Grow Cedar Valley Working to Build the Local Workforce

posted on Monday, February 28, 2022 in Grow Cedar Valley

by Danny Laudick (as published in The Courier Progress Edition on February 27,2022)

Necessity is the mother of invention, and that is certainly the response we’ve seen from businesses and organizations across the Cedar Valley dealing with the current workforce shortage. Employers are now offering remote working options, providing more flexible working hours & shifts, investing in expanding childcare availability to support their employees raising young families, and investing in reducing barriers for those in the community who have historically been overlooked as part of the workforce.

Restaurants and retail stores are figuring out ways to balance serving their customers while also being more attentive to their employees’ health and wellbeing to avoid burning them out, changing up their hours of operation and even closing temporarily when necessary to provide much needed time off for their employees. Many businesses across the board have found ways to adopt new technologies and processes to help address the shortage and streamline how they continue to serve their customers.

While not all effects been positive, as some businesses have had to close down out of necessity, we’ve seen others open anew or grow through the pandemic. Everything from restaurants and retail to software and manufacturing companies.

Looking at the data, some of this shortage is certainly attributable to the pandemic.  There are nearly 3.3 million more retirees as of October 2021 than there were in January 2020, according to estimates at the St. Louis Fed, a number that exceeded pre-pandemic expectations. Additionally, there are about 1.5 million fewer mothers of school-age kids actively working compared with pre-pandemic levels according to the Census Bureau – a complex result of both a shortage of [GU2] and the rising cost of childcare in addition to caring for other family members due to the pandemic.

The current workforce issues are more than a short-term result of the pandemic. They also represent the complexities of public policy, demographic shifts, and trends in national population growth. For instance, the workforce grew by 30.2% in the 70’s as the baby boomers began working and still continued to grow at a healthy rate in the 2000’s and 2010’s as the millennials joined the workforce (9.2% and 7.5% respectively).  In contrast, the Congressional Budget Office forecast in July last year that the workforce will only grow by 0.2% a year from 2024 to 2031 as the baby boomers continue to retire, millennials approach middle age, and the Gen Z that follows is comparatively small.

Add to that a national decline in immigration to the U.S. over the last several years, due both to public policy changes as well as restrictions on immigration and travel due to the pandemic. You also have an additional two million fewer working age immigrants who would have joined the workforce had the pre-pandemic trend continued – an estimated 1 million of which would have been college educated according to research at the University of California, Davis.

In short, employers can’t count on larger numbers of people entering the workforce to fill jobs.

What does all of this mean for businesses in the Cedar Valley? The dynamics of our workforce issues are complex, but we're far from powerless to do anything. Employers are already flexing their creative muscles in finding ways to address their individual business needs, and at Grow Cedar Valley, we’re doing the same to help address our collective needs.

At Grow Cedar Valley we break down the workforce conversation into three major areas: 1. Attracting and retaining talent in the Cedar Valley, 2. Educating and developing the future workforce, and 3. how Break down barriers to employment to better allow all people to participate in the economy and the workforce.

GCV is focusing more than ever on addressing these three areas, and you can expect to see several new initiatives this year, ranging from newcomer events to connect new residents with the clubs, associations, community organizations as they settle into the Cedar Valley as their new home, to public-private partnerships to address several major barriers to employment, including access to affordable childcare and shared transportation van or bus routes to open up employment opportunities for those who lack reliable transportation.

We’re also partnering with our K-12 schools and higher educational partners like Hawkeye Community College and UNI on several new training initiatives, working to provide students with the best educational and training opportunities available and finding creative ways to connect our youth with quickly growing career opportunities in the Cedar Valley.

There’s plenty of work to be done and Grow Cedar Valley certainly isn’t alone in doing this work. As the old adage goes, it takes a village, and these next few years will without a doubt be a testament to how much we can accomplish when we invest together as a community in the future of the Cedar Valley.

Interested in getting more involved with Grow Cedar Valley’s business & community initiatives?  Reach out to us at

Danny LaudickDanny is the Senior Program Director for Economic Development for Grow Cedar Valley taking lead on the organization’s workforce and talent initiatives as well as a new focus on innovation & entrepreneurship, bring over to GCV the startup-focused and tech-enabled startups and scaleups in the Cedar Valley.