Whether you’re in New York City, Silicon Valley, or Des Moines, when a globally recognized company makes a big bet on your community, it’s news worth celebrating. Over the last decade, Iowa has had plenty of cause to celebrate when it comes to attracting significant economic development projects.
We know Iowa is a great place to live, work, and raise a family. But let’s face it: it takes more than a short commute and a friendly attitude to lure the world’s best, largest companies to the Hawkeye State. What often tips the scales, though, is laying the groundwork for future potential growth: the ability for a community to grow, expand and thrive based on key investments. Here in Iowa, this often means access to a strong workforce and agricultural economy, but it also means access to modern energy sources.
As we mark American Wind Week this week, it’s high time that we recognize just how important wind is to our economy.
Forward-thinking policies here in Cherokee County have helped us spur economic development and attract new investments. But the common thread across new projects in Iowa, including some of the biggest deals in our state’s history, isn’t limited to sound local tax policy or other incentives policy. That common thread among new development also includes ready access to reliable, affordable and environmentally friendly wind energy.
Wind’s emergence as the power source of choice for many businesses is good news for Iowa. We’ve quickly become a national leader in wind power. We are second in total wind capacity, and now over one third of our energy being produced comes from turbines in our fields.
More than ever before, the world’s most successful companies are embracing wind power as a “win-win” energy solution. Google’s recent investment in a wind farm in Cherokee County is a great example of this, and will bring new growth in our own backyard. The development will bring hundreds of thousands of dollars to the community in the form of land lease payments, employ dozens, and will lead to cleaner, safer and a more efficient energy future. By choosing wind power, a company is no longer forced to pick between smart economics and a sustainable mindset. Wind power provides both, and recent innovations in the field have made it possible for states like Iowa to become a hot spot for a modern-day economic success story.
Over the last few years, Apple, Microsoft, Google and Facebook - all recognizable names in every household across the country - have announced billions of dollars in new investment in Iowa – investments that have created jobs, revenue, opportunity and more. In each case, Iowa’s ability to meet these companies’ massive power needs entirely through clean, reliable and cost-effective wind power was a key driver in making these projects a reality.
Just how important is the role wind power plays in driving new investments? When Tim Cook announced that Apple would open a $1.4 billion data center in Waukee, he said they wouldn’t have selected Iowa were it not for the state’s wind output. Once complete, the facility will be powered with 100 percent renewable energy courtesy of Iowa wind. Facebook’s facility in Altoona, Microsoft’s facility in West Des Moines and Google’s facility in Council Bluffs also run on Iowa wind power.
Iowa’s wind energy leadership is playing a critical role in attracting new investment and expansion on the part of some of the world’s most-recognized and most-sought-after companies. Taken alongside the thousands of jobs, billions in capital investment, and tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue and lease payments powered by wind annually, it’s clear that Iowa’s wind industry is poised to keep our state growing for years to come.
A former Republican Iowa state senator, Bill Anderson is Cherokee County Economic Development Corp. executive director.