Click here to see a comparison of your community’s property tax levy: 2017 Property Tax Comparison of Buchanan County Cities
The Economic Health of Buchanan County
Are Buchanan County communities thriving economically? Good questions have been asked regarding “excessive” tax burdens and the need for more jobs in our communities. In a broader sense, the questions raise issues about the financial health of our communities. Let me address some aspects of the discussion.
Are “high” city tax levies driving away businesses? Research shows that a city’s tax levy has minimal impact on a business’s decision on where to locate. The combination of all local, corporate and state taxes will have a greater bearing on business decisions and the overall cost of conducting business. The tax levy of Buchanan County cities ranks very favorably when compared to communities of comparable size. We compared the tax levy of each community with the 12 Iowa cities closest in size. Winthrop has the 2nd lowest tax levy when compared to the 13 cities in its population demographics. Fairbank has the 3rd lowest taxes in its respective group of 13 communities. Aurora the 4th with Rowley and Quasqueton having the 5th lowest tax levy. Independence and Hazleton have the 6th lowest, Brandon the 8th. Lamont and Stanley are ranked 10th. See the full results by clicking on the link at the top of the page. In terms of the overall cost of doing business in Iowa, CNBC’s 2016 rankings of the Top States for Business lists Iowa as the 9th best state for the overall cost of doing business.
There is little business growth in Buchanan County: Quite the opposite is happening. Based on available data, there are more people employed in Buchanan County than ever before. Over 1,400 are directly employed in manufacturing with nearly 10,000 more employed in health care, agriculture, transportation, education, professional services, retail and utilities. Two new companies, Hog Slats and Meridian Distribution, have opened businesses in Independence and creating new jobs. Most importantly existing businesses have made sizable expansion investments leading to new hiring. Geater Machining, Pries Enterprises, Wapsie Valley Creamery and Tyson Pet Products have invested millions in equipment, technology and facility expansion to enable them to be competitive for the future. Manufactures in Jesup, Brandon, Quasqueton, Stanley, Fairbank and Winthrop are also adding jobs. Many businesses are purchasing equipment and investing in research to create new products, services and jobs.
Challenges facing Buchanan County? If you are not constantly moving forward, you will soon be left behind. While we are doing well in Buchanan County we can always do better and there are shortcomings that need addressing. The number one challenge for business expansion is finding qualified workers. The county unemployment rate is 2.8% (7/17) with Iowa’s rate at 3.2% (7/17)and business cannot grow if they cannot find needed employees. Secondly, there is a lack of decent and affordable housing and this directly impacts the ability to attract and keep employees. The BCEDC is completing a county-wide housing study to quantify housing shortages. Once the results of the housing needs assessment are made available in October of 2017, communities can then pursue grants and low interest loans to help private builders construct affordable housing options. Next, we must continue to promote shovel-ready development ground for new business construction. Forty-three percent of responding businesses in Buchanan County and the Cedar Valley region said they have no room for expansion at their current location. If we want to keep businesses in our towns and attract new companies, we must have sites upon which they can build.