Chasing smokestacks a waste of time

Chasing smokestacks waste of time
Date February 23, 2005
Section(s) Columnists
by Sen. Dennis Black  
As I ponder the recent past, it becomes readily apparent that economic development initiatives of communities, counties and state government have not been very successful. I shudder to think of the amount of time and effort expended to entice enterprise to come to Iowa from other states. Heretofore, the emphasis across the country has been that of “chasing smokestacks.” Frankly, I think that’s a waste of time. With what is occurring nationwide, major domestic industry has had to significantly alter their plans for growth, for the “global competition” factor has changed the face of doing business.

I’m convinced the best thing we can do is grow our communities from within. There should be no question as to our area’s assets, for they are evident wherever you go. How fortunate we are to have one of only two Iowa-based Fortune 500 companies located in our community. Add to that Thombert and The Vernon Company, and then dozens of smaller industries that employ our citizens.

Tremendous health care facilities, great schools, the finest small-town library I’ve ever seen, jet-friendly airport with fixed-base operation, aircraft maintenance and hangar space and room to grow. An underused Intermodal Railroad facility on the highly successful Iowa Interstate Railroad and the adjacent transportation corridor of I-80 with its potential are both assets that have far greater potential to Newton and all of Jasper County than most folks realize.

We need to “think tank” the dilemma being faced in our community. Unemployment is unnaturally high, our youth are leaving to find employment, and more layoffs at Maytag combine to cast a haze on the future. But this storm can be weathered, as have many in the past. No, we just can’t sit idly by and expect things to improve, for good fortune comes only to those willing to sacrifice their time and God-given talents of creative thinking. Won’t someone, please, seize this moment and be a catalyst for progress. I’ll participate in any way requested, but the initiative must come from within. Everyone’s ideas are important, but we must have a venue to focus those ideas into a plan, one compatible with our assets, and a plan that can be implemented.

County Leaders at Capitol

Rep. Bell and I were pleased to join a group of county leaders on Thursday for conversation regarding pending legislation. Paramount was concern as to the legislature’s plans on property tax reimbursements to local governments.

Governor Vilsack’s budget recommended reimbursements of 80 percent of what the state historically committed to city and county property tax relief. At that figure, the City of Newton would receive $270,000 from the State of Iowa and Jasper County would receive $400,000.

An additional $20 million from the state coffers would allow state government to stand by their promise to local governments with 100 percent reimbursement, whereby Newton would receive $338,000 and Jasper County $500,000.

The detail of the state budget is starting to take shape. As would be expected, demands far, far exceed available revenue. Local budgets must be certified within a month, and leadership in both the House and Senate must be open and honest with local leaders so the process can advance.

My vote will go to fully funding our commitments in property tax reimbursements. For the state to do otherwise only enforces the public perception that government can’t be trusted.

I solicit your ideas on the issues before your state government. Call me at the Capitol at (515) 281-3371; write me at the Senate Chambers, Capitol, Des Moines, 50319; or email I personally answer every call and e-mail, and will respond to your letters.


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