Wednesday, September 22, 2004

NE-IA-SD wrap blog.

Time to finish posting about my short meanderings on the Great Plains with a few odds and ends, as I usually do. For instance: In writing about the capitol of Nebraska, interesting as a building mainly because it was built in the 1920s, I forgot to mention the unicameral system of government that Nebraska practices. Among the several states, 49 practice bicameralism. Nebraska stands alone, the consequence of a reform movement in the 1930s to streamline state government that did not sweep the nation. The members of its single legislative chamber are, incidentally, called Senators. The state isn’t noticeably deficient in governmental services, so it seems that unicameralism works well enough for Nebraska.

I saw an assortment of worthwhile presentations at the conference I attended, a meeting of the Mid-American Economic Development Council. As usual, the oddball facts lingered with me the most. I learned, for instance, that LeMars, Iowa, calls itself the Ice Cream Capital of the World. Wells Dairy operates there, making Blue Bunny brand ice cream at (I think) five facilities in that town. An ice-cream company town. That’s a kind of ice cream I didn’t know before, but apparently it’s a strong independent brand.

The best speaker at the conference was a man who specializes in finding places for companies to build call centers. This is an economic development issue of some weight in the Plains states. I asked him afterwards if he thought call centers had a future in the United States. He started to describe in some detail the segmentation of that industry, but then cut himself off and said, “The short answer to your question is yes.”

Which was good to hear. I’ve spoken to some very pleasant customer service reps, and while I don’t begrudge India or Ireland some of those jobs, some of them ought to be here.

Speaking of jobs, road radio in Nebraska-Iowa-South Dakota was its usual mix of genre and curious local brands, nothing especially noteworthy this time, except for the loud and clear tejano station (probably) out of Omaha. That can mean only one thing: a Mexican population. Sure enough, when I mentioned this to our correspondent Bill, he said that a lot of Mexicans worked in the region’s meat-packing industry, true to the tradition of immigrants doing dirty and dangerous jobs in that industry (see also, The Jungle).

I-29 from Sioux City to Omaha isn’t a bad drive at all. Not quite the visual interest of U.S. 75 on the way up, but alongside the road there were long stretches of sunflowers, fully arrayed to the sun and a pleasure to the eye, even at 75 mph (the speed limit in those parts, by the way).


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