Ag economist talks about global-to-local rural economic perspective during Rural Economic Development Summit

MASON CITY — A renowned ag economist was the keynote speaker on Thursday at the Rural Economic Development Summit in downtown Mason City.

Dr. David Kohl discussed a global-to-local rural economic perspective with implications for the future of the north-central Iowa economy. Kohl says the rural economy can’t rely on the next big suggestion to come down the line.   “One of the things I’ll tell you is success in a rural community is not about a home run, it can be, but it’s about a series of base hits. Boy, be careful of chasing the next big thing, because if we had the next big thing, we’d have all the coastal venture capitalists here. That is one of the things I find that’s very, very important. You know what success in business is? It’s about being 5% better.”

Kohl says in the future, South America could have the biggest negative impact on the north-central Iowa ag economy.  “I want you to think about this as we look at the future of northern Iowa, rural areas, agricultural areas — Brazil is putting into production, and can put into production, half the size of the state of Kansas annually. No they aren’t ripping up the rainforest, it’s taking pasture land and putting it into crop production. You know the other thing they can do that we can’t do? They can triple crop. No, not double crop, they can triple crop.”

Kohl says “boomerangers”, people that live in larger cities who decide in their 40s and 50s to move back to rural Iowa with some operating businesses, can have a positive impact on the north-central Iowa economy.   “Folks, let’s be thinking about boomerangers and what’s going to be attracting those, because guess what? Those boomerangers are going to bring wealth back, but they are going to bring a different mindset, and folks, this area is ideal for the boomeranger.”

Kohl says one thing that does need to improve in rural America is access to high-speed internet.   “I’m just going to tell you, the United States is a third-world country when it comes to internet. I can go to Africa and have better internet service. We should be ashamed of ourselves on internet and internet service. You’re not going to get a boomeranger or a younger generation to stay if you don’t have it in your rural areas. Our politicians ought to be ashamed of themselves from a federal level, not local.”

The Rural Economic Development Summit was sponsored by First Citizens Bank in partnership with North Iowa Area Community College and the North Iowa Corridor Economic Development Corporation.