town received a $47,000 USDA Rural Business Development Grant to support the effort.
Attracting and retaining Millennials was seen as an opportunity for growth. Community Heart & Soul helped guide several actions aimed at drawing this group including:
• Studying childcare needs. Childcare is a vital component of drawing and retaining Millennials. Bellevue received a grant to join a study overseen by the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque.
• Restoring a historic building. A $100,000 state grant was awarded to start restoration of a former button factory that juts out over the river. (The buttons were punched out of clamshells from the river.)
• Creating opportunities for new housing. In response to a lack of residential housing, the city and the Bellevue Economic and Tourism Association purchased 50 acres for residential development.
• Encouraging residential development downtown. A new downtown incentive program incentivizes creating apartments in the vacant upper stories of downtown commercial buildings.