Iowa’s 4th Congressional District is a misshapen collection of 268 towns and cities located in 28 Iowa counties that are as diverse as the State itself.
The sideways stocking-shaped district is rich with farms and fertile fields, with the center part tending to be glacier-flattened, and the eastern part more rocky - with hills that roll towards the Mississippi River.
Unlike the other districts that have a large urban area and many small communities, district four has a number of mid-sized communities. The largest is Ames, which has 46,600 residents. Marshalltown, Fort Dodge, and Mason City are next in size, with populations around 28-thousand. The other communities in the district have populations of fewer than 13-thousand people.
The desire to keep Main Street alive and viable is part of this district’s voting persona.
Of all Iowa Congressional Districts, the 4th looks the most stereotypical: small towns and rural acreages. But, the people here have kept up with the times, and are building towards the future in some surprising ways. Their top issues reflect these modern interests.
The district’s leaders are encouraging entrepreneurship as well as drawing in manufacturers and tourists. They want to make sure people can travel in their district, and so transportation is also important here.
Health care availability is an ongoing concern, as well. And, many of these Iowans are military veterans, with the younger generation currently playing their part in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Traditional agriculture is a priority to the economic health of this district. But there are several new players – and new pressures - in the Ag-Game.
With many ethanol plants on Iowa’s northern tier, continual research and political power will be needed to keep these plants alive and profitable.
Meatpacking, an important part of the ag economy, has been buffeted by Immigration raids on processing plants in both Marshalltown and Postville. Many workers in those plants have been removed, disturbing the commerce, education, and social structure of the communities.
And, while there is a need for workers here, willing workers from outside the U.S. are thwarted by nearly impossible U.S. Immigration bottlenecks.
Common to nearly all the communities of the fourth district were the floods of 08. 26 counties in this district – nearly all of them – have been declared National Disaster Areas
In June of 2008, Mason City was one of the first Iowa towns to deal with floods, and their water processing plant was shut down for a few days.
When the rains persisted, rivers like the Winnebago jumped their banks. There was widespread agricultural damage, and many crops were planted late or not at all.
This district’s roads and bridges have suffered, so money is needed for infrastructure repairs. And, even places that didn’t have much damage were involved in helping their neighbors with rescue and repair.
With more than a dozen colleges and universities, this district is also a haven for new-tech research and implementation.
The northern tier of Iowa is being populated with wind farms, and community colleges like this one in Estherville are among the organizations training that industry’s workers.
Marshalltown is aiming to become a niche for mid-size data centers, and is currently building infrastructure – like fiber optic lines – to support that dream. Their first center is already under construction, and the local community college is helping with education.
And, in Ames, Iowa State University is a well-respected center for science education and research.
Gregory Geoffrey, ISU President: “The bio-economy, of course, is extremely important for Iowa…”
In the past year, ISU has announced several grants in the 10- and 20-million dollar range, including this one creating a National Science Foundation “Engineering Research Center.”
Gregory Geoffrey, ISU President: “Today, we are announcing another major step forward. Thank you!”
I.S.U. president, Gregory Geoffrey (PR: Joe-Free), says that while these grants serve the educational goals of the University, they also benefit the state’s economy.
Gregory Geoffrey, ISU President: “This is so very important for Iowa because we all know Iowa is the best place in the world to grow plants but we need to do more than that. We need to really capture that and really make Iowa the best place in the world for the bio-economy.”