The following article was originally posted on November 5, 2018 via the Ames Tribune

By Marlys Barker, Nevada Journal

During a presentation on jobs and economic development to the Story County Board of Supervisors last week, Dan Culhane, president and CEO at Ames Chamber of Commerce & Ames Economic Development Commission, talked briefly about a possibility that Ames and Story County could be selected as a location for two divisions of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Ames is one of 136 communities (one of five in Iowa) vying to be the location the USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA), both currently based in Washington, D.C. But, according to Culhane, Secretary of Ag Sonny Perdue and President Donald Trump are looking to move these agencies “out to where the constituents are.”

A number of communities in 35 states across the country, including, “every land-grant school in the United States, like Iowa State, Kansas State, etc., is vying for this project,” Culhane said during last Tuesday’s supervisors meeting.

In Iowa, the other communities putting in a bid for these projects are Ankeny, Council Bluffs, Des Moines and West Des Moines. Davenport and Bettendorf are included in a proposal submitted by the Quad Cities (a five-city urban area with three of the cities in Illinois).

Culhane said Ames submitted on behalf of the Iowa State University Research Park, in what will be a highly competitive process, where he noted politics is sure to be involved.

“The list goes on about all the host of reasons it (this project) could go somewhere else,” Culhane said. “We think the most logical place is here in Story County, given the significant USDA infrastructure we already have and the target market we have for agriculture here in the center of America.”

But, having said that and feeling that there is a compelling case for the project here, Culhane noted, “please don’t take that to the bank.”

One thing that was reported already by another news organization was that the Ames proposal for this project would give a $2,500 incentive for every employee who works at those USDA facilities today if they will move to Ames or Story County if the project locates here. That could call for an estimated $1.5 million payout, which Culhane said was a necessary offer.

“Keep in mind, please, that we would not have put that in there if we thought all 600 people (there are 600 jobs associated with the full project)” were coming to Ames. He said the offer of incentive funds was to try to “distinguish our proposal from everybody else’s.” Is $2,500 a good enough reason to relocate your family to the middle of America? Culhane answered the question by admitting he doesn’t know, but even if 150 people move, he said they’d find a way to raise the money to pay those incentives.

Culhane also stressed that he believes the workforce possibilities, because of Iowa State University, are on Ames’ side.

“One of the big caveats of this proposal was (that) we had to demonstrate workforce… that if this thing moves here that we could find people.” So the Ames proposal, he noted, relies heavily on the fact that Iowa State University graduates coming out of the colleges of business and statistics, economics and agriculture will provide a number of educated workers.

Story County Board of Supervisors Chairman Rick Sanders said he believes Ames/Story County is a community that will have to be strongly considered.

“Cross your fingers,” Culhane said. “It would be a great project. It’s two, four-story buildings set in the south side of the research park, but there’s a long way to go before we cut any ribbons or break any ground.”

According to a report in the “Iowa Farm Bureau Spokesman,” a new location or locations (if the two agencies are put into different communities) is expected to be announced by January 2019.

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