Monday, August 10, 2009
Get away from your town to all the other "Americas"
It must be the most fascinating part of running for national office to criss-cross the country meeting with Americans. We teach at IMC that you must understand that most of the customers and stakeholders relevant to your organization are not like you. If you think health care and the stock market are the only topics in the U.S. you would be mistaken. Seven hours from Chicago via highway 90 to Rockford Illinois and then highway 20 to NW Iowa; the topics and focus changes. In Sac City and Fort Dodge, in Sac County and Kossuth County the topic is weather. Not the casual issue of “should I bring my umbrella to work?” but the land, crops, jobs and future conversation. Enter a weekend breakfast spot in Fort Dodge and listen to topics that most
Americans do not consider “talking points” or even see in their newspapers (which seem to still be read in rural communities). Corn, beans, energy alternatives, leasing fees for windmills ($5000-6000 per year for 50 years or a share of the kilowatt production). A “small continental divide in Western Iowa where some the land divides NS rivers flowing west to the Missouri or east to the Mississippi give some farms ideal positioning for capturing wind on higher points. Eminent Domain exercised by the State of Iowa for the expansion of State Highway 20 from 2 lanes to 4 to Nebraska. Discussions are about the logic of the DOT (Department of Transportation) policy of planning highways through the middle of rich farmland rather than on the margins or between farms. And, debates are constant over the value of land. The stock market, hedge funds and Ponzi schemes do not seem top of mind, but rich topsoil in NW Iowa from glaciers or blown by wind from the Missouri River basin a million years ago is on their minds. Top acreage with great drainage, county and farm tiles and satellite pictures of soil depth may sell for $6000 per acre or $3300 per acre in an auction. “Cash rent” paid by renters of hundreds or thousands of acres may be $200 per acre, earning 3% on the estimated value of the land taxed at $15 per acre and managed at 5% plus repairs etc. The future is based on increasing value of the land; not income. On other topics, diversity is defined as the Hispanic population increasing from 3% to 23% in the local schools over the past 20 years. Families talk about the loss of thousands of young people moving out of the area after earning their degrees at Iowa State, Iowa, University of Illinois and other schools. The importance of bio fuels in Iowa (and Illinois) does not make President Obama a popular figure and chaos over health care for the elderly has not helped his rankings. However, Obama’s visit to a local community grade school in 2008 is still the topic of discussion. It is still America; it is just a different one than your daily conversations might reveal.