Iowa laborshed report found nearly third of Dubuque's workforce commutes

DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) -- Every day thousands of Iowans drive to work, whether it's just a few minutes or hours. That's especially true for Dubuque, where a  new Iowa laborshed report shows nearly a third of the city's workforce come from out of town.

The Julien Dubuque Bridge serves 17,700 vehicles per day, down from 26,700 in 2001. (Aaron Scheinblum, KCRG)

The study found the average miles commuters travel is 11 miles, or 16 minutes, each way. However, it also found people as far away as Cedar Falls and Davenport are willing to travel to Dubuque for job opportunities.

Northeast Iowa Community College in Dubuque County is just one of many companies with commuters.

Jeni Kohlmeyer, a clinical coordinator for the dental assistant program, said she started at NICC in the Fall.

"The position opened and I decided, hey, it's not too far," she said.

Just how far does she travel? "I drive about an hour and 15 minutes every day to get to work and then same back home, so I live in Waterloo," Kohlmeyer said.

For her, the commute is well worth having her dream job. She tries to spend her driving time wisely.

"On the way here I do a lot of prepping in my mind," she said. "On the way home it’s a lot of decompressing and thinking about the day and so it’s kind of nice. A lot of loud music.”

NICC recognizes some of its staff are putting in many miles to get to work, so it's considering allowing some positions to be from home. Kohlmeyer said she's done that herself.

"I did that a lot over Christmas Break to get ready for this semester," she said.

Greater Dubuque Development CEO Rick Dickinson said its essential for companies to be competitive to keep those commuters.

He said, "employers that have the most competitive wages, the best benefits packages, the best work environment culture within the workplace, they're the winners."

He said the work culture is something employees really care about.

"At the end of the day, they need to have a quality workforce culture at their place of work. Because there was a time when people started a place, a company and worked there perhaps all their life, but that doesn’t happen much anymore," Dickinson said.

In a fast-paced economy, it's more important than ever, because, for people like Jeni, it comes down to loving the profession and the co-workers.