THE PILOT EDITORIAL - Staying the course in SLADC effort

Tuesday, January 30, 2001

Storm Lake Area Development Corporation has lost its leader and his assistant to key leadership jobs in other communities, it has not yet been able to lure an industry into the spec building it has built, and solid prospects have been hard to come by in an anxious national economic period.

It would be easy for Storm Lake to give up on the effort and the expense of SLADC. It would also be the wrong thing to do.

Perhaps now more than ever, it is time for the community to get behind its development group, the city and county officials who fund it, and the volunteers who guide it.

For one thing, if there is nothing ventured, there is nothing gained. Storm Lake can and should remain competitive in the economic development field.

For another, job diversification is and will be a huge issue for Storm Lake. Our industrial base with only a couple of exceptions is tied directly to the agricultural field, and so is subject to the up and down cycles of that field. Other forms of jobs are critical to provide choice and stability.

On the surface, with Buena Vista County among the lowest in unemployment rates, it might appear that we don't need jobs. Not true - studies of our employment "pull factor" from the outside areas and of people who consider themselves "under-employed," not to mention farm residents who would be in the market for a second or seasonal job, show that there is room for growth.

SLADC's task is an uphill one, not because the community lacks anything in lifestyle, but because of our transportation situation. For many companies, four-lane, interstate or air shipping access is among the first determining factors. SLADC has been one force in calling for transportation improvements in northwest Iowa, and that job is far from done.

Even when SLADC isn't landing a new industry, however, the group has great value. It has recently helped to produce important housing and workforce studies that can be used in future Storm Lake development efforts and planning. It serves as a community voice and booster at a time when we need to counter unfair outside criticism of the past.

It also helps to unify the proactive missions of city and county, which pays dividends beyond its scope.

With chamber of commerce hopes to become more active in recruiting new retailers and service providers to the community, it can be our choice to control our destiny, or to rely on luck.

In the past several years, luck isn't what it used to be. The field for economic development has become intensely competitive, and those who aren't in the game can be assured they won't score.

Jim Gossett will be a loss. He has worked hard for Storm Lake and Buena Vista County, and been a positive force in many ways. The trouble with having excellent people is that they become hot commodities. One can only wish them well in their own growth, as they have worked so hard for ours.

The time when it would be easiest to back off a proactive, professional effort for Storm Lake's future is probably the time when we need to do it the most.