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

Chicken Joke

Everyone has heard a version of the old joke – Q. Why did the chicken cross the road?  A. To prove to the possum it could actually be done!  I heard a not so funny version last week – Q. Why did the kids and grandkids move away? A. to find a job.

Communities need to grow and adapt – and if they don’t, they become stagnant. Businesses start to move away. Communities experience Brain Drain (that is a trendy term people use today that simply means your kids and grandkids move away- to where they find good jobs).

I hear individuals throughout Tama County constantly complaining about how their children leave and don’t come home. They want public officials and government to create jobs – reasons for them to stay or come back. But government doesn’t create jobs. Individuals and businesses do.

Government can create the environment to help attract businesses – but after that, it’s really up to us. If we don’t create the necessary landscape for expanding businesses to come and grow here, it’s a domino effect, and we all know this. Yet, some continue to remain stagnant, set in their ways, and stomp their feet when things aren’t the most ideal – for them.

Tama County’s economic growth took a big step back in recent weeks with votes by both Tama and Toledo City councils rejecting a housing developer’s plans to expand in several different locations. I realize it might have not been in the most ideal location for some, but the truth is, there was never going to be an ideal location.  Ever. Instead of looking at the greater good and to the future, most of these residents looked at what would affect them – personally. Many approached it with a NIMBY (not in my backyard) reaction, claiming it was a great project, but it should be elsewhere.

I was asked last week by the developer why the new housing project wouldn’t move forward – all I could answer him with was that Tama/Toledo is a “risk adverse” community. And the more I thought about my answer I am right; overall, we are afraid of change.

Time and time again, I see potential growth trampled down. What pains me the most about projects like these, is that it’s usually not a majority of the individuals that help kill them, but rather a smaller, but louder, minority. And those louder ones often don’t have the best interest of the greater good at heart – rather the select few. And when this happens, projects like these get squashed.

The fact is, many of these residents have very valid concerns, however those same concerns would have been in any location – and they could have ultimately been addressed- public safety being one of them. What many individuals don’t realize is those taxes generated from the project could have been used to widen roads and add additional streets to improve traffic flow.

The truth is, there is never going to be a perfect location for most projects that happen in the world – but that shouldn’t stop them from happening. Sysco (the Sysco that is larger than both FedEx and John Deere) has invested in YOUR county. And we need to do everything in our power to provide quality homes for the 1,100 jobs that are approaching.

One final thought – the packing industry may not be the most glamorous of industries, but it is the most vital to our current growth. And if we could somehow stop playing politics and capitalize on this huge investment in Tama County, then we can start to create the quality of life that we all are craving.  And then we start another kind of domino effect – one that can then attract and create the businesses that are hipper, trendier, and more glamorous.

The ones your kids want to come home to. And that is no joke.

Hate? Love? Agree? Disagree? I want to hear from you. Email me at info@tamacountyiowa.org or call 641.484.3108.

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