Two southwest Iowa counties that were swamped by flooding two years ago show different trends in their economies as they continue to recover.
Economic data shows Fremont County gained businesses from 2019 to 2020 while Mills County lost businesses. The flood-ravaged towns of Hamburg and Pacific Junction largely mimic those trends.
Iowa State University economist Dave Swenson says Hamburg — in Freemont County — will likely be able to bounce back because it was not substantially destroyed like the Mills County town of Pacific Junction.
“Small communities that get hit hard never come back the way they were before,” Swenson says. “It just depends on how much was destroyed in terms of built capital.” A few new businesses have popped up in Hamburg and more are on the way. Swenson says that’s a sign of restoring parts of the lost economy, but it doesn’t necessarily signal economic development.
Kayti Hayes co-owns specialty coffee shop Relax and Unwind with her husband, Josh. They started off as a mobile business, but opened a shop in Hamburg last October.
“Josh was really wanting to come back to his hometown because he doesn’t want to see Hamburg die. He wants to see it thrive,” Hayes says. “So we can be another business that adds a couple more employees to help out around town.”
Hamburg is also getting a golf simulator and there are plans for a hotel, since the town’s only motel closed and is for sale.
(By Katie Peikes, Iowa Public Radio)