News Archive

Washington County population growing

Washington County's population continues to slowly climb, according to the US Census Bureau. Most rural and non-metro Iowa counties have lost population over the last 5 years. Washington County grew by 543 or 2.5% since 2010 to 22,247. At this rate, Washington County will surpass 23,000 population by about 2022.

A look at the components of population change will really open your eyes. Are there more births than deaths? Is domestic (US) migration showing people moving into or away from a county. Same with international migration.

In Southeast Iowa, Washington County hits the trifecta of population change over the past five years. There are significantly more births than deaths, like 327. People move in and out of Washington County all the time. But over 200 more people moved in to Washington County from other places in Iowa or the US compared to moving out. And there is a modest but positive gain from international migration in to Washington County.

In fact, besides Johnson and Linn Counties (and Scott County), only Washington County has experienced a positive population increase from domestic migration in Southeast Iowa. That is remarkable. Washington County was 10th in Iowa for positive domestic migration, even including the big metro counties (and places like Dallas and Warren Counties).

If nothing else, Washington County communities have worked very hard over the last decade to make Washington County an attractive and desirable place to live and work. That strategy may be paying off by attracting new residents.

Neighboring sister counties, like Jefferson County (Fairfield) had an even larger population increase than Washington County. However, most all of this increase is from international migration, tempered by domestic out-migration, and more deaths than births.

If you'd like to chec out the population estimate data for every county in Iowa (or all the States) check it out on the Iowa State Data Center's web site.


In addition to the US Census Bureau's population estimates for 2015, Iowa Workforce Development (IWD) reports on monthly laborforce changes, and unemployment rates.

Washington County continues to have a strong and growing laborforce, compared to many other rural counties in Southeast Iowa. Washington County's laborforce of 12,700 is one of the region's largest, which is remarkable considering it was only 9,500 in the early 1990s.

Henry County (Mt. Pleasant) is 2,000 people smaller than Washington County, but its laborforce is 3,000 less. Mahaska County (Oskaloosa) is almost identical to Washington County in population, but its laborforce is 1,000 less.

Washington County's unemployment rate did creep up to 3.9% in February, following trends around Iowa and the US.

In the next blog post, we'll highlight the recently released Washington County Laborshed Analysis completed by IWD. More maps and tables to enjoy.



Housing Summit & Annual Dinner

Remember to register for the WEDG/Chamber/Main Street ANNUAL DINNER by Monday, March 14! After Monday, the price goes from $40 to $50! The Annual Dinner is Monday, March 21st at Riverside Casino & Golf Resort.

Its a great time. Thanks to all our sponsors and raffle donors!

If you've been putting it off, click here to register.

HOUSING SUMMIT - 11:30a, March 29th

Prior to 2007, home construction in Washington and Washington County was vibrant. Since then, housing construction has slowed to a crawl. We don't want this to become our new normal!

WEDG is hosting a 90-minute lunch On Tuesday, March 29th to initiate a dialog about how we can get more housing development going around Washington County. 11:30a-1:00p at Kirkwood Washington Regional Center.

Registration is free. Bring your thoughts and ideas to share with the group. Maybe do some networking. Bring business cards.


Who should attend:

  • Landowners
  • Lenders
  • Contractors
  • Local Gov't & School Officials
  • Realtors
  • Developers
  • Utilities

We'll have sandwiches and drinks. Probably some fruit too.


Annual Dinner March 21st

Join WEDG, the Washington Chamber of CommerceMain Street Washington, and 300 friends at our joint Annual Dinner on Monday, March 21 at the Riverside Casino and Golf Resort.

It is a satisfying evening of networking, celebration, awards, and insights. Between two ferns with emcee Jaron Rosien will be guest speaker Mark Nolte of the Iowa City Area Development Group. A fabulous two-meat buffet, cash bar, and great raffle prizes - just $40 per person. 

Plus, the Riverside Casino is offering a special $64.95 hotel rate for March 21st after the Annual Dinner. Call 319-648-1234 and request the room block for Washington County Annual Dinner.

Regional Vision Rising

For several years, community leaders in our 7-county region have been working on flood recovery (in progress), developing a regional brand (Iowa's Creative Corridor), and a regional economic development strategy.

Throughout 2016, a regional economic development strategy will take shape through the input of literally thousands of people. You should be one of those people! Join 500 people that have taken our survey in the first week. Lets hear your opinion - it makes a difference. 

The planning process is being facilitated by Market Street Services. Market Street has also worked with the greater Des Moines area on their Capital Crossroads plan, and most recently with the Quad Cities on a 2030 Vision.

Stronger Economies Together (SET)

In addition to the exciting Regional Visioning process starting in the greater Cedar Rapids/Iowa City area, (including Washington County) we are looking for additional economic collaborations with our sister counties to the south.

Stronger Economies Together is a process to develop regional economic collaboration in Washington, Jefferson, and Henry Counties. Thanks to a grant from the USDA Rural Development, we are working to develop and implement an economic development blueprint, which is intended to identify and strategically build on the current and emerging economic strengths of our three-county region. 

Our next session is Friday, March 11 at Noon.


2016 Legislative Briefings & Legislative Priorities

As the Iowa Legislature begins the 2nd Session of the 86th General Assembly on Monday, January 11th, the Washington Chamber of Commerce gets ready to host its annual series of monthly Legislative Briefings. These public meetings are held in the Courtroom at the Washington County Courthouse, 222 West Main St.

  • Saturday, January 16, 10:00am - Noon
  • Saturday, February 20, 10:00am - Noon
  • Saturday, March 19, 10:00am - Noon 

Washington County is part of two House districts and two Senate districts. The following four Legislators are invited to participate:

L-R, Rep. Jared Klein, Rep. Dave Heaton, Sen. Rich Taylor, Sen. Kevin Kinney

  • REP. JARAD KLEIN (R), District #78 - Assistant Majority Leader
    • Committees: Administrative & Rules (Vice Chair), Ag, Environmental Protection, Natural Resources, Public Safety

To help people get into the legislative mood, I'm including the Legislative agenda for the statewide economic development association (PDI - Professional Developers of Iowa), as well as links to legislative priorities for a number of other associations and organizations. You can look back at the 2015 agendas too.



Small Business & Entrepreneurship Support – Direct technical assistance to entrepreneurs and start-up companies is a key component to growing Iowa’s economy.  The Legislature should provide adequate funding for small business development and economic gardening programs to foster entrepreneurial endeavors.

Renewable Chemical Tax Credit – PDI joins partners in agriculture, biosciences and manufacturing in supporting passage of the Renewable Chemical Production Tax Credit, legislation aimed at creating opportunities for wealth and job growth in areas of critical need while enhancing necessary efforts to reduce our nation’s dependence on petrochemicals.

Tax Increment Financing – PDI supports TIF and opposes efforts to weaken this important and flexible local economic development tool.  New TIF reporting requirements adopted by the legislature in 2012 provide the public access to more information on local use of TIF, and any proposed changes to TIF would be unwise prior to both in-depth analysis of a multi-year sampling of that data, as well as an analysis of the effects of the 2013 property tax reform legislation on local government revenues.  In fact, the Legislature and Governor should look for ways to expand the use of TIF to address critical needs throughout Iowa, such as workforce housing in some rural areas.

Brownfield/Grayfield Tax Credit Program - PDI supports increasing the tax credit allocation for this program to accommodate strong demand. Brownfield/Grayfield redevelopment promotes economic health in Iowa communities by reducing environmental hazards, eliminating blight and restoring beauty to neighborhoods and communities.

Workforce – The single biggest obstacle to growth identified by PDI members statewide is related to workforce availability, quality and access to innovative training programs and practices that are responsive to a rapidly changing workforce.  Iowa’s ability to successfully address these challenges must be complemented by adequate funding and proper alignment of services to strengthen our knowledge based economy.

State Economic Development Resources – Iowa’s ability to attract or induce economic growth to create jobs and increase wealth is directly related to the reliability and sustainability of resources for use by the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) and other departments that affect job creation. PDI supports fully funding Authority business incentives appropriations requests as well as appropriate administrative needs.  The State can also assist these efforts by reducing regulatory impediments to business growth. 

Income Tax Reform– Improve Iowa’s competitiveness by creating a simpler income tax structure for both corporate and personal income taxes.  Corporate and personal income taxes should be uniformly adjusted downward.  The Governor and the Legislature should also end federal deductibility and accomplish this without shifting the tax burden between brackets.

Housing – PDI recommends that the tax credit allocation for the Workforce Housing Tax Credit program be raised to $40 million and that the credits no longer be counted against the state’s business tax credit limit. Workforce housing is in critical supply across Iowa and the housing tax credit program is an aggressive step toward addressing the problem.

Broadband – Building upon positive action last year, the Governor and Legislature should continue to push for broadband deployment to every corner of Iowa.


Apply to serve on a State Board or Commission

There are many boards and commissions in Iowa, appointed by the Governor, that help to advise and administer on a wide range of topics, issues, and areas of service.

Currently, there are 9 individuals from Washington County serving on Governor-appointed boards and commissions. Kudos to them for getting involved. The Governor did not select them because they are FaceBook friends - they completed an application and asked to be considered.

Washington County appointed Commission members

Berger, Steve Judicial Nominating Commission, State 4/30/20
Cobb, Mark Renewable Fuel Infrastructure Board 4/30/19
Kiene, Kevin Plumbing and Mechanical Systems Board 4/30/16
Kleese, Amanda Early ACCESS, Iowa Council for 6/30/18
Latcham, Sarah Libraries, Commission of 4/30/19
Lipski, Patricia Civil Rights Commission, Iowa State 4/30/19
Lynn, Trevor Juvenile Justice Advisory Council 6/30/18
Marek, Larry Agricultural Education, Council on 6/30/18
Unternahrer, Shannon Child Advocacy Board 4/30/17


In the surrounding area, there are many other appointed Commissioners serving, including 11 from Henry County, 23 from Iowa County, 3 from Jefferson County, 53 from Johnson County, 4 from Keokuk County, 77 from Linn, and 3 from Louisa County.

Governor Branstad will make appointments to 91 of the 160 State boards and commissions in March, 2016 during the Legislative Session. Browse through this list, and click through to any that interest you to learn more. Don't wait until February to get started. Do it over the Holidays.

State law requires most boards and commissions be balanced according to gender and political affiliation. Geographical location and diversity is also considered. Sometimes, this means that your gender, party affiliation, or geographical location make you a good fit for a particular commission, but sometimes, your background may not be what they're seeking at this time. Really, this balance is one of the best things about Iowa.

Accountancy Examining Board   3 of 8
African Americans, Commission on the Status of   6 of 8
Aging, Commission On   2 of 7
Agricultural Development Board   1 of 5
Alcoholic Beverages Commission   1 of 5
Architectural Examining Board   2 of 7
Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs, Commission of   5 of 7
Athletic Training, Board of   2 of 7
Autism Council, Iowa   4 of 13
Banking Council, State   2 of 6
Barbering, Board of   1 of 5
Behavioral Science, Board of   3 of 9
Blind, Commission for the   2 of 3
Capital Investment Board, Iowa   1 of 5
Chiropractic, Board of   1 of 7
City Development Board   1 of 5
City Finance Committee   4 of 7
Community Action Agencies, Commission on   3 of 9
Cosmetology Arts and Sciences, Board of   2 of 7
Credit Union Review Board   4 of 7
Cultural Trust Board of Trustees, Iowa   3 of 5
Deaf Services, Commission of   3 of 7
Dentistry, Board of   3 of 9
Dietetics, Board of   1 of 5
Drug Policy Advisory Council, Iowa   2 of 7
Early Childhood Iowa State Board   3 of 15
Education, State Board of   3 of 10
Educational Examiners, State Board of   3 of 11
Electrical Examining Board   4 of 11
Emergency Response Commission, Iowa   10 of 14
Employment Appeal Board   2 of 3
Engineering and Land Surveying Examining Board   3 of 7
Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board, Iowa   2 of 6
Grain Indemnity Fund Board, Iowa   3 of 5
Great Places Advisory Board, Iowa   4 of 12
Healthy and Well Kids In Iowa Board (HAWK-I)   2 of 4
Hearing Aid Dispensers, Board of   2 of 5
Higher Education Loan Authority   2 of 5
Human Rights Board   8 of 11
Innovation Council, Iowa   1 of 1
Interior Design Examining Board   3 of 7
Interoperable Communications System Board, Iowa Statewide   3 of 11
IPERs, Investment Board of the   1 of 6
Judicial Nominating Commission, State   3 of 8
Landscape Architectural Examining Board   2 of 7
Latino Affairs Commission   3 of 7
Law Enforcement Academy Council, Iowa   3 of 13
Libraries, Commission of   1 of 7
Lottery Authority Board of Directors, Iowa   1 of 5
Massage Therapy, Board of   3 of 7
Medicine, Board of   5 of 10
Mental Health and Disability Services Commission   8 of 18
Mental Health Risk Pool Board   2 of 9
Mortuary Science, Board of   3 of 7
Nursing Home Administrators, Board of   2 of 9
Nursing, Board of   3 of 7
Optometry, Board of   2 of 7
Organic Advisory Council   1 of 5
Parole, Board of   3 of 5
Peace Officers Retirement Accident and Disability Systems Trustee   1 of 1
Persons with Disabilities, Commission of   4 of 7
Petroleum Underground Storage Tank Fund Board, Iowa Comprehensive   2 of 6
Pharmacy, Board of   2 of 7
Physical and Occupational Therapy, Board of   3 of 7
Physician Assistants, Board of   4 of 9
Plumbing and Mechanical Systems Board   4 of 9
Podiatry, Board of   4 of 9
Prevention of Disabilities Policy Council   3 of 9
Psychology, Board of   3 of 7
Public Employment Relations Board   3 of 3
Public Information Board, Iowa   4 of 9
Racing and Gaming Commission, State   2 of 5
Real Estate Appraiser Examining Board   3 of 7
Real Estate Commission   1 of 7
Renewable Fuel Infrastructure Board   6 of 11
Respiratory Care, Board of   1 of 5
School Budget Review Committee   2 of 4
Sign Language Interpreters and Transliterators, Board of   2 of 7
Social Work, Board of   3 of 7
Soil Conservation Committee, State   1 of 9
Speech Pathology and Audiology, Board of   2 of 7
Status of Women, Commission on the   4 of 7
Technology Advisory Council   5 of 8
Telecommunications and Technology Commission, Iowa   3 of 5
Tobacco Use Prevention and Control, Commission on   3 of 6
Transportation Commission   2 of 7
Veterans Affairs, Commission of   5 of 9
Veterinary Medicine, Iowa Board of   1 of 5
Vision Iowa Board   6 of 10
Watershed Improvement Review Board   3 of 11
Workforce Development Board, Iowa   4 of 9


Get the Application!

If you find one that fits your circumstances that you are interested in, go to the Governor's on-line application page. You can apply by creating an online profile and completing an on-line application, or you can download a PDF form to complete off-line. If these don't fit you, think of someone you know that you could forward this to that might find a good fit. Go to the Governor's home page for Boards and Commissions for more info.


And if none of these fit you, don't despair. Look around for other volunteer opportunities where you could make an impact. Your city, county, school district, and non-profit organizations are routinely in need of interested and knowledgeable community members to contribute their time and expertise. Look around and get involved! Feel free to contact me or the Washington Chamber of Commerce if you want some advice on what organizations you could connect with.

Don't delay. Don't wait for the deadline. Make getting involved in your community or your state a New Year's resolution if you need to. It is very rewarding.