Tom Farnsworth

Tom Farnsworth listens as Kiana Johnson, O’Brien County Economic Development executive director, tells of his accomplishments as a volunteer with the O’Brien County Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors. Farnsworth received a years of recognition award for his more than 16 years of service.

Tom Farnsworth’s dedication to O’Brien County’s economic development recently was recognized with a years of service award.

The rural Archer resident served on the O’Brien County Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors for 16 years.

He was presented with a recognition of service award by O’Brien County Economic Development executive director Kiana Johnson.

“Tom was an excellent volunteer,” Johnson said. “If I needed someone to serve on a committee or help with a project, he was always involved.”

His membership on the economic development board started as an assignment after being elected to the O’Brien County Board of Supervisors in 2005.

He began representing the city of Archer on the economic development board in 2006. While Farnsworth remained a county supervisor, he was no longer the county’s representative on the board since he was filling the same role for Archer.

“I didn’t do it to get an award,” he said. “I did it for Archer and O’Brien County.”

Farnsworth has been involved in many economic development projects, two of which he is most proud of.

The first was bringing the Valero Renewable Fuels Co. ethanol plant to Hartley.

“When Valero came through, that was great,” Farnsworth said. “That was the number one biggest thing that happened to O’Brien County.”

He attended many meetings about Valero but said he could not talk about those discussions with anyone, not even his wife.

“Valero did not want anyone to know where they were thinking of going because then the land price would have gone up,” he said.

Farnsworth said MidAmerican Energy’s Highland Wind Energy project also was a high point of his time on the economic development board.

The wind farm features 218 turbines and encompasses 70,000 acres of farmland throughout O’Brien County.

Farnsworth said he spoke with landowners, many of whom were reluctant to have wind turbines on their property.

“I told them to have a windmill was actually a benefit as farmers get a stipend from MidAmerican for the use of their land,” Farnsworth said.

He noted the county’s windmill farm is one of the largest in Iowa.

“Valero and the windmills had a big economic development impact to O’Brien County in property taxes,” Farnsworth said.

He worked on many other projects throughout his 16 years on the O’Brien County Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors which meant weekly meetings, presentations to gain support and thousands of hours as a volunteer.

“There were so many things happening,” Farnsworth said. “There were projects that decided to go somewhere else. Even though they went to another county, it still helped the state.”

The 74-year-old said he is stepping down due to his health concerns which had been preventing him from attending meetings.

“It was hard because I’ve been on it a long time,” he said. “I just didn’t feel like I was contributing. I thought we need to get somebody on there, somebody younger with different ideas.”

Johnson said Farnsworth has always been supportive of the economic development organization as a whole, and will be missed.

“He was very passionate about economic development and supported all the committees we had,” she said. “I’m very thankful for the time that he gave to us.”

Archer mayor Nathan Mueller volunteered to fill Farnsworth’s spot on the O’Brien County board.