to Nicholas Johnson's Coralville Rain Forest Web Site
England's Rainforest Planners
Talk Of Venue's Success
Cornwall Says Project Has Helped Economy
Broadcast February 3, 2006; Posted February 4, 2006
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NewsChannel 8's Eric Hanson went to Cornwall, England, where a similar indoor rainforest called Eden Project opened five years ago.
The Eden Project draws both local and long-distance travelers.
"We try to come back at least two to three times a year to see how progress is," said Wyn Sweeney, of Exeter in Devon.
Rainforest workers call it the "Eden Effect" -- in which people come to visit Eden and then spend their pounds on the pubs, restaurants and hotels in nearby towns.
"Money to local businesses is very important," said Anji Bromley, an Eden Project Tour Guide.
"You know the figures speak for themselves. Our turnover since Eden has opened has gone up from 50 million pounds a year to over 80 million pounds a year now. And a lot of that is extra people visiting Cornwall," said Jeremy Mitchell, of St. Austell Brewery.
Diana Pimblott and her husband, Stephen, drove all day to experience Eden Project.
"It's quite a distance for people to come from Darby -- 300 miles," Pimblott said. "And I would say 50 to 75 percent of people I know at work have all been."
Eden Project's effect is being felt all over Cornwall.
"We've put over $500 million pounds back just into the Cornish economy," said Gaynor Coley, Eden Project's managing director.
The project has put back nearly $1 billion back in the county, including the salaries of almost 500 project workers.
"People were skeptical about it," said Paul Wright, Cornwall's tourism manager.
Coley said people were suspicious about the project and had many questions. Many Iowans have some of the same questions.
"Is this sort of just another waste of public money?" said tourist Stephen Pimblott.
Most of Eden Project's money came from the National Lottery.
Most of the project money for Iowa's Environmental Project would come from tax dollars. Eden Project's executives said they question that decision.
"If people are taking the taxpayer's money you need to be quite clear about not only that it's going to be built, but that there's a really good management team there that know how to run it," Coley said.
Wright, Cornwall's tourism manager, once lived in Omaha, Neb., and knows Iowa well.
"You can't just stick one of these things anywhere and say it's going to work," Wright said. "If it's going to be done anywhere else, it has to have some empathy with what is in the local area itself. Linked with farming or whatever."
Iowa's got another hurdle.
"The main difference is you're not in a holiday area. I've got the sea five minutes that way and I've got the sea 30 minutes that way. We're the last bit of England before you go to America," said Dave Meneer, Eden Project marketing director.
Iowa does have more cars traveling on through the state on its highways.
"If you're going to build something in Iowa that's close to the I-80 and the amount of traffic that gets with people going east to west or west to east, I think if it's in close proximity to that, then it could be a real winner for Iowa," Wright said.
After five years, Eden is still working out its kinks, including summertime traffic jams and fundraising.
But planners have pledged to help Iowa succeed by sharing their secrets to success.
"If you've got that little gang of people sort of wanting to leave something on their tombstones that's a bit different than, 'I had a nice, well-paid career for 40 years' -- and I think that's what I see in Iowa. These guys are serious," Meneer said.
Des Moines, Grinnell, and Pella are among the Iowa cities that want the Environmental Project. The decision on which city will house the project is expected by March 31, and leaders hope to have all the money lined up by the end of the year.