Nationally-known Lakes businesswoman passes away

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Funeral services will take place Friday for a Lakes-area woman who bought out a Rust Belt business in the heart of the Farm Crisis and was later named first runner-up for the National Small Business Person of the Year.

Joanne Stockdale received the U.S. Small Business Administration honor in 2003 as president and owner of Northern Iowa Die Casting of Lake Park. She passed away Jan. 10 at the Pearl Valley Care Center in Lake Park.

Stockdale purchased Northern Iowa Die Casting from an estate in 1984 — when it was down to six employees, three obsolete die casting machines and a single customer.

"It was in the middle of the depression, literally in Iowa," she said, in an interview following her national award. "There were some pretty tough times in those six or seven years."

The three-shift operation currently has about 90 employees, 12 die casting machines three CNC (automated milling) machines and a paint plant in Spirit Lake.

"I always thought it would make it," Stockdale said in her 2003 interview. "We went forward every year. I have always thought that I would do well."

The company originally started back in 1938 near Highways 9 and 71 in Spirit Lake. After World War II, a Des Moines engineer who wanted a cottage up in the Iowa Great Lakes bought Northern Iowa Die Casting.

The company stayed in Spirit Lake until the late 1950s. That's when Milford established its industrial park and recruited the business to the southern part of the county.

Stockdale moved the business to Lake Park in 1991.

"The community of Lake Park has been very good for me because I am a heavy energy user," she once said. "Lake Park has its own gas and its own electric company, so I have favorable energy rates compared to other places in the county and the surrounding area."

Former Vice President Dick Cheney was on hand when Stockdale received her national award. U.S. Small Business Administration spokesman Dave Lentell called her "not only a successful business owner, but a tremendous ambassador and voice for small business in Iowa."

She used her voice for a variety of causes as well. She led local and statewide efforts to oppose riverboat gambling in Iowa and Dickinson County. Locally, she served as President of the Okoboji Yacht Club Sailing School and as treasurer of the Okoboji Yacht Club and the Lakes Art Center. Stockdale was the co-founder and first President of NEXUS, Iowa’s first business women’s breakfast club, according to memorial information from the family.

The Lakes entrepreneur was a director and chair of the Iowa Association of Business and Industry (ABI). Her family noted her time on the special legislative committee that rewrote Iowa’s ethics law. She also was co-chair of the special legislative committee that recommended statutory changes to IPERS, the Iowa Public Employees Retirement System. Most recently she served on the committee that selected the statute of Norman Borlaug for placement in Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol.

The 1964 Spirit Lake graduate didn't always plan to own a business — She earned her degree in education from Iowa State University and taught youth in Baltimore, Wheaton, Illinois and Newton prior to her northwest Iowa return.

She is survived by her husband of 50 years, Ned of Okoboji; her children Morgan (Betsy) of Spirit Lake and Owen (Becca) of Eden Prairie, Minnesota; four grandchildren and two sisters Jackie Pakarinen of Half Moon Bay, California, and Jeanette Willey of Bettendorf.

Turner Jenness Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.

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