Dysart business owners on board with Tama Co. Economic Development

The Tama County Economic Development Commission (TCEDC) recently welcomed two new members representing Dysart to the organization’s board last month.

Sarah Gingrich and Bobby Torres recently replaced retiring commissioners Dwayne Luze and Tom Brandt.

The two exiting volunteers provided a combined 27 years of service to the county organization. Luze began his time with the commission in 2001, shortly after the organization was created by the county in 2000. Brandt has been with the commission since 2012.

“Dwayne has been a steadfast leader on our commission for twenty years,” Tama County Economic Development Director Katherine Ollendieck said. “He has always believed in countywide economic growth, knowing this was the best way to make everyone stronger and more resilient. Dwayne and I have worked on many Dysart projects over the past twenty years and when I took the job with TCED knowing he was on the commission, I knew there was a team of people who could help make Tama County stronger.”

“Tom has been an important commission member with his thoughtful approach and eye for detail,” Ollendieck said. “He has served as my commission president since I started and his counsel and guidance have been invaluable.”

TCEDC brings together volunteer members of each participating city in Tama County to serve on an advisory and oversight board for the county’s economic development office. The office is comprised of two paid staff members that provide business and development services to communities in Tama County.

When Ollendieck learned of the upcoming Dysart vacancies on the board, she approached Mayor Tim Glenn to help with recruiting two new members.

“When we sat down earlier this year to think about filling these board positions, we were looking for people who would want to represent their community but still look at the whole economic picture for the county,” Ollendieck said.

Gingrich, a La Porte City native, is a dentist and owner in the Pipho & Gingrich Family Dentistry business in Dysart. She moved back to the area in 2016 with her husband Taylor and family to start her own practice.

“In Sarah’s case, she is a driven and dynamic young professional,” Ollendieck said. “Those are qualities our board needs.”

Ollendieck was encouraged to find a representative that had several qualities and experiences to bring to the table.

“Her dentistry practice supports not only the personal health and well being of the community, but also the economic health of the community by being located in town. They’ve made a huge investment in Dysart and have created jobs in the community.”

Gingrich cites the opportunity to connect to the different communities around the county as a factor that helped her decide to join the board.

“Seeing all the different ways that Katherine, Joanne and the Board have been able to help keep business within Tama County as well as working to bring more business into the county has been encouraging to see,” Gingrich said. “I’m really interested to learn and see more of the things that go on within the county as well.”

Torres is a relative newcomer to the Dysart area but as the new owner of the town’s only grocery store, is in a unique position of serving a broad number of area residents on a regular basis.

In July of this year Torres who comes to Dysart by way of Austin, Texas relied heavily on Ollendieck and the staff at Tama County Economic Development to make the dream of owning his own business a reality.

While Torres, his wife Sara (a Dysart native) and their kids prepared to move from Texas to Iowa, Ollendieck assisted in bringing local organizations like the Dysart Development Corporation and Farmer’s Cooperative Telephone Company to the table to pitch them on investing in loans that would get Torres started in the new store but also maintain a grocery store in rural town of Dysart.

“She helped pitch a lot of things to those groups because I was across state and couldn’t meet in person,” Torres said. “She was my eyes and ears and believed in me as business owner. That made me feel really good to have somebody on my side that I didn’t know and had never met, that just believed in me and my family.”

Torres says he’s excited at the opportunity to give back to the community by representing Dysart within TCEDC. He hopes to someday have the chance to boost another aspiring business owner in the way he was helped this year.

“I knew how enthusiastic Bobby was and that he was a person that could bring interesting ideas to the table,” Ollendieck said. “I’m hoping serving on our board gives him a chance to get to know the area he lives in. I can’t believe how many relationships he’s built not just in Dysart but all over Tama County since he first opened.”

Ollendieck says one of the key functions of the commission members is to come together and share what is happening in the communities around the county.

“We need input from all over the county sometimes,” Ollendieck said. “Even though it may only be a project that pertains to one community, the input we get from the board and the discussion that happens at each commission meeting is invaluable. It helps us focus our direction, reminds us to focus our resources and helps us to work on the things that can make the biggest impact.”

Since August, Ollendieck says the demand for economic development services in the county has increased dramatically.

With businesses navigating multiple recovery efforts from the pandemic and the derecho storm, Tama County Economic Development has stepped in when needed to help connect businesses with resources and in some cases help ensure businesses that were badly damaged are able to make the investment to rebuild and stay in Tama County.