Sioux City a site for progress over past decade

June 9, 2016 | 2016 CEO Survey: Workforce, Health Care are Top Priorities Emily Schettler, Iowa Association of Business and Industry,

The Iowa Association of Business and Industry’s Taking Care of Business Conference has changed dramatically over the past 10 years.

So has the Siouxland region, which last hosted the annual ABI conference in 2006 and serves as the backdrop for this year’s event.

“We’ve had a significant number of changes; there isn’t any question about that,” Sioux City Mayor Bob Scott said. “In the downtown area, things have changed quite dramatically.”

Sioux City and surrounding communities have been deliberate in their efforts to bring new quality-of-life amenities and attractions. They have also worked hard to accommodate the needs of new and expanding companies.

In fact, for eight of the past 10 years, Siouxland has ranked in the top three in terms of economic development for communities with a population of 50,000 to 200,000 people, according to Site Selection magazine. The area was ranked No. 1 five times during that period, in 2015, 2013, 2012, 2008 and 2007.

“If people spend some time in the community, they’ll see what we have going on and see we have long range plans,” Scott said. “For a long time we didn’t invest and lagged behind, but we’re aggressively pursing that agenda right now.”

Highlights among all the development include the $130 million Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, which opened in August 2014 in downtown Sioux City. Over the past decade the city has also been working to redevelop the Historic Pearl District into an entertainment district along Pearl and Fourth streets on the west end of downtown.

The addition of another hotel in the area — the Stoney Creek Hotel & Conference Center — and the addition of the LaunchPAD Children’s Museum, bars, restaurants and shops have made downtown Sioux City a destination of sorts, said Dave Bernstein, president of Sioux City-based State Steel.

“That whole corridor has become really popular, and I think we’re seeing some of largest crowds we’ve had there, with people going to shows, going to dinner or to get drinks. It’s been really great,” Bernstein said.

The region has seen growth on the business side as well, with major projects, including the $36 million multiphased expansion of Sabre Industries, which is expected to add 532 jobs, and the $1.6 billion expansion of CF Industries, among others.

Scott and Bernstein agree there’s been a consistent effort among local governments and business groups around Siouxland to work together toward the betterment of the region.

“In Sioux City, we scramble a bit harder to make this stuff happen,” Bernstein said. “Whether it’s the city, chamber or the county, people are really working hard to make sure we’re welcoming businesses here and not putting up roadblocks.”