More than 30 people attended Monday's Tristate Regional Research Forum hosted by Western Iowa Tech Community College in Cherokee.
The forum involved discussion of a regional planning research initiative focusing on the tri-state's industries and occupations. The session was of interest to anyone who has a stake in the future development of the regional economy.
Dave Swenson, associate scientist, and Lisel Eathington, director, Regional Capacity Analysis Program (ReCAP) and associate scientist, Department of Economics, Iowa State University, led the forums. The pair presented details of their plans for the study and encouraged attendees to provide input and opinions.
The research will be conducted over the next four to six months and provide a comprehensive analysis of the region's industrial and occupational capacities, and assist with the tri-state's long-term workforce development plans.
The research is funded by a grant to ISU's EDA University Center for Iowa from the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration. It is coordinated through the Center for Industrial Research and Service at ISU Extension and the College of Engineering.
The Tri-State regional Innovation Grant Committee will assist in the research and coordination of the regional analysis.
Committee coordinator Denise Rathman said, "In these challenging times, it is even more important to understand the context in which the regional economy is evolving. We believe these sessions will provide the input that will make this research project even more valuable."
The industry analysis project includes 11 counties in Northwest Iowa, South Dakota, and Nebraska, surrounding the Sioux City area. The research will look at the region's overall economic and social compositions, characteristics, and performance over recent years.
In addition, the research will provide a comprehensive look at the region's industrial and occupational capacities, and help to inform the region's longer-term workforce development plan.
Cherokee Area Economic Development Corporation (CAEDC) Director Mark Buschkamp is a member of the Tri-State Regional Innovation Grant Committee and was in on the regional ground-floor movement some 18 months ago to explore the possibility of applying for and achieving the grant.
"We're not large enough to do anything on a county by county basis," said Buschkamp. "We needed to look at the regional workforce on a much larger scale and this RIG grant will allow us to accomplish that. We are indebted to Iowa State University for partnering with us in this endeavor.
"We (region) all share the common issues regarding employees. We can't just look at the jobs out there, we must also look at the skills sets of the workforce. We need information from employers. We need to be creative. There will be future meetings where more questions will be asked and more information sought from employers and industry throughout the region."
Buschkamp also noted that the proposed Hyperion Oil Refinery - a massive project that would employ thousands during construction and future operations - near Elk Point, S.D. is about an hour away and would greatly impact the entire tri-state region.
According to the Tri-State RIG Committee, the goal for the research is to create a strategic plan that will lay out a road map of initiatives to ensure the skills of the region's workforce closely match the needs of area employers well into the future.