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Urbandale Supports Economic Development Through Broadband

Recognizing opportunities to bring in new business, attract new residents, and strengthen the city as a whole, Urbandale, Iowa approved its economic development plan over a year ago in March of 2014.  Since then, Urbandale has rebranded, renovated, and refurbished its community in a variety of ways and continues to make positive strides, making Urbandale more inviting, accessible, and adaptable to future developments.  One aspect of the economic development strategy included strengthening of the telecommunications network in Urbandale.  Learning of their success in other communities in the state, Urbandale partnered with Connect Iowa to help take care of that item on their list.

“We saw an opportunity to learn more about what our community had to offer and also to raise the profile of our community,” said Curtis Brown, Urbandale’s Economic Development Director.  The infrastructure study and subsequent expansion efforts were coordinated with the economic mission to make broadband more available for citizens, businesses, and employees. Ensuring that businesses have access to the capabilities they need to operate efficiently and giving employees the power to work from home gives Urbandale a strategic advantage in workforce attraction.

A broadband infrastructure study conducted through Connect Iowa and the surrounding community provided a clear picture of what was available and how it could best be presented to current residents, prospective residents, and new businesses. Working with a large and diverse team of stakeholders across the city, including representatives from local libraries, schools, hospitals, EMS, the Chamber of Commerce and more, Urbandale and Connect Iowa formed a plan to measure broadband capabilities and increase availability in a way that complimented the economic development plan.

“We had really great community engagement throughout the process,” said Economic Development Specialist Katie Gieszler. “The process put forth by Connect Iowa encouraged us to look a little broader than we would have initially.  The broadband team that we built is much stronger because of all the different perspectives represented.”

The broadband survey shows service availability in Urbandale, speeds, and the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) available.  By reaching out to ISPs, Urbandale is filling gaps in service and creating a more competitive broadband market.  The Urbandale website is also looking at improvements, including mobile functionality and a tool to pinpoint broadband access anywhere in the city.

In December 2014, Urbandale joined the list as Iowa’s eighth certified Connected community.  As of April 2015 there are now 18 certified Connected communities, with others currently working on surveys and strategies that complement their plans for economic development, educational empowerment, and accessibility expansion.