An idea occured to Blue Grass Mayor Pro-Tem Sandra Frericks as she attended Thursday's Scott County Economic Development Summit at the Isle Conference Center, Bettendorf.

She wants to market the towns of Blue Grass, Walcott and Buffalo as a western Scott County corridor that stretches from Interstate 80 to the Mississippi River.

"That is only 16 miles," she said of the distance from the interstate and the river. "But Walcott has the interstate and the Iowa 80 Truckstop and Buffalo has the river. Blue Grass has neither. But as a group, we definitely have wonderful, safe places to live. What's not to like?"

That type of thinking is exactly what summit organizers hoped to stimulate. Economic development professionals from western Iowa and Nebraska shared insights with the 150 participants. One of the sessions dealt with small town concerns, said Larry Minard, Scott County Board chairman.

He said the summit developed because of small towns officials asking the county for help.

"They want to know 'how can we stabilize our population, how can we grow,' " he said.

He said small town officials also want to know how to retain young people in their communities. One piece of advice from the sessions was for those smaller communities "to be all you can be."

Iowa Economic Development Authority director Debi Durham, the keynote speaker, addressed many topics, including the need to keep young people from moving from small towns.

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"We are an aging population," she said. "We have to grow population. For young people, we have to have good-paying jobs and amenities." She said it makes sense to listen to those in their late 20s and early 30s to find out what they want in their hometowns.

Mike Limberg is the newly elected mayor of Long Grove, a Scott County community of about 850 people.

"I learned that we need to attract people and business and to focus on our strengths," he said. "A lot breaks down to community involvement."