Tama County, Iowa has been holding strong on a $13.42 average hourly wage through the recession, and rebounded to a 6.1% unemployment before the straight-line storm hit. Though this is very comparable to the State’s 6.0% unemployment, (and extremely favorable compared to the national 9.1% unemployment) wages are still significantly lower in Tama County than surrounding areas, leaving many vulnerable to deal with the aftermath of the derecho.
On Friday Tama County Economic Development and Region 6 Planning did another tour of the straight-line wind disaster area visiting in-person with the mayors, emergency services, major industries, and a sampling of property owners most impacted. The focus was clear as we saw person after person selflessly looking out for the best interest of their community, neighbors, friends, workers, residents, customers. Immense cleanup progress has been made in just five days, but it is apparent that rebuilding will be a long-term effort.
Basic Economic Impact Industry Assessment:
- Ag Producers: Pioneer Hi-Bred and about 600 family farmers in a 360 square mile band across Tama County were preparing to “win the lottery” with corn at $7 a bushel and the best looking corn crop in decades in a rebounding economy. But the straight-line wind blew that away. The corn plants bent flat against the earth and though it goosenecked back up over the last week, experts warn that is not indicative of a productive yield. General consensus is that the soybean crop is much more hardy and resilient. Corn crop loss is estimated be around $25 million at this time. That does not include the loss of animal life, nor the millions of dollars in damage to ag investments like hundreds of grain bins, barns, machine sheds, pummeled trailers and machinery.
- Ag Services: A top performer in the Tama County economy during the recession has been agriculture and its related services. But in the aftermath of the storm, the strong game plan that worked so well eight days ago would need to be altered now. Mid-Iowa and Benton-Tama Coop have sustained millions in dollars of damages at multiple facilities, and they are working on putting together the best possible solutions for their customers. Click here for a list of Tama County Ag service providers.
- Transportation: An industry that already had a bright long-term outlook before the storm is now being upgraded even further. Reconstruction of hundreds of grain bins and dryers is anticipated to take longer than 12 months for many, and that means an increased need for drivers that can haul grain further distances than in the past. Increased demand for truck drivers in the area is anticipated. Click here for list of Tama County trucking companies.
- Waste Management: With the total destruction of tens of millions of dollars in real estate and thousands of trees, we have been especially impressed with enterprising entities who have contacted property owners to help haul away antique barn wood and trees for making furniture and other wood related products. Steel, tin, bricks, totalled cars are just some of the other materials that could possibly be used productively in their next life. Click here for a list of Tama County waste management companies.
- Construction: Thousands of residential houses and businesses in addition to the farm real estate already listed would need to be restored or reconstructed. Sharp increase in the need for construction materials and technical trade skills to rewire and restore plumbing solutions will also be necessary. We anticipate restoration will take more than one year with the resources available within a one hour driving radius. Click here for Tama County construction companies and local available jobs.
- Nonprofits: To date about 100 homeowners have called the emergency dispatch (641) 484-3760 and reported that they do not have the necessary insurance to rebuild or restore their homes. We are also very concerned about a number of business and nonprofit properties that are reportedly underinsured from the wrath of this specific storm. Certain damages were simply not insurable, others explain that during the recession insurance was one place they cut expenses. For now you are welcome to contact cities and nonprofits directly if you can support them with your donations. Also contact your local Tama County Community Foundation representative or Tama County Economic Development if you wish to help with long-term solutions.