The steel beams reaching toward the sky and the growing collection of heavy machinery at industrial sites in the Fort Dodge area are signs of growth.
The full impact of that growth, however, may not be obvious to someone getting a glimpse of a place like the North Central Ag Industrial Park from a nearby road.
Dennis Plautz, the chief executive officer of the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance, has the numbers that reveal the significance of what's occurring.
-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
The CJ Bio America plant under construction west of Fort Dodge dwarfs construction workers who are busy putting up the steel framework on the main building.
In the space of 24 months, businesses have been investing more than $600 million in the area and creating 500 jobs, he reported Friday.
''We are becoming the talk of Iowa,'' Plautz said.
''We have more change occurring here, and more opportunities here, than I've ever seen and I've been here 37 years,'' he added.
Here is a summary of investments and job creation by Fort Dodge area companies in the past 24 months, as compiled by the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance.
BHJ USA: $5.1 million - 10 jobs
Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica Inc.: $19 million - 78 jobs
Calcium Products Inc.: $7 million - 12 jobs
Cargill: $134 million - 134 jobs
CJ Bio America: $323 million - 181 jobs
Koch Industries: $31 million - 20 jobs
Land O'Lakes Inc.: $1.65 million - 40 existing jobs retained
He talked to employees of The Messenger and Farm News Friday about progress in the community.
A fundamental transformation in the nature of the local economy is at the root of the new growth, according to Plautz. He said that for decades, the local economy was based on growing crops and shipping the harvested grain elsewhere for processing.
Now, he said, those crops are being harvested and processed right in Webster County. The POET ethanol plant north of Gowrie, the Valero Renewables ethanol plant and the Cargill facility will together consume 500,000 bushels of corn a day when operating at full capacity, he said.
The Cargill facility in the Ag Industrial Park, where 70 new employees will report to work on Dec. 10, will produce a form of sugar called dextrose and some ethanol. But the wet milling process used there will enable it to make much more. The potential products include antibiotics, chemicals, colors and dyes, enyzmes, pesticides and vitamins.
Much of the Cargill plant's output will be used by other companies to make finished products. CJ Bio America is one of the companies that will use material from Cargill. Its plant, being constructed north of Cargill's site, will make amino acids for use in feed for poultry and hogs.
The Cargill plant will open in the late summer or early fall of 2013. The CJ Bio America plant will open in early 2014.
Plautz said the profitability of the local Cargill plant is based on how many other companies locate nearby and use its products. Because of the company's need to attract other plants, Cargill has become ''an unpaid marketing arm'' for the community, he added.
A new spirit of collaboration between local entities is also fueling the economic growth, Plautz said. He said organizations now work together better than they previously did, and have become more efficient in the way they do business.
He credited the Fort Dodge City Council, the Webster County Board of Supervisors and Iowa Central Community College for making the growth spurt possible.
The presence of Trinity Regional Medical Center is also ''a big deal'' in the process of recruiting companies and people to Fort Dodge, Plautz added.