Economic Prosperity Workshop Highlights

Economic Prosperity Workshop
October 25, 2016, 6-8PM
Hotel Julien, Grand Ballroom, 200 Main St.
The Imagine Dubuque Economic Prosperity Workshop on Tuesday, October 25th marked the first community-wide workshop as part of the City of Dubuque’s Comprehensive Planning effort. Nearly 40 participants of varying ages and interests came out to share their insights, discuss priorities and collaborate on how to ensure Dubuque becomes more viable, livable and equitable moving forward into the future.

Dubuque Today Voting

The meeting started with a vote, wherein participants were asked to identify the past economic successes they felt would resonate most for Dubuque’s future. The following successes are listed in order based on the number of votes received:

  • Redeveloping the Historic Millwork District (16 Votes)
  • Retaining three vital private colleges and NICC (15 Votes)
  • Growing arts and culture downtown (14 Votes)
  • Developing the Riverfront/Port of Dubuque (12 Votes)
  • Adding downtown housing (300 units) (10 Votes)
  • Bee Branch Updates (10 Votes)
  • Promoting comprehensive workforce development (8 Votes)
  • Building the Nat’l Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium (8 Votes)
  • Successful Main Street Program (5 Votes)
  • Establishing StartUp Dubuque (4 Votes)
  • Retaining Current Job Force (4 Votes)
  • Improving Dubuque Regional Airport (4 Votes)
  • Recruiting IBM (2 Votes)
  • Expanding Farmers Market Acceptance of SNAP (2 Votes)
  • Water & Resource Recovery Center (1 Vote)


Participants were then invited to take a short survey on their smartphones focused on Economic Prosperity. A quick-poll station with additional tablets and laptops was situated at the front of the Ballroom for those without phones. Questions pertained to consumer purchasing habits, online shopping, preferences for dining and entertainment options, local retail demand, employment opportunities, job satisfaction, and business attraction and retention.



Following the quick-poll activity, Mike Hoffman, project consultant with Teska Associates, Inc. opened the meeting by welcoming everyone and providing an overview of the comprehensive plan, its purpose, timeline, and the importance of public participation in guiding the process.

“We want this plan to be driven by the community. We are not waiting for the community to come to us, we are actively going out into the community and engaging with all residents and businesses.” – Mike Hoffman, Teska

Mike then introduced the guiding principles of the plan: environmental/ecological integrity, social/cultural vibrancy, economic prosperity, and equity; followed by the four pillars of economic prosperity, i.e. the focus of the evening, which include: Community Design, Smart Energy Use, Smart Resource Use, and Regional Economy.

Quick-Poll Results

Results of the quick-poll survey were tabulated in real time and shared. A summary of results are outlined below and include responses from the workshop as well as those previously recorded. The results below reflect a sample of 108 respondents.

Shopping Habits:
Online shopping was common, with the majority (58%) of participants shopping online once or more per month. Other shopping habits to highlight: many respondents (42%) research goods online before choosing where to shop, about one-quarter (24%) always buy sale items, and 22% like to shop in stores where they know the owner. While some participants spoke about traveling to other cities (i.e. Madison, WI) to shop, only 4% reported traveling to large cities for their shopping (see figure below).


Retail, dining, and entertainment needs:
Participants were asked what products they had difficulty purchasing in Dubuque. Clothing (24%), recreation (16%), and dining (14%) were top responses. In terms of entertainment, family activities (19%), drinks with friends (16%), and the theater and performing arts (16%) were most demanded. Corresponding to those trends, outdoor family activities (18%), concerts/shows (15%), and brew pubs (15%) were most likely to be attended if they were added in Dubuque (see figure below).


Employment opportunities:
Slightly more respondents stated that they have not achieved their desired career goal (52%). A lack of opportunity in their career or desired career was the most common reason cited (31%). Attracting more high paying jobs (28%) was the most common answer given when respondents were asked what would strengthen the local economy. In order to retain and grow local business and jobs, about one-third (31%) felt that promoting Dubuque as a great place to live was most important (see figure below).


Most of the participants (44%) lived in the West End, and were overwhelmingly white (91%). More women (67%) responded to the quick-poll than men (33%). Working age individuals were most active in the poll, with 73% falling between the ages of 25 and 64. Early-retirement and/or early Baby Boomers (65-74), as well as college-aged individuals (18-24) were underrepresented. Seniors (75+) and youth (Under 18) were absent from the quick-poll altogether. Most participants held a bachelor’s degree or above (76%), and were employed full-time (72%).

Initial Trends and Assessment Summary


Bridget Lane of Business Districts, Inc. summarized recent economic and demographic trends in Dubuque. Overall, population growth between 2010 and 2015 has been slow in Dubuque (2.0%) relative to the US (4.1%), but comparable to Iowa (2.5%). Job growth, however, has out-paced state and national averages and is expected to hover around 10% over the next decade.

Dubuque’s position in the regional economy was discussed throughout the evening. Within an hour’s drive, Dubuque is the largest city in Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois. However, some residents voiced that they will travel far to shop. The Kennedy Mall area and Downtown re-use will be key to retain consumer spending in Dubuque.

Bridget spoke to several national pressuring trends relevant to Dubuque including the skills gap, new entrepreneurial business models, data utilization, connected communication, the sharing economy, and retail changes.

“Place based retail offers less product and more experiences, so commercial clusters are less about traditional anchors and more about dining, exercising, education, services, and entertainment.” – Bridget Lane, BDI

Bridget also touched on how lifestyle shifts are affecting the housing market. Millennials are renting longer as they save for a lifetime home rather than buying a “starter” home, while boomers will not risk their savings when they convert to retirement living. Increased demand for rental housing by the young and the old, coupled by a demand for walkable neighborhoods and retail corridors, has altered community design.

Pressuring Trend Voting

Participants were asked to vote with stickers on their top four pressuring trends (i.e. – behavior and characteristics affecting the way we live, shop and play) likely to guide economic prosperity in Dubuque. Four additional votes were given to designate the trend that could have the most impact on the four corresponding pillars – Community Design, Smart Energy Use, Smart Resource Use, and Regional Economy. Write-in trends were also encouraged. Pressuring trends are listed below in order based on the number of votes received:

  • Mixed-Use (17 Votes)
  • Tourism = Experiences (13 Votes)
  • Millennials (13 Votes)
  • Entrepreneurship (12 Votes)
  • Smart Energy (10 Votes)
  • Age in Place (8 Votes)
  • Commercial Clusters (8 Votes)
  • Decrease in Workforce (6 Votes)
  • Community Leadership (write-in) (5 Votes)
  • Aging Workforce (5 Votes)
  • Rental Growth (3 Votes)
  • Waste Reduction (2 Votes)
  • Business Models (2 Votes)
  • Future of Automation (2 Votes)
  • Engage the River (write-in) ( 2 Votes)
  • Resiliency (write-in) (1 Vote)
  • Multi-Generational Households (0 Votes)
  • Retail (0 Votes)
  • Data Sharing (0 Votes)

While the results of the pressuring trends voting were being tabulated, the results of the initial Dubuque Today Exercise were reported.

Round Table Discussions

Six roundtable discussion groups were formed based on the top pressuring trends (Age in Place, Smart Energy, Entrepreneurship, Commercial Clusters, Mixed-Use, and Millennials). Members of the consultant team facilitated discussions and encouraged all individuals to share their thoughts related to opportunities and challenges and the four economic prosperity principles. Discussions lasted 35 minutes and group representatives summarized key talking points to the broader group. Key findings from each group are described below.

1. Age in Place


  • Housing for an older population proximate to grandchildren, close to amenities, healthcare, and transit
  • Recreation facilitates that cater to multiple age groups such as grandparents watching their grandchildren
  • Specialized senior centers, programming, and exercise facilities
  • Use neighborhood associations to capitalize on local talents and create a network of volunteers for community projects and events


  • Finding enough time for extended families to gather
  • Senior mobility and access
  • Engaging veteran communities
  • Capturing consumer spending in Wisconsin and Illinois
  • Flexible jobs for older workers

Community Design

  • Accessible and safe streetscapes, intersections, and buildings including ramps and wide sidewalks
  • Bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure designed for the comfort of older users including adult tricycles
  • Limited mobility and ‘downsizing’ will increase the demand for single level homes
  • Smaller houses will lead to an increased demand for storage facilities
  • Indoor safety to reduce trip hazards
  • Functional outdoor space for older individuals (i.e. better lighting)

Smart Energy + Resource Use

  • Cost-effective electrical upgrades for older home rehabs
  • Improved internet, electronic reading, and online library resources for seniors.

2. Smart Energy Use


  • Landfill methane capture and conversion for beneficial use
  • Convert closing coal power plant to 100% natural gas
  • Connect solar and wind to the electric grid
  • Provide local incentives to reduce heating and cooling needs


  • Communicate direction on alternative fuels with community
  • Sufficient information to make smart decisions for energy efficient investments.

Smart Energy Use + Smart Resource Use

  • Accessible electric vehicle charging stations
  • Identify and train smart energy advocates and experts within local businesses and institutions
  • Campaign to sell energy benefits capitalizing on Dubuque’s low per capita energy use
  • Hydroelectric plant on the Mississippi

3. Entrepreneurship


  • Harness business expertise of Dubuque retirees to serve as mentors in order to support local entrepreneurs
  • Creating a local venture capital group to fund start-ups
  • Diversity of human capital


  • Engaging with 14-18 year olds with entrepreneurial potential
  • Financing and implementation

Regional Economy

  • Philanthropy to help entrepreneurs expand
  • Create momentum in broader business community
  • Creation of wealth

Community Design

  • Reuse existing buildings
  • Create live, work, play environments
  • Fund capital projects such as parks, trails, and streetscape improvements

Smart Energy Use + Smart Resource Use

  • Creative ways to utilize green resources
  • Reuse and adapt vacant buildings and underutilized equipment and workers
  • Maximize innovation, industry-specific clusters, and human capital
  • Repurpose industrial sites and infrastructure

4. Commercial Clusters


  • Repurposing vacant industrial districts and buildings


  • Transportation between commercial areas
  • Healthy grocery and food options from 20th Street on
  • Online shopping’s impact on retail

Regional Economy

  • Promote local products to increase tourism
  • Focus on new and unique stores and employers that serve lifestyle and population shifts

Community Design

  • New experience areas to spend the entire day in beyond downtown
  • Improvements to Central Avenue would naturally expand downtown

Smart Resource Use

  • Ways to reuse excess product and waste

5. Mixed Use


  • Linking areas on Main Street
  • Adding more commercial retail and social gathering spaces in the neighborhoods
  • Reimagine the Kennedy Mall area
  • Adaptive reuse of buildings


  • Character of West End commercial is lacking
  • Perception of crime and cultural differences between the West End and Downtown
  • Car dependence is at odds with mixed-use

6. Millennials


  • Value authentic, unique places
  • Preference for shopping locally and buying products based on quality and storytelling


  • “Job hopping” behavior will cause young professionals to leave Dubuque
  • Contentedness over past successes (i.e. Millwork District) will inhibit new ones
  • Perceived old boys network
  • Out-dated branding and marketing of Dubuque
  • Providing a vibrant entertainment scene to reduce weekend travelers to Madison, etc.
  • Perception of safety when it comes to West Siders going downtown

Community Design

  • Call for equitable economic development in all neighborhoods
  • Not just walkable districts and corridors, but an emphasis on connectivity between them

Smart Resource Use

  • Reuse vacant buildings
  • Provide green products and services
  • Minimize land consumption and maximize conservation of natural resources
  • Provide a park within a 10-minute walk of every Dubuquer
  • Park improvements to existing parks (i.e. Eagle Point)
  • Providing goods and services close to home to reduce short vehicle trips

Another idea that was shared related to the “millennials seizing the future” trend focused on Dubuque maintaining its unique historic character, which creates an attractive environment for young adults, while focusing on building efficiency as it relates to smart energy use. Retrofitted buildings and former industrial sites are now commonly converted to retail, and live/work spaces in cities across the country.

“We need to make sure we move forward maintaining the historic preservation and integrity of the downtown. As a millennial … it’s important for us to not only maintain something that is unique, but also has diversity (in terms of use and function) to it.” – Michaela Freiburger, Dubuque Main Street.


Following the discussion, participants were encouraged to participate in the February community workshop on environmental and ecological integrity (location to be determined). In the meantime, additional comments and news can be shared this the project website or via the project app.

Connect Today

  1. Share your ideas on the future of Dubuque
  2. View all the great ideas submitted to date from fellow Dubuquers
  3. Download the free project app
  4. Take the Economic Prosperity Quick Poll – 1 week left