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Economy-wise, 2017 was a pretty good year for Washington County.
The year 2018 should see that successful trend continue, Ed Raber, executive director for the Washington County Economic Development Group said. There are three major factors that go into this success, he said: population growth, job growth and rising retail sales.
“The population here in Washington County continues to go up,” he said. “And it’s going up at a time when many of our neighboring counties are seeing a loss of population.”
Raber said there were some special things that set Washington County apart from other, similarly sized counties.
“We have our own economy and we’re right next to Johnson County,” he said. “In particular it’s our agriculture and livestock sectors that make us unique.”
Raber said in many places cattle and livestock operations are managed by big corporations, but in Washington County, all livestock is owned locally which allows for many more small businesses to succeed.
“What this means is that revenue stays local,” Raber said. “For example, we have a lot of local trucking companies in Washington County. As opposed to chemical fertilizer, we have manure and we have companies that specialize in manure management plans.”
Young people start many of these local businesses that specialize in “custom application,” Raber said and gave the example of one young woman who had started her business at her kitchen table who now owns a building in downtown Washington.
Many businesses in Washington County operate all over the Midwest. PSI in Wellman builds hog buildings, Raber said, but not just in Washington County.
“They build hog buildings throughout the tri-state area, in Iowa, Illinois and Missouri,” he said. “Also, there are no less than three manufacturing companies in Washington County that build concrete hog slats for these buildings.”
Besides hog-specific products, Washington County is also home to businesses that produce equipment for manure management and a large number of feed mills, all thanks to locally-owned livestock.
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