More than half of the manufacturers located in six western Iowa counties report they’re still dealing with major challenges related to flooding along the Missouri River. The companies responded to a survey compiled by Ruth Wilcox at Iowa State University Extension.
“We contacted approximately 200 manufacturers and had about a 60-percent response rate to the questions we asked,” Wilcox said. “And 53% of those respondents reported they were affected by flooding.” The companies are located in the Presidential Disaster Declaration Area that includes Fremont, Harrison, Mills, Monona, Pottawattamie, and Woodbury Counties.
The primary issue is transportation logistics as roads and bridges in the area have been closed for a couple months. Wilcox says manufacturers are facing increased costs because of delays in both receiving supplies and shipping products to customers. She says the western Iowa businesses are dealing with many of the challenges that businesses in Cedar Rapids had to overcome during the flood of 2008.
“The difference this time is just the actual event. In Cedar Rapids, the flooding occurred and then it receded. In western Iowa, the flooding occurred and it’s still occurring,” Wilcox said. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is beginning to reduce the amount of water being released from reservoirs into the Missouri River, but the floodwaters could remain in place through early October.
Many of the businesses are also reporting workforce challenges as employees are taking time off to deal with their own flooded homes.
“The majority (of the companies surveyed) are concerned about the stress their workforce is having to go through,” Wilcox said. The survey by the I.S.U. Extension and Outreach Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS) found one-fourth of the impacted businesses are food processors.
Fabricated metals, chemicals, and plastic and rubber products companies make up over one-third of those affected. Some of the manufacturers, Wilcox notes, have moved warehouses or operations, while others are considering relocation.