A woman works in the factory at Pella Corp. in Pella, Iowa. (Photo courtesy of Pella Corp.)
Pella Corp. recently had the privilege of hosting the Iowa Business Council’s “Vision to Vitality” community forum at the New Horizon Academy. Director Debi Durham from the Iowa Economic Development Authority joined area leaders to discuss the challenges and opportunities we face cultivating the talent pipeline and growing rural communities.
As our panel of business leaders, educators and economic development experts outlined the current state of affairs, one thing became clear: collaboration, recruitment and creative placemaking are the keys to success if we hope to maintain a thriving community.
Iowa has an aging population and a slow growth rate. Currently, the increases in population are happening in larger metros at the expense of rural areas. It is an uphill battle, but the Pella area is uniquely qualified to take on this challenge.
Our community is fortunate that a number of large employers call Marion County home. However, it is challenging to run a big company in a rural area. As businesses grow, so does the demand for a qualified workforce. It is not enough to retain our existing workforce. We must expand recruitment efforts regionally and nationally to attract the necessary talent to enable continued business growth and long-term viability.
Focusing on quality-of-life projects will help us recruit and retain employees. Prospective residents aren’t just looking for a job. They are looking for a community to thrive in. That is why Pella Corp. has invested in projects like the 190-person New Horizon Academy child care facility, the 160-acre Prairie Ridge neighborhood, South Main townhomes, Liberty Street Kitchen and the new Pella on Main Market. Additional community projects on the horizon such as Smash Park and The Estates of Pella will also add to the cultural fabric.
While physical improvements to our community infrastructure go a long way, we must also focus on being welcoming and inclusive to new residents. It is one thing to recruit people. It’s another to make newcomers feel comfortable and included. Whether that family is from another state, or another country altogether, our collective success depends on inclusion.
As the Iowa Business Council hosts “Vision to Vitality” forums across the state, we hear a consistent message from regional leaders who are united in their hunt for creative ways to improve our communities and cultivate a successful, career-ready workforce. Growth is imperative to the success of every sector.
The reality is, if advancements cannot be supported in Iowa due to a lack of qualified workforce, business investment priorities will shift toward other states with deeper labor pools.
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