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Awaysis impresses business leaders

Thursday, November 18, 2004

If Iowa business leaders didn't know about Project Awaysis before, they do after last Thursday.

Forty business leaders from throughout Iowa toured Storm Lake last Thursday and Friday as part of the Leadership Iowa program sponsored by the Iowa Association of business and Industry Foundation (IABIF). The "class" of business leaders is participating in a nine-month program.

Two days each month the group studies some issue affecting business, society, or culture in the state. This month the group focused on Storm Lake and the issue of education and diversity in Leadership Iowa's Issue Awareness Program.

"All class members pay tuition," said Kay Neumann, vice president of programs for IABIF. Neumann said there are 644 leadership Iowa alumni throughout the state.

Sponsoring the group locally was Tyson Fresh Meats, Inc., Sara Lee, and Buena Vista University.

After touring Buena Vista University last Thursday, the group met at the Storm Lake Municipal Golf Course for a dinner and presentation by Storm Lake Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Gary Lalone and Project Awaysis Chair Mike Wilson. Wilson and Lalone addressed a number of questions regarding project Awaysis funding and how it will affect Storm Lake.

Having made the Awaysis Presentation countless times and holding up under the typical withering questioning by the Vision Iowa board, Wilson and Lalone had ready answers for the group.

Addressing a question as to how Storm Lake will back up its financial guarantees for Awaysis, Wilson noted the cafeteria funding plan includes a $3 million bond issue, local option sales tax, $6 million in hotel revenue bonds, $2 million in private funding, and $9 million from Vision Iowa. Wilson said the city has committed 60 percent of its constitutional debt limit to Awaysis.

As far as Vision Iowa funding is concerned, Wilson noted the application had been moved to the negotiation phase at the Nov. 10 Vision Iowa board meeting.

"We are led to believe that on December 8 they will award us something," Wilson said. "We have what we think is a real good core of support on the Vision Iowa board. We're going to get some money. We'll know December 8 how much it will be."

Answering a question regarding winter activities surrounding Awaysis, Wilson said, "That's going to be a challenge. We don't have a lot of lake-based wintertime activities."

Lalone said though that the closest other indoor water park open in winter would be in the Twin Cities.

Wilson said Awaysis backers had decided early not to tie the project in with gambling, addressing a question on that issue. "We did not want to have this project associated with gambling," Wilson said.

Wilson also drew a contrast between Awaysis and activities at the Iowa Great Lakes.

"That's not what we're trying to do," Wilson said. "What makes this different is a wide variety of components."

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