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OSAGE | Approximately 200 farmers, businessmen and women, along with area youth, heard how important growth and development of rural Iowa is to the entire state, at this year’s Mitchell County Agriculture Breakfast.

The year’s speakers were Ivan Wold, of Wold’s Tire and Rim in St Ansgar, who spoke on his family’s experiences in becoming rural entrepreneurs and Dr. Mark A. Edelman, Professor of Economics at Iowa State University, who spoke on how rural communities can survive and grow.

After Wold’s dad returned from the Korean Conflict, he ran a gas station. Wanting to expand the business, his dad began manufacturing steel tire rims in the early 60s.

“Dad started widening rims and other people began wanting them,” Wold said.

Rims for fertilizer equipment and later combines, helped increase the rural business.

“Today we have 124,000 square feet of facilities under one roof. We use 1,7 million pounds of steel annually and we employ 40 employees. We are looking for more,” Wold said.

Currently the firm is working with two major tire manufactures on projects in France.

Several years ago the firm was awarded the Iowa Farm Bureau’s Renew Rural Iowa Award.

“In Mitchell County, we have worked together to get things done. I think we should continue to work together to get things done for Mitchell County and for North Iowa,” Wold said.

Edelman shared his personal experiences of being raised on a northeastern Kansas farm. He said his hometown has grown over the years, attributing the town’s success to entrepreneurial ventures.

Edelman shared some necessary elements to attract business and qualified employees to rural areas. Through ongoing research, Edelman said he has discovered 70 percent of today’s economy is consumer driven and two-thirds of the U.S. population lives near the coasts. He said today’s farmers and rural entrepreneurs need to focus on the types of food and products these consumers want.

Citing a study of eight rural communities, Edelman said, “Those communities that lost population, had lost a major employer and never rebounded. Where there were fast growing communities, all the groups in the area knew what was going on and there were home grown businesses.”

In another 20-county study, people were asked why they had moved in or out of an area. It was found people under 35 years or younger moved because of job opportunities and housing. It was discovered these people’s top two priorities were accesses to broadband, and housing.

He said rural entrepreneurs and communities need to find investment capital. “I have been in housing projects where there were plenty of builders, but no one was working on development,” Edelman said. “I think it takes a wide range of housing. People can be attracted to a community by new homes and some older homes, it depends on their salaries.”

Commenting on bringing revival to a rural community, Edelman said, “It’s usually a decade-long process.”

Iowa State University (ISU) Extension and Outreach – Mitchell County and the Mitchell County Farm Bureau, co-sponsored the 2019 Mitchell County Ag Breakfast, which was held at the Cedar River Complex Event Center on Thursday, March 21.

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