Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2012, 9:11 pm

Henry County launching new economic development effort

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By Lisa Hammer,

CAMBRIDGE — Henry County will start 2013 with two new economic development staffers, thanks to a Rural Jobs and Innovation Challenge Grant announced earlier this year.

Charlie Lotridge, Henry County Economic Development Partnership chairman, updated the Henry County Board on Tuesday night. He said Kathleen Repass, of Geneseo, will be the economic development director, and her assistant will be Katie Hobbs, of Bettendorf. They will start Jan. 2.

The grant amount was $193,000; Henry, Rock Island and Mercer counties are among 13 grant recipients nationwide, chairman Tim Wells noted.

"It shows the value of having Mary Grant, a national grant writer in Cambridge, is huge," he said. "I think it's very exciting, so thank you."

The grant requires a local match, which Mr. Lotridge said is ahead of where they had hoped to be for the first year.

County board member Jan May also introduced Kate Barton, director of the Henry County Housing Authority. She noted the authority bought the old Kewanee Hotel in a decrepit state seven years ago and has refurbished it for senior apartments.

"It is an area of pride for me, for the committee and, definitely, for the city of Kewanee," said Ms. May. "It proves if you have a dream, you can achieve it if you just keep on working at it."

Ms. Barton said the authority will create a new strategic plan in 2013 to carry it through 2019. Its funding is at 80 percent of anticipated revenue, she said, with staff and funding at bare minimums. She said her operating budget is $4.5 million.

Maureen "Mo" Hart, executive director of Project NOW of Henry, Rock Island and Mercer counties, discussed her agency's work.Project Now's budget normally is $12 million to $13 million, she said, but has risen to $13 million to $15 million with federal stimulus funds.

Asked about the default rate of Project Now's business loan program, Ms. Hart said she didn't have the figure at hand but knew the positives outweighed negatives.

"There's more successes than failures I can tell you that," she said.

Also on Tuesday, the board voted 12-8 to revise comp time from 80 hours to 120 hours. Administration committee chairman Roger Gradert said the sheriff department's comp time is 240 hours and, in negotiations earlier this year, the county had hoped to trim those down. He said various departments are trying to hold comp hours to 80.

"After reviewing the situation with some of our staff, we felt that 80 hours was just too low," he said.

The board also:

* Approved a $75,000 rural revolving loan with Bock Services, of Galva, a landscaping and equipment repair company

* Learned 11 homes were built in Henry County outside municipalities in 2012, with a total assessed valuation of $2,490,000

* Learned the state is $690,862 behind in payments to Hillcrest Nursing Home. The nursing home is currently conducting labor negotiations, with two sessions to date

* Learned the average corn yield on the county's Hillcrest farm was 154 bushels per acre.