The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Iowa City names a new economic development coordinator

Rachel Kilburg Varley, former assistant city manager for Iowa City, has been officially named to her new position after serving as the interim coordinator since August.
Contributed photo from Rachel Kilburg

Rachel Kilburg Varley recently started her new position as the Iowa City’s economic development coordinator, where she hopes to find new ways to grow the economy through arts and culture.

Kilburg Varley has worked for Iowa City since 2020 as assistant city manager. She has served as the interim economic development coordinator since August after the previous coordinator, Wendy Ford, retired after holding the position for 17 years.

While she was assistant city manager, Kilburg Varley also served as the city’s ADA Coordinator as well as on community boards, including the Housing Trust Fund of Johnson County and the Iowa City Downtown District.

Before coming to Iowa City, Kilburg Varley worked for the City of Dubuque as its senior budget and financial analyst. During her time in Dubuque, she also worked in the economic development department, which she said will help inform her choices in her new role in Iowa City.

Kilburg Varley’s primary goal in her new position, which she officially started on Nov. 1, will be to strengthen Iowa City’s relationships with its local businesses as well as the arts and cultural communities.

Arts and culture events are an essential part of bolstering a city’s economy as well as making it a more diverse and culturally rich place to live, Kilburg Varley said.

“When there is a local arts or cultural event, that means people are coming into town, they’re spending money, they’re staying at hotels, shopping, eating out at restaurants,” Kilburg Varley said. “It really helps bolster the local economy and in turn, as we make Iowa City a great place to be and a place where people enjoy their time here, then that encourages them to come back.”

To help make the city’s relationships with its arts and cultural aspects stronger, Kilburg Varley said she plans to speak with local business owners, entrepreneurs, and other economic stakeholders to assess what their needs and wants are to help make their businesses as well as the city better.

According to a release by the city, Kilburg Varley will also partner with Greater Iowa City Inc. and the city’s two Self-Supported Municipal Improvement Districts to work together to reach shared economic development goals.

A Self-Supported Municipal Improvement District is a special district within a city where additional property taxes are imposed to fund specific purposes in that district, such as streetscaping or beautification. The two districts like this in Iowa City are the Iowa City Downtown District and the South of 6 District.

City Councilor Pauline Taylor at the Nov. 6 city council meeting said she has enjoyed working with Kilburg Varley in the past on the city’s Disability Awareness Committee.

“It’s a great group, and [Kilburg Varley] did a great job helping us with that,” Taylor said.

RELATED: Newly merged Iowa City business association looks to raise $2.5 million

City Manager Geoff Fruin said in a statement that Kilburg Varley’s past experiences with economic and financial work as well as her work with community partners and organizations made her a reliable candidate for the coordinator position.

I am incredibly excited to see Rachel take on this role and have full confidence in her ability to be an outstanding economic development advocate and leader for the Iowa City community,” Fruin stated.

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About the Contributor
Isabelle Foland
Isabelle Foland, News Editor
Isabelle Foland is a second-year student at the University of Iowa majoring in Journalism and Mass Communication and minoring in Spanish. She is a second-year news reporter at The Daily Iowan, reporting mainly on Iowa City City Council. She is from Missouri Valley, Iowa and has reported for her hometown paper prior to her time at The DI.