Area residents focused on the still sluggish economic growth numbers nationally may be missing a far more inspiring story locally.
Carefully developed plans to facilitate the corporate investment necessary to generate a robust, growing economy in Fort Dodge and Webster County are bringing about important results.
Dennis Plautz, chief executive officer of the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance, recently provided employees of The Messenger and Farm News with an update on the local economy. His message was exciting. The evidence of a prosperous future beginning to take shape is compelling.
The record of the last two years is nothing short of superb. Plautz said business investment in the area is more than $600 million with about 500 jobs being created.
"We are becoming the talk of Iowa," Plautz said. "We have more change occurring here, and more opportunities here, than I've ever seen and I've been here 37 years."
Regular readers of this newspaper have learned of the impressive series of corporate decisions to invest here as they were announced. A summary overview of the numbers, however, makes it clear that viewed collectively these business decisions constitute very good news for our town and county.
Here are some of the investment highlights and the jobs creation numbers associated with them:
BHJ USA (formerly known as Omaha Cold Storage): $5.1 million - 10 jobs.
Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica Inc.: $19 million - 78 jobs.
Calcium Products Inc.: $7 million - 12 jobs.
Cargill: $134 million - 134 jobs.
CJ Bio America: $323 million - 181 jobs.
Koch Industries: $31 million - 20 jobs.
Land O'Lakes Inc.: $1.65 million - 40 existing jobs retained.
There is good reason to believe this list will expand significantly in the months ahead.
A major component of the local growth strategy is the North Central Ag Industrial Park - Iowa Crossroads of Global Innovation - west of the city. An important aspect of the vision underlying that increasingly successful project is a recognition that there are an array of agricultural businesses that find it commercially advantageous to be located in close proximity to one another. Identifying those enterprises and helping them learn about the benefits of investing here has become a vital part of the game plan.
A collaborative spirit, however, may be the key ingredient to what is becoming a remarkable success story. Leaders of county and city government, the business community and Iowa Central Community College have learned that a team effort can yield outstanding results. The creation of the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance is an especially important manifestation of this strong communitywide commitment to working together.
Some communities may be content to attribute a lack of vibrant economic growth to "bad times." The Messenger is proud that our community's leaders instead have chosen to find ways to build a prosperous future despite a challenging economy.