During the Public Comment portion of Monday’s County Commission’s meeting representatives from the Executive Committee of Marshall County Crossroads Regional Planning organization.  Marty Oosterbaan and Ginny Monroe were on hand to ask for financial support for three READI Grant application projects.  The three projects are interconnected initiatives for countywide improvements in workforce productivity and community health and wellbeing. Oosterbaan said the three projects are broader in nature and affect all of the towns and residents within the county.

Ginny Monroe another member of the Marshall County Crossroads team said the three proposed projects touch on the county’s Quality of Life Plan in terms of workforce development, talent retention, health and wellness, education and skills building, industry and entrepreneurship, and economic development.  Monroe said, “Our team’s theory is that we solve challenges taking a more systematic countywide collaborative approach.” 

The first project is the Simulation and Skills Lab to support the Bachelor of Nursing degree at Marian University at Ancilla College.   The total cost of the project is $750,000 and the READI Grant requires a 20% public match which would be $150,000. 

Dr. Rebecca Zellars Assistant Dean said this will be the first 4-year Bachelor’s program offered at the college.  She said when students attend college locally, they tend to stick around and 85% of those in the program are from Marshall County or one of the surrounding counties. 

Linda Yoder, Executive Director of the Community Foundation and United Way and Co-chair of the of the Marshall County Crossroads Health and Wellness Committee.  She discussed the Blue Zones Initiative, a project that will help people stay healthy or get healthy.  Blue Zones makes it easier by having healthy choices easier at convenience stores, and safe and efficient ways to exercise with walking and biking trails.  With an aging population, Blue Zones can benefit worker productivity and help prevent or delay chronic illness.  Results show benefits to employees with reduced costs for insurance and fewer sick days.  A healthier population also attracts businesses to start or relocate to Marshall County. 

The overall cost for the Blue Zones Initiative is $6.1 million and the request for the county’s match was $525,000.

The final project was the Career Innovation Center.  Allie Shook has spoken to the Commissioners in June about plans for a Marshall County facility.  Since that time the project has been scaled back slightly.  The estimated cost is $7.5 million and the 20% match would be $1.5 million.

The Career Innovation Center would not only provide training for high school students but also for Marshall County’s workforce with programming to allow employees and residents to gain valuable skills to increase their earning potential.

The READI Grant applications are due in mid-August and require a letter or resolution of support from the governmental entity providing the matching funds. The total match requested was $2,175,000. 

During the discussion with the commissioners both Kevin Overmyer and Mike Burroughs were supportive of all three projects.  Commissioner Stan Klotz said he supported the Simulation Lab for the Bachelors of Nursing Degree program at Ancilla and the Career Innovation Center, but he wasn’t supportive of the Blue Zone Initiative.   He said Cedar Rapids, Iowa dropped the Blue Zones Initiative stating they were spending a ton of money and were getting the returns they expected.  He said they went with a less expensive program.  The initial $6 million is primarily for administrative costs in the first few years. He also said he was not in favor of spending the ARP funds. 

A resolution of support was motioned by Commissioner Burroughs and seconded by Commissioner Overmyer.  The vote was 2-1 with Commissioner Klotz voting in opposition.