(Glenwood) -- Mills County will be back following the floods of 2019--but the recovery won't happen overnight.
That's according to Rick Allely, director of the Mills County Economic Development Foundation. Like other officials, Allely has been gauging the flooding's impact on the local economy--especially along the Interstate 29/Highway 34 corridor. Allely tells KMA News his office is taking steps to help businesses impacted by the flooding get back on their feet.
"Right now, through my office," said Allely, "we are working directly with the companies to look at, okay, what are the rebuild plans, what tools can we bring to the table to help assist them with the added expenses, and their timeline as far as building permits, and such, so when those levies are built back, that they can move quickly, and be back in business."
On a broader scale, Allely--who is a member of the Governor's Flood Recovery Task Force--is among those surveying businesses big and small on assistance needed to secure funding for post-flood recovery efforts.
"We have a survey instrument that has been distributed in the last week," he said, "to all the chambers and local economic development groups in the counties that were declared natural disaster areas, requesting those businesses to fill those out, so we have detailed information to secure both private and public funding to secure those businesses."
While some businesses--such as Loess Hills Harley Davison--have reopened following flooding events in March and May, Allely says others face an uncertain future.
"The majority of the businesses impacted by the flood are in a wait-and-see mode," said Allely. "They are waiting to see what the approach and timeline is for the rebuild and reaccreditation of the Army Corps of Engineers' levees, so that they know that there is that added level of protection."
Like other officials, Allely expresses concerns over the flooding's lingering economic impact--not only the loss of jobs, but the loss of tax revenues, as well. An even bigger concern is a post-flood decline in population in all flood-affected areas. Allely says it's not a good situation.
"We know in Mills County alone, there's over 150 homes that are targeted for demolition or red-tagged, that are considered uninhabitable--both in Pacific Junction and in the rural areas," he said. "You add in Hamburg, and all the other (communities)--Percival and Bartlett--and you look at the number of homes that are destroyed in the impacted counties, it's huge. And, all of those counties and communities are going to see negative impacts on the census."
Allely says Mills County is trying to address the housing loss by working with local developers on new homes, apartments and duplexes. However, he adds any recovery depends on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers repairing levees damaged by the flooding--making them "bigger, better and stronger" than what they were.
"I think everyone has realized that the river has changed," said Allely, "and that there needs to be that added level of protection--not just in Mills County, but along the Missouri River corridor. You take our area, and the Omaha metropolitan area, as well as southwest Iowa, it's critical that those levees are repaired to a higher standard--both for existing businesses that have been in southwest Iowa, as well as any potential new businesses and new investment that could come into the area."
Among those businesses still in limbo--Love's Travel Shop on Highway 34 off of Interstate 29. Allely says the company recently removed its signs to eliminate motorists from driving through barricades and entering its property--creating an unsafe situation. While Highway 34 recently reopened from I-29 to the Nebraska border, Love's is still closed. And, traffic along most of the highway is still at one lane in both directions.