U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa (left), and Carroll Area Development Corporation Executive Director Shannon Landauer listen to presentations from Carroll County leaders in Ernst's office last week.
U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa (left), and Carroll Area Development Corporation Executive Director Shannon Landauer listen to presentations from Carroll County leaders in Ernst's office last week.

June 18, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C.

Carroll County economic-development leaders took their case for a raft of initiatives from expanding natural gas service in Manning to digital job opportunities in the county to improvements at the Carroll Recreation Center to the halls of Congress and the White House last week.

The Access Washington delegation, a decade-long project aimed at boosting west-central Iowa’s profile in the nation’s capital, also advocated for the four-laning of U.S. Highway 30 across Iowa, the expansion of prisoner-built workforce housing from Newton into more of Iowa, a rural Medicare demonstration project that’s been key for St. Anthony Regional Hospital, Carroll’s largest employer, and Medicaid improvements for New Hope Village, Carroll’s fifth-largest employer.

“You have a very vibrant community,” U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said.

Grassley said Carroll is one of a select cities to send an annual delegation to Washington. It makes a big difference, he said.

“More important than the half hour with me is what my staff learns and follows up on,” Grassley said.

The Carroll County delegation included: Shannon Landauer, executive director of the Carroll Area Development Corporation; Carroll Mayor Eric Jensen; Carroll County Supervisor Gene Meiners of Templeton; Rick Hunsaker, Region 12 Council of Governments executive director; Carroll City Manager Mike Pogge-Weaver; Manning City Administrator Dawn Meyer; and Carroll Times Herald co-owner Douglas Burns, a member of the Carroll Area Development Corporation and Greene County Development Corporation.

“The trip this year brought a couple days full of meetings on the topics prepared by Carroll County communities and businesses,” Landauer said. “The purpose of CADC providing this opportunity each year is to help find solutions to local issues. One example is Manning finding contacts within the Department of Transportation to help with permits needed for expansion of their natural gas system. Meetings such as these are providing our local team with direct points of contact at the federal level, helping to expedite issues and provide opportunity to discuss impacts of regulation.”

Over two days, the delegation met with Grassley, U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, Trump administration officials at the White House’s Old Executive Office Building, the location of Vice President Mike Pence’s office, and U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna, a California Democrat who represents Silicon Valley and has been active in encouraging tech leaders to locate career positions in Jefferson and Carroll.

“I think if we can get it to work in places like Jefferson and Carroll, then maybe we can try Roanoke in southern Virginia or Paintsville, Kentucky, or Mississippi,” Khanna said in a meeting with the Carroll delegation outside of an House Armed Services Committee hearing.

He added that extending digital jobs to rural areas is key to stitching a nation divided largely on rural-urban identities back together.

“I think we are going through a technology revolution similar to the Industrial Revolution,” he said. “No one would argue that we shouldn’t have had the Industrial Revolution. The Industrial Revolution did a lot of good. It’s why America’s leading the world. But there was a lot of pain during the Industrial Revolution, a lot of economic inequality, a lot of communities were left out, and I see a similar transformation happening in our economy. Software is transforming everything.”

In a meeting with King, the Carroll delegation secured a commitment from the Kiron Republican to elevate his role in the fight to fully four-lane Highway 30 across Iowa. As it stands, only 16 percent of Highway 30 is two lane between Ogden and Chicago — and the 30 Corridor is the fastest-growing in Iowa outside of the interstate system.

At federal agency meetings, Pogge-Weaver discussed the potential costs associated with stringent copper-effluent limitations, as Carroll is one of a handful of cities being regulated for copper discharge. That’s happening to protect fish and aquatic life in the Middle Raccoon River. But the amount of copper permitted for discharge remains 34 times lower than what is permitted to be in the drinking water. The result of the regulations could be millions of dollars in necessary improvements that could hike utility bills.

Specifically, Pogge-Weaver is seeking a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant for the project or a change to the copper effluent limitations for Carroll.

“We think this a pretty unique circumstance,” he said.

On the proposed $9.6 million improvement plan for the Carroll Recreation Center, which would involve a gym expansion and major improvements to the pool and is set to start next year if a November referendum is successful, the Carroll delegation is seeking a $1.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which would cover 15 percent of the renovations.

Certain federal grants hinge on cities being less than 10,000 in population, making the outcome of the 2020 Census vital for the City of Carroll, which now stands at 10,103 people officially. On the one hand, economic development leaders want to see growth, but on the other, eligibility for grants will increase if the population dips below 10,000.

For the second time in the delegation’s history, members made it on the White House grounds for a meeting. Last Tuesday, the group rolled over a host of Carroll County issues with Nicholas Pottebaum, a special assistant to President Donald Trump.

Burns, from the Carroll delegation, used the meeting to issue an invitation for the president to hold an event in Carroll.

We are a robust rural community, and we’re located between Des Moines and Omaha and Sioux City, meaning you could pull television coverage from three areas,” Burns said. “The county overwhelmingly went for the president in 2016, and the president retains strong support in our county. We have a lot of rural development, and the president would do well to see the value in making four-laning Highway 30 a showcase of his administration’s infrastructure plan, a plan we hope gets bipartisan support and takes wing.”