Gregg Connell at Shenandoah Community Forum

Gregg Connell, executive vice president of the Shenandoah Chamber and Industry Association, speaks to those assembled via ZOOM or in person at the Greater Shenandoah Historical Museum during a presentation sponsored by the Shenandoah Community Forum for revitalization Thursday evening 

(Shenandoah) – COVID-19 provided a contrast for Shenandoah’s retail sector in 2020.

That’s according to Gregg Connell, the executive vice president of the Shenandoah Chamber and Industry Association, who gave an overview of the city’s retail and economic development activities Thursday in an event sponsored by the Shenandoah Community Forum for Revitalization. While some entities had incredible business years in 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic, others took the full brunt of COVID-related closures. One development that kept several businesses in the community afloat last year was the Paycheck Protection Program provided through a $1.5 billion COVID relief package approved in Congress. Connell says PPP poured millions of dollars into the Shenandoah economy.

“We worked with individuals that we knew were having problems associated with the shutdown,” said Connell. “So, the Paycheck Protection Program was based on three things: it was based on payroll, it was based on the interest you might be paying on your business, and also any of the rent you would be paying.”

Another program being made available for struggling businesses is a $500,000 revolving loan fund through the Iowa Economic Development Authority.

“We’ll be getting some word out and some information out to people who want to apply for that,” he said. “It will probably a zero-percent loan – not as good as a grant, but, obviously, better than nothing.”

COVID-19 aside, Connell says 2020 was a big year for some of Shenandoah’s major industries.

“I think everybody’s aware in here that Pella’s hiring 80 new people,” said Connell. “We have Green Plans that just finished a $40 million facility that’s added jobs, and an incredible amount of interest to this community. Ask the airport manager – we have private jets in here constantly. It’s, again, an incredible idea of taking distiller’s grain, which is about a 28% protein production, which is a byproduct of the ethanol production, converting that to a 50-to-55 or maybe a 60% protein.”

One major industrial project in 2020 was an offshoot of Green Plains – Optimal Aquafeed – a testing facility developing high protein fish food.

“Commercial fish farms come to Green Plains and say, ‘we want you to develop a ration using your high protein product selling for $600 a ton, rather than $1,400 a ton for what would be fish meal that would usually be that protein component.’ There’s 20,000 trout out there now, there’s 10,000 tilapia, there’s 2,000 largemouth bass.”

Connell added Lloyd, Incorporated’s footprint on the community continues to be substantial.

About 20 residents attended the presentation in person at the Greater Shenandoah Historical Museum, while another 22 participated via ZOOM. In addition to the retail overview, Connell also gave an update on SCIA’s current projects, and its strategic planning for 2021. We’ll have more on those subjects in future news stories.

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