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North Iowa Corridor EDC’s CEO proud of business community’s response to pandemic, but says challenges lie ahead

CLEAR LAKE — The head of the North Iowa Corridor Economic Development Corporation says he’s proud of the business community’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic but challenges do lie ahead.

CEO Chad Schreck says partnerships in the community helped when tough times came at the start of the pandemic, including a Small Business Recovery and Continuity fund that helped around 120 businesses.  “We put together the Small Business Recovery Fund, got almost $500,000 out to our small business community at a time where they were desperate. They were afraid, and we were afraid. Those are the small businesses that make our communities special. I’m really proud of the way we pulled that together. The cities and the county jumping right into that, not being afraid to make a big investment to that end and helping with that.”

Schreck says while there were jobs lost during the pandemic, no major employers shut their doors for good.   “We could have seen a lot of businesses shut down, we could have seen a lot of people laid off, and we didn’t. We had almost a thousand jobs that declined. Fortunately they weren’t in the primary sector jobs. We didn’t lose manufacturing, we didn’t lose financial, we didn’t lose a lot of those kind of core jobs in our business community. We pulled together, and Mason City, Clear Lake, the county, people around the region, working together to get through that.”

Schreck says about 1000 jobs were lost due to the pandemic, but the biggest thing currently is an issue the area saw way before the pandemic — the number of people actively in the workforce is lower.  “This should concern us because that long-term trend, we’re down over 4000 jobs from our peak just 15 years ago, and we need to do something about that. We need to stem that tide and start turning that back up. If you looked at the state averages, they saw the big drops after recessions too, but they started quickly after all those recessions, and we just didn’t, so we have to do something about it. Again, we’re going to be continuing to work. About 1800 new jobs were just posted in the last month, so again we’ve got jobs, that’s not our problem. Our problem continues to be people.”

Schreck made his comments at the North Iowa Corridor EDC’s annual meeting held yesterday at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake. 

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