Life is good here. We all know that. And Shaun Arneson, Iowa Lakes Corridor vice president, told Estherville Rotarians Thursday just how good life is and how great it's going to get.
Now in its 20th year, Arneson said the Corridor has three representatives from each of its four counties - Buena Vista, Clay, Dickinson and Emmet.
Arneson said the private non-profit just started its four-year strategic plan with an eye toward making the area the most entrepreneurial in Iowa.
Arneson noted a number of programs the Corridor has sponsored over the years.
Earlier this month the Okoboji Entrepreneurial Institute was held - now in its seventh year. Students from Iowa regents schools, Buena Vista University and Iowa Lakes Community College attended.
Up to eight teams of four students each in various majors simulated businesses on computers, keeping track of profits. Students also had the opportunity to visit with local business leaders. Winning team members have included Lexi Hash from Estherville and an Iowa Lakes student from Emmetsburg.
In July the Corridor held a similar academy for middle-school students from the four counties with a theme of turning your hobby into a business. Ten students participated in the program now in its fifth year.
The Corridor will have a presence at the Clay County Fair this year in its new Innovation Pavillion. Arneson said some Estherville businesses will be among those exhibiting.
Arneson said the Corridor has also been promoting Junior Achievement the past two to three years at the kindergarten through fifth-grade level.
There's also the Be Your Own Boss program geared for high-school students.
The Corridor is also working with existing business and industry in developing a workforce for the area. He said the Corridor also continues to evaluate and maintain relationships with career centers.
Spousal employment is another key issue, said Arneson, since spouses play a key role in an employee taking a job. Toward that end, the Corridor highlights cultural and recreational activities available throughout the region.
The Existing Industry Call program is now in its sixth year, said Arneson. The Corridor works with local employers to determine how it can help grow businesses and make them more profitable.
Another program, the Location One Information System, inventories existing commercial and industrial buildings available in the area. Arneson said one goal is to make all industrial parks certified shovel-ready with all covenants and utilities in place.
Another program is the Peer Learning Group that helps industries with lean manufacturing practices share information.
The new marketing slogan is Good Job, People, Life, said Arneson, adding that the main focus is to get people to make the Corridor their residence.
And though its mission has expanded, the Corridor continues to attend trade shows in the wind and food industries and in manufacturing.
The Corridor is also working on bringing affordable housing to the area, said Arneson, noting that in the Corridor's focus groups housing continued to come up. He said the Corridor will continue to do what it can to help develop housing in the area.
"It's not just our four counties. It's happening throughout the entire state," Arneson said.