It’s a fact with a simple explanation: The manufacturing industry in Dubuque, Iowa is expanding because Dubuque manufacturers make money.
According to Paragon Decision Resources, Inc., an international relocation consulting company, Dubuque’s overall costs for a manufacturing operations are much more competitive than some of the nation’s leading industry centers—31 percent lower than Minneapolis, 24 percent lower than Detroit, 21 percent lower than Cleveland, and 24 percent lower than St. Louis. Forbes magazine also recently noted that Dubuque’s cost of doing business is the 13th lowest in the entire United States.
But what’s the secret to this low-cost environment and profitability? While many communities claim the finest workforce, location or infrastructure, Dubuque has the best of all three—and much more.
For manufacturing companies, an educated workforce translates into quality employees. Schools in Dubuque continue to nurture and produce some of the best students in America. Average daily school attendance for Dubuque students in grades kindergarten through 12 is 96.4 percent—higher than both the Iowa and U.S. averages. Dubuque’s K-12 schools recently received a Top 10 ranking from Expansion Management Magazine—placing the Dubuque Community School District 7th in the United States.
The Dubuque area also has excellent colleges and universities. Dubuque itself is home to three private colleges and universities, with the University of Wisconsin-Platteville just 20 miles to the east and the University of Iowa and the University of Northern Iowa each just 90 miles away. The community colleges do an excellent job of training current employees and developing students for careers in manufacturing. Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC) has a number of courses that benefit students wishing to work specifically for manufacturing companies and offers a variety of technical degrees and certifications. NICC has been successful in placing students in local companies and offering customized training in the manufacturing industry. In addition to their coursework, students from all area colleges get hands-on experience through internships at local manufacturing companies including John Deere and Quebecor.
As of July 2006, Dubuque continued its streak of ranking number 1 for job creation among Iowa’s major metro areas. Dubuque added 2,700 jobs during the past year—creating almost 1 out of every 10 new jobs in Iowa—and has added 4,900 to its workforce over the past three years. Young professionals looking for exciting careers have been attracted not only by the city’s opportunity, but its lifestyle. Dubuque’s affordability, attractive landscape, change of seasons, sense of community and recreational amenities all play an equal role in the decision to locate to the community.
With the rising fuel costs continuing to shrink profits, location is becoming even more crucial to the manufacturing industry. Dubuque’s geographic location—smack-dab in the middle of the United States—and its direct access to major transportation networks have made the city a centralized hub for a variety of industries.
Dubuque, with more than 28 million consumers within 300 miles of the City, is only a 2-day drive from 74.6 percent of the entire U.S. population. Highways 20, 52, 61, and 151 pass right through Dubuque providing a convenient connection to Interstates 80 and 35 in Iowa, Interstate 90 and 74 in Illinois, and Interstate 94 in Wisconsin. Dubuque also sits in the backyard of the nation’s third largest city, Chicago, and is directly linked to O’Hare International Airport by daily jet service. Dubuque’s location within the Central time-zone also provides a distinct advantage for sales and customer service efforts allowing for better, more efficient coverage of customers on both the east and west coasts.
Infrastructure improvements have been a high priority and are not only evident by better roads, but through utility enhancements and telecommunications upgrades to keep industries competitive and citizens active in the global marketplace.
More than six million square feet of non-residential construction was completed the last six years, providing state-of-the-art facilities for industry. The City also invested in the development of two industrial parks to provide space for its growing business community. Expansion of existing businesses and the attraction of new industry have put both the Dubuque Industrial Center West and Dubuque Technology Park at near capacity with additional phases already underway.
Municipal services such as fire, water and sewer are excellent in Dubuque —a testament to excellent city government services. Electric power can be a key determinant in a site location decision. Dubuque employers consider their service “excellent” and electric power rates are lower than the competing cities of Chicago and Cleveland.
The State of Iowa and the City of Dubuque have designed creative incentive programs that will benefit manufacturing companies. The local economic development group does an excellent job facilitating the programs with companies. As an example, Iowa’s New Jobs Training Program is one of the most effective incentive programs in the nation. The program pays for vocational and skill assessment services as well as time-related travel and meal expenses for trainers and new employees. The program assumes 50 percent reimbursement of the new employee’s wage for on-the-job training and 100 percent of the cost for instructors, training facilities and equipment, materials, and supplies.
Dubuque may be a secret to companies that are struggling financially, unable to find skilled and reliable employees, and under pressure to improve efficiency. But it’s no secret to the manufacturers that are locating, growing—and making money—in Dubuque.