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Posted on Oct 26, 2018

It’s all about balance in Grant County: Column

By Lisa Karstetter

Starting in 2000, and for the next seven years while I was serving as the manager of the Quincy Valley Chamber of Commerce and as a director on the board of the GCEDC, I had a front row seat at watching the ups and downs of a local economy that mostly relied on the ag industry to support it. If the commodity prices were down, then you saw the trickle-down effect as it hit every business in town in some way. Implement dealers, public services, small local businesses, restaurants, non-profit organizations suffered right along with our farmers. It was the nature of the game when you lived in a farming community. I spent many futile hours with members brainstorming on ways to generate more business for them.
In 2005, larger industries started moving to the county. REC, Microsoft, SGL, AstaReal, Amway, Mitsubishi, Yahoo, and many others. These companies brought many diverse jobs to the county along with an expanded tax base. It added a balance we hadn’t seen before. Soon the stores and restaurants were having year-around business, homes and developments were being built, improvements were being made to the city infrastructure and the overall economy in our county was stabilizing even during a recession. Job diversity added balance. Two of my own sons chose to move home after college to farm but up to this point, unless you wanted to work in the ag industry, you most likely had to move away from home for employment. One of the things I have enjoyed seeing most is my son’s classmates choosing to move back home for jobs that had been created by growth.
Continued economic development is important to our area and so is our ag industry. We need both to keep our small rural communities thriving. Balance is important. Most of the companies that have moved to our county in the last decade have done so because of our power, workforce, fiber and for the quality of life. Our current PUD commission has done an excellent job of working to understand a large complex business all the while protecting the core customers (irrigators, residential, small businesses) rates while allowing surplus power to be used to promote growth in our own county. There are currently three irrigators on the PUD commission, one retired businessman and a retired economic development executive. It’s a great mix and is a balanced board. Most boards around America strive to have diverse boards as it brings fresh and varied perspectives.
As someone who has attended many GCPUD meetings over the last 10 years, I have seen how the commission has really struggled to do what’s in the best interest of the GCPUD even if that meant upsetting those in their same rate class. That’s why it is important that we have different views at the table. We need commissioners who come from different backgrounds not just the farming industry. Different viewpoints are healthy.
We need a balanced, impartial board of qualified professionals to meet the challenges ahead, and that is why Terry Brewer and Patti Paris will be getting my votes, and I would urge you to do the same.

Lisa Karstetter is a former director of the Quincy Valley Chamber of Commerce.