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  • Randy Evans
  • Tue September 08 2020
  • Posted Sep 10, 2020

There was a milestone of note recently, and it is a shame there was not a big public celebration.

Twenty years ago, Gov. Tom Vilsack and the Iowa Legislature had the foresight to create a program that has brought important changes to communities large and small across Iowa.

The program was called Vision Iowa ­— and it certainly was that.

The initiative enabled communities to bring projects to life that probably never would have gotten off the ground without the unusual financial arrangement that was the beauty of Vision Iowa.

State government provided part of the investment for these projects. Cities and counties put in taxpayer money, too. And donors chipped in with the rest.

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Vision Iowa money helped establish the 20-mile Flint River Trail along the Mississippi River in Burlington, the Kings Pointe Waterpark and Resort along Storm Lake, and the Science Center of Iowa and Pappajohn Sculpture Park in Des Moines.

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The money from Vision Iowa helped provide an important financial infusion for projects that might not have been doable otherwise or that might have taken many more years for financing to be lined up to make the projects happen.

State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald put in a plug last month for why the state should create another program like Vision Iowa to focus on community revitalization efforts, especially in rural Iowa.

The cost of selling another batch of state bonds would be quite low, Fitzgerald said, because interest rates are so low now. That would create another pot of money the state could invest in communities the way Vision Iowa did.

State leaders’ vision 20 years ago made possible important changes in the face of many Iowa places. We now need leaders to stand up again and help make other communities more appealing, too.

Just shrugging and saying “no” to Fitzgerald’s idea is not the way to make Iowa more successful in retaining our high school and college graduates or to make Iowa more attractive for out-of-staters who might settle here.


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