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Community Notes: Facets of economic development

By Tim Fox, CEO, Charles City Economic Development Corp.

Historically the primary purpose of the Charles City Area Development Corporation has been to assist in the creation and retention of high-quality jobs.

However, virtually every substantive project or development within a community strengthens or weakens a local economy. And at present in Charles City, I believe much strengthening is transpiring.

  • Sherman Creek housing by the Rottinghaus family.
  • NIACC Career Center.
  • Zoetis expansion.
  • Floyd County Medical Center Clinic project.
  • Pure Prairie Poultry startup.
  • Charles City Rail Terminal project at the former Oliver Development Park site.
  • TLC: The Learning Center relocation.
  • Cambrex Charles City Inc. expansion.
  • The Villas at Parkside construction.

Ideally the community shall also witness new housing within the Southwest Development Park.

Charles City is experiencing an investment zenith which shall impact life here for the foreseeable future. The point is that the projects are interrelated as they positively impact our economy.

Housing is one facet in which CCADC has become involved. The community is witnessing demonstrable progress on the housing front.

Another facet – and one which decidedly falls into the “economic development” construct – is workforce development. We have several workforce initiatives under way.

In April 2024 the Floyd County unemployment rate was 2.4 percent, while the state was 2.8 percent. There were 200 Floyd County residents unemployed and receiving benefits in April.

Hearken back to the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s when Floyd County’s unemployment rate routinely doubled the average for Iowa.

CCADC considers the “frictional” unemployment rate to be 3.0 percent, where workers are between jobs or entering the workforce. This unemployment is typically short-term and can be viewed positively as job seekers pursue better opportunity.

This is counter to “structural” employment where the economy changes, and skills are no longer relevant.

So if we posit that a “normal” rate of 3.0 percent exists and the Floyd County rate is 2.4 percent, where are businesses to find employees?

One strategy is to increase the housing stock, presuming that workers would prefer to live closer to the jobsite.

Another advantage we have is labor fluidity conferred by the presence of the Avenue of the Saints. The community is easy to access – but then again employees can depart on the Avenue just as readily.

CCADC workforce development efforts are largely predicated upon labor force. Floyd County lost 10 percent of its labor force during the COVID-19 pandemic; we classify those persons as “the disengaged.”

In human terms that represents 970 fewer workers working in the county than before COVID. We are researching means to target these workers, but struggling as how to identify them and let them know there are many services available.

Another economic development facet is child care. It may be that at least a portion of the 970 disengaged workers is so because of lack of child care.

Child care is clearly an economic development issue. CCADC is unveiling the Greater Floyd County Childcare Initiative. Intent is to explore rationales for child care seat constriction and devise means to develop more slots.

Cerro Gordo and Mitchell counties also have programs in development.

I am proposing a child care summit to be held in Charles City this summer which ideally shall unearth some child care champions who can establish a task force.

Jobs, housing, workforce development and child care facets populate the CCADC work plan. Please contact me should you have questions or comments, at 641.228.3020 and Thank you.

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