WEBSTER CITY AREA CHAMBER
Response to the New York Times
by Deb Brown, Director on January 30th, 2016

​I like Brendan Hoffman.  He first traveled to Webster City in 2011 when he was covering the presidential elections in 2011. I met the young man when I first started as Chamber Director in 2013.  He was back on a visit recently, following the Clinton team.  Brendan was just published again by the New York Times and I’m a bit ticked off at them for leading their readers to believe that Webster City is leading a terrible life. (http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/01/28/iowa-brendan-hoffman-factory-electrolux/?_r=0 )  But then, they do have papers to sell. For some particular reason, there’s this idea that slanting a story towards bad news or sad news will sell more papers. 

Here’s where I am going to disagree. People are pretty disgusted with always hearing the bad news. We can pick up those stories on Facebook, or in the rags while standing in line at the grocery store.  What if you actually just told the truth?  Why not share some facts, and then find the stories behind the facts?  Here, I’ll get you started.

Unemployment rates in Hamilton County (we are the county seat) are 3.8% as of November 2015.  That is the same as the state of Iowa.  New York’s is 5.7%.  We’ve also got jobs here.  Good paying jobs at that – visit Van Diest Supply and find multiple listings, with starting pay in the $17+ an hour range.  Vantec, Inc. is hiring.  So is Webster City Custom Meats.  The list goes on.  There is work here. 

There is also opportunity here.  We have room for entrepreneurs as well.  We host events like EntreBash where we partner with groups like Wright Hamilton Entrepreneurial Network and find ways for people to start their own businesses.  Small Business Development Centers are part of the SBA and they assist, at no charge, and help entrepreneurs as well.  There are building owners that have put their buildings into the Incubator Project and are willing to ​rent their buildings at reduced rates to help people get started.  
​Now let’s talk about what has happened in town since Electrolux left.   Remember, we’re a town of about 8,000 people. 
New businesses in town:
Prime Life LLC
 bought an empty building and specializes in total hormone balancing, stress management, preventive medicine, and the management of chronic medical conditions.
Mind and Body Clinic utilizes both traditional and complimentary therapies, with a focus on psychiatric medicine and osteopathic manipulation.  They use space in the Prime Life facility.
Neighbors Heating and Cooling bought the Chalfant Plumbing building and business. 
Victoria’s Bubble Tea was open for a year and rented space from Al the barber.  She is no longer in business.
Iglesia Del Dios Pentecostal bought an empty building that was once rented by Public Health.  They are a Hispanic church and active in the chamber as well.
Crispy Eggroll is renting an empty building and serves Asian, Vietnamese and Thai food.
VeroBlue Farms is capturing the opportunity to become the largest onshore, indoor facility of its kind in North America. Through its Iowa's First Hub located in Webster City Iowa, VBF is expanding its production of the Barramundi fish species through a new urban farm with approximately 7.2 million pounds of production. They have already purchased one of the old Electrolux buildings and are converting it to grow fish. 
La Perla Jarocha Restaurant is an offshoot of their grocery store and serves traditional Mexican food.  They rent an empty building until their restaurant facility will be ready in the next year or so.
InTANDEM Workspace is a community of like-minded professionals who want a different kind of place to work.  Located in one building, coworking is becoming the norm for many people. 
Chicago Styles is a clothing store for hip, young people owned by a local Hispanic family.  The Laotian Grocery Store is new to the community and features Laotian food stuffs.
El Benedicion Mexican Grocery Store is right next door and offers food and other services like phone cards as well.
The Webster Movie Theater reopened under HERO ownership.  HERO is a nonprofit organization (Help Entertain and Restore Organization) that raised over $200,000 in a years’ time to save the movie theater and install new digital equipment. 
SOS Vintage came to town to look at the Incubator Project and ended up buying their own building and opening up a store where people come from all over to shop. 
Relax the Bath and TiDe Creations are two entrepreneurs who sell their products in SOS Vintage and bring originality to our community in a unique way.  Soaps made for the gods and hand crafted leather items you can’t find anymore – niche markets that people are looking for.
Stein Heating and Cooling moved from the country into town and we’re happy to have them here.
Shopko Hometown found us because we are ideally located along Highway 20, and we’re their market. 
Marlies Garage is a local young man and his wife who branched out on their own and fixes cars and does alignments and believes in working in their own hometown.
Maid-Rite serves the traditional sandwiches and other sandwiches, breakfasts and goodies as well.  Also located along Highway 20 and locally owned. 
Other expansions, new owners and moves in the last few years:
Interior Spaces
 bought Classic Carpet and Interiors – they are full service interior decorator business.
Thrifty White moved to 2nd Street and Broadway. 
Maharry Dental is scheduled to open this spring in a larger, new building.
Webster City Community Theatre has completed their expansion. 
Van Diest Supply Company continues to expand.
WCF Financial Bank has moved to a new building in a new location. 
Splash Graphics expanded their business to Webster City.
Future of Health Massage moved to a new location.
Lucinda Stone started Therapeutic Life Center of Massage College.  
Leah Feltz Fitness and Magers Martial Arts now have classes here in town. 
New Horizons Travel and The Computer Guy, two new businesses in town, are in the coworking space. 
P and P Electric has expanded.
Storm Flying Service has new owners. 
I’m sure I’ve missed some too – and to those people I apologize.  It’s exciting to see all this growth!

Brendan did say “The town has not shriveled up, which is amazing.”  I just wonder why he thinks that is so amazing.  We are not quitters.  One factory leaving doesn’t stop a town like Webster City.  


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18 Comments

Mary Fortune - January 31st, 2016 at 8:47 PM
Excellent response Deb. I hope this finds it's way to Brenden at The NY Times.
Deb - February 1st, 2016 at 6:31 AM
Thanks Mary -
you can go to the link in the blog post and comment too! That should make it to him as well. I did comment on the original article and shared this blog post.
Deborah Schmehr - January 31st, 2016 at 9:00 PM
Did you send this as a Letter to the Editor to the Times?
Deb - February 1st, 2016 at 6:31 AM
I sent a reply to the original article - I have not sent this as a letter to the Editor, but Deborah, I think I will!
Debbie Roberts - January 31st, 2016 at 9:49 PM
Thank you for showing the positive side! I found his article very sad & depressing! Let's not post negative things that may hurt people in our community personally & show such negativity about our community.

My husband & I moved away for a few years to be with family, but missed our home in Webster City! No one forces people to live here if it' that bad!
Deb - February 1st, 2016 at 6:34 AM
Thank you for reading the blog Debbie - I just wanted them to be fair and to tell the truth.
Jaci Banwell - January 31st, 2016 at 10:08 PM
Excellent response to the article! FYI: 2 Electrolux factories moved to Juarez. Beam Central Vacuum was also owned by Electrolux.
staff - February 1st, 2016 at 6:35 AM
Thanks Jaci - we do think of it as one, don't we?
Name - February 1st, 2016 at 10:17 AM
Very good response Deb, We lived in WC for 3 years and really enjoyed our time there. I managed a financial institution that original sponsor was the Electrolux employees and famlilies. What you see is the strong committtment by folks that have their livihood interruped but an attitude that they will survive. I found it a pleasure and honor for me to have worked, volunteered and lived in WC, Rudy Knight
Jan Horsfall - February 1st, 2016 at 1:17 PM
That is ROCKING! Nicely done Deb!
Deb - February 2nd, 2016 at 10:11 AM
Thanks Jan!
Mike Schaufler - February 1st, 2016 at 2:10 PM
Deb, after 14 years of elective office I can assure you the press isn't remotely interested in the facts. Thanks for setting the record straight. Keep up the good work!
Deb - February 2nd, 2016 at 10:12 AM
We must persist Mike, and thanks for the comment!
im4bnf3 - February 2nd, 2016 at 8:26 AM
where is the nearest mens store in town. or typical restaurant to have breakfast?
Deb - February 2nd, 2016 at 10:05 AM
You can eat breakfast at Maid-Rite all day long, Hy-Vee also serves breakfast, Whoop-ti-doo's has breakfast too, Subway serves breakfast subs all day long, Mornin' Glory has breakfast sandwiches and breakfast burritos as well and McDonalds is open. Surprised you there, didn't I?

Now let's talk mens stores - if you mean a place you can go and buy a nice suit and tie, there's not really one in town. It's something we're working on trying to get though. Would you shop local if we had one?
Greg Drew - February 4th, 2016 at 3:55 PM
Bravo! Bravo! Bravo! Wonderful response! This is the story ought to be in the New York Times. I live in New Jersey, but let me tell you, I am sick and tired of these drive by journalists and their elitist mindset who call everything between both coasts "fly over country" (and I am not attacking Mr. Hoffman because he took the time to get to know the people and the place). And I'm sick and tired of the doom and gloom. Your town's story is amazing...but then, it's not. The American people are a can-do people, we do not roll over and die, we fight, we survive, and we win! God bless America and God bless Webster City, Iowa.
Walter Hilpipre - February 7th, 2016 at 6:11 PM
And all of the above mentioned places together don't supply 2000 good paying jobs like the ones that left,you can't put lipstick on a pig and make it look good no matter how hard you try. This town is not the same and never will be unless another large manufacturer comes to town and I don't see it happening anytime soon.
Deb - February 8th, 2016 at 3:59 PM
Walter -
I've been thinking about your comment all day. I will agree that Webster City is not the same since Electrolux left. Many things have changed, but then many things in small towns all over have changed. It's not just us. Newton had a big hit. Shenandoah just lost Eaton (and Belmond is losing their 3rd shift). Many large manufacturers are going to Mexico or NC, chasing the cheap labor and lower taxes. I'm happy to say we do have home grown businesses that have stepped up and are proudly saying 'we aren't going anywhere'. There are jobs right now available, and decent paying ones. But the days of working at the only factory in town are gone. We can either moan about that - or figure out how to make things better and build a community we want to live in. Thanks for replying Walter - we all matter.
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