Iowa: A $4 Billion Economy Grows In Ottumwa

With shovel-ready sites, a skilled workforce and a strategic location, Ottumwa, IA has everything you need to grow.

By the BF Staff
From the September/October 2021 Issue

Ottumwa, IA has been setting the stage for improved manufacturing and commercial growth for years, and despite the recent pandemic prohibitions, this micropolitan area continues to thrive and enhance its position in the state of Iowa and the Midwest.

Overall, Ottumwa supports a nearly $4 billion economy based on manufacturing, healthcare, higher education, retail and commercial services, while still providing room to breathe and a feeling of connection with the community. Commuting is short and easy. People are genuine and welcoming. Sure there’s 4-H and county fairs, but there’s also gigabit fiber optic connectivity and multinational corporations—the perfect blend of small-town charm and downtown bustle. Your imagination and your dollar can go much further in Ottumwa, IA.

Greater Ottumwa offers:

  • Shovel-ready sites
  • Access to a diverse, skilled labor market
  • A strategic location with a commitment towards transportation improvements
  • A commitment to an ever-improving quality of life and,
  • An area supportive of manufacturing and the diversity of skills required for success.

Helgerson Flats in Ottumwa was just that—a flat piece of land with less than 30 feet of elevation overall, and no history of any use other than crop farming.

Ottumwa worked to achieve the designation of “Iowa Certified Site” for Helgerson Flats, an 82-acre shovel-ready industrial site. The site has already attracted a sale of 7 acres to Alliant Energy for the construction of a new electrical substation. Seventy-five additional acres are available for development and the site is competitively priced at $12,700 per acre. Businesses that complement existing agriculture-based manufacturing industries are ideal fits for Ottumwa and this shovel-ready site. Greater Ottumwa’s target industries include food and beverage production; machinery manufacturing; auto supply chain; and professional, scientific and technical services. Successful global companies such as JBS USA, John Deere, Cargill, Keurig, Dr. Pepper and Plastipak have made their homes in the area. Alternatively, the location is conducive to warehousing and logistics. Visit to learn more.

Ottumwa, IA

Ottumwa, IA
This downtown property at 103-107 East Main Street recently was renovated and is available for retail and food service outlets. (Photos: Main Street Ottumwa)

There are several build-to-suit construction teams in the region, and last year’s modification of Helgerson Flats’ ingress/egress was widened by 50 feet to accommodate greater safety and maneuverability for trucks doing business in the complex.

Ottumwa’s labor shed includes eight counties within a 50-mile radius, for a total labor market of nearly 115,000 individuals. Employees enjoy a higher education level than neighboring counties, with nearly 76 percent having earned education credentials beyond high school. Ottumwa’s Job Corp is ranked #1 in the nation out of 124 national sites, and Indian Hills Community College is ranked #25 in the nation for performance and student preparation. Both provide high-quality job skills training to adult learners and can provide specialty training and education for industrial application.

In 2020, an extension of runway capacity at Ottumwa Regional Airport—a general aviation complex—was completed. The primary landing strip is now over 6,000 feet, making it one of the largest in the state with the ability to land nearly any type of aircraft. Coupled with pilot and aircraft maintenance training at the adjacent Indian Hills Community College campus, Ottumwa Regional is prepared for growth.

Improving rail transportation is a priority in Ottumwa. Plans are underway to move the rail port to significantly improve access to industrial areas and access to truck traffic.


Perhaps most obvious though is the transformation of Ottumwa’s Main Street. What began as a water/sewer separation project soon grew into a $6 million streetscape plan with new pavement, sidewalks, lighting, greenspace and parking. Enhancements such as permeable pavers, native flowers and trees, artwork, sculpture and a sound system have allowed downtown businesses and visitors to enjoy and appreciate a more modern and attractive experience, while maintaining traditional architecture of the 1900s side by side with modern amenities.

Fortunately, there has been tremendous redevelopment in downtown properties as well. Facades have been restored, buildings have been made energy efficient and upper story housing has grown from 48 to 108 units. Lastly, increased property valuations add revenue that helps to seed additional improvement, address increasing demand for housing and support Main Street services.

Ottumwa’s largest employers have embraced the cultural diversity that comes with increased employee attraction and retention. In fact, JBS has the greatest number of global employees from 50 different countries, including Congo, Marshall Islands, Thailand and Central and South America. Most importantly, new citizens are welcome and connected right away with concierge services that help them adjust to the community in areas of housing, schools, recreational activities and faith-based groups and organizations.

In the last few years, manufacturing in the nine-county region has been growing and expanding. Diverse industry sectors requiring diverse skills have grown in the region. Companies producing a wide range of products expanding or locating in the region range from transportation equipment to outdoor recreation products to dairy equipment to the $300 million announcement by Cargill to create a renewable biotech cooperative with Germany-based HELM, and demonstrate a region committed to and supportive of growth.

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