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A bright light from west for Newton, county in midst of 'gloomy' news week

Published: Friday, April 26, 2013 11:25 a.m. CST

This week’s announcement by Facebook that is was locating a $300 million “server farm” right at Jasper County’s doorstep in Altoona was a watershed moment.

No longer is significant, non-retail economic development in the Des Moines metropolitan area focused on the western suburbs. Now, the east side of the metro is just as capable of saying it can draw successful international companies.

And even though this development isn’t happening in Jasper County, it will have a profound economic impact on our county and our communities.

No, things aren’t back to where they were six or seven years ago. But they’re moving in the right direction again. And the world is beginning to take notice.

Award-winning business and economics reporter for the New York Times Peter S. Goodman, in his book “PAST DUE: The End of Easy Money and the Renewal of the American Economy,” listed Newton as one of several communities that were examples of the possibility of economic adaptation through new industries.

Chris Turner, the former sustainability columnist for the Globe & Mail in Canada, is the latest to trumpet the successes of Newton and Jasper County in his book “The Leap.” As a resident of oil-rich Alberta, Canada, he writes about the need for alternative energy resources and points to Newton’s successes in the wind energy industry.

We’ve learned from the pains of the past six years, and we’re no longer putting all of our eggs into one basket. Our economy is so much more diverse, which is a testament to the hard work of many people who have championed Newton to the rest of the world.

Couple that with the recent news that Jasper County’s unemployment rate fell one-half of a percentage point to 6.6 percent in March. That level is nearly 2.5 percentage points lower than the rate in March 2012.

While unemployment in our area still remains higher than the statewide average of 4.9 percent, the gap between the two has closed substantially since the first of the year. And, Jasper County’s unemployment rate is substantially lower than the national average of 7.6 percent.

There’s plenty to be optimistic about with regard to Newton and Jasper County’s future. Given the generally dark nature of local news, we thought we should share a little “good news” with you today.