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Tuesday, Nov. 7 is the election, and referenda vote day. I make no presumption to tell you how to vote.

Many others have, but I feel providing you with this information of the elements and circumstances of the deal we are looking at you are fully able to render your decision accordingly.

On Oct. 17, I put forth a column in this space that voiced my concerns, not about the projects individually, but about the nature, legitimacy, questionable behaviors and costs of our relationship with Gatehouse Capital, David Rachie, and mall owner Kohan Investments, whom I labeled profiteers at our citizens' expense.

Over time, all communities experience changes that affect the industries, technologies, and land use patterns that helped form their historical foundations of their local economies.

From the 1900s to the 1960s, each county seat had a destination quality. Multiple movie theaters, hospitals, medical specialists, broader retail outlets, multiple auto dealerships, high scale restaurants, live entertainment, and the place to get what your small town lacked. There were also good secure industry jobs.

Today we are a "regional hub." However, diversity between service jobs and true industry jobs is not guaranteed to us. Only service type jobs are automatic for a regional hub city. We have a neglected facet that needs experienced and steady attention to reach anywhere near our potential.

Economically resilient towns, cities, and regions adapt to changing conditions through strong, steady and capable leadership. At this, Mason City has been pathetically inept, blind and apathetic for many decades.

A vacuum in experienced selfless leadership has left Mason City stuck in neutral at the same time the world is hitting warp speed.

Successful towns, cities and regions reinvent their economic bases as necessary. Again, a concept Mason City lacks leadership in as it is most certainly necessary, yet unaccomplished.

Today, Mason City is a very broad based service destination hub. The problem is without the complementary industrial base, we are afloat in service type jobs paying service level wages and benefits. Why?

Even though Mason City has lost its original and main industrial economic drivers many times, for example:

• Brick and tile manufacturing;

• Milk Processing;

• Meat packing kill to transport;

• The world's largest producers of Portland cement;

• Farm implement manufacturing;

• Glass manufacturing;

• And motor vehicle manufacturing.

We possess other 21st century assets that we can promote to spur our local economy.

We have prepared a shovel-ready industrial area with superior transportation options and a workforce desiring a move from service to industry and the benefits that come accordingly.

Attracting manufacturing and distribution supply chain industries feeding into each other would be preferred rather than a monster home run of costly amenities.

There are successful tactics that Mason City can exploit and in some cases is already implementing:

• Identify and develop existing assets.

• Engage all members of the community, transparently, to design the future.

• Take advantage of legitimate, minimal risk, and unrestricted sources of funding, public and private.

• Create incentives for redevelopment, and reward reinvestment in the community.

• Underpin a clean and healthy environment.

• Provide exceptional post secondary education for trades and advanced degrees.

• Re-purpose neglected assets.

• As a community, seek to eliminate criminal activities and elements.

It is not the projects of the Renaissance development that I oppose. It is the financial risk to our city, the developers we are tied to, lack of integrity based on their performance, and frankly, attempting to build our future on the foundation of the current level of vicious divisiveness of our citizens.

Let us get strong, consistent and focused leadership in place, to include a new citizen based development commission, and begin presenting Mason City to the world as a cohesive, forward thinking and focused action community that is attractive to younger generations and varied industries. Let us start Tuesday unbound by an inflexible, one-way only "Renaissance."

J.W. Sayles is a retired university professor and U.S. Treasury agent and also a veteran of the Vietnam War. He lives in Mason City.


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