Hamilton County commits to joining Ames Economic Development Alliance

Hamilton County formally committed to joining the Ames Economic Development Alliance Tuesday morning, but not before the man who would lead the alliance gave the room full of citizens a glimpse of what he sees for the future.

Dan Culhane, who now is the president and chief executive officer of Ames Chamber of Commerce & Economic Development, entities that will legally become the Ames Economic Development Alliance in June, started with a success story.

“We just helped Boone attract Daisy brand out of Dallas, Texas,” he said. It will “build a 702,000 square foot facility in their community and create a whole bunch of really meaningful employment opportunities.”

Cottage cheese and sour cream maker Daisy Brand LLC announced earlier in the week that it is investing $626.5 million toward construction of the manufacturing facility in Boone, according to Food Business news. The company expects that site to create approximately 106 new jobs in its beginning. It projects the number of jobs may eventually grow to 255.

The Iowa Economic Development Authority board approved $7 million in direct financial assistance in addition to tax benefits for the company.

Culhane emphasized that jobs in Boone benefit the entire region, and that is a vision of the future he believes will make this newly-named alliance crucial.

With representatives from every town in Hamilton County listening, Cuhane outlined a vision that would attract not only the Daisy-level job-producers, but also cultivate the smaller local business opportunities.

“Eighty percent of the job growth is going to be from people who are already here,” he said.

“We’re very interested in locating businesses, period,” he said. “There’s all sizes of businesses that we facilitate every day. We had one to two months ago that I sent to (John Harrenstein, Webster City’s interim city manager). It was a company that needed about 15,000 square feet. So we were looking for an existing building. And an existing workforce.”

An existing workforce is key, as is a job that pays a living wage.

Culhane said, “I can tell you as an example, the Daisy project and most of the projects, all the projects we work on, … they’re going to pay over the average wage in the county that they’re located in.” In Boone County, that wage is over $24 an hour.

“So almost all the jobs tied to the Daisy project are over $24,” he said.

“We’ve got 70 investors on our board of directors and they’re predominantly large employers that write pretty big checks to support the work that we do. And so I’m always mindful of that. We don’t want to completely cut from our existing employers, but at the same time economic development is about raising the wage for better quality of life, and so the only way that happens is that people are making meaningful wages.”

The City Council of Webster City will consider the same contract during its meeting on May 6.

The plan between Hamilton County and Webster City, if Webster City agrees to the contract, is to split the three-year contract fees between them. Those fees are projected at $145,000 the first year, $160,000 the second year, and $175,000 the third year. Each entity would pay half.

Supervisor Rick Young, who has largely ridden herd on the alliance project, said the entire alliance team would be brought up to Hamilton County in early May once the contracts are confirmed.

He and the other two supervisors, Jerry Kloberdanz and Dan Campidilli, have underscored repeatedly that although the alliance will begin with the county and Webster City, the rest of Hamilton County’s towns will also be part of the regional effort.


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