The IBM in Dubuque project is great, but we received a reminder today that Dubuque is not completely immune to the harsh economic realities of the world. In an announcement today, Deere & Company announced layoffs within the construction and forestry divisions that will have a major, and hopefully temporary, impact on the Dubuque area. Per a breaking article in the Des Moines Register this afternoon:
The layoffs are effective March 30 and are broken down at 220 in Dubuque and 105 in Davenport. Workers were told of the layoffs at meetings Friday afternoon.
The latest layoff comes after 200 workers were laid off at the Deere Davenport facility and another 180 in Dubuque since the beginning of the year. Deere is Iowa’s largest manufacturing employer, with about 12,000 workers.
On the heels of the newly released figures this morning of a national unemployment rate of 8.1%, the Deere announcement pushes the point home that we’re all interconnected in the national & global marketplace. Having now lost 400 employees at John Deere Dubuque Works, this certainly puts a blunt on the euphoria we’ve been feeling since the IBM announcement on January 15, 2009.
How will this impact the local real estate scene? I’m no fortune teller, but a basic understanding of economics will tell you this will be a drain not only real estate, but nearly all local businesses to a degree. We’re talking restaurants, service providers, car dealers - the list go on and on. IBM and the upcoming Hormel Processing plant will most likely still allow for growth in nearly all sectors of the Dubuque economy, but the Deere troubles will slow that growth a bit.
The bigger question is how will we, as a community, react? I doubt we’ll ever revert to the doom and gloom we experienced in the late 70′s and early 80′s in the Dubuque area. The old phrase “last one to leave Dubuque, turn out the lights” should by no means enter the picture. Remember, we hit nearly 24% unemployment in 1982. Back then Dubuque seemed to revolve only around the fortunes of John Deere and The Dubuque Packing Company.
Our local economy is way more diverse today. With Dubuque becoming a hub for technology, banking, and obviously tourism, I am fully confident that, while this is going to hurt a lot of good folks, especially in the short term, we’ll have other good opportunities. Deere & Company hopefully will be able to bring their workforce back up to full speed once the larger economy starts to recover.