The clubs in our 'Economic Development' golf bag

29 Jan 2021

Iowa, Letter from the CEO, Community

Some years ago, I read a book about golf. Before anyone makes fun of me, know that it was Golf for Dummies, and given my handicap, it didn’t work. I should have read Golf for Athletically Impaired Invertebrates.

There was one takeaway that stuck with me, though. The author, former PGA pro and announcer Gary McCord, suggested that amateurs match their swing tempo to their temperaments. If you’re relaxed and easygoing, swing slow and smooth like Freddie Couples, but if you’re wound tight, whirl that 3-wood like Nick Price.

The message, be who you are, is as applicable to life and leadership as it is to golf.

I would contend that communities also should follow McCord’s advice and play to their strengths. Over the past six and a half years, I’ve had the privilege to observe the Corridor region as an inside outsider, unencumbered by local rivalries or the baggage of “how things used to be.” Asked to name a few notable characteristics (my favorite clubs, so to speak) I might start with these:

Entrepreneurial – Maybe its the long winter months that afford plenty of time for hatching schemes, but people here in Northwest Iowa are always ready to try their hand as founders: Need a service? Start a business. Need a supplier? Start a business. Just plain tired of working for your boss? Why not start a business? In 10 years at the Corridor, new interim CEO Brian Dalziel has helped 104 startups. I suspect that’s only a smidge of the overall entrepreneurial activity.

Lacustrine – That’s a five-dollar word for lake-y. It may seem obvious, but this area is best known for it’s 20+ lakes. I therefore find it strange how some communities don’t advertise their proximity to H2O. If we simply ignore the artificial constraint of county borders, every town up here is a lake—and river—town.

Agricultural – I had a local farmer tell me recently that such-and-such a town in the Corridor “has never wanted ag businesses,” only to have a politician from the same town say a few days later that the economy is becoming ever more connected with and dependent upon agriculture. The first is not apparent to me; the second certainly is. That’s why the Corridor’s five-year plan targets ag technology as a growth sector.

Lovely – When the sun glitters through hoarfrost on a December morning, I can do nothing but offer up a prayer.

Productive—With apologies to Johnny Cash, we make everything, man. We make motorcycles, grain trailers, guard rails, desk chairs. Pork chops, saddle broncs, horse stalls, sliding doors. Race wheels, tractor wheels, grain hoppers and chopped wire. Augers, conveyors, fire suits, elevators. Machined parts, cast parts, dried eggs and slide gates. (By the way, how cool is it that Spirit Lake gets a mention in “I’ve Been Everywhere.”)

Diligent – The midwestern work ethic might be exaggerated, but it’s still pretty dadgum good.

Proud – Enough said.

This list might seem obvious, but that’s kind of the point. This region’s strengths are easy to identify. I’m sure we could name many others: Economic, geographic, and social. Together they form the competitive advantage with which the Corridor will win through to a better and brighter future.

Are there also weaknesses? Sure, every course has sand traps and water hazards. But when you’re standing on the tee, you can’t worry about losing your ball. You line up with the flag, keep your eyes down, and swing away.

Then, if you’re me, you yell, “Fore!!!”