Can’t-miss summer activities in Southeast Iowa

It may already feel like summer, but the official summer solstice kicks off on Monday. Thanks to some help from our friends at Travel Iowa, we compiled a list of a few can’t-miss activities to check out in Southeast Iowa this summer!

Bentonsport National Historic District

Located along the Des Moines River, Bentonsport National Historic District is home to artisans, antiques, jewelry, craft, and fudge shops in restored buildings from the 1840s. Enjoy the stunning architecture, shopping, and delicious eats (and even stay at the Bentonsport Village Bed and Breakfast) during your perfect summer weekend.

Blue Heron Eco Cruises

Travel down the Mississippi River on the Blue Heron, a 26-passenger pontoon that gives cruisers a chance to tour the backwaters, sloughs, and main channel. During the cruise, you’ll learn about the many different things that make up the ecologic puzzle of the river. Did we mention the cruises are free of charge? Call today to make your reservation!

Burlington Bees Baseball

What’s summer without baseball? The Burlington Bees, a single-A minor league baseball affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels has games all summer long! Check out the schedule here to see when they’re in town.

Clinton Area Showboat Theatre

Where else can you say you’ve experienced a musical on a historic boat? The Clinton Area Showboat Theatre performs your favorite musicals on the showboat, which was originally built in 1935! Click here for shows you can catch this summer.


With kids out of school for the summer, FunCity is the perfect place for them to burn off some energy. With an entertainment facility that features an indoor/outdoor waterpark, bowling, go-karts, arcade, and laser tag, there is no shortage of fun to be had!

Mississippi Paddleboat Cruises

Looking for a unique wedding, reception, or party idea? The Pearl Button Paddlewheel Riverboat sets the perfect stage for any event. The authentic three-deck paddleboat is available for rent from May to October. Book your event today!


Did we miss your favorite summer activity? Tell us what you like to do in Southeast Iowa in the summer and we’ll add it to the list!

Happy summer!

The Restoring Iowa Jobs Team

Celebrate Library Lovers Day: Recognizing Public Libraries’ Economic Impact

Did you know public libraries contribute to economic development and strengthen their community’s quality of life? There are 544 libraries in Iowa that serve a municipal population of 2,340,220.

In honor of Library Lovers Day, we wanted to highlight the benefits public libraries offer to their communities. Beyond providing books, public libraries create a sense of community, as well as provide access to technology, and are an important and dynamic part of the community’s learning infrastructure.

With the accessibility to public computers, Internet, and media products in public libraries, people can more easily run a small business, do research online, or search for and apply to jobs.

Public libraries across the state offer resources to better the community and in turn, often make an economic impact. Small business resources and training and technology programs at the library are lowering the barriers to learning. Researchers found that when libraries work with local and state agencies to provide business development workshops and research, market entry costs to prospective and existing small businesses are reduced and new jobs are created. 

Locally, the Burlington Public Library offers a variety of resources to benefit the community. For example, the library offers free resources and services, including a job center and research tools for job seekers, employers, and small business owners. With one-on-one assistance, the library is able to provide individuals with the technology and skills needed to compete in today’s job market.

Many public libraries also benefit from partnering with local businesses. In the fall of 2012, local musician William Elliot Whitmore and the Donnellson Public Library teamed up on a match-donation program. The donations from the event went to the library to fund renovations to the building. In coordination with this program, Iowa Fertilizer made a match donation for the ticket sales. This event was a huge success for the community, with more that $380,000 raised for the project to date.

Southeast Iowa is lucky to have multiple public libraries in the area working to better the community by providing resources to enhance the economy and job growth in the area. Click here to find a public library in your area.

Until Next Time!

The Restoring Iowa Jobs Team


Celebrate Small Business Saturday


Did you know for every $100 spent at a small business $68 stays in the local community?

Small Business Saturday first began on November 27, 2010 and its purpose was to encourage people across the country to support small, local businesses following the Black Friday hype associated with major retailers across the country. The day has continued as a tradition every Saturday after the Thanksgiving holiday and last year an estimated $14.3 billion was spent at small businesses across the country.

While this day is important, it should not be just one day each year that people see the value in shopping at small businesses. Small businesses play a big part in providing jobs to the community and fuel the local, state, and national economy.

Southeast Iowa is home to many small businesses. We know they are great, but we suggest you check them out!

For the fitness guru – Bickel’s Cycling and Fitness

For the book worm – Burlington By The Book

For the coffee and pastry lover – The Apron 

For the fashionista – The Funky Cowgirl

These are just a few to get you started. To learn more about other small businesses throughout the Southeast Iowa region, check out the local main streets in the area including Fort Madison Main Street, Main Street Keokuk, Inc., Downtown Burlington, and Bloomfield Main Street.

Before start your holiday shopping this year, we hope that you re-think a visit to a large retailer and instead choose to shop local.

Until next time,
The Restoring Iowa Jobs team

Southeast Iowa – A great region to live, work, and raise a family

Southeast Iowa is on the rise with large companies like Siemens and Iowa Fertilizer investing in the regional economy. To accompany the many great job opportunities as a result of these companies, Southeast Iowa also offers its residents much more, making the region a great place to live, work, and raise a family.



Living in Southeast Iowa is made easy with a variety of housing options at affordable prices. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 73 percent of Lee County  residents are homeowners and according to the Lee County Economic Development Group, a majority of homes within the area cost anywhere between $50,000-$100,000.

In Burlington, a city of almost 40,000 in Des Moines County, the median home value is $92,901 and average rent stands around $400 a month. The Greater Burlington Partnership offers great resources for current or potential residents, including and a community reference guide.

Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation
The communities within Southeast Iowa offer numerous events year round for children, adults, and families to get out and have some fun! Whether it is visiting the Keokuk or Fort Madison art centers or shopping in Downtown Burlington and catching a movie at the 5&V Outdoor Cinema, there are a wide variety of options for fun within Southeast Iowa. Here are a few other attractions worth checking out throughout the year.

According to the Lee County Economic Development Group, the schools within the county boast a student to teacher ratio of 14 to 1 and a five percent higher graduation rate than the national average. Residents in and surrounding Southeast Iowa also have access to numerous higher education opportunities, including Southeastern Iowa Community College  and Iowa State University’s Extension Office in Donnellson, which provides research-based learning.

These are just a few of the many things that make the Southeast Iowa region stand out as a top place within the state, no matter your stage of life. We encourage you to take in all that the region has to offer and explore even further by checking out some great resources including the websites of the Lee County Economic Development Group and the Greater Burlington Partnership.

Until next time,

The Restoring Iowa Jobs team

Fall in Southeast Iowa

Fall in SE Iowa Photo

As the leaves begin to change and the weather cools, Southeast Iowa doesn’t begin to hibernate, but instead comes alive with numerous events and festivals perfect to keep kids, adults, and families busy throughout the fall and winter months. We’ve highlighted a few that you may want to mark on your calendars!

Another fall activity that’s a must is visiting an apple orchard and Southeast Iowa has one that is filled with more than just apples! Appleberry Orchard is located in Donnellson, Iowa and is owned and operated by Ryan and Jessica Welch. The two farm 22 acres of apple orchards, a petting farm, and a farm market filled with fresh fruits, jams, jellies, and bakery items. The orchard has something for everyone from the kids play area to Date Night at the Orchard, taking place on October 24.

Appleberry is considered the oldest working orchard in the state of Iowa, as the first apple tree was planted on the property in 1852! You can learn more about the orchard by visiting their website here.

Mark your calendars for these upcoming events! 

October 23 and 24
Main Street Ghost Hunt in Fort Madison
Pre-Registration Required, $25.00 per person

October 30
Downtown Burlington Trick or Treat
4:00pm – 6:00pm

October 31
Begger’s Night in Fort Madison
5:00pm – 8:00pm

November 8
Holiday Open House
12:00pm – 4:00pm
Downtown Burlington

November 26
4th Annual Thanksgiving Turkey Trott 5K Run/Walk
8:45am – 11:00am
Burlington Golf Club
Register before November 6, 2015

November 28
Lighted Holiday Parade
5:00pm – 8:00pm
Downtown Burlington

December 10
Living Windows
6:00pm – 8:00pm
Downtown Burlington


Iowa Celebrates Manufacturing Day

National manufacturing day, also known as MFG Day, is a day that aims to address common misperceptions about manufacturing by giving manufacturers the opportunity to open their doors and showcase what manufacturing is – and what it isn’t. Manufacturing is just another element of technology that is moving our state forward. Iowa factories have added 6,900 jobs since 2010, an increase of 3.4 percent. Technological advancements and changes to the industry have transformed the way in which manufacturing work is performed and have created a demand for more middle-skilled workers. Although the official National Manufacturing Day was October 2, businesses and communities in Iowa are celebrating throughout the entire month of October.

Below are a few of manufacturing events worth checking out:

October 15, 2015 12:00pm – 1:00pm ISU Extension and Outreach will host a lunch and learn in Keosauqua, which will include a presentation of manufacturing technologies with a focus on additive manufacturing (3D printing) technology.

October 17, 2015 9:30am – 10:30am Will host a meeting with The Fairfield Economic Development Association and local companies to discuss tech-based innovation (with a focus on mfg) and how the ISU-CIRAS programs can assist organizations throughout the process.

October 28, 2015 5:00pm – 7:00pm Lee County Economic Development Group will be celebrating manufacturing in Fort Madison at the Annual Salute to Industry Summit. Don’t miss Manufacturing 101, a basic course that will help you develop the skills necessary to start a career in manufacturing. Enjoy appetizers and drinks while networking with professionals from key industries and elected officials from Lee County and Southeast Iowa.

 October 28, 2015 – October 29, 2015 Siemans will participate in Lee County Economic Development Group’s Salute to Industry Summit 2015. The facility will also host students enrolled in Wind Technician and Wind Blade Repair programs from Cloud Community College in Concordia, KS.

Many groups, including Center for Industrial Research and Service and Elevate Iowaare working to promote manufacturing in Iowa. Did you know manufacturing employs the most workers in Lee County with 18.4 percent of the workforce in the manufacturing sector in 2014? Additionally, 64 percent of workers employed in the manufacturing sector have training beyond high school.


Iowa manufacturing is continuing to grow and change the way we do business in Southeast Iowa. Many of the materials made in Iowa impact lives across the country. We’d love to hear which events you attend!

The Restoring Iowa Jobs Team 


Business Spotlight – Bickel’s Cycling & Fitness

Bickel's Photo 1

Name of the Owner/Manager:
Melinda Bickel, Co-Owner & Vice President, Bickel’s, Inc.

How long has Bickel’s Cycling and Fitness been in business?
50 years!

Bickel Photo 4

Can you describe a typical day in the life of owning/managing/working at Bickel’s?
The best part of owning a small, family business is the opportunity to work with people. Our business can be split into two primary operations – bicycle sales & repairs and residential & commercial fitness sales & repairs. We pride ourselves on having an excellent selection of quality products available for home and business use and see to it that those items are operating at their best at all times, servicing things in a very timely manner – many days, offering same-day repairs.

While we have our daily routines, flexibility is always the name of the game. Being in the retail sector and dealing with the general public, no one day is truly the same. Like many working families out there, once my husband & I get the kiddos off to school, we hit the ground running the minute we step through the doors. That said, truthfully, we are always ‘on call.’ Being small business owners & living in the social realms around us, both physically in the community as well as on online media, we represent our company 24/7. Much of our personal life gets incorporated into our work life and vice versa. Many times, we find ourselves communicating with our customers & our team well past closing hours.

Bickel's Photo 2

What is your favorite part of doing business in Southeast Iowa?
Our family-owned business has a humble, grassroots beginning with a simple passion to do for others and treat people how you want to be treated. In turn, we have this wonderful opportunity to give back to our community, taking on new challenges every day, striving to learn and do better with each and every experience.

We enjoy doing business in Southeast Iowa because this is our home! Our families have been born and raised here just like much of our team and customers have as well. Being in business for 50-years, we have served generations of families, individuals & businesses; that sense of loyalty and community is very strong. In a world where there is so much flux and change, there’s something very reassuring about knowing your neighbors and connecting with local businesses who are known for their integrity, good products and services. That’s something that isn’t produced overnight, mail ordered, nor easily sustained for the longevity that we have been blessed with.

Bickel's Photo 3

In your opinion, what makes Southeast Iowa a great place to do business?
It’s a very interesting time right now with such rapid changes in technology, a vast global marketplace and multiple generations working side-by-side together in the workforce. This environment creates for some very unique dynamics in how we live and carry out our daily lives. That said, folks around here still value & desire a grassroots connection. As long as they feel they are treated respectfully, get good, individualized service, and access to product at a price that is fair & competitive, they seek out that direct, local contact. It’s that word-of-mouth reference that simply becomes part of the cultural landscape.

What positive changes have you seen in the Southeast Iowa business environment over the last several years?
We are very excited to see some new manufacturing business come to the area. These projects have certainly been a boost to job growth & local economies. There has also been a continued effort in increasing outdoor recreational activities, including trails for bicycling, which is a wonderful way to get people outside and exercising in a safe and fun environment.

What is one thing you want people to know about Bickel’s Cycling and Fitness that makes your business unique?
We are who we are! We look at everything we do as an investment into the future, taking a long-term, sustainable approach when it comes to the decisions we make. We invest a lot in our community services so inevitably we are always paying it forward to those who support our business.

We have a very seasoned, experienced team with a staff that averages 20 years of service. One of our mechanics is actually blind and has worked for us for the last 25 years, doing all of his work by touch. Leroy Bickel, the founder of Bickel’s, Inc, was one of the original founders of Bike Burlington, one of Iowa’s oldest bicycle clubs which is still in full operation today! The club was created on the heels of RAGBRAI’s inception and is well-known for weekly Wednesday night dinner rides.

That aside, interestingly enough, most bicycle businesses are not the size we are for the market we are located in. We draw from quite a broad radius due to our rural demographics. Being a destination, specialty business, we boast over 600 different styles, sizes & colors of bicycles. Like people, bicycles come in many different shapes & sizes, where one size does not fit all. Due to strong marketing efforts of discount retailers, many people believe bicycle sizing is based off wheel size when in fact it’s based off frame size. Most discount retailers offer just one frame size making for many uncomfortable, improper fittings. When people get properly fitted for a bicycle at our store, let’s just say they enjoy many hours & days riding their bikes.

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 9.16.48 AM

World Teachers’ Day – Honoring those who inspire for a brighter tomorrow

World Teachers' Day

World Teachers’ Day was created to honor and inspire for a brighter tomorrow. Today, teachers all over the world are being celebrated and we couldn’t be prouder of what our teachers in Iowa are doing to better the education of students in the area.

Iowa is nationally recognized for top quality K-12 public education system, world-class colleges and universities, and customized vocational and technical training programs through an extensive community college network.

Iowa has a high school graduation rate of 93.4 percent and Iowa students continue to outscore their peers on standardized tests. We could not reach these numbers without the hard work our teachers put in to educate our students.

Thanks to the motivated teachers in Iowa, our students will be experienced and successful once they hit the job market. In Lee County alone, almost 90 percent of residents are employed full or part-time.

As you head to class this week or pick your child up from school, take the time to let a teacher know how much you care about the work they are putting in to help Iowans succeed!

Happy #WorldTeachersDay!

The Restoring Iowa Jobs Team


Working to Restore Iowa Jobs

As of April 2015, Iowa’s unemployment rate is 3.8 percent. That’s almost two percent lower than the national average and 0.7 percent lower than this time last year!


Every day, Iowans are working to make our economy better, and in Southeast Iowa THIS IS HAPPENING, which is increasing the quality of life for those who live in and love our state.

Iowa ranks third in the U.S. for job creation, and added more than 11,600 non-farm jobs this past year, growing the total state workforce to almost 1.5 million! On top of that, Lee County Economic Development Group created the program, Grow Lee, to assist in the development of the local workforce.


Many industries are working to help Iowans find jobs. Iowa manufacturers are the driving force behind the state’s labor market. Did you know that manufacturing firms supply more than 208,858 jobs to Iowans? This represents more than 14 percent of the state’s total employment. Manufacturing employs the most workers in Lee County with 18.4 percent of the workforce in the manufacturing sector in 2014.


Keep up the great work, Iowa! Thanks to the commitment of many companies putting down roots in our area, we look forward to a continually lowering unemployment rate!

Restoring Iowa Jobs visits the Lee County Fair

The Restoring Iowa Jobs team was happy to attend the Lee County Fair last week and it was a wonderful experience! It was great to have to chance to speak with so many of you who live in Southeast Iowa and talk about the great things happening in this area. We enjoyed the conversations and hearing feedback and thoughts from you on how we can continue to work together to create a variety of jobs in these towns.

RIJ Lee County Fair Photo 2

At our booth, we featured a gift card give away from some special local businesses. We gave away one gift card to The Ivy Bake Shoppe and Café and another gift card to Fort Madison’s Chandler’s Grill. Fair-goers were entered to win by ‘liking’ us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or filling out a contact card. The two lucky winners of the cards were Denise Fraise and Nancy Folluo – Congratulations to you both!

We look forward to participating in more events in Southeast Iowa and as always, we look forward to hearing from you on how we can get involved in the community.  Feel free to send your ideas to Also, be sure to keep up with the latest Southeast Iowa news by ‘liking’ us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, and keep on reading our latest blog posts.

Until next time,

Restoring Iowa Jobs team

RIJ Lee Co. Fair Photo 3

RIJ Lee County Fair Photo 1