Economic development is a difficult business. There are literally thousands of communities competing for a comparatively miniscule amount of opportunities. Different states have different rules and incentive packages, not to mention the complications that abound when competing in a global marketplace.

In Clinton the results of economic development efforts have been mixed in recent years. Loss of jobs provided by local railroads and factories have been tough to swallow, but recent announcement about growth on both sides of the Mississippi River have buoyed some of the downers.

With the Quality Jobs 4A Strong Future initiative — one invested in heavily by local governments — came a renewed focus, the notion of defining Clinton as a region and then selling it the way any salesman would sell any product.

On the front of the box are the whiz-bang things, the pictures of lighthouses and riverboats, quick bits of information about low real estate cost and rail access. On the back of the box there’s a bit more information, things like our proximity to Chicago and location on U.S. 30.

But the fine print — the stuff that really tells a customer what they need to know before investing in the product — is what was unveiled Tuesday when Clinton Regional Development Corp. officials rolled out the results of a commissioned laborshed study. Laborshed isn’t a word that drops into everyday conversation, but as the fine print on this package we call the Gateway area, it is vital.

In short, it defines who lives here, where they work, what they earn, what they’re trained to do and how far they’re willing to go to do it. It shows what types of benefits established companies offer. It states that 3 percent of the population qualifies as low income, which is greater than the national average. It is full of pages and pages of facts that enable someone who seeks the region as a product to know exactly what’s inside the package.

Will this study itself directly lead to more jobs? Probably not. We have to give people who have the power to create jobs a reason to look at us in the first place. But there’s no sense waving a flag that says “build your plant in Clinton” if you can’t say why. We’re in full support of quality of life issues, things like Vision Iowa, Great Places, new school construction and road improvements. But the laborshed, the workforce, will always be the meat.

But hey — don’t take our word for it. See for yourself. The study is online at www.clintondevelopment.com and www. iowaworkforce.org/lmi/labsur/index.html. Poke around a little bit, find out if that vision insurance package you get is unique (only 49.2 percent of local employers offer such a benefit) or if your commute is reasonable (an estimated 4,032 locals commute daily with an average drive of 16 miles).

Take advantage of the work that has been done to promote our region and get an idea of what the economic development business is all about. In this particular case, the heavy lifting has been done by CRDC and the Iowa Workforce Development Strategic Workforce Initiatives Unit. We thank them for the effort and hope many, many people will take the chance to learn a little bit more about the area they call home.

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