Linc Kroeger, Accenture’s advocate for rural America, continued to draw national attention to Jefferson by hosting a tour and discussion Sunday with Democratic presidential candidate John Delaney, a former Maryland congressman and entrepreneur who is making business development in small towns central to his Iowa campaign.
“There are so many advantages to rural that people just don’t know, because their imaginations have not gone there,” said Kroeger, who teamed up with Greene County leader Chris Deal to hatch the plan for the software branch and shepherd the project through to operation.
The Greene County seat drew more than 500 visitors in early September for the grand opening of Accenture’s forge — a branch for computer software technology in a $1.8 million renovated 1880s building on the northeast side of the downtown, 204 E. State St. The branch now is open for business.
Delaney said he sees the forge as a model for similar development across Iowa.
“This is great,” Delaney said. “Congratulations.”
The former congressman said the presence of the forge will spark interest from young people in staying in Jefferson — or locating in the community for a career.
He said larger coastal cities that now are attracting tech talent face challenges with affordable living.
“Ultimately, these cities are just going to price themselves out,” Delaney said.
That opens the door for Jefferson, he said.
Chris Henning, chairperson of the Greene County Democratic Party, said there are a good solid 200 to 300 people living in the county who have moved back after success elsewhere.
Accenture, working closely with Des Moines Area Community College and Iowa Central Community College, as well as the Greene County schools, is developing a pipeline for local software talent.
“If you hire somebody out of our forge academy, they are going to be productive Day 1,” Kroeger said.
Kroeger said the plan is to grow the forge to full vitality over three to five years.
“This isn’t a drive-through, fast-food venture,” Kroeger said.
Delaney is considering developing more business events around the forge in coming months.