Regional Partners Join In Legislative Reception
Des Moines, Iowa – Staying relevant and on legislator’s minds is the reason over 20 of Oskaloosa and Mahaska County leaders visited the Iowa Capitol on Wednesday.
This is the third time this visit has been planned, but only the second time the visit has actually happened, and it appears to have been a successful day. Last year was cancelled because of bad weather.
To start the morning off, an ensemble of the Oskaloosa High School Orchestra opened each house of government. In the Senate, the ensemble had the opportunity of playing a few other selections before hand, something that hasn’t been done before.
Mahaska County Supervisor Mike Vander Molen said that the visit is a “good opportunity to get in front of the decision makers. We’re trying to think on a regional basis and how we are going to do transportation, and we’re trying to promote the Highway 63 corridor.”
Oskaloosa Mayor Dave Krutzfeldt was part of the original group that first time. The group at that time was looking to inform legislators about the importance of Highway 63, and trying to get the 100 mile stretch added to the Commercial Industrial Network in Iowa. “This time around, we’ve got some momentum going. We have the CIN designation.”
Krutzfeldt said that Iowa DOT Director Paul Trombino was recently in Oskaloosa, and has said there is some movement from the Iowa DOT on the 5 year plan in connection with Highway 63. “Those are the things that get me excited. So now instead of trying to push the ball and get things going, now we have momentum and hopefully we can steer this thing.”
Keeping the Oskaloosa region in the eyes of the legislators is important. “So much of the news that the legislators see is bad news, or they see where sections of Iowa’s smaller towns and cities are losing population, their economic developments aren’t particularly successful, we can come in and say, ‘yes, we are a place where you want to invest money because we have a growth record that’s happening’.”
“We have a united city council for Oskaloosa, a united city council for Pella, that are working together as much as they can to develop the region. We have a good relationship with Ottumwa that we can still do better on, but as far as I’m concerned this regional approach is what’s really going to sell well here at the state capitol.” Krutzfeldt added.
The approach is nearly in step with what state and federal entities are expecting from local governments. Everything from transportation to health care is now administered on a regional basis. Area 15 is an example of how transportation dollars are appropriated, not only in Mahaska County but the others within that region, and each community within that region competes for those dollars. Those 5 counties making up Area 15 Regional Planning Commission is Jefferson, Keokuk, Mahaska, Van Buren, and Wapello.
Krutzfeldt added, “It makes our message that much more effective when we can say that yes, we have a regional approach going on here. And so, as we have cooperation on this Highway 63. As we talk about the unanimous vote of the Mahaska County Supervisors along with the unanimous vote of the Oskaloosa City Council, along with the unanimous vote of the Pella City Council in establishing the South Central Regional Airport Agency, those kinds of things really light up the conversation where we can say to the state…we get it. We understand that to develop… we need to have a more regional approach and work cooperatively.”
An interesting aspect of the region the group was sharing during the day was the amount of large business that employ many Iowan’s in the region. “I think we can emphasis how important Oskaloosa and Mahaska County is to the State of Iowa,” Vander Molen shared.
Vander Molen, of course, is new to the position of county supervisor, and he commented that learning four of Iowa’s ten largest employers are sort of in our region was surprising. “We do provide a lot of the economic basis for the entire state so it’s important to promote our region and let the decision makers know that we really do impact Iowa.”