Just seven months ago, the director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority during a stop in Clinton praised the region’s leaders for their continued development of the Lincolnway Industrial Rail and Air Park.
At that time, Debi Durham attended the Clinton Regional Development Corporation’s board meeting to discuss state economic development initiatives. Her words at that meeting: “Clinton’s railport project is considered to be the posterchild in the state for development projects.”
Stating that leaders in Des Moines are fully aware of the project, she said the railport is at the top of the list for economic development opportunities in Iowa, and that it differentiates the region and the state through unparalleled logistic amenities. Among them — providing industry with direct access to the Union Pacific Railroad’s mainline, a location that is within minutes of the Mississippi River and an area that offers the ability to move freight by barge via three local, active terminals, as well as over the road via US 30.
And there’s more. The railport has:
• Access to $40 billion U.S. market within a 100-mile radius;
• Rail-to-truck or barge transload capabilities;
• 500-plus acres of greenfield with potential of 1,000 acres or more;
• Unit train capacity;
• Abundant electric, gas and sewer capacity; and
• Interstate highway access within 20 minutes.
This project, which continues to bring in accolades, is the crown jewel of years of work by the CRDC, which represents not only Clinton, but Camanche and Low Moor in Iowa and the Illinois towns of Fulton, Albany, and Thomson on the other side of the Mississippi River.
Its mission for all of those communities is to enhance the regional business climate, attract new investment, expand existing industry and encourage new quality jobs such as the ones announced in March. In one day that month, area residents learned of Data Dimensions’ expansion and growth into the Lyons Business and Technology Park as well as the development of RAIL.ONE, which is building a new manufacturing facility for the production of concrete rail ties in the railport. RAIL.ONE will join the 10-million gallon biodiesel plant, Clinton County Bio-Energy, as a tenant in the railport.
New business. New jobs. New investment.
That is why we are surprised with the discussion that broke out at last week’s Camanche City Council meeting when a couple of the city’s leaders pushed to not continue its $10,000 financial support of the CRDC’s mission.
Their reasons included the CRDC’s lack of a CEO after the resignation late last year of former CEO Steve Ames, who went on to take the position of senior vice president of economic development with the Stanislaus Economic Development and Workforce Alliance, based in Modesto, Calif.
Another complaint was that the CRDC hadn’t really done anything for the city of Camanche for a very long time; that every major project the city has done, it has done on its own.
We think Camanche City Administrator Tom Roth was right when he countered that the CRDC is a regional development organization “and we are part of that region. If the region benefits, we get to share in that.”
After all, the people who work at businesses in this region — whether it be a company the CRDC helped grow through incentives or whether it is a new firm altogether — live, work and shop here, often traversing boundaries many times within the week.
So someone who lives in Camanche may work in Clinton, then bring that money back to Camanche in the form of a house payment or covering property taxes, grocery shopping costs or other day-to-day living expenses. The same is true for other communities the CRDC works to represent.
In life, no man stands alone. The same can be said of cities and their leaders who must now think regionally rather than as an individual entity in the business of attracting just that — business.
We also know that in the world of economic investment, nothing happens quickly. The ongoing decades of work by the CRDC to get to this point proves it. It is our hope that area leaders will realize this and stay on board for the long haul. Our communities and the residents who live in each one deserve that investment.