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Encouraging innovation

All Cultures Equal receives award in first round of Iowa Rural Innovation Grants

— Daily Freeman-Journal photos by Anne Blankenship Kathy Vaughn, executive director of All Cultures Equal, speaks at Gov. Kim Reynolds’ press conference Tuesday morning at ACE. The agency was awarded a $9,400 grant from the state to finish the commercial kitchen at the center,

All Cultures Equal in Webster City was one of 17 Iowa communities to receive an Iowa Rural Innovation grant and on Tuesday, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg traveled to Webster City to announce the grant awards. 

They stopped at All Cultures Equal Community Center on the east side of Webster City.

“Folks around here care about their neighbors, they care about their communities and they care about their future,” said Gov. Kim Reynolds. “There’s something very special about life in Iowa’s small towns.”

When it comes to rural innovation, Reynolds said she and Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg are proud of how Iowa’s rural community leaders are “showing the country how innovation is done.”

“The inaugural innovation grants are fantastic showcases of exactly what the Governor’s Empower Rural Iowa is all about,” she said.

Gov. Kim Reynolds gets a look at the new commercial kitchen under construction at All Cultures Equal. Reynolds was in Webster CIty Tuesday and held a press conference announcing a grant awarded to ACE.

The Empower Rural Iowa initiative began three years ago when Reynolds signed an executive order establishing the initiative and creating a partnership with the Iowa Rural Development Council.

The Rural Innovation Grant program supports creative, non-traditional ideas that focus on current issues and challenges faced by rural communities associated with the themes of community investment, growth and connection.

“We do big things in rural Iowa, and public private partnerships continue to open new doors to the creative thinking and entrepreneurial spirit that exists in all corners of the state,” said Reynolds. “I believe these unique projects will serve as a growth model for even greater prosperity in our small towns and rural communities.”

Gregg, the co-chair of the Governor’s Empower Iowa initiative explained that grant requests can range from $1,000 to $20,000 and there is a local match requirement. Projects must exist and benefit communities with populations of 20,000 or less.

The grants are reviewed by a panel of Empower Rural Iowa taskforce members, Iowa Economic Development Authority officials and professionals in the fields.

— Daily Freeman-Journal photos by Anne Blankenship Gov. Kim Reynolds talks about the commercial kitchen under construction at All Cultures Equal in Webster City with ACE representatives. All Cultures Equal received a $9,400 grant to help complete the kitchen.

There were 22 applicants for the first round of grants.

“We’re very happy that we were able to fund 17 of those projects,” he said.

The grants announced Tuesday were small scale projects that aim to have a big impact on the community, according to Gregg.

The All Cultures Equal grant of $9,400 will help to finish and equip the commercial kitchen that is being built at the ACE Center.

“Within these walls, doors are opening to welcome diverse cultures which enrich this community,” Gregg said.

“This kitchen will do so much more than simply feeding people. It’s starting conversations, sharing ideas and building businesses by empowering entrepreneurs,” he said.

Kathy Vaughn, executive director of ACE, said the organization works to build trust in the community through providing cultural activities, events and classes.

“We teach English and Spanish, we have international cooking classes, we a food pantry,” she said. “We’re pretty busy.

She said she’s found that people connect over food.

“It’s a hospitality basic in every culture,” she said. “And we’ve found that here, when we have food, more people come and more people talk.”

The commercial shared-use kitchen is a licensed commercial kitchen, Vaughn explained.

“It has all the equipment that someone might need to provide food as a business. We already have about seven people interested in using it,” she said.

Vaughn added that the cost to start a restaurant or catering business can be expensive.

“Here, their only cost will be the rental of the kitchen, a business license and liability insurance. The grant funds will also allow us to offer a ServSafe class to the first 10 people who rent and for the center staff as well,” she said.

Vaughn said ACE hopes to have the kitchen ready to roll by September.

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