Keokuk’s tourism director believes the Bakken oil pipeline could result in positives for Keokuk, despite some residents’ opposition to the project.
He bases his observations/hopes on the impact of a temporary housing boom that’s been on going since construction started on the Iowa fertilizer plant in Wever.
“It’s been tremendous, what it meant to us,” said Kirk Brandenberger, executive director of the Keokuk Convention and Tourism Bureau. “We didn’t get a ton of workers, but it forced (travelers) to look for a room in a wider radius.”
He also noted that visitors staying in Keokuk motels generally eat at Keokuk restaurants.
The duration of the pipeline project will overlap the rest of the fertilizer plant construction, which could cause greater demand for the diminishing number of available rooms and housing in the Tri-State Area.
“A representative from the pipeline said they would need housing for 800 people for one year starting in mid-May,” Brandenberger said. “Campgrounds, hotels and all kinds of private housing. Campers for Midwest Threshers (in Mount Pleasant) couldn’t park their campers last year in Mount Pleasant.”
Hickory Haven Campground owner Ron Ginsberg has 50 camper slots and they’re all taken.
“I wish I had 100 more,” he said. “I’ve been getting calls for two years, now. They bring in their families. They travel to their jobs. That’s what they do.”
Ginsberg said workers get $70 per diem to use on housing and food.
“That will more than pay for what I have,” he said. “I know they (the company) moved 20 units to Kahoka (Mo.).
Hamilton, Ill., Park Department has camper rental spots available.
Tourism events throughout the summer can attract crowds sizable enough to affect hotel/motel vacancy rates. Some of the larger public affairs include Burlington’s Steamboat Days, June 16-19; Latter-day Saints’ pageant in Nauvoo, Ill., July 5-30; Lee County Fair, July 6-11; Western Illinois Old Threshers, Aug. 5 and 6; Sweet Corn Festival, Aug 11-14; Watermelon Festival, Aug. 18-21; Rollin’ on the River Blues Festival, Aug. 19-20; Midwest Threshers Reunion, Sept. 1-5; Clark County Mule Festival, Sept. 16-18; Geode Fest, Sept. 23-25; and Fort Madison Rodeo Sept. 7-10.
A phone survey of Keokuk and area real estate agents and motels resulted in possible leads and dead ends for housing seekers.
Realtors Howie Sutlive, Tim Peevler and Vicki Briscoe, said they haven’t experienced a change in the demand for housing market.
Motel owners in the area are showing mixed results.
The Avenue of the Saints Motel in Donnellson is nearly full of fertilizer plant workers, according to its owner Marvin Mihm.
Keokuk Super 8 Manager Alicia Jones said her motel had a 25 percent uptick because of the fertilizer plant, but experienced the increase indirectly as leisure travelers couldn’t find rooms in other area towns.
The Baymont Inn & Suites wants to experience some of the pipeline construction traffic, but to date hasn’t received any calls, according to Manager Justin Swinderman.
“It didn’t do much to help me last year,” he said. “I reduced the rate, but they ramp down in winter. It hurt more than it helped.”
Swinderman is interested in housing pipeline personnel, but hasn’t heard from anyone yet.
“They don’t return my calls,” he said.
Hampton Inn in Keokuk housed pipeline personnel during the early stages of surveying and borings, according to Manager Adrian Woollam. She isn’t expecting anyone associated with the project until early May. She rents rooms by the day, not by the week.
“Our occupancy has been high,” she said.
Alpa Patel, owner of the Chief Motel in Keokuk, said the pipeline people are calling around for room rates.
Quality Inn in Keokuk does have a long-term stay rate, but is booked for May, June and July, according to an employee.
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