Warren County voters turned down a proposed $150 million casino Tuesday, but that doesn't mean development officials are wanting for other prospects.
In fact, an idea was offered up by a part-time worker at Uncommon Grounds coffee shop in Indianola just this morning, even as the bitter feeling of defeat was fresh in casino advocate Jason White's mind.
"How about a Legos store?" the waitress asked as White, executive director of Warren County Economic Development Corp., was on his way out the door.
White, charged with finding development opportunities for a county that frequently finds itself at odds with the competing interests of agriculture and scattered urban and suburban settings, will always entertain a business proposal. And he remarked that the store was an interesting thought.
He might have more immediate opportunities in mind, now that voters rejected the casino with its job-creating prowess and revenue-generating opportunities.
The campaign turned into a rough-and-tumble affair. White noted that casino supporters became reluctant to put out yard signs. Non-issues, such as the possible height of a hotel, became front and center in the anti-casino campaign.
White is hopeful that anti-casino crusaders will step up with economic development ideas.
Trying to look on the bright side of the defeat, White said, "Before this, a lot of the opponents probably didn't know (the economic development group) existed."
On the other hand, as the campaign was winding down, White was contacted by an agribusiness that wants to expand in Warren County and a supplier of industrial components that wants to discuss locating there.
"The campaign probably helped us in that people around the metro know we're an aggressive group," White said. "We're willing to get after it, win or lose."
Warren County Economic Development Corp. recently was honored by Gov. Terry Branstad for its business retention and expansion program.
The casino referendum passed in just one of 13 precincts, a hardscrabble area located in the southeast corner of the county, nearly 45 minutes away from the proposed location near Iowa Highways 5 and 28 in Norwalk. Overall, voters rejected the measure 6,545 to 4,327, according to unofficial results from the Warren County auditor.