Residents should decide what’s best for county

The Gazette Opinion Staff
Published: December 23 2012 | 12:01 am - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 3:41 am in
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By Bruce Lehrman and Dennis Henderson

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Please allow us to speak from the heart as dedicated community and business leaders of Linn County.

We all remember when Linn County was hit with devastating and historic floods. We know firsthand the impact the flood had on our great city’s businesses and economic growth and the vital community services we rely on. The great residents here were strong and resilient, and we have come together to rebuild our community day by day.

Growing our community and attracting new sources of revenue for necessary community services and giving our residents the opportunity to keep their hard-earned money right here in Linn County is key to our economic recovery. That is why we are part of a group of local residents who plan to bring an exciting new entertainment and gaming venue to the community built by and for the residents of Linn County.

That is why we read with concern a Dec. 9 Gazette story about how some out of county casino executives have hired a national political operative to mount a negative campaign here in Linn County. Most disturbingly, this operative admits to conducting a push poll in Linn County to spread negative messages about our county’s private and public, labor and management leaders. And he’s using a questionable firm with a record of violations.

Well, we must send a message to those who try to keep Linn County down: We are coming back and coming back strong. Just look at the new library, convention center, hotel, amphitheater, fire station, residential development and new businesses being built. This is all happening as a result of unprecedented public/private partnerships in our home county.

We salute what those other casino executives have done for their communities. We just think it is time for Linn County to enjoy similar benefits.

The benefits of a new gaming and entertainment venue in Cedar Rapids would have a positive effect on our economy and on our community. The proposed new venue’s impact includes the creation of:

l 490 new jobs

l $80 million to $100 million in privately financed new construction

l $2 million to $4 million in new grants to community projects

Look no further than Dubuque, a community half the size of Cedar Rapids with two full-service casinos and see what positive impact this proposal can have on a community.

Now, we know these out-of-town interests think a casino in Linn County would cost them some money. But the study they cite to buttress their claims never even looked at the Cedar Rapids market. And even that study was done years ago.

Because Cedar Rapids is the largest community in the state without a gaming facility, and the second largest tourism market, the state as a whole would benefit from the addition of the new facility. A recent gaming market assessment of Linn County found the new facility could add over $100 million in new gaming revenues, taxes, fees and other non-profit-related revenues in Iowa during the first five years of operations. That’s not cannibalization. That’s just good economic sense.

Linn County business and labor leaders alike, including Marilee Fowler of the Cedar Rapids Convention and Visitors Bureau, Dave Hogan of the Cedar Rapids Building Trades Council and Dee Baird of the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance, are lending their support for a new entertainment and gaming venue. They understand the positive economic impact this facility will have for the county, creating new jobs and attracting new talent and convention opportunities, as well as exciting entertainment options in our community.

Linn County residents should be skeptical of outsiders with an agenda attempting to sway our residents and protect their own financial interests. As we continue to rebuild our county and look to future opportunities to grow and prosper, we ask you to join us to vote “yes” to create a new opportunity for Linn County.

Bruce Lehrman and Dennis Henderson are investors in the Cedar Rapids Development Group, LLC, the group of local investors financially supporting the petition drive, referendum and the potential gaming license application to the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission. Lehrman is president and CEO of Involta, LLC, which operates seven data centers in five U.S. markets. Henderson is president and CEO of HH Ventures, LLC, Hiawatha, which does business as ReadyWireless. Comments: JuliePerrine@GrayVenturePartners.com

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