Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
Mt. Pleasant mourns loss of University
The community will feel the impact financially, socially, and culturally
Mar. 30, 2023 12:33 pm
MT. PLEASANT — The Mt. Pleasant community braces for impact after the announcement of Iowa Wesleyan University’s impending closure, Tuesday.
“The City of Mount Pleasant and the Mount Pleasant Chamber Area Alliance were sadden by the recent announcement of the Iowa Wesleyan University closure,” a joint news release from the Mt. Pleasant Chamber, Development Commission, and City officials stated. “Work has begun for new opportunities for the campus and ways to retain the talented workforce.”
Local business owner and active community member Mike Heaton commented on the economic impact on the community.
“We actually had a study done in 2016 that showed a $55.1 million impact on the region, per year, by the University,” Heaton said. “A vast majority of those dollars, like 40 million or so, were focused on the average increase in a person’s potential income.”
The study done by Hanover Research broke that economic impact into multiple categories.
According to the study, $6.6 million of that includes initial spending on employee payroll, operations, capital purchase, and spending by out-of-area students.
Another $4.15 million comes from spending in local business, individual household purchases, and the added value from nursing graduates.
According to Heaton, “Iowa Wesleyan is one of the biggest purchasers in town.”
“All of our businesses are going to feel impacted by that,” he said.
Heaton sees rallying around local businesses, leadership at the chamber, the mayor, city council, and county supervisors as one of the most important tasks for the community while they try to figure out next steps.
“The closure of Iowa Wesleyan University is a tremendous blow to Southeast Iowa,” Mt. Pleasant Mayor Steve Brimhall said in a news release. “Our hearts go out to the employees who have to have new employment and the students who need to find another school to complete their education. Our Mt. Pleasant Area Development Commission (of which the city of Mount Pleasant and County are a part) hope to work with the USDA to find use for the Iowa Wesleyan campus.”
Chamber Executive Vice President Rachel Lindeen echoed the sentiments of heartbreak, “We do need to recognize that lots and lots of people’s worlds were turned upside down this week.”
“Henry County and the Mt. Pleasant Community is resilient, strong and will overcome challenges together,” she said. “We will work with local and state agencies for next steps with Career Fairs, work with the USDA-Rural Development and support the community.”
Heaton also anticipates a significant social and cultural impact on the community.
The Mt. Pleasant community actively participated in IW events like homecoming, trick-or-treating, brown bag lunches, musical performances, art shows, and many others.
The University has been a part of the city’s DNA for the last 181 years.
“We’re losing an incredible group of students,” Heaton said. “They brought diversity, they brought different perspectives. They helped us really grow as a community every year, and we’re losing that.”
“That is going to be a huge hit to Mt. Pleasant,” he said.
Heaton sees the impact of these students as one that brought new ideas, innovation, and growth.
“It has helped stabilize our community for centuries at this point, and it is going to hurt,” Heaton concluded.