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The opportunity to author this statewide perspective was a timely invitation. I couldn’t say no to the chance to offer a final commentary, and most importantly, share my thanks and appreciation for the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives’ support in my service as president of the Iowa Area Development Group (IADG) these past 25 years.

Crisis brings leadership

In the early 1980s, a gut-wrenching recession grabbed ahold of the Midwest. As farmers faced foreclosures, factories closed their doors and entire communities struggled, Iowa rural electric cooperative leaders came together to fashion plans for recovery and a brighter future.

By 1985, IADG was established with a mission of restoring hope, fostering investment, creating new jobs and enhancing community vitality. United in purpose, Iowa cooperatives committed to becoming leaders in economic development.

Following a crisis, individuals and organizations often revert to the status quo. They forget, or worse yet, give up on the investments and commitments that led them onward and upward. Fortunately, cooperative leaders are different. They take measured steps and then double down on what works and serves the best interests of their members. 

A 25-year long blessing

IADG was well-established and its economic development leadership and accomplishments were highly regarded by 1997. The organization was also amid its first executive transition. During the process, I received a call encouraging me to consider becoming a candidate to lead the organization forward. Apparently, there were some rural electric cooperative leaders that felt my familiarity with business and community development, government and utilities might be a good fit.

I feel so fortunate for my selection 25 years ago. The opportunity to lead the efforts, services and support Iowa rural utilities make in advancing economic development for our state has been a true blessing. 

Cooperative vision creates success

Economic development participation and engagement don’t come without risk. It often draws naysayers and skeptics and always comes with an abundance of public scrutiny. Thankfully, the investment that Iowa cooperatives have made in economic development has been rewarded by adding and diversifying power sales, welcoming new members and helping the communities they serve to revitalize and prosper.

During my tenure at IADG, cooperative leaders have held steadfast to their values of “cooperation among cooperatives and “commitment to community.” They have continued working together, creating new partnerships and a rich toolkit for continued business and community development success.

Change and transition are once again underway at IADG. The board of directors has chosen Bruce Nuzum, an IADG veteran, as the new president and CEO. He is well prepared with a rich skillset and capacity for hard work. His background and experience will allow him to hit the ground running. He also has a tremendous team to help him. Saying farewell to IADG stakeholders has been made easier by his selection.

Please accept my thanks, gratitude and best wishes for all you have made possible. Most of all, please remain committed to economic development.

Rand Fisher is the president of the Iowa Area Development Group. He will retire on Jan. 31.

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