Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance: Developing leaders

Growth Alliance works to recruit people to the area; Halsted: “We have more jobs than bodies. It’s a population issue.”

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Staff at the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance look over Webster County maps at their office. From left to right are Kelly Halsted, economic development director; Kate Stucky office manager; Jill Nelson, community development director; Skyla Porter, organizational administrator; Dennis Plautz, CEO; and Lydia Schuur, communications specialist.

Pharmaceuticals make up 42% of gross regional product in Webster County, according to Kelly Halsted, economic development director for the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance.

And one company that falls under that category is AML Riverside, a maker of veterinary medicines.

AML Riverside LLC, a part of New Zealand-based Argenta, took over the site commonly called the Riverside plant in January 2016.

Dennis Plautz, CEO of the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance, said AML is one example of a company on the rise.

In 2016, AML had an agreement with the city of Fort Dodge to employ 30 people over three years.

But that number has since grown significantly, according to Halsted.

“They are at 85 employees today and growing,” Halsted said.

Plautz added, “Percentage wise, that is an extremely fast growth rate. It’s been very successful here.”

It’s the mission of the Growth Alliance to coordinate that type of economic and community development.

“The one thing that has changed in the Fort Dodge region that we didn’t realize 20 years ago, is that community development is just as much of a part of economic development when recruiting companies,” Plautz said. “Unless you have a place that is cost effective for companies and that their workforce wants to work in and live in, you will not be successful.”

Jill Nelson, community development director at the Growth Alliance, addresses workforce issues, quality of life issues and leadership skills in the community.

“The purpose is to grow our economy, but we don’t single-handedly do that,” Nelson said. “We engage stakeholders, governmental agencies, community leaders and our members to make all of that happen.”

Nelson said one successful program has been Leadership Fort Dodge.

The program offers participants the opportunity to learn about Fort Dodge and Webster County through professional presentations, tours of businesses and agencies and interaction with local and state leaders.

Nelson reported that 30 individuals participated in the last class.

“Those individuals learn about all areas in the community,” Nelson said. “This past year we had 130 businesses and individuals that in some way contributed to the program. They were either a speaker, a sponsor or let us tour their facility. They are showing their support.”

Nelson also reported that the Fort Dodge Young Professionals organization has just under 200 members.

Another recognition program the Growth Alliance helps coordinate is called10 under 40.

That recognition is every other year.

“This past year we had a record number of nominations,” Nelson said. “It tells you that we have a strong group of leaders in our community of the young professional age, but that we also have individuals who recognize that and want to share their support of those individuals.”

Workforce recruitment remains a top priority for the Growth Alliance, Halsted said.

“Being able to have a skilled and available workforce to match the skills businesses are requiring,” Halsted said. “Recruiting people to live in this region. We have more jobs than bodies. It’s a population issue.”

The Growth Alliance launched a campaign called “There’s No Place like Home” in an effort to attract people who used to live in the area to move back.

Plautz said the Growth Alliance strives to track the progress of Fort Dodge and the region.

During its annual dinner in March, the Growth Alliance releases its annual report, which details things like wage and salary numbers and job reports.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $4.62/week.

Subscribe Today