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Progress continued to define the past year for Hiawatha’s economic development — steady, if incremental, improvement that continues to fuel the community’s push for growth and expansion.
Dozens of Hiawatha leaders gathered Sept. 14 for the annual State of the City event, presented by the Hiawatha Economic Development Corporation (HEDCO) and held this year at the newly-constructed Ogden & Adams Building Solutions facility, taking the opportunity to celebrate a year marked by the addition of several new businesses, the ongoing development of new housing projects, and look forward to a number of new initiatives on the horizon.
While there may not have been any “big fish” projects over the past year, leaders say Hiawatha has continued to expand, both physically and economically.
The numbers help tell the city’s story. Over a three-year period, the city has added 328,970 square feet of new commercial property and $76.9 million in overall property valuation, including $33.6 million in 2022 and more than $13 million so far this year.
Hiawatha is now home to more than 330 businesses, employing nearly 4,000 people, with eight new businesses opening over the past fiscal year. And the city’s population is expected to grow to 9,154 by 2024 and to 10,033 by 2029, according to city officials.
At a time when many Iowa communities are holding steady, or even declining, on the economic front, city attorney Mark Parmenter noted that Hiawatha has effectively used financial incentive opportunities, including TIF (Tax Increment Financing), which he termed “one of the greatest development tools that cities have in their toolbox.”
“It’s critical to have that opportunity,” Mr. Parmenter said. “Hiawatha has taken advantage of it. Hiawatha probably can’t compete with Cedar Rapids on some of the TIF projects that Cedar Rapids is able to do, but Hiawatha is fair, reasonable, steady and responsible.”
Mayor Bill Bennett noted that Hiawatha has seen several infrastructure projects progress over the past year, including the long-awaited opening of the new Interstate 380 interchange at Tower Terrace Road in June.
“We know that it’s going to expand out there,” Mr. Bennett said. “We’ve already seen the expansion in businesses and attractions that are going to come to that area, but it’s going to further (encourage) the businesses that are already there. Perhaps, but it took a while, we’re excited about that.”
Other major projects are on the horizon, Mr. Bennett noted, including the reconstruction of the Boyson Road-Interstate 380 interchange beginning in 2024 and the construction of Hiawatha’s second fire station on Stamy Road, set to be completed in the summer of 2024.
On the housing front, several projects are in the works, including single-family developments such as Edgewood Village, set to include 130 homes and 20 townhouses north of Tower Terrace Road; Timber Creek Estates is adding 10 new homes; Rolling Prairie Estates, adding 85 single-family homes by 2024; Todd Hills, a 72-home development begun in 2021; and Heritage Green, set to add 41 homes.
A series of multi-family developments are under construction as well, including the Hub LLC Town Center project, a four-building development that will offer 142 new units by 2025; the Crossing on Boyson, expected to bring 196 units to the market by 2024; and Landover Corp. Senior Living, with 52 units set to be complete by 2024.
An economic development panel at the event included comments from Mr. Bennett, Mr. Parmenter, Cedar Graphics owner Hassan Igram, Dr. Matt Aucutt of the emergency room staff at Mercy Medical Center’s office in Hiawatha, and Carla Andorf, dean of workforce services at Kirkwood Community College, who commented on topics ranging from workforce development and recruitment to supply chain issues, health care and the ease of working with Hiawatha city officials on new development plans.
The city also presented its second annual Fay Clark Award for community service to longtime Personal Safety Corporation president and council member Dick Olson, who resigned from the council earlier this year. The award’s namesake, Fay Clark, was the city’s founder and its first mayor.
Overall, Mr. Bennett said he continues to be optimistic about Hiawatha’s.
“It’s all exciting,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, Hiawatha is growing at a rate that could be a little scary. But we seem to be keeping up, and I think Hiawatha is seeing some really good times. When I got elected, I was handed a situation that was really good, and we continue to build on it. I see Hiawatha doing big things in the future.”