CLINTON — Economic competition is a tricky thing, says Debi Durham.
One example of this is the hurdles that cities have to clear if they want to get their industrial sectors McCallum Sweeney site-certified. Durham, director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority, said as each city advances through the three-step process, the demands tend to increase. But it’s important to meet the benchmarks.
“We know that (non-certified sites) are missing out on opportunities,” Durham said during a Tuesday phone interview. “The lead time (for businesses) is becoming tighter and tighter. The only projects that we can submit in a tight turn around is by having a site certified.”
Prospective businesses want to be up and running as soon as possible. That’s why the IEDA likes to show off finished products.
As for Clinton — host city of the Lincolnway Industrial Rail and Air Park — it stands to become Iowa’s fifth MSC-certified site. The city recently recommitted to remaining in the program, of which it has one more step to go before the IEDA would grant certification.
It’s a big hurdle; the city and Clinton Regional Development Corporation have to agree on a solution that would bring a sustainable water resource to the park within six months. However, Durham said the water issues have been resolved, and that’s a positive sign for Clinton’s economic future.
“I think that today we have really good news,” Durham said. “The Lincolnway Railpark has advanced to step 2... It’s proceeding now down the pipeline...
“Now that (the railpark) has the blessing to go to step 2, that’s where the intensity of the process begins... It’s a rigorous process to get this done.”
In March, the Clinton City Council debated whether or not it wanted to proceed with certification. MSC said that in order to recommit, the city needs to meet a June 19 deadline for its water solution. Council members have mulled over several different options: a Jordan Well drilled by Iowa American Water, a utility extension with Camanche or a new potential solution that involves tapping into existing pipelines (though, the existing utilities currently only contain non-potable water; IEDA requires potable water sources).
The railpark is something that enhances Iowa’s portfolio, Durham said. It’s unique in that it has on-site rail and is in a county that borders the Mississippi River. Those are two major gateways to the rest of the world.
“I am very encouraged about where we are with Clinton,” Durham said. “All of the parks are different. The thing that makes me so excited about a Clinton certified site is the fact that it’s dual-served rail.”
Durham has echoed her sentiments to others at the state level. State Sen. Rita Hart, who represents Clinton County in senate District 49, said that although Clinton may have missed out on opportunities by not being certified, the word is the railpark could be a major boon.
“(Durham) talked about the unique location of Clinton and the potential it has here,” Hart said during her visit to Clinton on Friday. “That certification process opens us up to a lot of opportunity.
“As I understand it, we have everything in place now. We just need that water piece. The moral of the story there is the sooner we can get that done, the better position Clinton will be to attract new businesses.”
Durham admitted that before there were some concerns. The city and CRDC have been pursuing certification since 2012. Had the city not recommitted, various deadlines would have expired, setting the railpark backward in the certification process.
But she’s hearing good things about the city’s progress now.
“That issue has been resolved, and they have satisfied the criteria,” Durham said. “It was concerning to us. But all signs that we’ve been told is that issue is no longer an issue.”
Assistant Editor Brenden West can be contacted at email@example.com.