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Letter to the Editor: "Let's establish a new local business"

Posted: Sat, Apr 14, 2018 3:39 PM

(The following Letter to the Editor has been submitted by Tabita Green of Decorah):

"Decorah has the opportunity to acquire a profitable business. This turnkey business has built-in demand, generates around $16 million in revenues annually, and has no competition. It provides a nice profit for its owners—profits that currently leave our community. An acquisition would transform this into a local business—keeping profits local.

The Decorah Area Chamber of Commerce (DACC) is a supporter of the shop local movement. And for good reasons. As stated on the DACC website, "Keeping business local is an easy and effective way to support the local economy and keep the community strong."

This locally-owned business would help create a stronger local economy. It would allow our community to control our energy rates, where our power comes from, how we invest in our infrastructure, and how much to spend on energy efficiency. It would make our town more resilient in the face of extreme weather events.

As with any acquisition, we would need to invest time and money in due diligence—in this case, to go through the process of getting approval from the Iowa Utilities Board to buy the electric service territory and operate the local grid. Considering the projected economic benefits for our community, this is a worthwhile investment.

A local utility board would oversee the municipal electric utility (MEU) and make decisions on behalf of our community. It would hire qualified, experienced staff to run the utility with a local crew to maintain the infrastructure and respond to emergencies. The utility would also have mutual aid agreements to get backup from other utilities during major events—as do over 2,000 MEUs across the country.

Every time we as customers of the local electric utility would pay our bills, we would shop local. Since an MEU is not-for-profit, any surpluses would be reinvested into the utility—and possibly returned to us in the form of lower rates. The utility would transfer approximately five percent of its annual revenue to the City general fund—that's over three time as much as the City currently gets from Alliant's property taxes. This extra money could be used for City betterment projects and for supporting its institutions—to the benefit of all of us.

As a business person and local entrepreneur, I am in full support of authorizing our City Council to pursue this unique business opportunity. A new locally-owned business will not only strengthen our local economy, but it will provide economic development benefits, increase our town's resiliency, and create a rich energy legacy for future generations of Decorahns.

Join me in voting YES! for locally-owned energy on May 1."