For the community

Facts and figures about Fort Dodge businesses are the basics of Dawn Larson’s daily work.

She collects data and meets regularly with managers with one goal in mind: keeping those businesses vibrant in Fort Dodge.

”Most of a community’s job growth and capital investment will come from companies that are already here,” she said.

Larson is the business affairs specialist in the city’s Business Affairs and Community Growth Department. It’s a position that was created several years ago at the urging of former Mayor Terry Lutz so that the local government would have a person tracking the needs of existing businesses.

”The primary purpose of my position is to operate a strong private sector retention program for our industries,” Larson said.

To help retain businesses, the city government must learn about their plans and needs. Larson compiles that data.

Larson, along with representatives of the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance, strives to meet with leaders of every local industry twice a year. If a business has its corporate headquarters in another city or state, she tries to visit it once a year.

At every meeting, Larson asks a series of questions. Each business leader she meets is asked the same questions about things like obstacles to growth and competitiveness. The answers she gets are entered in a computer database she maintains called Synchronist Information Systems.

Using that database helps to identify expansion opportunities for local businesses, Larson said. She added that it also helps to pinpoint ways in which the city government can help businesses grow.

Having so much data available also makes it easier to identify companies that are at risk of closing or moving to another community, she said.

Larson said all the information she collects is kept confidential. She added that most local industry leaders are willing to share information with her.

Larson said she really enjoys dealing with the local business managers and owners.

”To me, the best part of my job is the opportunity to work with the many talented business leaders in our community,” she said.

Larson also serves as the administrator of the Development Corporation of Greater Fort Dodge, a nonprofit corporation dedicated to improving the downtown. It offers low-interest and forgivable loans for fixing up buildings.

The Fort Dodge native has been the business affairs specialist for about three years. She had worked and lived in other parts of the country for 20 years before returning to Fort Dodge about six years ago. She described coming back to Fort Dodge as ”one of the best decisions I’ve made.”

”I think I came back to a very alive, innovative community, a community that was working together to progress,” she said.

She graduated from Fort Dodge Senior High and has a bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership from Buena Vista University in Storm Lake. Larson hopes to become certified as an economic development professional. She started that certification process by completing the Heartland Economic Development Course offered by the International Economic Development Council and the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls.

Larson is a member of the board of directors of the Mid Iowa Growth Partnership. She also serves on the Legislative Governance and Primary Sector committees of the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance.