WeLead Economic Development Director Joe Taylor may have only been in the community since November, but the community leader made quite an impact on building regional and local relationships that may be impactful for the city for years to come.
Last week, Taylor announced he will be leaving the West Liberty economic development position to take a new position as city manager in Center Point, a small community of 2,800 just north of Cedar Rapids just off Interstate 380.
Taylor begins his duties in his new community on Monday, Sept. 13, but his impact on West Liberty may long be remembered, having spread the wings of the community to reach out to entities like the Quad-Cities Chamber of Commerce, Muscatine County Economic Development, Iowa City Area Economic Development and even the Iowa Economic Development Authority.
He said the biggest impact has to be in developing a stronger relationship with Muscatine and Muscatine County Economic Development, noting there are now “weekly conversations” about things like housing development. He said parties understand each other better now and simply weren’t always communicating previously.
Another strong relationship he’s built is with Julie Forsythe of the Quad-Cities Chamber of Commerce. “We’ve taken that relationship from being an afterthought to the front burner,” he said, noting the group, which gets a lot of inquiries about economic development opportunities, can be a major ally in bringing business or industry to West Liberty.
“WeLead is now in a much better strategic position,” Taylor said, hoping his successor can continue developing relationships with economic development leaders regionally as well as state-wide. “We’ve elevated WeLead and West Liberty as being a player of the region – from Cedar Rapids to the Quad-Cities."
“It hasn’t been just me by any means,” said Taylor. “The only thing I did was start the conversations that needed to be started.”
Taylor has set what he calls a “long- term view” for the community, noting instead of leaders heading off in various directions, they are now “all walking down Main Street together in the same direction.”
“West Liberty is awesome,” he said. “It will come out of this strong and it’s just going to get better.”
He said without taking the post in West Liberty, he would have never landed the Center Point position, calling the WeLead appointment instrumental in helping build his career. Taylor said putting his hat into the ring for the West Liberty City manager’s position taught him some lessons and noted Dave Haugland, the newly hired city manager, will do a “great job” for the city.
“I would have loved to have had that opportunity,” Taylor said, noting there was no “ill will” in not getting the position, although becoming a city manager was one of his “ultimate goals.”
Taylor also passed up a prime opportunity to make the announcement at Friday’s Community Quarterly Meeting of the West Liberty Business Association, but said, “I didn’t want it to be a distraction. We want positive energy from those meetings,” he said, helping create the meetings with the help of Tom Alberti, Manager of West Liberty Foods, and city officials.
He said leaving West Liberty’s position is “bittersweet,” noting he is open to his successor or any other community leaders should they have questions about what he has accomplished and the contacts and conversations he has made.
He said the Center Point opportunity was discovered following his run for city manager in West Liberty, noting he wasn’t seeking out any specific opportunities. “It was brought to me and I was told I might be a good fit,” Taylor said.
Taylor also was instrumental in obtaining a number of grants for business building improvements in the community, including putting together businesses with the city on a special grant program.
He plans to move from the Quad-City area to the Center Point area.
Dana Nelson of Active Health Chiropractic & Wellness in West Liberty is president of the WeLead Board of Directors. Santos Saucedo, a member of the Muscatine County Board of Supervisors, is the board’s vice president and Melody Russell is secretary. Other members include Jerry Melick, David Smith, David Haugland, Shaun Kruger, David Dvorak, Steve Hanson and Tom Alberti.