Living the good life
IDA GROVE – Northwest Iowans have always known that Ida County is a unique place, but now it’s official. A national farm magazine recently selected Ida County as the “3rd Best Place in the Nation to Raise a Family,” and the buzz hasn’t died down yet.
“After those rankings were released, we’ve been receiving calls from across the nation from people wondering how we’ve escaped the economic recession,” said Rita Frahm, president of Ida County Economic Development. “Our mission statement sums it up for us: ‘Our investments made today are creating opportunities for tomorrow in Ida County.'”
Each year, a list of rural counties around the country is compiled based on certain criteria, including home and land prices, crime rates, environment, education, economic factors, access to health care and more. With a population of approximately 7,800 residents, Ida County is one of the state’s smaller counties, but it boasts an impressive array of big accomplishments, including:
- VT Industries Inc. The leading manufacturer of architectural wood doors, fine laminate countertops and stone surfaces is completing an expansion of their headquarters in Holstein.
- GOMACO. This Ida Grove-based company that supplies equipment for concrete construction projects completed a 100,000-square-foot expansion of its facility about six months ago.
- Renewable energy. Quad County Corn Processors, Maple River Energy, Air Liquide and the Galva Holstein Ag retail site outside of Galva are referred to as Ida County’s Avenue of Energy.
“There’s a lot of entrepreneurship in Ida County, and you’re never alone in the country,” said Klint Cork, 37, an Ida County native and fourth-generation farmer who sells grain to both Quad County Corn Processors and Platinum Ethanol near Arthur.
- Horn Memorial Hospital. A $5 million dollar, three-year project completed in 2008 includes a new surgery area, maternity wing, conference center, physical therapy and cardiac rehab areas, and many other improvements for this important regional medical center located in Ida Grove.
- Small business loans. The U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded Ida County $89,003 to assist in establishment of a $190,000 revolving loan fund to provide gap financing for startup or expanding small businesses in the county. The first loan was made to 19-year-old Sam Bennett to purchase a woodworking business. “It’s a great example of succession planning,” said Frahm, who has lived in Ida County 22 years and serves as a vice president at Heritage Bank in Holstein.
These signs of progress don’t happen by accident, Frahm added. “Collaboration between our supervisors, communities, financial institutions, utility providers, business owners, Iowa State University Extension, Iowa Farm Bureau, local schools and community colleges have created a network of resources that allow for great opportunities for our residents.
“Participation in our regional economic development organization, Western Iowa Advantage, has allowed us to leverage our resources further and extend our network.”
Supporting the next generation
Quality education also remains a high priority in Ida County. A statewide newspaper recently recognized Galva-Holstein as one of the state’s top college prep schools and the district is also constructing the new Rosemary Clausen Performing Arts Center.
In addition to providing a venue for students to enhance their skills in drama, debate and instrumental and vocal music, the state-of-the-art facility will be able to seat more than 300 people. It will serve as a meeting place for area businesses and civic organizations, with facilities for audio-visual presentations and seminars.
Supporting students’ lifelong educational and career goals is a key focus in the Battle Creek-Ida Grove school district. The BCIG Citizens’ Scholarship Foundation, for example, has given $1.24 million to high school seniors during the past 14 years, which equates to nearly $3,500 per student.
“There’s a tremendous amount of philanthropy and in Ida County,” said Frahm, who added that the sustainably-endowed Ida Grove Community Recreation Center also highlights community supporters’ willingness to invest in the future of Ida County.
These amenities make Ida County an attractive place to live, said Chris Clark, 42, of Ida Grove, who works with Farm Financial Strategies, Inc. to help families with farm transition planning.
“I moved to Ida County in 1991 and have stayed here,” Clark said, “because it offers a great quality of life and a healthy social fabric supported by a good mix of agriculture, industry and related businesses.”
The county’s modern recreation centers in Ida Grove and Holstein, along with an active network of 4-H clubs and a thriving county fair, also appeal to Clark and his wife, Marj, who are the parents of two children, Truman, 7, and Ruthie, 4.
“Ida County is a great place to raise kids, and we feel blessed to live here,” Clark said.
Ida County has also proven attractive to native sons like Delayne Johnson, 43, who grew up on a farm near Galva and pursued career opportunities out of state before returning to his roots in 1994.
Today, Delayne is general manager of Galva Holstein Ag and Maple River Energy near Galva, which includes a new soybean crush facility, refinery and biodiesel plant with a capacity of 5 million gallons.
“I always wanted to live in Ida County,” said Johnson, who is grateful that he and his wife, Anne, can raise their two sons, Seth and Mason, here. “There are many economic opportunities in Ida County. I also appreciate the simple things, like living in a rural area where the people still have good values and you can see the stars in the night sky.”
Ida County’s national recognition simply re-affirms what local residents have known all along, Frahm said. “Ida County is a great place to live, work, raise a family and enjoy life at its fullest.”
To learn more about Ida County, log onto www.idacounty.org.
Contact Darcy Dougherty Maulsby by e-mail at email@example.com.
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