Mayors of Iowa City, North Liberty, and Coralville agree to keep communication open

Mayors John Lundell of Coralville, Terry Donahue of North Liberty, and Jim Throgmorton shake hands Friday morning after signing a formal agreement to not lure businesses from one community to the other. (CBS2/FOX 28)

Friday morning, the mayors of three Johnson County cities signed a formal document promising to not actively recruit existing businesses to relocate from one city's community to the other, unless the company has expressed interest in relocation. Mayors John Lundell (Coralville), Jim Throgmorton (Iowa City), and Terry Donahue (North Liberty) say their current relationship is built on trust and respect.

"They can expect that if they discuss a project in Iowa city or in North liberty, that same information will be discussed with the leadership in Coralville," said Mayor Lundell. "So we all know what the other two cities are doing."

The Iowa City Development Group (ICAD) and the three cities' mayors did not cite a specific reason or incident that inspired the document, which has been about five years in the making.

But the signing does come around seven years after a controversial business relocation. In 2012, Coralville paid Von Maur around $10 million to help relocate from Iowa City's now-closed Sycamore Mall, to Coralville's Iowa River Landing. At the time, a lawsuit was filed but eventually dropped.

Mark Nolte, from ICAD, says the past is in the past.

"If you've got hurt feelings because of a situation that happened years ago and then that impedes growth, that's not good for anybody," said Nolte. "So this [agreement] was, let's forget about the past, let's bury the hatchet, let's talk about what to do in the future."

The formal agreement reads, in part:

"When a business has not taken the initiative to express an interest in moving from one city to another, ICAD and the communities will not actively pursue that business to encourage it to relocate. 'Actively pursue' means to initiate contact with the business directly, with the intent of luring the business through phone calls, visits, mail solicitations, marketing, or through a third party."

North Liberty's Mayor Donahue further explained, "You don’t want to have a business in one community that’s been established by incentives try to milk the other community as far as the incentives are concerned."

Right now, the mayors say, their communication is already at an all-time high, and for future officials who may fill their seats, they'd like to keep it that way.

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