ST. ANSGAR | Operations like Grain Millers of St. Ansgar are keys in making Iowa strong economically, but it is going to take partnerships from all corners to keep Iowa business, according to Gov. Terry Branstad.
That includes working with Iowa State University research, the Iowa Department of Agriculture, education, the Iowa Economic Development Authority – and his own office, Branstad said.
Branstad visited the oats processor on Friday, meeting with company officials, as well as Mitchell County Economic Development Executive Director Brenda Dryer, St. Ansgar Mayor Dave Tollefson and Dave Falk of L. R. Falk Construction Co., of St. Ansgar.
Branstad said more than once that Grain Millers work was especially important, given that the company is a major supplier to cereals and other products essential to health. The health market is not only profitable, its impact filters through all aspects of healthy lives.
Company president Steven J. Eilertson gave a history of the company, which today employs 800 worldwide and 150 in St. Ansgar. The company has a $10 million local impact in wages and benefits in St. Ansgar, he said. What affects Grain Millers, affects many in the community, he said.
He outlined issues related to growth, noting that while the business has been built on oats, and production needs to continue to grow, there is room for other grains, as well, that would also provide environmental advantages for water quality.
Challenges facing companies like Grain Millers is making sure that there is reliable transportation, that there is manpower available to fill jobs and that infrastructure is available. Dryer emphasized that Mitchell County is at the end of a gas line, and help is needed to bring more gas to the county. It continues to be difficult, she said, to talk to companies like Grain Millers about investing millions into the area and yet not have a sufficient supply of natural gas to support operations and expansions.
Still, there are good advantages to doing business in Iowa, all agreed. Branstad said he felt that the state’s new commissioner of Workman’s Compensation will result in fairer rulings for companies; he also noted the drop in property tax rates that is backfilled by state dollars.
“The less we pay in taxes means the more we invest,” agreed Eilertson.
Dryer said support from local officials, especially the St. Ansgar City Council, is essential and that group has always been supportive of the company’s work and expansions.
Branstad emphasized the need for such partnerships throughout the state, and not only attracting new business, but working closely with those already here.
“Eighty percent of growth comes from within,” Branstad said.
Branstad applauded the work done by all in Mitchell County, whose unemployment rate is the lowest in the state.
Eilertson said that the area’s work ethic is definitely part of the reason.
“We love Iowa, we love the people here,” Eilertson said. “We have the best people around.”