Updates from Tama County Economic Development

RAGBRAI, ARPA grants discussed


Tama County Economic Development’s executive director Katherine Ollendieck paid a visit to the Nov. 7 meeting of the Traer City Council to provide an update on county economic happenings including updates to the Tama County guidebook, the next round of ARPA grants for businesses, and the possibility of RAGBRAI making a stop in Tama-Toledo next summer.


Ollendieck began her update with the news that she had secured American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds from the county to revamp its economic development website (https://tamacountyiowa.org), the companion Travel Tama County website, and the 2023-2024 Tama County Tourism Guidebook.

The guidebook, Ollendieck said, was particularly in need of a revamp. Holding up a copy of the guide for the council to see, she highlighted the inclusion of a “waterfall” supposedly present in the county which she said is clearly anything but.

“We attract a visitor here and then we disappoint them,” Ollendieck said of the current guide.

As part of this work, Ollendieck’s office is holding a photo contest. All entries submitted will be considered for use in the new guidebook and on the revamped website.

Photos must be taken in Tama County and categories include Family, Landscape/Recreation, and Having Fun. Submissions are due Dec. 30. For more information on the photo contest, refer to the Tama County Economic Development Facebook page.

The new guidebook is slated to print in the spring of 2023.

Iowa Juvenile Home updates

Work at the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo was also addressed by Ollendieck. She told the council the task of addressing what to do with the former state correctional facility was a task she was given back on her first day on the job in 2019 – she stated she is now “60 to 90 days” away from “crossing it off the list.”

Asbestos mitigation is almost complete on the building, Ollendieck stated, with demolition of parts of the campus set to gear up in the next week or so.

In 60 days, the section of campus that will be used to build the new South Tama County Community School District’s middle school will be turned over to the district, while the city of Toledo has already taken ownership of the bare ground portion slated for housing.

ARPA grants

Ollendieck also provided an update on the second round of ARPA grants Tama County Economic Development would soon be awarding to local businesses.

Phase one was a non-competitive grant program focused on assisting the county’s small, hometown groceries and child development centers.

Phase two will be a competitive program with $550,000 in grant funding set to be awarded to local, for-profit businesses, focusing specifically on the downtown districts.


Finally, Ollendieck addressed the possibility of RAGBRAI – the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa – making an overnight stop in Tama County next summer, specifically in Tama-Toledo.

The annual eight-day ride across Iowa last made an overnight visit to Tama County in 2008, also in Tama-Toledo.

As next summer is the 50th anniversary of RAGBRAI, Ollendieck said she was told by the ride’s organizers to expect “more than double the county population for the night.”

If Tama-Toledo is chosen as an overnight stop, it is Ollendieck’s hope that the entire county will benefit economically from the event, she said. Setting vendor fees for in-county vendors at “next to nothing” is part of her plan toward that goal.

RAGBRAI will announce the overnight stops for 2023 in January.