Written by Mike Kirchhoff, CEcD. President/CEO of the CRDC
"If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less."
-- Eric Shinseki, Chief of Staff, U.S. Army
We all know people who don't like change. Those who seem to argue against futures which don't fit their expectations or experience...who want "things to stay just the way they are." If this sentiment is widespread within a community, it drifts on the economic currents like a boat without a rudder. Change still happens, though. The problem is that the ensuing changes may not be positive. In fact, the resulting change is more likely to be negative.
A famous quote says "Almost every successful person begins with two beliefs: the future can be better than the past and I have the power to make it so." The same axiom applies to communities.
For those communities willing to take aggressive control of the rudder, change can be positive. The future CAN be better than the past. But to achieve great things requires that we strive to be more than average. We must aim high.
In today’s hyper competitive economic development environment, “good enough” is no longer good enough. Today, those communities who think simply having a cornfield with a “for sale” sign is sufficient to compete for corporate investment are kidding themselves and gradually becoming irrelevant in the global marketplace.
Choosing a site for a new facility is a high-stakes scenario which can be a career enhancing or career ending decision for someone. Ultimately, the company is seeking to maximize its return on investment while at the same time minimizing its risk. A poor site decision can result in a lost job for the employee who made a poor choice as well as significant negative impacts for the company as a whole. The significance of this risk has resulted in the creation of site certification programs to help assuage companies’ concerns and thereby enhance communities’ opportunities for success.
Each item required for site certification involves minimizing risk of one sort or another. Conducting necessary studies such as phase I environmental and archeological studies. Researching soil types, flood zones, etc. Ensuring proper zoning is in place. Guaranteeing availability and price. Extending sufficient utilities to the site or ensuring that they can be on site within a reasonable time following a project decision. And more.
These are the things that distinguish a certified site from a cornfield. That’s why such stringent requirements are in place to receive site certification. It significantly enhances the marketability of a site. That’s why smart, competitive communities rush to attain site certification.
Today, sites that have already been certified by the State of Iowa are receiving enhanced marketing assistance and project leads from the Iowa Economic Development Authority. Because each potential project lead represents an opportunity for additional investment (which ultimately spreads the property tax load for each of us) and new job creation (for our friends, neighbors, children and others), it is essential we do all we can to maximize the number of project leads. Site certification is one key way in which we can do that.
On March 23, I was pleased to be present at the press conference which announced the City of Clinton’s selection as the inaugural community chosen to be part of Augustana College’s Sustainable Working Landscape Initiative. Exciting as the project itself was, I found Clinton City Administrator Jessica Kinser’s remarks to be of particular interest.
“2015 and 2016 are years that are looking to be full of promise for the region and Clinton. Regionally, we have the opening of Thomson Prison underway, which will provide an economic impact to the region of jobs and other investments. Locally, we are seeing the redevelopment of long time vacant buildings in downtown Clinton into revitalized residential units, which will bring people and life back to downtown.
To manage a city well, you need to recognize that people have options when it comes to living or relocating or opening a business. If we as a City are not actively working towards improving the services and quality of life of our community, we are failing to recognize the ability to choose and the positive or negative impact of being the place everyone wants to leave or the place everyone wants to live.” (emphasis added)
Site certification will help us be the place that more and more businesses want to locate so that more and more people recognize our region as the place they want to live.
If you’d like to learn more about the State of Iowa’s site certification program and the work the Clinton Regional Development Corporation and the City of Clinton are doing to be part of it, please stop by the CRDC office. We welcome the opportunity to share the information and address any questions you may have.