Ag park, airport highlighted in D.C. trip
Expanding the industrial park known as Iowa’s Crossroads of Global Innovation was a frequent topic of discussion Wednesday as Fort Dodge area representatives met with federal officials in the nation’s capital.
A group of 13 local leaders presented priority projects to members of Congress and their staff members during a full day of meetings on Capitol Hill.
“We really have a lot to show from where we were to where we are to where we want to be,” Webster County Supervisor Mark Campbell said Wednesday evening during a telephone interview from Washington.
He said fostering relationships with federal officials is a prime objective of the annual lobbying trip.
“Communication is the key to everything we do here,” Campbell said.
Laying the groundwork for some possible federal assistance for projects is the other purpose of the trip. Fort Dodge Mayor Matt Bemrich said congressional staffers alerted the local representatives to some grant opportunities they had not discovered on their own.
The industrial park west of Fort Dodge was mentioned repeatedly.
“Everyone we bring that project up to is very excited,” Bemrich said.
U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Kiron, described the park as the “most exciting piece of economic development property in Iowa” during a telephone interview Wednesday evening.
U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican, said Wednesday afternoon that the site will be soon be giving ag-industrial parks in Eddyville and Blair, Neb., competition for the title of top producer.
CJ Bio America is building a plant in the industrial park that will make amino acids for livestock feed. Two of the company’s executives, President Jung Tak Nam, and Lance Choi, a vice president and managing director, are part of the group now in Washington. Fort Dodge City Councilman Dave Flattery said their presence lends added credibility to discussions of the site.
Local leaders hope to get some federal help to pay for a new railroad spur in the park.
Fort Dodge Regional Airport
The needs of Fort Dodge Regional Airport were presented to the federal officials. Some of the delegation members started their workday by talking to U.S. Department of Transportation staffers, according to Bemrich. He said they talked about the future of the Essential Air Service program which provides an annual subsidy to help pay for Great Lakes Airlines flights to and from Fort Dodge. Bemrich added that the upcoming renovation of the terminal and a planned expansion of the building that houses the airport’s maintenance vehicles and fire trucks were explained.
The mayor said local representatives will meet with the Federal Aviation Administration this morning to discuss possibly moving an outer marker that’s part of the instrument landing system.
Jim Kersten, associate vice president of Iowa Central Community College, went across the Potomac River to the Pentagon to discuss the school’s biofuels testing lab with defense officials. Kersten said the Department of Defense buys 100 million barrels of fuel a year to power everything from jets to cars. He said a small amount of that fuel is from renewable sources.
He said he talked to the under secretaries of the Army and the Navy about the possibility of using the college’s lab to test biofuels to see if they are of high enough quality to be used by the military.
Kersten also contacted Department of Education officials about applying for grants to purchase equipment for the college’s nursing program.
A session with the United States Department of Agriculture is scheduled for this morning in addition to the meeting with the FAA.
The delegation is scheduled to return to Fort Dodge this evening.
Grassley said he will help the community try to obtain as much federal assistance as possible. That task is complicated, he said, by the federal budget cuts called sequestration and the fact that senators and representatives no longer earmark federal money for projects.
”The way we help is by writing letters in support of grants,” he said.