A plucky voice
The Iowans for a Better Future group is taking on a life of its own, and much of what it is saying, we need to hear.
You have to like the plucky group of that cuts across the state's leadership strata. It was birthed by the governor to create a blueprint for the decade ahead, but refused to be politically pigeonholed, or to be dismissed while its report gathers dust on some shelf like all of the other blue-ribbon task force studies over the years.
There has really been no one to speak for Iowa. The politicians have been too busy campaigning, the universities too busy budgeting, the business leaders too busy micromanaging their own enterprises.
Along comes this group, uninvited, to tell us how technology can help save our rural economy, what we need to stay on top with our schools, how to attract and keep the young people we are losing, and where immigration fits into our future. The result has been a series of interesting essays on the state's future, many of which we are sharing with you in a series on these pages.
"We find that when we make the presentation on these goals, we find people stepping up and saying, 'Yes,' from all levels of the socio-economic spectrum," said Chuck Offenburger, a Storm Laker playing a prominent role in this group. "It's recognizing these goals are the work of people who really care about Iowa and really are concerned about the future," Offenburger said.
Offenburger's contribution to the latest report deals with immigration and what it has done for Storm Lake.
"We've lived it for 20 years and we've done nothing but benefit from it," he said. "Don't be scared of it. You get great people from all over the world to enrich your community."
It's important to keep an open mind about immigration, he said. The original Iowa 2010 report was pigeonholed as a promotion of immigration for low-paying jobs. That's certainly not a fair representation of what these people are doing.
We are pleased to see that the group is not resting, and not falling into some particular political or ideological camp. It is going to take some new element of leadership to recruit new companies to Iowa, lure in technological development, pressure the legislature to tackle the basic issues that will define the state's future.
It's almost been taken for granted in Iowa that young people will leave to find better opportunities elsewhere, that small cities and rural communities will continue to slide while only metro areas grow, that Iowa will lag behind the rest of the country in economics, technology and imagination.
It doesn't have to be that way. If this bold little group of optimists is willing to stick its necks out for us, the least we can do is listen. Already Iowans for a Better Future has hosted a forum for new legislators in December, and the group hopes to hold at least two more - one for mayors and city officials and another one for college students. Offenburger is working on a series of statewide radio broadcasts featuring lots of young people and Iowa performers as well as our social and business leaders.
To read a copy of the report, check out the web site for Iowans for a Better Future at www.betteriowa.com. To find out how you can help, contact the group via e-mail at IBF2010@aol.com, at Iowans for a Better Future, P.O. Box 112, Indianola, 50125, or by phone at 515-961-8684.
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