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Federal project gets high-level help

Robinson, Hevern highlight plans to meet with Grassley for assistance moving the project through bureaucracy

August 19, 2019
Amy H. Peterson - Staff Writer ( , Estherville News

By Amy H. Peterson

Staff Writer

In June, 2018, Jeff Robinson announced a new federal government project coming to Estherville. The Department of Defense is launching a project to start a number of computer, tech and other manufacturing facilities in small towns across the U.S. Robinson is coordinating investment for the project in exchange for the first facility being located in Estherville. The project has moved forward to the point the company developing the project for the government is ready to move forward with 20-year lease documents for a site in the Estherville Industrial Park on the east side. The site is projected to hold a 75,000 square foot building with parking, and create federal jobs with an average salary of $60,000 and federal benefits with 75 percent of the workforce moving to Estherville and 25 percent local employees.

Robinson said in an interview with the Estherville News that he put Hevern in charge of locations across the U.S.

Elaborating on his radio show, Capitalism Tonight, Robinson said, "Once some other city gets involved and they have a thing or two more than Estherville, all of a sudden that city becomes lead dog. In order to prevent that, we have set everything up so it is going through [Hevern]. Lyle is actually setting up all the locations throughout the United States."

Robinson said the project started with Estherville. Upon branching out to some other communities, 29 of them.

Fact Box

What is CIRAS?

CIRAS (Center for Industrial Research and Service) at Iowa State University in Ames gives technical advice to any Iowa business seeking to do business with the federal government. Staff at CIRAS engage with clients to educate about the key steps required before they can begin selling to the government. Services include: Contracting 101, marketing to the government, finding opportunities, bid/proposal guidance, post-award assistance, and advanced contracting services. Visit the website, email or call 515-294-3420. Lyle Hevern is the local contact connecting Emmet County businesses with CIRAS. He can be reached at 712-380-7100, or in his office in the Estherville Chamber building.

Hevern said, "That was at the request of Senator Grassley to find out, 'Are there more communities than just Estherville that are interested in it?' and it turns out there's a lot of communities in Iowa that are."

Hevern said working with the Iowa Area Development Group, Rick Olesen and Iowa Lakes Electric Cooperative, identified 29 communities including Estherville interested to determine if each one of those Iowa communities could have a facility like the one coming to Estherville.

"Originally it was three per state, and then it jumped up to 10, and now it could possibly be even more than that. The project will be a good thing for Estherville and could be a great thing for the state," Hevern said.

Robinson said the reason Iowa would get more locations of the federal government project is because Grassley is stepping up to pull the project out of the Washington, DC bureaucracy.

"Basically when [Senator Grassley] asks for something, he gets it. So it's very important that we get a meeting with Senator Grassley," Robinson said.

Robinson highlighted benefits of the project, including demand for housing going up, creating increased value for existing Estherville homeowners; the guarantee of a 20-year lease on the new building, other new businesses coming to Estherville in support of the federal facility and the people who will work in it, and the support for existing and new Emmet County businesses to work with an entity at Iowa State University called CIRAS (see fact box) and increase their bottom line by contracting with the federal government.

"If there's any opportunity when our federal government project is up and running for local businesses to provide goods or services, there's a process to go through, and we're all set up for when that happens, we'll be able to educate and qualify local businesses who want to do business with the local government," Hevern said.

"That's a big deal," Robinson said. "Don't think that you're too small to do this. The federal government is actually biased toward small businesses. They would rather do business with small businesses than big businesses."

Robinson said there have been no setbacks relating to the project, just time-consuming processes. Robinson said he is 99 percent sure the project is going through.

Hevern said he is an eternal optimist and says it is 100 percent the project will be completed.

"I'm excited. How could you not want an entity in town that is guaranteed to be there for 20 years, will provide construction money for the local town to the tune of $10 million dollars for a 75,000 square foot facility, and on top of that, you're going to have an average compensation of $60,000 per year per employee with federal benefits, 75 percent of the folks working in the facilities are likely to come from outside Estherville, so they'll be looking for housing and everything else, and 25 percent will be hired locally. There will be local jobs people can get," Robinson said.



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