Branstad, Durham address NW Iowa Development group (Part 1)

Monday, October 21, 2013

State embraces wind energy, electrical transmission

SHELDON - At the annual NW Iowa Development Partners (NWIDP) meeting in Sheldon at Northwest Iowa Community College on Oct. 9, 2013, Governor Terry Branstad and Economic Development Authority Director Debbie Durham explained their vision for economic development and its impact on NW Iowa specifically. Branstad underscored how agriculture is now driving Iowa's economy.

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and Economic Development Authority Director Debbie Durham explained their vision for economic development and its impact on NW Iowa at the recent annual NW Iowa Development Partners (NWIDP) meeting at Northwest Iowa Community College in Sheldon. Photo contributed

About 145 civic leaders, including county economic development directors, county supervisors, state legislators, school district superintendents and bank officers attended the luncheon and meeting. Clean Line Energy Partners provided the catered meal.

The six-county group's main focus is growing the regional economy in Cherokee, Lyon, O'Brien, Osceola, Plymouth, and Sioux Counties.

NWIDP vice chair Steve Simon opened his remarks by saying, "These are the five strategic areas that are integral to the success of NWIDP; local growth, promoting the region, a targeted approach, our existing base, and support of policies."

"Wind energy holds huge potential for NW Iowa," Simon continued. "And the Clean Line Energy/Rock Island transmission project, as well as other wind projects, can turn potential into economic reality. NWIDP feels so strongly about the project that we have formally supported the project and plan to support it in multiple ways."

To conclude his remarks before introducing Durham, Simon said, "Northwest Iowa is beyond expectations. We live here and we know that's true. We are proud of what we have been able to accomplish. But our work is not done."

"I'm going to give you a few statistics as the warm up act to the Governor," Durham said. "The Governor and Lt. Governor have a full growth agenda that calls for the creation of 200,000 jobs and raising family incomes by 25%.

I have to tell you, none of us do it alone. It certainly is critical to have a CEO of our state and a Lt. Governor that travel to all 99 counties, the world and work these crazy hours to get us into places with major decision makers. But, it's equally important that we have this strong network of professionals in private/public partnerships here."

Durham pointed to one key example and said, "No one carries out regional economic development better than you. From your branding, to your marketing, it's beyond expectations. It's so interesting because you use that phrase as your tag line. The one thing that keeps coming back, the one word I hear over and over again is unexpected, because for Iowa it's so unexpected. These are the kinds of things that will separate you.

"But what's more important is you are playing to that global economy. This is a very big world and 95% of our consumers are outside the United States. This is why the Governor and I travel the world so much.

"I want to share with you some statistics for where we are, said Durham, like how:

∞ Iowa's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew 11.1% over the last five years to $151 billion from $145 billion;

οIowa's annual exports increased 22.3% in 2011;
οIowa had the 3rd highest growth rate per capita from 2008 to 2012;
οWe unofficially gained over 7,100 manufacturing jobs over last year;
οRetail sales grew 5% from 2011 to 2012;
οNew residential housing permits grew by 34%."

Durham continued, "So that's where we are. We've got a plan. It's a good plan. We've got some momentum behind us. So, how are we going to get there? We're going to take it up a notch.

"You're going to see us do a lot more prime things. We have to show that our work force is different and that's not just because we say it. We also need to grow our population because we simply have to. We can do that by recruiting and elevating our profile in the world.

"Do you know that 80% of the growth in our portfolio is from expanding existing businesses? We need to support those local businesses. When you have jobs, people will come. In fact, almost $2 billion of our portfolio comes directly from our trips overseas."

Other strategies in the works, Durham continued, are, "You're going to see us doing some announcements about military initiatives going forward and about apprenticeships to make sure we have that skilled workforce. We have a new website with a blog that's translated into five different languages because we need to tell the story of Iowa. We're going to have Iowans talking about this great place we call home.

"We're going to do a lot more strategic marketing because we need to play to our strengths. So, we have targeted 2,500 new investors and plan to tell them that we believe we have a valuable proposition for them.

"We need to be able to inject ourselves into conversations. For instance, when there's a conversation in the world about manufacturing coming back to America, or value added manufacturing, or food safety, or how you feed a growing population, we need to insert ourselves into that conversation.

"That's the same thing with RAGBRAI. There's no better way to experience Iowa than to be in our communities on the back of a bike."

In concluding her remarks before introducing Branstad, Durham pointed to a key element of their strategy and said, "The last thing is: we're doing some more things with innovation. There's no greater place to find wealth creation than to help a new business start up. It's important that we create a culture where they can keep more of their profits to make them even more profitable."

(In Part 2 in Wednesday's Chronicle Times, Gov. Branstad speaks to issues.)

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