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A theme for this year’s National Co-op Month is “By the Community, For the Community.” Developing industrial property to support business growth and job creation is a perfect example of this in practice.

For three and a half decades, Iowa’s electric cooperatives have supported the development of 95 industrial parks totaling more than 7,250 acres of property. Why is this important? Industrial parks are instruments for attracting business investment and for creating jobs. Established industrial parks generate comparative and competitive advantages that attract innovative businesses, leading to more jobs and a larger tax base.

Serving a growing number of commercial and industrial customers

In 1985, Iowa rural electric cooperatives established Iowa Area Development Group as their economic development organization to lead a concerted effort to grow the business and industrial base in Iowa. The number of commercial & industrial (C&I) customers the cooperatives are serving is an indicator of this initiative’s success.

Here is a snapshot of progress over the last 35 years:

  • Large C&I members have grown from 67 in 1985 to 321 in 2020.
  • Small C&I members have grown from 4,590 in 1985 to 28,713 in 2020.
  • In 1985, C&I sales were 14% of total sales; in 2020 they were 54%. 
  • In 1985, C&I revenues were 12.6% percent of total revenues; in 2020 they were 45%.

Industrial parks bring unique benefits to the communities and regions in which they are located. Here are three examples from across the state.

Stanton Technology Park

Stanton recently broke ground on the 22-acre Stanton Technology Park located on the city’s northeast side at the intersection of U.S. Highway 34 and Halland Avenue. Farmers Mutual Telephone Company (FMTC) will provide robust technology and connectivity capabilities to the park, which is necessary to attract high-tech companies looking to locate in a rural area. The Stanton Child Resource Center will be the first business to locate in the park. Onsite day care is a perfect amenity to attract companies to the park. Both Southwest Iowa REC and FMTC have provided financial support and will serve the park’s electric power and technology needs.

Calhoun County Business Park

In early June, a groundbreaking ceremony was held to recognize the start of construction on the Calhoun County Business Park. This is the county’s first business park and is strategically located at the intersection of U.S. Highway 20 and Highway 4 north of Rockwell City. The 16.5-acre first phase is currently under development. When all four phases are complete, the park will provide 115 acres of industrial space. Top prospects for the park include cold storage, warehouse, distribution and logistics companies. Calhoun County Electric Cooperative Association and Corn Belt Power Cooperative are partners in the park and are joined by Iowa Lakes Electric Cooperative and Butler County REC in providing financial support for development.

Butler Logistics Park

The Butler Logistics Park is a prime example of the significant development that can happen as a result of available industrial space. Since the creation of the 92-acre first phase in 2014, the park has seen phenomenal expansion and success. Phase one is now home to POET ethanol plant, American Colloid and Zinpro, as well as a rail classification yard serving up to 150 cars for Iowa Northern Railway.

In 2019, the 230-acre second phase was quickly purchased by TrinityRail, a $60 million facility for rail repairs, maintenance and modifications. This project created approximately 250 jobs. Also in 2019, Valor Victoria, Iowa Northern Railway Company (IANR), Watco Companies and Union Pacific (UNP), launched an internationally focused intermodal service through the newly developed Butler Intermodal Terminal at the Butler Logistics Park. This service provides an alternative to larger Midwest rail hubs and provides shippers with a cost-competitive solution that reduces long-haul trucking miles.

“Iowa Northern is thrilled to be part of this remarkable new service product for Iowa industries seeking strategic solutions to maintain a competitive global presence in the marketplace,” says Daniel Sabin, president of Iowa Northern Railway.

In 2021, Shell Rock Soy Processing, a new start-up venture, purchased approximately 100 acres in the park’s third phase to construct a soy processing facility. Scheduled to open in 2022,  this facility will employ 50-60 workers and is expected to crush 38.5 million bushels of soybeans annually.

Currently, 60 acres are available on the south side of the park for additional development. This is truly a “build it, and they will come” story made possible through important partnerships between Butler County REC, local, regional, state and federal partners.

Additional industrial and business parks in various stages of development are located across Iowa, including LeMars, Estherville, Algona, Humboldt, Marion and more. Visit to view available properties.

By the community, for the community

Electric cooperatives’ active community involvement ensures a firsthand understanding of local priorities and enables them to make informed decisions on long-term investments.

While the theme “By the Community, For the Community” can take on a variety of meanings, it applies perfectly when recognizing the contributions electric cooperatives have made in generating business and industrial growth, which then create jobs and wages that support the people and communities they serve.

Kay Snyder is the director of marketing and communications for the Iowa Area Development Group.

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