ISU head Leath visits Fort Dodge
Steven Leath, president of Iowa State University, visited Fort Dodge Monday to hear about recent successes in job creation,
Leath, who has been president of Iowa State University for just over a year, has been visiting several Iowa communities to hear their stories and to discuss ISU’s involvement in economic development and programs they offer businesses.
“Our main focus of community visits is economic development,” said Leath, who spoke at Webster County’s ISU Extension office, as well as to members of the Fort Dodge Noon Rotary Club.
Dennis Plautz, chief executive officer of the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance, gave a presentation on the agricultural-industrial park known as Iowa’s Crossroads of Global Innovation, along with the many upgrades made to improve the quality of life in the area.
“In the past six or seven years so many things have undergone improvements and upgrades,” said Plautz. “You have to provide a community people are willing to come to and want to stay in. Partnerships with Iowa Central and Iowa State are critical with the companies we have coming to the community.”
“We are trying to grow our population,” said Randy Kuhlman, chief executive officer of Fort Dodge Community Foundation and United Way.
Leath, who also visited the ag park, said the community should remain in conversation about how it might benefit from the help of Iowa State.
“We need thoughtful input,” said Leath. “We want you to be in constant dialogue about what we can do to help your community.”
Leath said that Iowa State’s Center for Industrial Research and Service, Institute for Physical Research and Technology and other resources would benefit Fort Dodge and Webster County.
“It is through partnerships where we make the most impact,” said Leath. “We want to see people come to Iowa and to your community.”
Having such entities to assist with economic development has created more of a demand for ISU’s services, Leath said.
“We want to become the most demand-driven state university in the country,” he said. “To be successful we have to keep research-based, but also need to be willing to work with the private sector.”
Leath shared some statistics that have shown that the demand for Iowa State graduates is growing.
“We have about a 90 percent placement rate at graduation for our students,” he said. “But it is a challenge. Companies tell us they like Iowa State graduates. They move up the corporate ladder. They tell us our students are bright and they want them.”
While there is a demand for ISU graduates, Leath said it is important to try to keep them in or bring them back to Iowa.
“It can be a challenge,” he said. “It’s a challenge locally, at the county level and statewide. It’s a challenge for Governor Branstad. We want to keep graduates in Iowa and the best thing we can do for them is create jobs. Companies want our graduates, but we want to try to keep them in Iowa.”