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Focus On Our Strengths

By Staff | May 22, 2012

To the editor:

I would like to address the comments made at the City Council meeting by Pete Hamilton, representing the group, Concerned Citizens for the Community Center. It is vital that each citizen in Palo Alto County know that the official written response received from VP of Operations at Wild Rose Entertainment is that the Casino will remain neutral on this project. There has been no threat of funding cuts to the nonprofit that generously supports project in our community.

I also firmly disagree with Mr. Hamilton’s assertion that Emmetsburg “is a 1A school with 3A facilities” that will “soon be playing 8 man football.” Our quality education system reflects the values of our community, and the success of our academic, athletic and extracurricular programs are a testament to this investment. It is this level of quality that continues to draw in new families and students. After a drop in student enrollment, recent kindergarten classes have grown into the 60’s, a trend that is expected to continue. The Little Irish Preschool is considering expanding to two classes next year to accommodate the growth of their program.

Mr. Hamilton ended with the statement, “If I had to make a mission statement for Emmetsburg it would be Jobs, Jobs, Jobs.” I could not agree more. However, it is important that we recognize that the future of economic development in our community is going to look different that it has in the past.

It is unlikely that a large manufacturing company will come into our community and provide hundreds of jobs, and I am not convinced that our economic security would benefit if this did happen. If there is one lesson we have learned from SkyJack it is that a company can leave just as easily as they came. It is time we stop waiting for someone from the outside to come in and save our economy, and instead come together to build our community from the inside, focusing on our unique strengths and finding ways to overcome our challenges.

I graduated from UNI’s Leisure, Youth and Human Services program with a Certificate of Tourism, and was an active member of STEP, a program that worked with rural communities to incorporate tourism as a sustainable part of their economies. My experience has made me a firm believer that promoting and developing opportunities for regional tourism will not only work in our community, but should be a vital part of any economic plan for our community.

Last August I was fortunate enough to listen to representatives from Angelou Economics, a nationally recognized economic development consulting firm, present their findings from a yearlong study of our county. Among their recommendations to encourage economic growth: increase regional tourism to the area by highlighting our natural resources. Building the 5 Island Community Center is a great beginning to accomplish this goal.

The question I continue to hear is, “How does this relate to economic development?” Visitors who come to our area to use facilities for special events, visit the Casino or enjoy our natural resources support the local economy by spending money at our hotels, our gas stations, our grocery stores, restaurants and bars. Though it may not directly create new jobs, regional tourism provides continued cash flow to our current businesses, stabilizing the local economy and offering means for these businesses to grow.

This is not a project that I wish to force on anyone. The Community Center will not be without challenges. It will need the support of our community, good management and a strong marketing plan to succeed. However, before making your decision, I encourage each of you to consider looking at the Community Center not as an individual project, but through the broader scope of promoting regional tourism as part of an overall economic development plan. Thank you for your time.


(signed) Kelly Higgins Bay

Emmetsburg, IA