September 24, 2015 by Douglas Burns
Two years ago, Wild Rose was a vision, albeit one with high-resolution poster-board drawings, 75.1 percent community support and public-relations and lobbying firepower.
Now Wild Rose is a host.
And that’s the role the casino-and-entertainment complex played last Wednesday for the annual Greene County Development Corp. meeting.
“We were wanted here, I can tell you that,” said Tom Timmons, president and chief operating officer of Wile Rose. “I feel it every time I come here.”
Since opening on July 13, the casino has averaged 12,500 casino-floor patrons a week, or about 25 percent more than Wild Rose Emmetsburg, a facility the gaming operator and its allies used for many comparisons during the Jefferson campaign.
Like other Greene County leaders, Timmons highlighted labor as a crucial concern in the region. Related to that, he stressed the need for more housing in the county.
“No. 1 thing I’m hearing,” Timmons said of his employees. “They’d like to be living closer to where they work.”
Vaughn Bauer, an entrepreneurial-minded Paton ag-businessman, offered the same assessment in his remarks to the annual dinner.
“The biggest thing this county needs is housing,” Bauer said.
Wild Rose has said about half of its workforce comes from Greene County.
Ken Paxton, executive director of the Greene County Development Corp., presented an overview of the business climate in the area.
“This community is on a roll unlike just about any other community in Iowa,” Paxton said. “Even Gov. Branstad will support that.”
Added Paxton, “Everybody in this community is pulling on the same side of the rope.”
Paxton outlined several near-term goals for the economic-development organization: youth sports complex; development of a covered arena at the Greene County Fairgrounds; water park or aquatic center; Highway 30 Coalition membership; downtown revitalization; future expansion of the Greene County Early Learning Center; youth awareness of existing businesses; aggressive recruitment of new business; and development of spec warehouses, retail operations and other businesses.
Paxton urged Greene County residents and businesses to join the U.S. Highway 30 Coalition.
“I want them to look at us and say, “Whoa, where did all those people come from?’” Paxton said of the reaction he hopes to achieve from the statewide organization backing the full four-laning of U.S. 30 in Iowa.
A new traffic count factoring in the casino should boost efforts to get the federal route four-laned from Ogden to Scranton, Paxton said.
Peg Raney, the new program director for Jefferson Matters: Main Street, said downtown revitalization continues as a priority. Rooftop art, better use of the Raccoon River Valley Trail and the potential for an infusion of government grants to reshape central business district facades are priorities, she said.
“This is a very exciting time for Jefferson,” Raney said. “I think Jefferson and Greene County are on the map.”
Jane Fallon, general manager and vice president for Cargill Pork, said her organization is considering Grand Junction as the location of a feed mill that would process 6 to 12 million bushels of corn annually.
The mill would provide 30 jobs.
“This is still very much a project that’s high on our radar screen,” Fallon said.
Courtesy of Douglas Burns, The Jefferson Herald 9/24/15 and the Daily Times Heraldn 9/23/15.