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Economic Development is . . . (increasing the flow) of capital through the community and reducing its leakage.

A Fishing Story

Two guys go ice fishing. They decide to fish opposite sides of the lake to see where the fish are biting best. After about an hour of fishing with no success, they notice a young boy walking to the center of the lake. Within five minutes, the boy pulls a 5 pound walleye out of the icy water. Two minutes later, another 5 pounder. This continues for about 30 minutes.

Finally, one of the men walks to the boy and asks, “How are catching all these fish?” The boy replies, cheeks bulging, “Eweygoddakeethermswarm.” “What?” the man asks, a little frustrated. Again the boy says, with a little more emphasis, “EWEYGODDAKEETHEORMSWARM!”

“I don’t understand. What are you trying to say?” the frustrated fisherman retorts. The boy, clearly irritated at this point, sets down his fishing pole, spits worms into his gloved hands and says matter-of-factly, “YOU GOTTA KEEP THE WORMS WARM!” This is more funny to hear than read, but still one of my favorites.

If the art of fishing was the parallel to building our economy in Tama County the logical question to ask would be….How do we keep our worms warm to catch more business? The answer to that question, as we have discussed in past columns, is DATA. What do I mean by data? We need to identify Tama County’s current needs and evaluate our current assets.

Iowa State University’s Community Development Data Information and Analysis Laboratory (CD-DIAL) is the technical assistance unit within the University’s Extension and Economic Development Department that Tama County will use to begin this process. Data will be collected by several methods including: Mailed paper-and-pencil surveys, Telephone interviews, Focus groups, and Online surveys. Specific steps in the process are: Step 1- Identify current economic conditions, Step 2- Define survey methodology, Step 3- Collect data, Step 4- Analyze data, Step 5-Communicate findings through written reports and oral presentations.

The resulting data from the CD-DIAL will allow us to identify which sectors (for example… Life sciences, Ag, IT/telecommunications, Food Processing, Manufacturing, Transportation, Tourism etc..) will be the most likely businesses to grow and thrive here in Tama County. Knowing our strongest sectors will allow us to target the occupations necessary for these businesses’ success.  After CD-DIAL helps us provide our comprehensive data and metrics on our top 10 sectors, our Commission’s leadership will decide on the five targeted sectors to focus in on growing and attracting businesses to Tama County.

I believe this Data Driven Plan will go a long way to developing a consensus on the economic direction of Tama County. In order for this to happen there will need to be a real strong sense of working together, for a variety of reasons. We will all need to help create accurate data to ensure we have a common strategy and a focused approach to economic growth. Contact our office and we can provide more information on how you can help get our worms warm.  Contact us at (641) 484-3108.

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