Webster City chosen as next community to partner with to promote sustainable development


The Daily Iowan; Photos by Joseph Cress

Blue recycling bins are seen inside the Seamans Center on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017. Seamans is in the process of undergoing a new recycling program to encourage students to recycle more recyclable products. (Joseph Cress/The Daily Iowan)

The Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities has announced Webster City as the next community to partner with to promote sustainability. Webster City is a community located in Hamilton County with a population of 8,000.

The group aims to promote sustainability in Iowa communities while transforming teaching and learning at the University of Iowa.

When students work in the communities, they get a different experience than just learning in a traditional classroom setting, said Travis Kraus, the assistant director of the Iowa Initiative.

“It benefits … students who are learning in a unique way, but they are also building a network [and] are feeling a higher sense of purpose because they know it is going to improve lives of Iowans,” he said.

The group enables projects that may usually get shelved for several years, Kraus said. Not just environmental sustainability but also economic sustainability and equity issues are important.

“Through such programs, students can achieve things that cannot be achieved in the classroom,” said Linda Snetsezaar, the UI associate provost for outreach and engagement. “It helps students when they look for jobs.”

Students involved with the program travel to the community approximately 10 times over the course of their project and get closely involved with locals.

However, there are also students who work remotely from Iowa City and develop technology for the awarded community.

“Webster City was awarded the project out of several applications that came in, and I think [what] makes us excited about Webster City is because it has strong leadership that is interested in advancing the community and improving the quality of life for the residents,” Kraus said.

The program will aim to help people have a more active lifestyle, because the community has great park space, he said.

There are other plans that will enhance the community’s visual-arts culture and make it a great place to live in. Webster City will see 1,300 new jobs created with the coming of a new employer.

“There are going to be new people coming to Webster City from different backgrounds,” Kraus said. “We want to know what this means for them, and we are excited to figure that out.”

Webster City is an example of what is happening in other communities, Snetsezaar said. Since Electrolux ceased operations, the community suffered a lot of job losses. The Iowa Initiative wants to help the community recover.

“It’s a perfect time for this partnership,” said Lindsay Henderson, the community vitality director. “There is a lot of excitement among the community, and [it looks forward to seeing] where we go from here.”

Webster City has seen many changes in the recent years, Henderson said. The city is witnessing an emerging younger population that is energetic.

“We are excited to have fresh eyes to see Webster City [from a new perspective],” Henderson said. “There are great things going on, and there is a lot of energy and excitement.”

The partnership is for one year, but there is potential for it to renew, Kraus said.

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