SIOUX CITY | Nearly 80 businesses and other organizations joined The Siouxland Initiative in the last year, boosting membership in the private tri-state economic development group by 55 percent.

The number of "investors' in The Siouxland Initiative, or TSI, now stands at 123, up 44 from the 79 individual investors last year, TSI President Chris McGowan said.

McGowan announced the rapid growth rate during TSI's annual luncheon Friday at Country Celebrations in Sioux City. He attributed the increase to the efforts of the organization's board of directors and past chairman Jim Jensen, who last year challenged more employers to invest in the organization.

The tri-state area's robust economy also played a role in the expanded membership rolls, he said.

"I think people have recognized our efforts to grow the economy and our contributions to the overall region," McGowan said in an interview after the meeting,

Founded in 1988, the organization receives 100 percent of its budget from voluntary donations. About 75 percent of its funding comes from the private sector, while the remaining 25 percent is generated from contributions from local governments and other public sector bodies.

Skip Perley, the new chair of the TSI board, highlighted the region's economic successes. The $2 billion expansion of CF Industries Port Neal fertilizer complex has given a huge boost to scores of area businesses. With the thousands of temporary construction workers assigned to the project gradually leaving town, the level of business activity is returning to a more normal level.

"But it will be a new normal, better than when they came,'' he told the audience. Perley, CEO of Sioux City-based Tec Corp., cited a number of big-ticket projects that remain to be completed, such as the new Seaboard Triumph Foods pork plant in Sioux City and a major expansion of the Royal Canin pet food plant in North Sioux City.

More than 100 business leaders attended Thursday's luncheon, which was sponsored by Western Iowa Tech Community College. TSI's annual meeting rotates among sites in Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota.

The keynote speaker for the TSI was Gene McNaughton, president of Elite Concepts Business Growth Consulting. McNaughton's 20-year career included over a decade at North Sioux City-based Gateway Computers.

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