The population of Grimes grew 9.6 percent from 2010 to 2012, the second-fastest rate for metro area cities.

But the real story might just be its future growth, said Brian Buethe, executive director of Grimes Chamber & Economic Development.

“I think for Grimes, it’s just what does the future hold? And will we be able to maintain the growth that we’ve seen, that we anticipate?” Buethe said. RDG Planning & Design has projected that Grimes’ population will triple by 2030, from around 9,000 to more than 27,000 people.

By some measures, Grimes has emerged from the recession ready for a growth spurt. It is one of only two cities in the metro area that issued more single-family home permits in 2012 than in the boom year of 2007 before the housing market crashed. Grimes issued 76 more house building permits last year than in 2007 and 81 more permits for multifamily units.

Two factors attract growth, said Buethe. Grimes children attend the Johnston and Dallas Center-Grimes school districts, two districts that are attractive to families. Second,  the city has developable land owned by the Gabus family, Hubbell Realty Co. and others. 

The Gabus family has owned land in the area since the 1990s. Gene Gabus currently is developing 200 single-family residential lots on the northwest side of the city. He owns around 400 acres in north Grimes between Iowa Highway 141 and James Street, one of the main north/south roads in the town. He anticipates developing that land  into something similar to the Village of Ponderosa in West Des Moines or Prairie Trail in Ankeny. 

“We work in a lot of different communities, and (Grimes is) probably one of the best ones, which is why we stay there.” Gabus said. The family owns land in Bondurant and Waukee as well. “We haven’t really done anything with the land in Waukee or Bondurant, and a lot of that has to do with a good working relationship we have with the city (of Grimes),” Gabus said.

Although it’s considered a bedroom community, Grimes employers provide about 4,000 jobs, and the city would like to attract more, Buethe said. Last year, the city issued 25 permits for more than $14.6 million in new commercial building. That’s about two-thirds of the commercial development in 2007. 

Gabus recently announced an 18,000-square-foot expansion at his dealership along Iowa Highway 141 just northwest of Interstate Highway 35/80. Gabus will move Toyota of Des Moines – previously housed on Merle Hay Road – into that location, and will move Grimes-based Des Moines Imports to the old Toyota location.

About 38,000 vehicles travel the 141 corridor daily, compared with the approximately 27,000 vehicles that pass by the Merle Hay Road location, Gabus said. 

Buethe calls the 141 corridor a “half-painted canvas.” The city, along with the Iowa Department of Transportation, is looking to alleviate the congestion on that road, which could involve some sort of northwest bypass to 35/80, or a widening of the road. 

From a business development standpoint, filling in that half-painted canvas is more of a “someday” thing, said Buethe who expects it to happen relatively quickly when the city hits the 10,000 population mark.

Grimes hasn’t yet seen its commercial permit numbers quite return to pre-recession levels, when the city added $21.1 million in commercial real estate in 2007, but Buethe believes the city is in a good position to grow.  

“Relative to almost anywhere in not only Iowa or the Midwest, but in the country or the world, we’ve been in a good position,” Buethe said. That’s not to say that some Grimes residents didn’t lose jobs, but “we’ve continued to grow throughout this recession,” he said.

In addition to the Toyota expansion, FedEx Ground expanded from a 44,000-square-foot facility to an 186,000-square-foot space, and will move in July. Servepro of Des Moines NW built a new 12,000-square-foot facility. The second of four high-cube warehouse buildings being built by Hubbell is under construction, and 50,000 square feet of that 110,000-square-foot space are already leased. The city is also building a new sports complex.

“We’d be hard-pressed to say that Grimes is in a recession at this point with the amount of growth that we’re seeing, and I’m not seeing rampant bankruptcy in our business community,” Buethe said.

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