Eoghan Holdahl – Staff Writer
As Americans watched COVID-19 cripple the economy, Sioux Center and the surrounding community witnessed a different story unfold. Citizens and businesses have been working together to adapt to the challenges and unexpected circumstances brought by this year.
This past summer the businesses in town shut down in phases laid out by the governor of Iowa.
“That was really disheartening for our business community because I think we all hoped it would be short-lived,” said Barbara Den Herder, CEO of the Sioux Center Chamber of Commerce, “and it ended up being a much longer journey than we thought it would be.”
The chamber brings together hundreds of businesses in the area to promote industry and address the concerns of the community. In the past few months Den Herder and her staff viewed firsthand the struggles that employers are going through.
“The week before the shutdown our number one priority was recruiting employees for our businesses.” Den Herder said. “Most of our strategic priorities focused on ‘how can we attract people to move to Sioux Center? How can we make hiring people easier for our businesses?’ And the next week, people were putting employees on furlough and closing up shop.”
They needed something to stand between their businesses and an uncertain and undesirable future. The people of Sioux Center stepped up and showed themselves to be more than careless consumers. They searched out ways to keep commerce going and utilized the services available in town whenever possible. Den Herder said some people told her the pandemic forced them to explore nearby towns in search of services, as opposed to traveling to Sioux Falls or Sioux City.
In addition to community consumer support, Sioux Center Chamber of Commerce put together a small business recovery fund in April, starting off with $50,000 from several local business. Small businesses experiencing economic hardships applied for grants from $500-5,000 to help them get by.
Brent Van Den Berg and his two brothers run the Furniture Mart on Main Street. They have recently experienced sales he could only describe as “uncommon,” as in uncommonly good. He is thankful for his employees and customers for the gracious ways they addressed the situations presented to them.
“I saw a lot of people come just in support of small businesses,” Van Den Berg said.
During quarantine, people who were stuck at home wanted to renovate. This created a natural demand for Furniture Mart’s floor covering. Even after people went back to work, the local demand for flooring and furniture continued. Business has continued to boom throughout town, with some larger companies having to hire more employees to keep up with demand.
While the effects of COVID-19 are still resonating through Sioux Center, the differences between the local and national stories are stark. According to a July impact poll by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, COVID-19 has made “more than half [of U.S. small businesses] worry about having to permanently close”
Locally, people are considered part of a community where their success is tied up with the town’s overall economy. Nationally, people are considered as just consumers—a factor indicating supply and demand. While the national system has dehumanized community, cities like Sioux Center have emphasized the value of community and have reaped the benefits during a time of trials and uncertainty.