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What will happen to the local economy in 2021?

Business Record readers answer.


Business leaders’ outlook on the economy for 2021 varies greatly – depending in large part on what industry they work in and how the coronavirus pandemic has affected their companies. That outlook also varies by region. Here in Central Iowa that variance is evident. Some leaders point to an economy that will be on the rise once a vaccine is widely distributed. Others point to forecasts showing increases in poverty, which are projected to last much longer than just next year. 

We asked our readers to tell us whether they believed the Iowa economy will regress dramatically, regress slightly, stay about the same, improve slightly or improve dramatically in 2021. We also gave the opportunity to share thoughts about how the economy would affect their industry and also what they feel is the biggest threat to Iowa’s economy. The 2021 results of the survey, in its 10th year, are not scientific but paint a picture of what other leaders think as you make plans for your own business. 

Here’s what we heard. 

– Emily Barske, associate editor  


5 – Improve dramatically

As an optimist with a streak of reality, I think that the rebounding economy will encourage confidence with the donors who generously support nonprofits and missions across our community. As donors and board members come back out of survival mode we will see Des Moines flourish and be stronger than ever. 

Biggest threat: As I talk to everyone from manufacturing to agriculture to service and retail, they all continue to complain about supply chain interruptions. It’s hard to move forward without the tools and materials you need to create value in this world. 


Eric Heininger, managing director,

Eden+ Fundraising Consulting

5 – Improve dramatically

But not until Q3/Q4.

Biggest threat: Continuing impact of the pandemic.

Kevin Lentz, president, Anthologic


4 – Improve slightly

Many of our industries are strong and a number are growing because of shifts in demand (i.e., logistics and distribution).

Biggest threat: Not having enough talent to fill the positions employers have to meet demand. 

Joey Beech, executive director, Ankeny Economic Development Corp.

4 – Improve slightly

Interest rates will remain low, spurring continued business expansion and refinancing.  

Biggest threat: Government intervention, higher taxes and a ballooning federal deficit.

Steve Cruse, president, Iowa Business Growth Co.

4 – Improve slightly

Steady growth as some normalcy returns.

Biggest threat: Tax increases imposed by the Biden administration and Democrats in Congress.

Michael Blaser, partner, BrownWinick Law Firm

4 – Improve slightly

Very modest improvement in sales.

Biggest threat: COVID!

Bob Wersen, president, Interpower Corp.

4 – Improve slightly

The performance of Iowa banks always tends to mirror the Iowa economy.  

Biggest threat: The additional federal stimulus should help, but the pace of local small business recovery and renewal will largely determine 2021 job creation and economic growth.

John Sorensen, president and CEO, Iowa Bankers Association

4 – Improve slightly

Our industry had a tremendous, although difficult, year. Many sellers stayed on the sidelines in 2020. If interest rates stay low, employment strong and COVID concerns recede, look for a stronger 2021 in real estate.

Biggest threat: The biggest threat remains COVID and the impact not only on real estate but overall employment. 

Jim Hibbs, manager broker, Coldwell Banker Mid America

4 – Improve slightly

Real estate, providing there are listings, will lead the recovery. 

Biggest threat: Politics.

David Bert, broker/owner, David L. Bert Real Estate

4 – Improve slightly

It all depends if there is continual federal assistance to small businesses or organizations, and financial relief to those unemployed and others facing financial hardship. Also, how fast the COVID vaccine can be administered.  

Biggest threat: Climate change impacting agriculture and recovery from the COVID situation.  

Kevin Pokorny, owner and consultant, Pokorny Consulting

4 – Improve slightly

We were shut down or dramatically reduced for most of the year, so we NEED to remain open. Citizens need to be able to make their own decisions on when to gather safely.

Biggest threat: Lockdowns that are not necessary, mask mandates and continuing the “fear factor” through mainstream media.

Kendra Kasischke, owner, Country Lane Lodge

4 – Improve slightly

We look forward to groups gathering and traveling together by summer of 2021.

Biggest threat: The loss of tax revenues generated that support institutions. (Example: Iowa tourism generates enough tax dollars to pay for the entire salaries of all firefighters, police officers and sheriffs in Iowa.)

Kim Grzywacz, sales director, CIT Signature Transportation

3 – Stay about the same

In the construction business we see some slowing during the first half of 2021 and the second half of the year picking back up to 2020 levels.

Biggest threat: The first half of the year we will be dealing with COVID-related issues, find good employees.

Rick Rush, controller, Star Equipment Ltd.

3 – Stay about the same

Small business owners know they need help. They are hesitant to work with a coach, thinking they need to keep cash in reserves.

Biggest threat: Public perception of the general safety regarding COVID.

Daniel McCraine, president, McCraine Associates Inc.

2 – Regress slightly

Growth and stabilization in housing requires corresponding job and income growth. We have a year of negative growth from 2020 to overcome before we can see positive growth in 2021. It will be a slow climb out in 2021. Lumber pricing will have a substantial impact on any positive movement.

Biggest threat: The ability of government stimulus/vaccine deployment to stop the negative economic slide and save businesses that are barely hanging on at this point.

Kris Saddoris, vice president of development, Hubbell Realty Co.


2 – Regress slightly

I think the desire for truth-seeking, high-impact journalism will rise; the challenge is consumers will continue to want great and truthful content for free. It’s not. 

Biggest threat: I believe the biggest threat is the expected recovery from the pandemic. What if that doesn’t happen until 2022?

Suzanne Behnke, executive director, IowaWatch.org

2 – Regress slightly

The situation for those living in poverty before COVID and those thrust into poverty suddenly during COIVD will continue to [deteriorate] without federal and state assistance. A Feeding America study suggests that food insecurity will continue to climb through 2024 and is not likely to decrease to pre-recession levels until 2027 or 2028.

Biggest threat: COVID will continue to be a threat. Pulling people back out of poverty will be a huge challenge.

Michelle Book, CEO, Food Bank of Iowa

1 – Regress dramatically

As a bankruptcy practitioner primarily representing consumer and business debtors, the next year ahead will be tough for many. We anticipate many will seek our advice and counsel, for saving and/or salvaging small and medium business enterprises. Fortunately, there are new bankruptcy/reorganization options for consumers and small businesses.

Biggest threat: Obviously, the health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic downturns in business.

Jeffrey Goetz, attorney at law and chair of Bankruptcy & Reorg Practice Group, Bradshaw, Fowler, Proctor & Fairgrave PC

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