The Ottumwa Courier

October 23, 2013

Ottumwa following Iowa new business trend

By JOSH VARDAMAN
Courier staff writer

---- — OTTUMWA — New businesses are sprouting up in Iowa at a far greater rate than in previous years, according to a recent announcement by Secretary of State Matt Shultz.

According to a press release from Shultz's office, from January to September, there were 14,550 new businesses that filed paperwork with the state of Iowa, and in September alone there were 1,408. The numbers for this year to date are nearly a 20 percent increase from 2008 and up almost 23 percent from 2009.

“It’s great to see the number of business filings growing in Iowa,” Shultz said in the announcement. “My office is working hard to make sure there are less hoops for business owners to jump through as businesses are built and jobs are created right here in Iowa.”

Ottumwa is trying to do its part to add to those numbers. According to Bob Untiedt, director of Main Street Ottumwa, there are 127 businesses in downtown Ottumwa, and he expects that most of them are a year older or less.

David Barajas, executive director of the Ottumwa Economic Development Corporation, stated that there is “a lot of activity out there” in regards to new businesses popping up around the Ottumwa area.

Barajas said that approximately 80-85 percent of the new business in the area is coming from companies that already have roots in the community, and since those businesses have been committed here, OEDC is working to help them grow first. But that does not mean they aren’t trying to get new businesses to come to Ottumwa from outside of southeast Iowa.

“We are trying to help create an atmosphere conducive to overall development,” Barajas said. “We are always working to get new businesses here.”

OEDC has partnered with organizations in Ottumwa, including the Ottumwa Regional Legacy Foundation, Main Street Ottumwa and others, to form a Business Placement Committee, where they try to make it easier for new businesses to find a spot in the area. It is a way to provide an outlet for prospective business owners to come to, according to Barajas, when they have interest in starting a business in Ottumwa.

The committee makes it easier for owners to know who to contact. They can connect to any of the member organizations, and when the committee comes together they share the new business ideas with each other and come up with a plan to help the prospective business.

“Too many times, someone who wants to open something new doesn’t know who to talk to,” Barajas said. “It makes sense for all of us to come together … it ultimately makes it easier.”

In order for Ottumwa to keep growing and bringing new industry to the area, Barajas believes that the community has to work together. He thinks that an infrastructure needs to be put in place by providing a strong school system and medical facilities and that the broadband connectivity in the city has to be updated.

“We have to work as a community… to make it positively conducive,” he said.

Barajas pointed to the number of new retail businesses in the area, such as the new stores being placed in the Quincy Place Mall, as an indicator that there are new businesses coming to Ottumwa. As long as Ottumwans can work together as a community and make the city inviting to owners who have interest in the area, he said, that trend should continue.

— To see reporter Josh Vardaman's Twitter feed, go to @CourierJosh