News Archive

Annual Dinner - March 27

Please join us on Monday, March 27th for our Annual Dinner at the Riverside Casino & Golf Resort. This is a fun networking celebration with 280+ community leaders from around greater Washington County. 

Be there with the Washington Chamber of Commerce, Main Street Washington, and the Washington Economic Development Group on Monday, March 27th!

  • Ticket Price: $40 per person ($50 after March 14)
  • Tables of 10 can be reserved for your business/organization $400
  • Two meat buffet!
  • Cash Bar(s)
  • Guilt-free raffle with great prizes!
  • Special hotel rate of $64.95 for Monday night. Call 319-648-1234 and request the room block for Washington County Annual Dinner.

Our guest speaker is Aaron Thomas, son of Coach Ed Thomas from Aplington-Parkersburg. He is a special, dynamic speaker that gets rave reviews. Don't miss him! This special program is brought to you through a sponsorship by the Washington County Hospital & Clinics.

Thanks to our event sponsors!



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 11 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 4/30/19
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
Reuss, Michelle Latino Affairs Commission 4/30/20
Schneider, Mark Developmental Disabilities Council 6/30/19
Unternahrer, Shannon Child Advocacy Board 4/30/17


In the surrounding area, there are many other appointed Commissioners serving, including 9 from Henry County, 20 from Iowa County, 5 from Jefferson County, 46 from Johnson County, 3 from Keokuk County, 73 from Linn, and 4 from Louisa County.

Governor Branstad will make appointments to 97 of the 160 State boards and commissions in March, 2017 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 2
African Americans, Commission on the Status of 1
Aging, Commission On 4
Agricultural Development Board 1
Alcoholic Beverages Commission 1
Architectural Examining Board 3
Athletic Training, Board of 3
Autism Council, Iowa 4
Banking Council, State 2
Barbering, Board of 3
Behavioral Science, Board of 3
Blind, Commission for the 1
Boiler and Pressure Vessel Board 3
Capital Investment Board, Iowa 1
Capitol Planning Commission 3
Child Advocacy Board 4
Chiropractic, Board of 3
Civil Rights Commission, Iowa State 4
Community Action Agencies, Commission on 3
Corrections, Board of 2
Cosmetology Arts and Sciences 5
County Finance Committee 3
Credit Union Review Board 1
Deaf Services, Commission of 3
Dentistry, Board of 3
Dependent Adult Protective Advisory Council 4
Dietetics, Board of 2
Drug Policy Advisory Council, Iowa 1
Early Childhood Iowa State Board 4
Economic Development Authority 7
Education, State Board of 1
Educational Examiners, State Board of 4
Electrical Examining Board 4
Elevator Safety Board 4
Engineering and Land Surveying Examining Board 3
Enhance Iowa Board 5
Environmental Protection Commission 7
Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board, Iowa 2
Finance Authority Board of Directors, Iowa 4
Flood Mitigation Board 2
Grain Indemnity Fund Board, Iowa 2
Great Places Advisory Board, Iowa 4
Health Facilities Council 5
Healthy and Well Kids In Iowa Board (HAWK-I) 2
Hearing Aid Specialists, Board of 2
Higher Education Loan Authority 1
Human Services, Council on 5
Interior Design Examining Board 2
Interoperable Communications System Board 6
Iowa Innovation Corporation, Board of 1
IPERs, Investment Board of the 2
Judicial Qualifications, Commission on 1
Landscape Architectural Examining Board 5
Law Enforcement Academy Council, Iowa 4
Libraries, Commission of 3
Massage Therapy, Board of 4
Medicine, Board of 3
Mental Health and Disability Services Commission 7
Mental Health Risk Pool Board 3
Mid-America Port Commission 1
Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC) 2
Mortuary Science, Board of 3
Native American Affairs, Commission of 6
Natural Resource Commission 3
Nursing Home Administrators, Board of 2
Nursing, Board of 3
Optometry, Board of 3
Organic Advisory Council 1
Parole, Board of 3
Parole, Board of - Alternate Members 3
Petroleum Underground Storage Tank Fund Board 2
Pharmacy, Board of 3
Physical and Occupational Therapy, Board of 4
Physician Assistants, Board of 2
Plumbing and Mechanical Systems Board 3
Podiatry, Board of 2
Prevention of Disabilities Policy Council 2
Property Assessment Appeal Board 2
Psychology, Board of 4
Racing and Gaming Commission, State 2
Real Estate Appraiser Examining Board 2
Real Estate Commission 4
Regents, State Board of 4
Respiratory Care, Board of 2
School Budget Review Committee 1
Sign Language Interpreters and Transliterators 2
Social Work 3
Soil Conservation Committee, State 5
Speech Pathology and Audiology 2
Technology Advisory Council 4
Telecommunications and Technology Commission 1
Title Guaranty Division Board 2
Tobacco Use Prevention and Control, Commission on 3
Transportation Commission 2
Utilities Board, Iowa 1
Veterinary Medicine, Iowa Board of 2
Watershed Improvement Review Board 4

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. 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. Start today. Make getting involved in your community or your state a New Year's resolution if you need to. It is very rewarding.


2017 Legislative Briefings & Legislative Priorities

As the Iowa Legislature begins the 1st Session of the 87th General Assembly on Monday, January 9th, 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 21, 10:00am - Noon
  • Saturday, February 18, 10:00am - Noon
  • Saturday, March 18, 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

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 that post their priorities online.



Workforce / Housing / Workforce Housing

The most significant impediments to economic growth in Iowa are a tight labor market and inadequate housing. Together these challenges perpetuate a cycle: Businesses choose not to locate in areas of Iowa due to insufficient numbers of workers and a shortage of housing. In turn, communities are unable to build housing or draw new residents because of a lack of jobs. Solving the problem will require action on multiple fronts:

  • WORKFORCE HOUSING TAX CREDIT – The amount of credits available annually should be raised to$40 million and the credits should no longer count against the state’s business tax credit limit.Consideration should also be given to enacting a component of the program specifically assistingrural communities and excusing them from the obligation to conduct expensive housing marketneeds analyses prior to greenfield development.
  • WORKFORCE RECRUITMENT – While sustaining support for Home Base Iowa and ABI’s Elevate Iowa, the Governor and Legislature should explore other means of recruiting needed workers. These may include programs targeting specific professions, student loan forgiveness, income tax rebates, credits or deductions on student loan debt, and other incentives to keep people in Iowa and drive population growth. Recruitment efforts should be coordinated with economic development organizations throughout the state, much like business recruitment efforts have been for several decades.
  • WORKFORCE TRAINING – Ensuring access to innovative training programs and practices responsive to a rapidly changing workplace requires both adequate state funding and proper alignment of services. We look forward to the implementation of the Career and Technical Education bill from last session, a significant milestone for Iowa.
  • BROWNFIELD & GRAYFIELD – Given the tremendous power of the Brownfield & Grayfield program to encourage redevelopment in aged or blighted areas, the amount of credits available annually should be increased from its current level of $10 million. The program has been vastly oversubscribed in the last 5 years, which has an immediate and substantive impact on communities across Iowa.
  • As well, the Governor and Legislature should explore means of assisting communities in redeveloping abandoned buildings, potentially as housing. Current programs at IEDA and IDNR should be evaluated to gauge how the programs can complement one another to impact the greatest number of communities possible. 

STATE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT RESOURCES – Growth in jobs and wealth in Iowa is directly related to the reliability and sustainability of resources for use by the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) and Iowa Workforce Development. After many years without an upward adjustment in their budgets to support salary increases, both departments last year endured substantial funding cuts. To grow Iowa’s economy, we should devote MORE resources to these departments, not force them to lay off employees.

ENHANCE IOWA – Trails, parks and other quality‐of‐life amenities draw workers and businesses, yet last year the Legislature passed the Enhance Iowa legislation without funding. The Governor and Legislature should build on last year’s bill by establishing a funding mechanism for this program.

SCHOOL FUNDING – PDI understands the heavy burden school funding puts on the state budget; however, annual delays in setting allowable funding increases are damaging to schools and the entire education system. Policy are urged to resolve the funding debate early in the 2017 session and to strive for a less politicized process.

MINIMUM WAGE – County‐by‐county minimum wage thresholds are unworkable and will severely hinder business development and economic growth. Within the discussion about increasing the statewide minimum wage rate, lawmakers should take action to preempt local government from subsequently setting local rates.

WATER QUALITY – Within the vigorous discussion about water quality, the Governor and legislature should also address the critical need for funding for local infrastructure. Last year’s proposal to devote a water excise tax to this purpose was laudable. Without funding, more rural cities will be forced to surrender their incorporation, taking with them a large part of Iowa’s history.

CORPORATE INCOME TAX ‐ Strong consideration should be given to simplification of Iowa’s corporate Income tax structure. The current structure is complex to investors from outside the state and country. The simplification and reduction of the corporate income tax will entice industrial and commercial investment, which will create new job growth. For example, the elimination of federal deductibility for corporate income taxes coupled with lower brackets could accomplish a tax reduction greater than what federal deductibility currently offers.

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.

TAX INCREMENT FINANCING – Local governments rely on the flexibility of TIF to address community growth challenges, from workforce and housing shortages to aging infrastructure to redevelopment to partnering with the States. 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 sufficient information about local use of TIF.


Washington County's Employment Trajectory

2016 ended on a sad note in Washington County with the final closure of the Washington plant of Modine Manufacturing, a publically traded, international corporation. Originally a local start-up that was eventually purchased by Wisconsin-based Modine, the plant was a preferred employer and workforce leader for many decades.

The Modine plant in Washington generally employed between 150 and 180. That swelled to 240 in the past few years after Modine brought new work lines to Washington after closing other Midwestern plants. Modine Manufacturing has actually off-shoared work from many of their American manufacturing plants. Most of the work from Modine's Washington plant is being off-shored to Mexico, with some of it going to plants in Missouri.

Modine closed the Washington plant over the past 18 months. Employees left for other opportunities or were laid off gradually, with the last 70 employees staying through the closure in December. 

Unemployment Remains Low

Even with the slow leak of employees from Modine over the past 18 months, Washington County's unemployment rate, and the number of unemployed people has remained very low. In November, it was 2.5% with 300 unemployed persons, which is almost an all-time low.

Washington County's laborforce has hit all-time record highs this fall. This Summer and Fall, the laborforce hit 12,900 which is a demonstration that Washington County's population is growing. In November, the laborforce contracted slightly to 12,700, which is a typical trend over the winter.

Jobs at an All-Time High

The past 3-4 years have seen Washington County reach its historical peak for non-farm jobs. In fact, compared to the beginning of this century, there are 1,500 more jobs in Washington County in 2016, or about a 20% increase from 2001. In 2001, Washington County had about 7,100 total jobs. In 2016, the jobs total had reached 8,500. Because of our unique livestock farming sector which employs many hundreds, the all inclusive job total is much higher.

Not every Southeast Iowa County has enjoyed the same job growth. Henry County started 2001 with 10,600 jobs. By 2016, that number had dropped to 9,300, or a decrease of 12%. Jefferson County started 2001 with 8,000 jobs (down from 9,000 in 1998). In 2016, Jefferson County's job total was 7,500, or a 6% decrease. Similarly, Louisa County had a decrease from 3,500 jobs in 2001 down to 2,300 in 2016, a 34% drop. Keokuk County has been relatively stable with a decrease from 2,500 jobs in 2001 down to 2,300 jobs in 2016, still an 8% decrease.

Employment by Sector

A lot of Washington County's job growth has come from other sectors besides Manufacturing. The Construction sector has more than doubled from 440 in 2001 to 900 in 2016. These additional 400+ jobs pay at the top of the wage scale, about $100 per week more than the average Manufacturing job in Washington County. 

Source: Iowa Workforce Development, Labor Market Information bureau

The Healthcare and Local Government (mostly schools) sectors have also grown slowly over the past 15 years in tandem with our population, becoming extremely stable and good paying foundations of our economy.

There has also been small increases in service sector employment, like Retail which employs over 1,000. The Leisure and Hospitality sector has grown dramatically to over 1,200 with the addition of the Riverside Casino in 2006.

Manufacturing has been the most volatile employment sector. Forces outside the local economy have both brought new jobs and taken them away, temporarily and sometimes permanently. That up and down trend is likely to continue into the future.

State and federal statistics do not track Farm jobs, but Washington County has one of the most unique Ag sectors in Iowa and the Midwest. There a hundreds of livestock based farm jobs in Washington County that don't appear in the data.

Who is Growing?

Fortunately, Washington County is an interesting place for entrepreneurs with numerous niches to fill locally, as well as companies that have grown to fill regional, national, and even international markets.

While many larger companies in Washington County have maintained their employment level since the 2008 recession, a number of employers have achieved significant employment growth. This is not a complete list, but just a selection of companies with recent growth. I hope this makes you think of other businesses that are growing. With a little thought, you'll have an even longer list of businesses that make Washington County a thriving place to live and work.

We are looking forward to helping these and other aggressive businesses and entrepreneurs as they work to grow and innovate. It is what makes Washington County such an interesting place, full of opportunity.



Spreading Washington County's Message

The 2nd Annual Washington County Luncheon for the Iowa City Area Association of Realtors is Wednesday, Nov. 9th, 11:30-1:00 at the Riverside Casino and Golf Resort's Event Center.

This casual mixer event, hosted by WEDG, is a way to build professional networks across Johnson and Washington Counties. Anyone related to real estate, land development, mortgage lending, legal & abstracting, and home construction is encouraged to attend. Realtors eat free, everyone else is $20. But its a great lasagna buffet with two salads, so its worth it. Maybe 120 people.

What will you learn?

Hear 8-minute updates from the City Administrators of KalonaRiversideWashington and Wellman. Plus get our education picture from the Superintendents of HighlandMid-Prairie, and Washington Schools, and the 3-year old Kirkwood Washington Regional Center.

We all think that Washington County is a great opportunity for growth, for families, for innovative businesses, and an impressive list of Quality of Life amenities.

Want to know what was covered last year? Click here.

This isn't the only event to raise awareness about the opportunities around the fringe of the Creative Corridor. Last weekend, Jones County Development hosted their 2nd Tours of Opportunity in downtown Anamosa. Deals were made. People were impressed.

Thanks to our Sponsors!

City of Kalona
City of Riverside
City of Washington
City of Wellman
Highland Community School District
Mid-Prairie Community School District
Washington Community School District
Kirkwood Washington Regional Center
Elliott Realty Group
Golden Crest Realty
Home Team Advantage Realtors
Integrity Abstract Company
Washington Title & Guaranty Co.
Riverside Casino & Golf Resort
CBI Bank & Trust
Community 1st Credit Union
Federation Bank
Hills Bank and Trust
Washington State Bank