PELLA — Communities large and small were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. For many, 2021 was a year of building back after 2020 created a future of uncertainty, and Pella is no exception.

Mayor Don DeWaald noted the community’s resilience in making do during a pandemic.

“I think as a community, we weathered it very well,” he said.

DeWaald credits in part Pella’s strong workforce for keeping many Pella residents afloat during months of uncertainty.

“We’re pretty blessed in Pella, he said. “From an economic standpoint, we’re in great shape just because of the wonderful job base we have and employers we have. People were able to continue to work even throughout. Our factories remained open, a lot of our office people were able to work from their homes. “

Even smaller businesses forced to closed their doors in 2020 were able to not only open, but thrive in 2021.

“[This year] has been a phenomenal year for tourism in Pella,” DeWaald said. “We have a pretty solid tourism base anyway, but I think with COVID, people not being able to travel overseas and make bigger trips, people were anxious to get out. We’ve just had a tremendous amount of visitors and I think our downtown businesses have all done very well in 2021.”

Any given day can see five to six thousand more people in Pella than its 10,500 residents because of visitors or workers who commute.

Both one Pella’s biggest challenges and accomplishments in 2021 came in the form of housing.

With a goal of attracting more of its commuters to reside in Pella, the City worked toward many housing projects this year.

“When you have any discussions about trying to attract a workforce, the two things that are always the top of the list are housing, lack of housing, and then community amenities,” DeWaard said. “Those two kind of go hand in hand if you want to attract worker to move to Pella.”

The Estates of Pella, A 22-unit Vintage Cooperative Community in Bos Landen Golf Course was one of several projects to expand housing opportunities in the city this year.

Construction on dozens of homes in the Prairie Ridge Development also sprang up in 2021.

“Through some initiatives, some private-public partnerships on some housing projects in Pella, I think we are making great strides,” DeWaard said. “2021 has just been kind of mind boggling, when you think about it, with some of the housing developments that have happened throughout the course of this year.”

Housing was not the only area in which the community made strides in 2021.

PELLA SCHOOLS

The Pella Community School District had an exciting 2021 for students, staff and community members alike.

The community showed a dedication and commitment to the school district in November when 78% of voters supported the district’s $40 million bond project. The district will also use approximately $11 million in sales tax, putting it at $51 million towards improvement projects.

“The community supported it well,” Superintendent Greg Ebeling said. “We had almost 2,800 people vote ‘yes’. That was a big deal for us, to get that passed.”

Projects will include an early childhood center with all-day care as well as preschool, additions to and a connection between the Middle School and Jefferson Intermediate School, and remodeling in the Middle School. Various other facility projects will take place in the high and middle schools.

Ebeling said that it could take three to three and a half years to complete the planned improvements.

He noted the flexibility and determination of the community to continuously work to improve the district despite a difficult time all around.

“Our staff, our community, they all had a desire to continue to move forward,” he said. “Even in the midst of that hard stuff, people have the desire to move things forward.

As the district continues to move forward, they will be guided by new mission and mission statements made this year: “preparing everyone to learn, lead and achieve” and “developing potential, building relationships and pursuing excellence.”

Those in the school district aren’t the only ones with big plans looking ahead.

LOOKING AHEAD

Pella residents and visitors also have much to look forward to as the community steps into the new year.

Projects and developments currently underway include Smash Park, a facility with craft food and drinks, pickleball courts, games and more, and Pella Market which will be similar to Des Moines’ Gateway Market.

DeWaalds also hopes that 2022 will bring work on a new indoor recreation facility.

“We’ve been pretty strategic as a city to work with private developers to get a lot of these projects done,” DeWaald said. “We’ve been fairly aggressive as a city to get into some partnerships with private investment. The city is powerless to do anything unless we get the private investment. If we can get the private investment, we have some tools that we can help make some of this investment and some of these things happen. I have to credit our industry and our private businesses, the way that they continue to invest in our community to make it a great place for their own employees but the rest of us that maybe don’t work for those companies benefit from all the things that they’re doing in the community. It makes it a great place for everybody to live. I certainly have to give the credit there because without that, there’s not a lot we can do on our own.”

Shannon Rabotski can be reached at srabotski@oskyherald.com.

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