CLINTON — Ways of expanding economic growth in the community were discussed Wednesday during the the Clinton Regional Development Corporation’s 60th anniversary celebration.
Exiting CRDC Chairman Rich Phelan said the spring of 2012 was a time of renewal at the CRDC, ushering in a lot of activity in the past year. January saw the departure of Steve Ames as chief executive officer.
Phelan remembered an eventful day in March that included the announcement of an expansion for Data Dimensions, as well as the purchase of railport land by Nevada Rail Materials and RAIL.ONE. This development meant the addition of around 200 jobs.
“And so to say it was a busy year in 2013 would be an understatement,” Phelan said.
Keynote Speakers Jeff Finkle and Bill Fruth discussed recent changes in economic development and how to positively affect Clinton’s economy. Finkle serves as president of the International Economic Development Council and previously served as deputy assistant secretary within the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. He explained some of the challenges to economic development.
Besides the recent recession, Finkle said some main challenges are an increase in natural and manmade disasters and globalization. While he said globalization can be a benefit to companies, it can take jobs away from the local communities.
Finkle told the CRDC that currently 11.5 million people remain unemployed, an improvement from the 14 million of two years ago. A total of 4.2 million remain as long-term unemployed. However, Finkle said that despite good or bad years, the state of Iowa typically has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country.
“Iowa continues to stun us,” Finkle said.
During an economic study presentation, Bill Fruth, president/CEO of the independent economics research firm POLICOM, Corp., said Clinton is listed as the 105th best micropolitan area out of 576 in Iowa and rising. Looking at the community’s employment numbers and wages, he said Clinton is seeing an increase in both categories. This is at a time when many other areas are “going straight down.”
“Each year you are moving steadily ahead,” Fruth said.
Fruth said the most important thing when looking at economic development is making sure that the jobs created are well-paying jobs. Finkle told the group that 58 percent of the employment opportunities in the country are low-wage positions. Fruth added that only a third of the new jobs in the past 10 years pay more than the federal average.
“Because quality is just as important as growth in size in an economy,” Fruth said. He added that since 2005, Clinton’s economy has increased in quality.
Finkle highlighted several strategies for economic development in today’s landscape, including improving the quality of the area, fostering partnerships and regional efforts, refining strategic plans and revamping marketing efforts. He also spoke on the importance of improving services, advancing innovation, developing a workforce and enhancing the use of metrics.
Fruth said the most important part of economic development is the community itself. He added growth cannot occur unless the community wants it to. Phelan said the CRDC and the community are working together to build bridges between rganizations, with the common goal of improving the area’s economic wealth.
Elected Members for the 2014 Clinton Regional Development Corporation Board of Directors Executive Directors: Chairman - Steve Howes Vice Chairman - Ron Gutierrez Vice Chairman - John Eisenman Vice Chairman - Tom Fullerton Officer - Bruce Christensen Officer - Steve Shupp Secretary - Bob Simpson Treasurer - Brig Tubbs Past Chairman - Richard Phelan Regular Directors: Pete Clausen 2014 (1st Term) Eric Helding 2014 (1st Term) Karen Vickers 2014 (1st Term) Steven Thacker 2014 (2nd Term) Ryan Veenstra 2015 (1st Term) Tom Soenksen 2015 (1st Term) John Ballheim 2015 (1st Term) Casey Moore 2015 (1st Term) Christopher Cain 2016 (1st Term) Terry Callahan 2016 (1st Term) Lou Egging 2016 (1st Term) Bob Holesinger 2016 (2nd Term) Special Directors: Jeff Beckwith Eric Rant Mary Connell Rick Gustafson Thomas Determann Bill Hare Gerry Freudenberg George Chamberlain Thomas Hesselmann Tom Moser Jon Thoms Sean Williams Jim Woll