Dubuque leaders say city is bucking national, state trends - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Dubuque leaders say city is bucking national, state trends


City leaders in Dubuque say they want to keep moving in one direction, and that is forward.

At Monday night's seventh annual State of the City address, Dubuque mayor Roy Buol delivered a glowing report of the city's economic growth and stability.

He said Dubuque was Iowa's only major metro area in 2012 with a job growth rate of over 2 percent. During the past three years, Buol said, Dubuque County - which accounts for just 3 percent of Iowa's population - created more than 13 percent of the state's new jobs.

From new businesses coming in to existing businesses expanding, one might say Dubuque's economic outlook is as sunny as the skies these early spring days.

"The job growth here has been pretty phenomenal," Dubuque director of economic development Dave Heiar said.

"The last few years as a nation have been kind of a struggle, and yet even during that difficult time, we've done some pretty remarkable things and kind of fought the trend of the national economy, even through the great recession," Heiar said.

All of this economic success stands in stark contrast to the Dubuque of the early 1980s, when the unemployment rate there was among the highest in the nation, around 23 percent.

"What we're seeing today didn't just happen and it's not just luck," Heiar said. "It was a lot of hard work by many people over 20, 30 years."

He said it took city leaders a lot of planning and big vision to get Dubuque where it is, and more jobs are on the way.

Heartland Financial, the parents company of Dubuque Bank and Trust, announced it's expanding into downtown Dubuque's Roshek Building, which already houses IBM and several local retailers The expansion will add 50 new jobs

Buol attributed the city's success to factors including the community's higher education institutions, which he said contribute a local economic impact of $547 million annually and employ more than 1,200 people fulltime.

He mentioned public-private partnerships between the city and entities such as the Greater Dubuque Development Corporation, the Chamber of Commerce and the Dubuque Community Foundation.

Buol also said the city's success has to do with expansion and revitalization projects, such as the one underway right now in the Dubuque's historic Millwork District.

"I think in another five years people will look at that Millwork District just like we look at the Port of Dubuque today," Heiar said. "You know, it's one of the crown jewels of this community, whereas 15 years ago the Port of Dubuque was kind of an industrial wasteland."

City leaders say Dubuque's success would not be possible without partnering with the greater area - the county and southwest Wisconsin and northwest Illinois, just across the Mississippi River.

Buol said the city places special emphasis on investing in infrastructure.

"The top ten capital expenditures from 1997 through to 2018 represent investments in storm water management and the Bee Branch Creek Restoration Project; Industrial Parks; an Airport Terminal Project; the Sanitary Sewer system and the Water Resource & Recovery Center; the multiple phases of the America's River Project; Parking Ramps; the Southwest Arterial; and our annual street paving and reconstruction program," according to Buol's speech.

Aside from Economic Development, the city is also benefiting from tourism. Buol said Dubuque's Convention and Visitors Bureau estimates nearly two million people visited the city in 2012.

Most recent numbers from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics show Dubuque County's unemployment rate is at six percent. Iowa's overall rate is five percent. Those numbers are for January 2013.

To read Dubuque mayor Roy Buol's full 2013 State of the City Address, click HERE.

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