Iowa Cities Apply for USDA Headquarters

With the USDA announcing they are moving the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) out of Washington D.C. there has a been a flood of expressions of interest from across the United States and in Iowa.

This month the Iowa Economic Development Authority worked with the cities of Ames and Council Bluffs to submit an application. Director Debi Durham says the USDA Request for Proposal needed a specific format and data. Ames and Council Bluffs checked most of the boxes.

Durham says, "So we wanted to make sure since we had a really limited amount of space in which to make the case, why Iowa, we wanted to ensure that we were in fact answering every one of their issues. Such as, quality of life, and workforce and cost of living and we think we did that. "

Both proposals market Iowa as a natural choice for the new headquarters, pointing out historical agriculture leaders from the state and prestigious awards granted here.

Ames is home to the first land-grant university in the U.S. at Iowa State University, which has a history of research and already houses some USDA offices. Durham says there's also a sizable facility at the ISU Research Park, that has had investments in the last five years with space to add more. There is also a good pipeline of workers from the area.

Council Bluffs offers River's Edge or Iowa Western Community College as potential locations. It has a larger metro to draw workers from and the Omaha airport has more flights than the Des Moines airport for commuters coming from the D.C. area. Durham says they wanted Council Bluffs to have an opportunity to match up against Omaha because she expects most states to apply for the ERS and NIFA headquarters.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture worked alongside the city proposals, Secretary Mike Naig says he can't think of a better place for USDA research.

Naig says, "I think it makes perfect sense for them to be in Iowa. Closer to the stakeholders, closer to our farmers, closer to our businesses. And I think we've put together a very good proposal from Ames and Council Bluffs in particular. We're hopeful we can have a chance to attract those two entities."

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue wants to move the ERS and NIFA by the end of 2019.