D.C. trip to tout FD, county

Members of Iowa’s congressional delegation and other federal officials will get an update on developments in Webster County this week from local leaders who will travel to Washington, D.C.

Eight city and county officials, joined by two engineers involved in major projects, will visit the nation’s capital Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. They’ll attempt to secure federal money to help pay for things like railroad tracks at an industrial park and downtown improvements.

The effort to get a new airline serving Fort Dodge via the federal Essential Air Service program will also be a “hot topic with each of the legislators and their staff,” said Mayor Matt Bemrich.

Bemrich said that continuing to cultivate relationships with federal officials is just as important as securing money for projects.

“It’s always good, I believe, to go out and foster the relationships we’ve been building and thank the folks for their help in the past,” he said.

“Those relationships are often what results in Fort Dodge getting opportunities,” he added.

Bemrich said he knows there are people who don’t like the idea of the federal government investing in local projects. But he said Fort Dodge residents are paying taxes to the federal government, and their tax dollars will be spent in other communities if local leaders aren’t successful in getting some of them reinvested in Webster County.

“We’re hoping to go out there, bring back some of their tax dollars and create opportunities for them,” he said. “If we do not go out and ask and participate in the system, someone who does will get those dollars.”

Annual lobbying trips to Washington, D.C., have been made for about 13 years.

This year’s agenda includes meetings with U.S. senators Chuck Grassley, a Republican; and Tom Harkin, a Democrat; and U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa. The group will also meet with U.S. Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa, who used to represent Webster County. More than a decade ago, Latham suggested that local officials start visiting Washington.

A visit with U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, is also scheduled because he is the Democratic nominee for the Senate seat Harkin will retire from at the end of this year.

The topics to be discussed during the trip include:

The federal Renewable Fuel Standard that’s important to the ethanol industry.

The Essential Air Service program.

A runway rehabilitation project at Fort Dodge Regional Airport.

A railroad spur and utility expansions for the industrial park called Iowa’s Crossroads of Global Innovation.

Downtown improvements.

A new industrial park on the east side of Fort Dodge.

A campground and additional trails at the Gypsum City Off-Highway Vehicle Park.

The widening of U.S. Highway 20.

In addition to Bemrich, the local officials making the trip to Washington are Councilman Kim Alstott; Webster County Supervisor Mark Campbell; Rhonda Chambers, director of aviation at Fort Dodge Regional Airport; City Manager David Fierke; Jim Kersten, associate vice president of Iowa Central Community College; Councilman Terry Moehnke; and Dennis Plautz, chief executive officer of the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance. The two engineers accompanying the officials are Derick Anderson, northwest Iowa market manager for McClure Engineering Co., of Fort Dodge; and Wade Greiman, transportation group leader for Snyder & Associates, of Ankeny.