Fort Dodge ag park gets focus in Washington

Local group wraps up capital trip

-Submitted photo
A group of Fort Dodge and Webster County leaders met with U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Kiron, in the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C., Wednesday morning. In the front row, from left, are Luke Palmer, senior operations manager for CJ Bio America; Kelly Halsted, economic development director for the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance; Fort Dodge City Councilwoman Lydia Schuur; King; Luke Hugghins, project manager for McClure Engineering Co.; Fort Dodge Mayor Matt Bemrich; and Lance Choi, head of the North American Bio Division of CJ Bio America. In the back row, from left, are Fort Dodge City Manager David Fierke; Wade Greiman, transportation business unit leader for Snyder & Associates; Webster County Supervisor Mark Campbell; and Webster County Supervisor Nick Carlson.

The future growth of the ag industrial park in Webster County and other local projects may benefit from the efforts of a group of area leaders who spent Thursday in Washington, D.C.

The group’s agenda wasn’t limited to federal government agencies. Webster County Supervisor Mark Campbell visited with representatives of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, a trade group for biotech companies. He said working with that group will put local leaders in contact with companies that would be appropriate for the ag industrial park west of Fort Dodge called Iowa’s Crossroads of Global Innovation.

“We want to be that face that they remember and that place that they want to be at,” he said.

Campbell said the organization will hold the BIO World Congress in Des Moines this July. He said he’s trying to arrange tours of the ag industrial park for people who will be attending that event.

A recent change in law has made Fort Dodge and Webster County eligible to apply for more grants and loans from the Department of Agriculture. In the past, only communities with a population of 20,000 or less could apply. Now communities with a population of 50,000 or less may apply.

With that change in mind, the local delegation spent part of Thursday morning meeting with officials from the Department of Agriculture. Fort Dodge Mayor Matt Bemrich said funding possibilities for a child care center, an intermodal hub downtown and other projects were reviewed. He described the session as a “very productive meeting.”

Bemrich said city officials will compare the interest rates on the federal loan programs to the interest rates on the bond market before deciding what funding to seek.

However, local leaders plan to apply for a $1.85 million community facility grant to help pay for a child care center. Details of the proposed center haven’t been released.

Later in the day, the delegation met with representatives of the Environmental Protection Agency. Funding sources for cleaning up contamination were discussed.

The group also learned more about workforce training grants the EPA offers that could benefit Iowa Central Community College. Those grants could pay for programs that teach people the proper way to do things like removing asbestos, according to Jim Kersten, the college’s vice president for government affairs and external relations. He said that kind of training could be incorporated into the carpentry program that trains inmates at the Fort Dodge Correctional Facility and the North Central Correctional Facility in Rockwell City.

During its second full day of an annual visit to the nation’s capital, the local group also had lunch with fellow Iowan Bill Northey, who is the undersecretary of farm and conservation programs for the United States Department of Agriculture. Northey is a former state secretary of agriculture.

The delegation will return to Iowa today.