The second congressional district stretches fromLinn County in the north to the Iowa/Missouriborder in the South. The Mississippi River borders the east and Wayne Countyis the western-most reach of the district.
As with many Iowa congressional districts, the2nd is as diverse as its geographic spread --from 21st century agriculture tothe older traditional farming of the Amish -- from urban culture to rural Mainstreet.
But this year – and this year only – most of thedistrict had one common denominator: the floods. The water rushed in and taxedboth the emotions of thousands … and the economic viability of entirecommunities.
Jenny Cooper, Cedar Rapids: "It's very sad; they'revery disturbed by it. It's very hard to explain to them the mountains ofgarbage and the completely different appearance of things."
Dan Wilson, Columbus Junction Mayor: "A lotof our businesses have been shut down since June. People move elsewhere. So oursales tax receipts, our property tax receipts, all those things are going totake a hit."
Columbus Junction Mayor Dan Wilson's attentionis so focused on flood recovery; it seems to overshadow one of the morecontroversial issues that have affected his community – as well as the entirenation –immigration policy. The largestemployer in Columbus Junction is a Tyson poultry plant... which has helpedmaintain and grow a Hispanic population that has been there since the early1900s.
Dan Wilson, Columbus Junction mayor: "Myconcern is when it's talked about nationally it's talked about in a genericway. And it will change your mind on national immigration policy when you getto know the families and you hear the individual stories. I think part of theproblem with our illegal immigration issues is that we have so many barriers,the timeline is so slow and there is so little hope for people they don't see away to do it legally. So they're left with some very, very difficultdecisions."
Immigration is a tough issue when it affects atown's major employer. The volatility of depending on just one or two largecompanies is why many rural communities in the second district seek todiversify in any way possible.
For example, Fort Madison,home to the maximum security state penitentiary, is banking some of its futurein wind energy. In September of 2007,Siemens opened a wind turbine blade factory providing 260 jobs. The company is underexpansion and will create an additional 287 jobs.
Boasting a transportation infrastructure thatincludes barges, trucks and rail, the town hopes for further successfulrecruitment – particularly on an international scale. --by working to obtaindesignation as a free trade zone.
Steve Ireland, Ft.Madison mayor: "The PortAuthority is in the process of filing for a free trade zone for Lee Countyand once that happens and companies that locate here in FortMadison or Keokuk will be able to shiptheir goods into Lee County or out of Lee Countyfree of tariffs or certain taxes. And that's a huge economic benefit for thesecompanies. And it's a huge economic international tool for them also."
In addition to large scale employmentopportunities, some of the towns in the 2nd district hope to reap tourismbenefits from a new resort on Lake Rathbun in Appanoose County. It's called HoneyCreek Resort.
Linda Howard, Director of the Appanoose CountyCoalition for the Arts, Centerville: "Centerville is very, veryinterested in making sure that all of those new visitors to the county comesouth about 10 to 15 miles depending where they are on the lake and we have anumber of things that will draw them. We have wonderful festivals and as youcan see our square is beautiful. We have a lot of wonderful restoration."
From just the few stops in the2nd district, one thing is clear --- many of the towns are changing with thetimes to survive… whether it be from trying to become a "player" ininternational trade --- to welcoming new international residents to theworkforce.
Diversity comes in many forms andhas helped grow many communities. For Fairfield –a new population arrived in the 1970's when the defunct Parsons Collegewas purchased by what is now called Maharishi University of Management. And the town became an unlikely Mecca for those whopractice Transcendental Meditation.
Fairfield mayor,Ed Malloy: "This whole aspect of diversity adds so much. It brings a lackof dependence necessarily on a local economy and broadens it because with itcomes people who have economic ties outside of the community and bring inrevenue. It also brings in new ideas. It brings in fresh community involvement.It brings in ideas of how a community's going to be redefined going into thefuture."