Economic Development

(Economic Development Director Ken Paxton spoke at the Lime Springs Community Club meeting on January 18 and also with the Lime Springs Herald about what is happening in Howard County.)
Paxton started off his update by asking Community Club members to try to attend the Howard County Economic Development All-County meeting on February 10. “This will be the biggest meeting ever in Howard County. It is being held in Cresco Bank & Trust at 5:30 p.m.”
He was especially excited about having national speaker Don Macke talk to the group about entrepreneurship in small counties. Also speaking will be Dave Swenson, the chief economist for the state of Iowa.
“The recession is not good for anyone, but we’re in better shape than some. How’s this for a statistic. A four-county group in Florida has determined that over 50 percent of the houses have a higher mortgage than the value of the house.” He said the meeting will address some concerns on all aspects of the recession and economy.
Staying with the recession, Paxton explained how the layoffs at Featherlite and extended unemployment benefits may force the parent company of Universal Trailer to think about closing some of its plants. “The unemployment rate charged from 1.9 percent to eight percent. Almost all of the plants owned by Universal Trailer are underused and they are talking about closing some plants.
“I started talking to people and it snowballed. Now there is a grassroots campaign going on to let Featherlite know how we are trying to help save the company from closing.”
In addition to what was mentioned at the meeting, the Economic Development director said the third wind turbine project of the county is not going up as soon as planned. “It was originally EcoEnergy doing the project, now it is under the parent company of Acciona out of West Branch. The grid is too full, so it has to be made bigger before the new project can go up, but the land is already in place and this year eight miles of cable will be put above ground.” He added the project probably wouldn’t start until 2011.
Paxton always tries to end his updates on a positive note and stated Prairie’s Edge Renewables Bio-Mass project is still moving forward. Dave Sovereign, a member of the board, has some ties to a Wisconsin company that wants to do a test facility and then build the bio-mass plant. The possible locations for a test facility are the old cheese factory at Golden Ridge, TMI in Cresco and a place in Riceville.
He said the test facility will not be used as the final facility, so the Lime Springs Industrial Park is still in the running for having the business built at the Travel Plaza. “It’s a great place since it has sewer and water available and is right on a major highway—Highway 63.”
He mentioned a dog grooming business going into the Legion Hall. There will definitely be more on this as time goes by.
He also reminded members of the club the Howard County Community Foundation Grants needed to be postmarked by March 1. “If you need help, I’ll be glad to help write it up.” He explained about $95,000 is available to counties in 2010, which compares with $70,000 in 2008 and $90,000 in 2009.
Before closing, he reminded the group again to attend the All-County meeting on February 10.

(Economic Development Director Ken Pax

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