Another farewell for Lowell Junkins, who’s stepping down from Lee County Economic development after nearly five years. Junkins served more than a decade in the state legislature including five years as state senate majority leader, and ran for governor in 1986. He became a lobbyist and assistant manager for Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign, and in recent years has tried to turn around the high jobless rate in southeast Iowa.
Junkins says he was hired four and-a-half years ago as head of economic development in Lee County, to help the region compete with other parts of the country. Once the home of heavy industry, the region lost a lot of its old businesses in the last couple decades and earlier this year the jobless rate was over eight-percent, but Junkins says a program’s in place now to bring new jobs and businesses to Lee County and southeast Iowa.
“The apparatus works,” he says, and new opportunities have already landed in Lee County. He says it’s time to set the system work on its own without the direction of one person. One of the changes during his tenure was getting communities throughout southeastern Iowa to cooperate in trying to attract new business and development.
Junkins says local businesses and industries were convinced to re-invest in their operations, saying “85-percent of the jobs of tomorrow will come from businesses that are in place today.” He says he’s particularly proud of an agreement to bring in a big international manufacturer.
The recent agreement with German industrialist Siemans promises to support many “cluster businesses” that will support its manufacturing of big wind-turbine blades. “Those are the things that I think we wear with a lot of pride.” Appointed by then-president Clinton to the board of the Federal Agricultural Mortgage Corporation, Junkins also still runs a farming operation near his hometown of Montrose, between Fort Madison and Keokuk.