Tidemann's Views

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Australian expert has it right

I heard someone once define an expert as someone who lives at least 200 miles away who tells you what you already intuitively know.

There's a certain amount of truth to that statement. On the other hand, sometimes we need a little objectivity to validate our own ideas.

Australian development expert David Buerle would qualify as an expert in anyone's book. Buerle talked up small towns at a conference of ISU Extension employees last Friday at Buena Vista University.

An interesting thing about Buerle is that he cut through the clutter and made just plain, good sense about what it takes for communities to promote themselves. And, while he was specifically addressing the needs of communities under 5,000, a lot of the points he made could apply directly to Storm Lake and Buena Vista County.

Buerle showed a graphic of various arrows going in different directions. A major goal of economic development is to get those arrows all pointing in the same direction.

The Iowa Department of Economic Development is trying to use a carrot-on-a-stick approach to do the same thing. IDED awards grants to consortiums of counties that decide to work together. And that makes a lot of sense too.

Hopefully, especially in rural America, we have seen the value in working together. I don't think this means that an individual county has to sacrifice its own interests when it chooses to work with a group of other counties.

The Buena Vista County Board of Supervisors, in fact, decided Tuesday that it would actively pursue membership with the Iowa Great Lakes Corridor of Opportunity as a means of fostering county economic development.

The advantages are obvious. Buena Vista County could have access to the expertise of a grant writer working for all four counties. With U.S. 71 as a natural corridor for the formidable Omaha market, Storm Lake could share in the wealth coming to the Iowa Great Lakes area. And I think there is certainly plenty of that to go around. Just go to Okoboji on July 4 and try to find an open piece of water.

There's also a mutual advantage in applying for grants for bike and hiking trails that would connect Buena Vista County with the Iowa Great Lakes.

It just makes good, plain sense to sign on with a group that already has a proven track record.

The Board of Supervisors should be praised for its visionary efforts. They have done us well.

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