I have always considered myself to be a type of Progressive, wanting to make positive changes here in Mitchell County. With this in mind, I attempt to keep close tabs on the happenings with Economic Development and how Mitchell County can be a catalyst while always in pursuit of opportunities for the county.
So it was with great anticipation when I formally learned the Turtle Creek Windfarm would become a reality. Wind farms generate (no pun intended) millions of dollars of property tax revenue, thus allowing counties like Mitchell to make necessary improvements while keeping the county’s share of property taxes basically stagnant. Tax Increment Financing (TIF) has been a godsend to Mitchell County, many necessary and good improvements while holding down property taxes.
This past year a new ag based plant announced it would be building in Osage while initially employing 15 individuals. Another Osage plant has run out of room and desires to expand, not only its physical facilities, but also the number of employees working there.
November showed Mitchell County to have a 1.7% unemployment rate, the fourth lowest in Iowa. In our four largest communities, there are abundant signs advertising “Help Wanted”. Having scores of unfilled jobs has the attention of your Board of Supervisors (BOS).
The housing study partially paid for by Mitchell County showed the county lacks affordable apartments along with single family affordable housing. Where will these new employees come from or live with our housing shortage and record low unemployment? Your county Board of Supervisors will attempt to address the housing issue by using TIF dollars to help alleviate this shortage.
Another area receiving a lot of discussion is how to retain our talented youth. We are not seeing an influx of youth going into the careers; carpenters, plumbers and electricians. The need is great and one can receive a high standard of living by making these career opportunities your way of life. Your BOS realizes we need to do a better job of educating our youth in the many career opportunities, good career opportunities available here in Mitchell County.
This past year also saw the formation of the North Central Iowa Regional Economic & Port Authority. As of this writing, work is being done on the final employment contract with the Montana-Dakota Utilities Co. to engineer the first phase of a high pressure natural gas line from Joice to St. Ansgar with laterals serving Manly and Grafton. The Port Authority has a company that has taken out an option for land along this line and if this option is exercised, millions of MMBtu’s will be purchased annually.
Finally, Jennifer Andrade became the new Mitchell County Economic Development Executive Director. Director Andrade has had a lot on her plate from day one and has done an excellent job in managing all of the balls handed off to her. Director Andrade has a great vision and rapidly understands how programs can be applied to Mitchell County and its political subdivisions. I look forward to assisting Director Andrade wherever she needs support.
With all of this said, 2018 will be a very busy and interesting year, to say the least.