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Tuesday
Mar282017

Washington's Growth Century & Annual Dinner

The Washington Economic Development Group, Washington Chamber of Commerce, and Main Street Washington celebrated their 2017 Annual Dinner on March 27th with 289 friends at the Events Center at the Riverside Casino & Golf Resort. Its a great networking event for local and Creative Corridor business and community leaders. Check out the event photo album on FaceBook.

WEDG was pleased to award its 2016 Harvey Holden Special Service award to the Washington County Riverboat Foundation. Since 2006, the Riverboat Foundation has awarded over $38 million through over 1,000 grants. They have made a big impact across Washington County and the Creative Corridor.

WEDG also honored Dan Franz for his leadership as WEDG Board President in 2016. Franz is the General Manager at the Riverisde Casino and Golf Resort. Washington County Hospital CEO, Dennis Hunger, is the 2017 WEDG Board President. We also welcomed new board directors, Lynn Koch of Federation Bank, and Amanda Russell of Bazooka Farmstar. Click here for a full 2017 board director list.

Ed's Remarks at the Annual Dinner

Washington County has seen a lot so far this 21st century. We've experienced ups and downs including a deep recession, and just last quarter Modine Manufacturing closed for good. But there are actually over 1,600 more jobs in Washington County in 2016 than in 2001. In fact, there has never been a year with more jobs in Washington County than 2016. We peaked in the summer with over 8,500 non-farm jobs.

Those job gains are primarily because of growth within existing business and industry, and from entrepreneurial startups.

People come from all over to work those jobs in Washington County. But even those that commute out are bringing their money back. Over $100 million in annual payroll from Johnson County jobs comes back to Washington County residents.

Washington County's population is growing too. We've added over 570 people since 2010, a 2.6% increase. That is why our labor force keeps hitting record highs too - 12,900 this fall. People are moving to Washington County. We're also growing the old fashioned too (more births than deaths...).

Many of our rural neighbor and peer counties in Southeast Iowa or in the Creative Corridor are not so fortunate. 

Something else has changed in Washington County over the last 20 years. Our retail sales are climbing, and have been for a decade. In the late 1990s, Washington County was at the bottom of retail sales compared to our neighboring peer counties.

Since 2006 (pre-recession even), Washington County's retail sales have rocketed from $124 million to $194 million in 2016. That is a $70 million increase, a 56% increase. And the increase isn't just in Washington; the increases are also in Kalona, Wellman, and Riverside. Those vibrate economies in Washington County's small communities is one of the most special things about our area.

Today, Washington County is at the top of the heap in retail sales compared to our surrounding peer counties. Why? People move here. People come here to shop. They shop at big stores, new stores, old stores, downtown stores. (it is worth noting that Main Street Washington's focus on improving downtown began in 2008.)

Mostly though, Washington County and area residents are spending more of their retail dollars in Washington County. Shopping locally.  

Don't forget that retail sales impacts local cities and the County. Big growth in retail sales has resulted in big growth in Local Option Sales Tax revenues. For example, in FY2005, Washington County received just $656,000 in LOST revenues. In FY2016, Washington County received over $1.1 million in LOST revenue.

WEDG's mission is to create and promote an environment for economic development. Slowly and frequently behind the scenes, WEDG is helping to create the place that you want to be.

Now we need your help. WEDG is beginning our 2017-2019 Pledge Drive. When we reach out to you shortly to renew your pledge or to ask you to make a new pledge, we hope that you will help us.

We appreciate your support.