How does a single streetscape project turn into a community-wide energy independence effort? Tiny Bloomfield, Iowa, discovered the answer with the help of RMI’s eLab Accelerator. A team from Bloomfield attended the 2015 Accelerator at Sundance Mountain Resort in Utah, and their story is a surprising one with big implications for small towns across America. Today, they are well embarked on a path to be an energy-independent community, but they started with far smaller ambitions. “We were looking at doing a streetscape project,” says Carol Ann Taylor, city clerk and treasurer of the City of Bloomfield, “and one thing kind of led to another.”
Bloomfield, in southeast Iowa, has a population of just 2,640. “We are a small, rural town that has kind of stagnated over the years,” says Chris Ball, eLab Accelerator team champion, Bloomfield’s energy efficiency director, and a director of Bloomfield Main Street, a public-private partnership for civic improvement. Bloomfield, like much of small-town America, experienced “a lot of brain drain. We suffered from not having a lot of good-paying jobs and opportunities,” Ball says, and a lot of young people left. The community—and the Midwest more broadly—has other exports, too. It exports corn to America. It exports wind energy to America. Now it’s time to take care of itself.