Vote yes for Iowa Central

But give Storm Lake a shot at career center


Iowa Central Community College has become vital to Storm Lake, especially over the last 20 years as The City Beautiful has grown so much with the arrival of largely unskilled immigrants. Iowa Central is educating teenagers and adults in everything from the basics of English to welding to nursing. It is the first rung on the ladder of success for so many aspiring Americans. Iowa Central was Buena Vista University’s first and most important partner in offering 2+2 degrees across the state through satellite centers.

So of course in that spirit we are all for Iowa Central’s request for voters to approve of a $29 million general obligation bond issue that will increase our property taxes by about a buck a year. The money will be used for improvements on the Fort Dodge campus, including Decker Auditorium, which are entirely appropriate and no doubt needed.

Community colleges are asked to do ever more on basically a static budget from the state. They are the place where the rubber meets the road for workers, but remain the stepchild of the higher education establishment that prefers to lavish riches on football coaches. Community colleges in Iowa are one of the most efficient ways to invest public education resources. Legislators have yet to appreciate it in the way they appropriate.

Community colleges need all the help they can get.

So we urge you to vote “Yes” on Dec. 6 to approve the bond issue that will build a better college for tomorrow.

The issue has a component that is especially intriguing: a $2.5 million career center that will serve up to 100 students from the northwest quadrant of Iowa Central’s nine-county region. Iowa Central President Dan Kinney said he would like to locate it in unused but perfectly suitable facilities in either Laurens or Albert City. It would serve 100 students, half of whom will commute from Storm Lake.

Which begs the question:

If half the students are from Storm Lake, why is the career center not proposed for here?

Many moons ago we suggested that the former South School would be an ideal site for a careers program. Iowa Central ruled it out. It will become apartments instead.

In lieu of cheap space in Storm Lake, cheap space exists in Albert City and Laurens. Its cheapness will be exhausted after about a year of transportation costs between Laurens and Storm Lake.

Offering some sweetness to Albert City and Laurens is the right thing to do. It may help lure in a few votes from people who otherwise would not give something to an outfit from Fort Dodge or Storm Lake. Unfortunately, workers and industry have voted with their feet to the Webster and Buena Vista County seats. Those two small cities need every bit of support they can get, too. In some ways, Storm Lake’s challenges to grow sustainably present greater challenges than those facing Laurens. For example, training second-generation immigrants — the first in their families often to get past elementary school — is an enormous challenge that neither the Storm Lake School District nor Iowa Central can adequately address in the current political/budget environment.

Iowa Central has been adroit in offering programs where needs and resources appear, such as offering vo-tech instruction at Newell-Fonda. Laurens’ stable of small manufacturers can call anytime for on-site assistance from Iowa Central (or Iowa State University, for that matter) to help solve problems, train workers and find new markets.

For better or worse, Iowa Central has built critical mass in Storm Lake and Fort Dodge where the funds should be concentrated. These are where the people live and where the jobs are. President Kinney would do well to add Storm Lake into the mix of potential sites for a career center. This is where the League of Schools was founded, the precursor to Iowa Central in Storm Lake. This is where the most need is. And, this is where the greatest number of college constituents live outside of Fort Dodge. A closer look at Storm Lake is deserved.

No matter where career training is located, it is needed. This bond issue will benefit Buena Vista County and Storm Lake in that it makes Iowa Central stronger. Vote yes. And lobby for that career center in Storm Lake, where it belongs.