Economist to study impact of ag park

Cargill and CJ Bio America together employ about 320 people in Webster County, but the economic impact of those companies extends well beyond the wages paid to those employees, according to leaders of the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance.

Figuring out the extent of that impact now and in the future as the ag industrial park west of Fort Dodge grows is the objective of a study commissioned by the Alliance. That study is now being conducted by Creighton University economist Ernie Goss.

Dennis Plautz, the chief executive officer of the Alliance, said the ultimate goal is to use the results of the study as an educational tool to explain how those plants and others expected to be built in the future will impact the area economy.

“We are not as interested in the particular numbers as we are in using the study as an educational model to demonstrate and show what the economic returns are from any private sector development that occurs,” he said.

“We feel it’s generally not well understood how new jobs and new income into a region is transferred throughout a region,” he added.

The study is expected to be done next month.

“The population profile for Webster County was negative,” Goss said during a telephone interview. “Now with the development of Cargill, that’s likely to change. Webster County will be thriving instead of surviving.”

He added that the energy and agricultural sectors of the economy are growing.

“The prospects are very positive,” Goss said.

The study will include economic projections through 2018. Goss said projections beyond 2018 would be “shaky.”

Plautz declined to say how much the study cost. He did say that several area entities helped to pay for it. Among those groups is the Corn Investment Corp., which was established in the 1990s when local leaders first tried to bring a corn milling plant to what is now the ag industrial park called Iowa’s Crossroads of Global Innovation.

Other groups contributing to the study are the Calhoun County Rural Electric Cooperative, Rockwell City; the city of Webster City; Corn Belt Power Cooperative, Humboldt; Humboldt County Development Association; Iowa Area Development Group, Des Moines; Iowa Central Community College; MidAmerican Energy; Midland Power Cooperative, Jefferson; Prairie Energy Cooperative, Clarion; Webster-Calhoun Cooperative Telephone Association, Gowrie; and the Webster County Farm Bureau,

MidAmerican Energy is also supplying Goss with some data, according to Plautz.

In addition to completing the study, Goss will be the keynote speaker at the Alliance’s annual dinner Thursday evening at the Best Western Starlite Village Inn & Suites, 1518 Third Ave. N.W.

Goss is the MacAllister Chair and professor of economics at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb. He is also the director of the Goss Institute in Denver, Colo., and a research faculty member at California State University-Fresno.

He has published more than 100 research studies. He’s the author of two books, ”Changing Attitudes Toward Economic Reform During the Yeltsin Era” and ”Governing Fortune: Casino Gambling in America.”