Each year Tama County residents roll out the welcome mat to thousands of visitors who come to enjoy the sights and attractions of this beautiful county. Whether it is someone stopping for lunch while traveling through the county on one of the state highways, or a tour bus arriving for a day at the casino, or a family looking for fun at a great county fair, or friends stopping to enjoy wine tasting at one of the county's wineries, tourism is becoming ever more important to the Tama County economy. According to a study released by the Iowa Economic Development Authority in August, 2012, Tama County enjoyed an economic impact of more than $ 19.3 million from tourism in the last reporting year. This was a 7.3 % increase over the previous year's total.
Over the past several years the Tama County Community Foundation (TCCF), an affiliate of the Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa, is pleased to be able to partner with a growing number of community groups and non-profit agencies to provide a source of funding which enhance life in Tama County. TCCF has been able to give a boost to the efforts of the county's twelve communities in enhancing the welcome that is extended to visitors. Grants have been awarded to help build attractive welcome signs, to purchase banners for light poles, to fund community celebrations, and to repair historical attractions.
Does it matter that the Dysart Historical Society has an upgraded facility to welcome guests? Does it matter that there are entrance signs to welcome Highway 63 travelers to Traer? Does it matter that the Elberon Community Women's Club plants container arrangements to bloom in their community? Does it matter that the City of Garwin has a new shelter to house activities at their 4th of July community celebration? Does it matter that Traer's Winding Stairs Festival has additional canopies for hot August days, or that the Dysart City Park will soon have a new water fountain? Does it matter that Gladbrook has an All-Veterans' Memorial, or that Tama's Oak Hill Cemetery will see needed repairs made this summer? While each of these initiatives is led and coordinated by individuals and organizations in its community, TCCF is glad to support the local funding efforts.
Some might argue that these elements don't, in and of themselves, drive economic development. But, without doubt, each one enhances the overall quality of life in the county and helps provide a "welcome mat" greeting to visitors.
The communities of Tama County can celebrate, with pride, the wide number of attractions and special events that are to be found in the county. Where else can visitors spend a morning with Matchstick Marvels, an afternoon with the Midwest's largest salt and pepper collection, and slumber at nighttime in the unmatched beauty of Otter Creek Conservation Park? Where else can families enjoy a hayride at a buffalo ranch, camp at a county fair, and ride bikes along the old Lincoln Highway? Visitors to Tama County eat in area restaurants, sleep in area motels, and shop in local businesses.
Cassie Sokol, Executive Director of the Tama/Toledo Chamber of Commerce, states that as the businesses and the communities work together to promote the great things happening in Tama County, everyone benefits. Sokol also commends the people the citizens of the county who strive to make each community a welcoming place.
TCCF is pleased to be able to partner with a growing number of community groups and non-profit agencies in funding projects that build the overall quality of life for Tama County residents. This year TCCF was able to award grants to fund 44 different projects. Several of them are "welcome mat" kind of projects projects that will be noticed by visitors to the county in the next years.
TCCF is able to assist 501(c)(3) charitable organizations, schools, and governmental entities with grant funding to support important projects and needed programs in Tama County. The Foundation's primary goals are to support charitable projects and programs, to attract additional funds, and to assist donors in creating lasting legacies through a variety of giving options within Tama County. For more information about the TCCF, contact the Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa at (319) 287-9106, or Rick Krug, Chair of the Tama County Community Foundation at (319) 478-2148.