Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance: Targeted economic strategy, making the best of collaboration

The statistics show that the local work in economic development is paying off

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Dennis Plautz, Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance chief executive officer, meets with Fort Dodge Economic Development Specialist Dawn Larson to discuss an upcoming project. The Growth Alliance works closely with the city of Fort Dodge and private businesses in the area.

Leaders of the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance have statistical evidence that their work in economic development is paying off.

Those figures show that wages have increased by 15.5 percent in Fort Dodge and Webster County over the last five years, according to Kelly Halsted, the alliance’s economic development director.

“We’re creating wealth and the ability of people to spend more money on food, housing and recreation,” she said.

It’s not just the work of the Growth Alliance that’s causing that increase, according to Dennis Plautz, the group’s chief executive officer. He said the secret to that success is enhanced collaboration between the alliance, the city of Fort Dodge, Webster County, the state government and local businesses.

Together, he said, those groups are using an approach to economic development that targets companies that are a good fit for the community.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance Communications Specialist Jon Shields works in his office recently, making sure the website is current and up to date.

“Economic development has become more focused and targeted to companies that have a reason to be here,” Plautz said.

“We’re getting companies here that are taking local inputs and we’re getting high economic multipliers because of that,” he added.

The upcoming expansion of CJ Bio America is among the economic successes listed by Halsted and Plautz. The company’s plant in the industrial park called Iowa’s Crossroads of Global Innovation will begin producing a second amino acid used in livestock feed starting in 2019. The company will invest $51 million and hire 18 more people.

Another success was at Josephson Manufacturing, 216 Central Ave. That company, which makes radiators and cooling systems for heavy equipment, completed an $8 million expansion last year.

There’s lots of work behind the scenes, perhaps years worth of work, to be done before a company moves to the area or expands here, according to Plautz.

“You have to build up relationships with these companies because they can go globally,” he said. “They can go anywhere.”

The staff of the Growth Alliance is continually working to develop those relationships. That involves visiting companies and going to trade shows.

Within the alliance, the list of prospects the group is working on is called the project pipeline, according to Halsted. She said that pipeline is now the largest it has ever been. She said it includes about 20 prospects, the majority of which are related to Iowa’s Crossroads of Global Innovation.

Economic development isn’t the only thing the Growth Alliance does.

The organization also has a community development component.

The Leadership Fort Dodge program designed to prepare people for future leadership roles in Fort Dodge is one of the most visible aspects of the community development effort.

“The purpose is just to get a feel of, or an overview of, a wide variety of organizations and businesses,” said Jill Nelson, the alliance’s community development director.

The alliance also co-sponsors the Eggs and Issues legislative forums held every month at Iowa Central Community College while the state Legislature is in session.

The Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance was established in 2011 by merging the Fort Dodge Area Chamber of Commerce and the Development Corporation of Fort Dodge and Webster County.


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