In the area, workforce development is a widely recognized goal to foster future economic expansion.
For Council Bluffs and the communities of Pottawattamie County, workforce development is a widely recognized goal to foster future economic expansion. And community leaders are working to grow an employee base to support new business planning and investment.
But across the county, in both private sector and public, many agree: The key to building that bigger workforce is to build a better community.
And that’s what is happening across the region.
Southwest Iowa is seeing an impassioned restoration of its communities and neighborhoods these days – all with an eye to enhancing the quality of life for current residents and attracting future residents.
A sprawling public park is taking shape along the Missouri River banks of Council Bluffs. Colorful murals decorate the exteriors of prominent structures. Historic downtown buildings are being renovated and turned into new uses. Affordable housing is under development for working families. Investments are going into the arts and cultural activities. Wineries and brewing are flourishing. Education is receiving private sector support, and a visitor-friendly landscape of biking trails, nature walks and scenic drives is being promoted.
Pottawattamie County is a mixture of urban and rural with towns offering businesses and recreation to draw newcomers, says Paula Hazlewood, executive director of Advance Southwest Iowa Corp., the economic development engine that brings the region’s resources together to foster growth.
In Council Bluffs, the Iowa West Field House and Iowa West Youth Sports Complex is an indoor sports facility that features basketball courts and soccer fields. The town of Crescent offers the Mt. Crescent Ski Area and Honey Creek Creamery and Farm. Walnut is home to more than a dozen antique shops.
“I was drawn here because I see the potential this area has,â€ says Drew Kamp, who relocated his family to Council Bluffs in 2020 to become CEO of the Council Bluffs Chamber of Commerce. “Not only do we offer employers a positive business attitude, we also possess a natural environment of scenic landscapes, parks, arts and culture.”
As the eastern hub of the diverse Greater Omaha-Council Bluffs Metropolitan Statistical Area, Pottawattamie County’s targeted industries going forward include advanced manufacturing, ag-bio sciences, food production, technology and data centers and transportation and logistics operations.
To set the stage for that vision, the county’s businesses, government agencies, nonprofits, philanthropies and financial interests are coming together in partnership on a plan of action.
“We have a great partnership of people and communities working together,â€ Hazlewood says. “Our strength is that everyone is working toward a common goal – the chambers of commerce, the people in real estate, philanthropies and business leaders.”
Anchoring the region is Council Bluffs, a city that offers a unique blend of lifestyles, says Council Bluffs Mayor Matt Walsh.
“We have an advantage that not many cities can claim,â€ he says. “We enjoy a small-town feel where you can know your neighbors and enjoy the peace of the Iowa countryside. But at the same time, we’re part of a very large metropolitan area, with art museums, historical museums, a symphony, universities and major venues for entertainment.
“It all comes together right here.”
Learn more at Advance Southwest Iowa.