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Message from Columbus Junction Community Development

Posted: Tuesday, June 24th, 2008 at 5:29 am

This message is from Mallory Smith, Columbus Junction Community Development Director

The flood waters that recently wrecked havoc in Columbus Junction, Iowa left residents and visitors high and dry for places to eat. That is an unusual occurrence for this little town of 1,900 that boasts thirteen restaurants and three bars. The high water closed four of the town’s food establishments and left nine more with tables empty, under a boil order while the city’s water treatment plant was restored to normal operating conditions. On Saturday morning the boil order was lifted and cooks immediately began chopping, mixing and frying. Customers weren’t far behind. People were happy to enjoy again their favorite culinary treats that in Columbus Junction range from huevos rancheros to apple pie.

The flood of 2008 created a small business disaster for this Southeast Iowa community. High water directly or indirectly affected nearly every business in the city, almost all of which are small family-owned enterprises. The easternmost portion of the downtown business district was under water for days. Over two dozen businesses and organizations are now facing the tasks of clean up, repairs or perhaps rebuilding. Businesses above the flooded area felt the effects too due to the boil order and closed highways that left the city inaccessible from the east and north for a week. Fortunately homeowners fared better and less than 10 houses were damaged.

Even now, while water is still being pumped out of the Fairgrounds, the economic recovery effort is underway. Elias Gutierrez, Executive Director for Louisa Development Group, a countywide economic development organization, is heading up efforts to connect business owners with resources such as FEMA, Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Small Business Development Center (SBDC). “It’s vital to have these businesses up and running again. They provide jobs, pay taxes and contribute a lot to our economy,” stated Gutierrez.

City officials are hopeful that the spirit of sandbagging will extend to shopping locally. The city’s largest grocery store, Economart, was underwater and is closed. Residents are being encouraged to shop at the three Hispanic markets that carry full product lines including grocery items, produce, meat, dairy, and cleaning supplies. Another option being presented is to make the trip to Wapello, the county seat fifteen minutes away, where Economart’s owners have a second location. “It’s a very important time to shop locally, to help the economy and show community pride,” declares Mallory Smith, Columbus Junction Community Development Director.

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