Regional business officials hope to capitalize on the momentum they’ve gained in recruiting and retaining more people in the region in 2023.
Here’s The Telegraph Herald’s outlook for some of the biggest local business stories expected to happen this year.
Multiple local organizations and officials have announced projects to expand child care services to meet the substantial child care needs in the region.
Rick Dickinson, president and chief executive officer of Greater Dubuque Development Corp., said GDDC officials regularly hold in-depth conversations with businesses, and over time, issues related to child care have become an important part of those discussions.
“The (COVID-19) pandemic has changed some things, but that’s not really the reason for the shortage of child care in Dubuque, the country, Iowa and the greater Dubuque area,” Dickinson said. “The problem already exists.”
Dickinson said a child care survey completed in 2022 revealed several areas that needed to be addressed — baby care, shift care, respite care and sick care.
Several large childcare projects announced in 2022 are expected to add hundreds of childcare locations to meet these needs. However, Dickinson said it’s also important to find ways to recruit and retain child care workers.
He noted that the Opportunity Dubuque Initiative supports Northeast Iowa Community Colleges with scholarships to train staff for child care positions and provide child care services to program participants.
“(The initiative) helps to generate more workers in the market, not only for new facilities in the market, but also to increase the capacity of the facilities,” he said. “Most people can adopt more children if they can hire more workers.”
Throughout 2022, business officials are focused on workforce recruitment and retention.
Dubuque County still had about 1,500 fewer workers in November than it did in November 2019, Dickinson said. He added that about 1,500 other people in the county were identified as unemployed and looking for work, while only 225 of them were receiving unemployment benefits.
“It’s a misnomer to think that the reason the workforce is challenged is because people don’t want to work and live a lot on unemployment benefits,” Dickinson said. “That’s just not true.”
Addressing needs in child care, housing and transportation have been identified as areas that could help address labor shortages, Dickinson said.
Housing projects expected to start in 2023 will increase the number of housing units needed, Dickinson said.
Free Jule routes will also be offered to businesses in multiple areas for six months beginning Jan. 9 to help with workers’ transportation needs.
“All of these things are going to be implemented in 2023 and hopefully they will make us more competitive in terms of workforce,” he said. “Retaining talent is critical so we don’t leak water before the top of the bucket is filled.”
Commercial Aviation Opportunities
After American Airlines ended service to the Dubuque-area airport in September, officials at ultra-low-cost carrier Avelo Airlines announced in November that they would offer twice-weekly service to Orlando beginning January 11. International airport flights.
Dubuque Regional Airport Director Todd Dalsing said it is possible to add additional Avelo routes based on demand for leisure aviation service. As of early December, at least 24% of tickets for the first four months of flights between Dubuque and Orlando were sold.
Darcin said efforts to restore daily air service to major hubs such as Chicago will continue. The Dubuque Area Chamber of Commerce also hired consultants Rasky Partners to help develop a strategy to build a national coalition of communities such as those in Dubuque that have reduced or stopped air service.
Additionally, a $775,000 federal grant awarded to Dubuque in February 2020 to add westbound flights at the airport remains available through 2026. Darsin said that funding is something officials can offer when they talk to airlines.
“We did hire a consulting group as well, which was Global Flight Solutions,” Dalsing said. “That’s been a few weeks and they’ve started and picked up where the previous advisor left off, scheduling meetings with legacy carriers and regional carriers.”
field of dream development
Some of the larger developments planned for Dyersville’s Dreamland are expected to be completed by 2023.
Development of the $80 million iconic property, owned by Go the Distance Baseball, began in September.
The first part of the work will focus on the 70-acre Recreational Sports Center north of the movie location. It will include nine new courts, team housing, an arena and jogging trails. Go the Distance baseball officials previously shared their plans to have teams play on the field by this summer.
The development also includes a 104-room boutique hotel across Lansing Road from the Land of Dreams, as well as a caravan park and outdoor amphitheater near the film’s location.
There are also plans to build a $55 million, 3,000-seat permanent stadium around a Major League Baseball field near the film’s location.
Keith Rahe, president and CEO of Travel Dubuque, said the stadium project is currently in the design process, and officials involved in the project have visited other baseball facilities to better understand what they hope to create.
“We are selecting a construction manager who is at risk right now, which makes a lot of sense for a project like this,” Rahe said. “Once the group is selected, I think the timeline (of the project) will become more fixed.”
He said the development of Field of Dreams stems from the momentum created by the first Major League Baseball game at Field of Dreams in 2021.
“One of the most important things is the time, energy and detail that goes into all of this and making sure everything gets done and continues to develop,” he said. “As we move into (2023), hopefully it’s going to be a very promising year to make more progress in this area.”
potential inflation impact
Inflation has hit every industry broadly over the past year, from rising material costs to rising home interest rates, leaving many across the country wondering whether a recession is imminent. Prices rose more than 7% in November compared to November 2021, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
“Everything that’s done affects those realities,” Dickinson said. “In a way, every project extension, every business, every residential development, it puts an asterisk next to it.”
However, Dickinson said many factors affecting larger economic issues are beyond local control, such as the economic impact of the war in Ukraine.
“We can’t fix everything,” he said. “What we can do is try to solve problems better than our competitors and thus be more economically successful than our competitors.”
Several projects announced by area businesses are expected to add jobs starting in 2023, Dickinson said. In addition, aside from the closure of the Georgia Pacific Dubuque plant and the loss of 85 jobs there, he said there is no sign of mass layoffs on the ground.
“But there’s no guarantee there won’t be such news in 2023,” he said. “We’re going to have to wait and see and figure it out when it comes. The drumbeat of Greater Dubuque Development is that time solves nothing. People and investors with courage and initiative change everything.”