Education pays off

EDITORIALS

BY ART CULLEN

Storm Lake is seeing a payoff in its support for Iowa Central Community College. The college announced that it purchased 12 acres on the city’s north edge on which it will build a jobs training center. President Dan Kinney says the project will be built in phases, and will be expanded as demand constantly grows for services. ICCC is able to do this because of support from Buena Vista County for a successful multi-million-dollar bond issue. Most of the revenue will go to improving the Fort Dodge campus. Storm Lake will get $1.8 million for the jobs training center. Laurens also will be the site of a jobs academy, helping to fill empty school district space with the high school vacating to Pocahontas.

Manufacturers need higher skills as plants automate. Iowa Central is helping to fill that void, along with many others such as English instruction for adults. The result is a stronger community attracting steadily higher wages. Education is the pathway to success.

Iowa Central partners with Storm Lake High School and Buena Vista University in a charter school program unique to the state. Students may obtain a high school diploma and an associate’s degree in five years of instruction, a program immensely popular with the children of the working class. It provides them a step up on the ladder to prosperity. We are seeing the results as this county outpaces all neighbors in manufacturing and population growth. It’s not just in meatpacking production jobs: it’s in machining, welding, nursing, drafting, computing and the three Rs. The program is producing undergraduates for Buena Vista and vo-tech students for Iowa Central who are committed to applying their skills around family in Storm Lake.

That’s organic growth seeded in education.

It’s why you should support the Buena Vista University Community Campaign. BVU is reaching deeply into the community to develop new ways to serve under the leadership of President Josh Merchant. The university is building new academic centers in rural affairs and agriculture whose whole purpose is to educate for tomorrow and build the regional community. Supporting Buena Vista delivers direct results to employers, to our own matriculating students and to the community.

And it’s why you should support the construction of a new early childhood education center in Storm Lake. The Iowa Legislature muffed things up by not extending the school sales tax beyond 2029. So the school board is forced to ask for a general obligation bond that will put a burden on the property tax base. There is no question about it. We can hope that the legislature will correct its error next session, and that the project could revert to sales tax funding and away from property taxes. It will be a heavy lift for some property owners. But it is worth it. This is where education starts. This is where you put your foot on the first rung of that ladder to success. It will pay off for Storm Lake in the end, as the middle school is paying off for us now (small as it is, unfortunately). These are things we simply must do to continue the pace of growth and vitality in Storm Lake. The Iowa Central project illustrates how voting for taxing the property tax base for new construction leads to growth in the overall tax base. The early childhood project will have the same effect as families recognize this is the place to live in Northwest Iowa.

Watch that swine flu

Here’s an interesting twist to throw into the world trade wars: An African swine virus is sweeping through four key pork-producing regions in China, causing feeder pig markets there to tank and sparking somewhat of a panic in the sector. The government has already culled 27,000 hogs and is just now reaching out to the vast and disorganized industry that ranges from modern confinements to backyard slops.

Pork is the primary protein source in China (soy is second), so domestic production is crucial to the economy. Chinese scientists and economists are warning of economic disruptions throughout Asia if the virus cannot be contained. And that isn’t easy. Russia has been beset by the virus for a decade, losing more than 1 million hogs to it.

It remains to be seen how long China can fend off US pork and soy imports in the Trump tariff tit-for-tat, and probably already is buying through a back door somewhere. The government is committed to improving the diets of the people and must deliver. It has developed deep and broad ties with the US agricultural scientific community and university research that cannot easily be unraveled. Not to mention being the lender of preference to the Trump corporate debt shell.

Trump unveiled a trade pact with Mexico of limited value to either side, but it was a victory to seize. The same will be done with Canada, and eventually China. Nothing much will change, but we will be selling them pork. They need us, and we certainly need them.