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Offenburger offers advice on economic development

Columnist has been involved in growth efforts for decades

-Messenger photo by Britt Kudla
-Messenger photo by Britt Kudla Chuck Offenburger, a former columnist from Greene County, gives a speech at the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance Annual Dinner on Thursday inside Fort Frenzy.

Many who have lived in Iowa for a long time recognize the name Chuck Offenburger.

They likely know him for his Iowa Boy columns chronicling small-town life or for his unscientific polls attempting to determine who makes the best cinnamon rolls in the state.

But over the years, Offenburger has done a lot more than write columns and sample tasty rolls. He has been involved in economic development in various ways for years.

Based on those years of experience, Offenburger offered some advice to local leaders during Thursday evening’s Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance Annual Dinner at Fort Frenzy.

“I encourage you — invest, take risks, have fun, hope you get lucky — and if you’re negative, we’re going around you,” he said.

He said he has been “just fascinated with economic development my whole life, my whole adult life, anyway.”

In the late 1990s he served on a strategic planning commission appointed by then-Gov. Tom Vilsack. That panel was tasked with preparing a plan for what Iowa should be like in 2010.

According to Offenburger, one of the things that came out of that commission was the basic concept of what would become the Vision Iowa program, in which the state government would help pay for creating major attractions and amenities.

He said the panel also addressed the need to reverse the declining population in Iowa. The commission, he said, recommended finding ways to keep Iowa’s young people in the state and to retain people who came into Iowa to go to college. He said it also recommended increasing immigration.

“That one went nowhere,” he said. “It was too much of a hot potato.”

Offenburger now serves on the board of the Greene County Multicultural Resource Center, an organization intended to help reverse a century’s worth of population declines in part by working with immigrants.

“We’re going to become that rare rural Iowa community that will reverse that century of population decline,” he said.

He said Greene County will have a multicultural workforce applying old-fashioned Iowa hard work to make quality products.

The jobs, he said, are there in Greene County. He said there are 200 to 300 jobs open right now that pay $20 per hour and higher.

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