Diversity will sell Storm Lake

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Storm Lake made its pitch Tuesday to become one of three Iowa communities to be selected for designation as an Iowa Great Place. There's pretty slim odds for anyone, given the fact that there are 145 local governments and regions competing for the designation.

Interestingly, it was when any mention was made of the way that Storm Lake has embraced diversity that the three visitors started taking notes and nodding. Diversity, they apparently believe, is a good thing.

Amanda Styron of Mount Pleasant, who just recently graduated from the University of Iowa and was on the visiting Great Places team, had some very nice things to say about Storm Lake's diversity initiative.

"I think the diversity here is a standout, and especially the way it's embraced," Styron said. She said the way the Storm Lake community has welcomed diversity is a definite asset.

Project AWAYSIS Project Manager Mike Wilson, who conducted the tour, took time to mention the minority-owned businesses that popped up along the bus route. It was somewhat surprising, even for those of us who live here. As Wilson pointed out, most of the new business start-ups in Storm Lake in recent years are owned by minorities. Interestingly enough, according to Wilson, 74 percent of Hispanic people living in Storm Lake want to start their own business, compared to 62 percent of all other people.

Diversity permeated the presentation given to the three visitors from the Iowa Great Places visiting team, from former Storm Lake Superintendent Bill Kruse's observation in a video presented prior to the bus tour Tuesday afternoon that 50 percent of students in the Storm Lake Community Schools are of diverse populations to Wilson's observations about minority entrepreneurialism. Diversity is in fact the driving force behind Storm Lake's economy. What was once a challenge and a growing pain a few years ago has become our strength.

I'm not so naive as to believe that everyone is convinced of that, though. There are those who have lived here, perhaps for generations, that may not welcome others that are different themselves.

That's unfortunate. Those people have no idea what richness they are depriving themselves from experiencing.

* Mike Tidemann is the Pilot-Tribune's assistant editor. He can be reached at mtidemann@stormlakepilottribune.com