Looking forward to 2023

Goodbye 2022, with your labor shortages, the great resignation, quiet quitting, high gas prices, economic issues, drastic weather, monkeypox, the lingering pandemic and a divided country. Here’s hoping that 2023 will bring some positive change.

To learn what some local experts are predicting for 2023 in selected fields, we talked to: Dr. Gisella M. Aitken-Shadle, chief of equity and human rights, City of Dubuque, to discuss diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives; Amy Hawkins, superintendent of the Dubuque Community School District, and Jim Boebel, district superintendent, Platteville (Wis.) School District, to share what their school districts are doing in 2023; and Kelly Kohlhaas, Realtor and President of the East Central Iowa Association of Realtors on the housing market in 2023.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI)

Expert: Dr. Gisella M. Aitken-Shadle, chief of equity and human rights, City of Dubuque.

What can area businesses do to improve DEI in 2023?

There is a lot a business can do to build a more diverse and inclusive workplace. It all begins with recruiting. First, pay attention to where you are targeting your recruitment efforts and advertisements. Be sure to advertise on websites or other areas known to be used by diverse groups, such as a site for women in technology or Latinos in business.

Second, use your networks to identify promising candidates from a variety of backgrounds. Third, make sure you “walk the walk” and are making efforts to promote an inclusive work environment so that you will be attractive to potential applicants. “Walking the walk” is going to be important for retaining a diverse workforce, as well.

Make sure that all your employees feel supported and recognize that people have diverse needs. Make sure you are covering fundamentals like offering competitive salaries and benefits promoting networking and professional development.

In terms of serving our area’s increasingly diverse population, one thing businesses can start doing is to think about marketing, signage or forms in other languages, particularly in Spanish and Marshallese, as these are the two prominent languages in our city after English.

Are there some DEI initiatives that area businesses are starting next year? An exciting development I am seeing is local businesses developing and implementing DEI plans. Developing a DEI plan is an important thing for a business since it gives you a chance to look at how all the parts of the business can contribute to creating a more inclusive work atmosphere or to better serving a diverse clientele. It allows you to set goals and work out the steps you need to take to achieve those goals.

Is the City of Dubuque launching any new DEI initiatives in 2023? The City of Dubuque’s Office of Equity and Human Rights is responsible for the intake of human rights complaints, helping to ensure that city services are provided in an equitable and inclusive way and providing DEI training for city departments, local businesses and organizations who need the training.

One initiative we are working on in the upcoming year is to revamp our DEI training so it can better serve the community and better reflect best practices in the field. Another initiative the City of Dubuque is working on is a language access line, which would hopefully provide translation services immediately when someone is seeking assistance at a city office. This is especially important for our non-English speaking community members.

Would you like to add anything additional about DEI in 2023? I think it always is important to remind people why building a more diverse business community benefits us all. First, having a culture of inclusion makes it easier to recruit the best candidates from around the nation because they will feel welcomed, accepted and willing to contribute to your organization.

Second, having a diverse workforce can help you develop new clients or customers. A potential client or customer might feel more comfortable working with your organization if they perceive it as an organization that is welcoming and inclusive.

Third, when you have a diverse workforce, your team members have more experiences to draw from, which leads to better problem-solving, greater creativity and more innovative ideas. Another advantage is that having a diverse workforce can help your organization develop a positive reputation. Potential clients, customers and partners will see your organization as someone they want to work with because of the values it embodies and potential employees will want to work there.

Real Estate

Expert: Kelly Kohlhaas, Owner, Kelly Kohlhaas, Realtor, president of the East Central Iowa Association of Realtors

What are the predictions for the residential real estate industry for 2023? While many factors go into what will happen to the residential real estate market, I believe home prices will remain steady in 2023. Our inventory (number of properties for sale) will likely decrease while demand (number of active buyers) is predicted to remain high.

This, I believe, will keep home prices stable while the overall number of homes sold will decrease.

What can you share about the current housing inventory in the tristate area and predictions for 2023? Dubuque area residential real estate inventory is down 7% in 2022 from 2021. Inventory is predicted to continue to decline in 2023, keeping housing prices stable. With a slowdown of new construction during the pandemic, the industry is struggling to keep up with inventory demands.

Are home values expected to increase or decrease next year? Nationwide predictions state a 1% increase in home values. I believe locally we will see an increase in values slightly above that number, but lower than we have seen in 2021 and 2022.

Is the spring 2023 market expected to be strong? Strong depends on what perspective you are looking at it from — buyer or seller. Home prices are predicted to stay stable or even slightly increase, I would consider this a strong market.

Is spring 2023 predicted to be a buyer’s or seller’s market? We use months of inventory to help determine what type of market we are in. Months of inventory explains how long it would take without any new listings for our current inventory to sell. For it to be considered a buyer’s market (lots of inventory), months of inventory would be more than six months. For a balanced market, months of inventory would be between four and six months. For a seller’s market (more buyers than listings), months of inventory would be less than four months. Our market has been a seller’s market for quite some time.

What were some lessons learned in 2022 that can be applied in 2023? Be patient in finding the right property and find ways to help your offer be more appealing to the seller without giving up what you need. I see many buyers waiving inspections to secure the home they want. This is completely up to the buyer, and they need to weigh out what is most important to them, but I would advise finding a way to have your due diligence done.

Has the pandemic changed real estate and what were some of the changes?

It has. When the pandemic hit our area, nobody had any idea what to expect. Everything was “unprecedented.” Once we were several weeks into the pandemic, we saw homeowners really deciding if their current home worked for them. They were “stuck” at home for many more hours than usual, and any pains of their current housing started to become much more apparent.

Renters who did not like being in close quarters with others made it a priority to purchase their home. Many who were not working from home previously would now be doing so indefinitely and needed more dedicated space. Demand increased significantly and pushed prices up. The pandemic disrupted typical home sale patterns as well. This might have been due to a combination of the lack of travel and lack of inventory.

Is there anything else that you would like to add about residential real estate in 2023? 2023 should feel like the fourth quarter of 2022 for buyers and sellers if interest rates don’t increase more than a point or two.

Education part 1

Expert: Amy Hawkins, Dubuque Community School District superindentent

How many students are enrolled in the Dubuque Community School District for the 2022/2023 school year? We have a total of 10,064 students in our 12 elementary, four middle and four high schools.

How much has enrollment changed in the district and what is the prediction for 2023? Enrollment for this school year decreased 56 students, which was anticipated. Based on enrollment models, we expect small enrollment declines next year as well, similar to what is happening in many Iowa school districts.

Are there new building/expansion projects scheduled for 2023 and can you provide details? The next phase of renovation at Dubuque Senior High School remains underway and, when complete, will ensure that Senior and Hempstead High Schools are modern learning environments that are designed to meet the needs of learners now and into the future.

The district also is in the planning stages of moving to two middle schools of comparable size that create a feeder system into our high schools, rather than our current three middle school model. The planning has involved many stakeholder groups and will establish our roadmap forward for enhancing our middle school learning environments into the future while ensuring the district is operating as efficiently as possible.

Did the district struggle with open staff positions in 2022? As a large urban district, we always have a small number of staff openings at any given time, but we are thankful to be weathering the staff shortage better than many organizations. We currently have approximately 25 open positions, out of almost 2,000. As one of the area’s largest employers, we always strive to be an employer of choice in our community and region.

Are there plans for 2023 to help recruit for open staff positions and to retain current staff? Our team continues to look at innovative approaches for staff recruitment and retention. It is our goal to diversify our staff to better mirror the makeup of our student body.

Has the pandemic changed education, what were some of the changes and will they continue into 2023? Our work in the district continues to focus on the areas most impacted by the pandemic. This includes addressing unfinished learning, re-engaging families and the greater community to our schools, supporting student social-emotional learning and ensuring sound operations to support each of these areas. The pandemic has changed the landscape of our entire world and we expect that we will continue to feel its impact for many years to come.

Is there anything else that you would like to add about the Dubuque Community School District in 2023? A strong education is at the core of a strong community. We are proud to move into 2023 with tremendous support of our students, families and communities and we are excited for a future of constantly enhancing the educational experience for our students.

Today’s students remind me daily that our future is bright with this amazing next generation of leaders in the world.

Education part 2

Expert: Jim Boebel, district superintendent, Platteville School District

How many students are enrolled in the Platteville School District for 2022/2023 school year? Just over 1,500 between our high school, middle school, elementary and the Neal Wilkins Early Learning Center for 4K and kindergarten.

How much has enrollment changed in the district and is it predicted to continue to increase in 2023? Our student enrollment has increased gradually during the past 10 years. It is difficult to predict future enrollment due to the volatility of open enrollment in Wisconsin.

Are there new building/expansion projects scheduled for 2023 and can you provide details? Our district passed a $36 million facility improvement referendum during the November 8, 2022, election. The projects by location include:

  • Neal Wilkins Early Learning Center — renovation of the cafeteria and gym.
  • Westview Elementary — safety improvement of the pick-up/drop-off area and parking.
  • Platteville Middle School — restroom and classroom additions.
  • Platteville High School — a career and technical education classroom and lab addition, cafeteria/kitchen renovation, ADA accessibility improvements and an outdoor activities complex.

Did the district struggle with open staff positions in 2022? All of our staffing is currently filled.

Are there plans for 2023 to help recruit for open staff positions and to retain current staff? In our efforts to recruit and retain high-quality staff, the district offers the highest salary and benefits package in Southwest Wisconsin. We also continue to offer our own retirement package.

Has the pandemic changed education, what were some of the changes and will they continue into 2023? During the pandemic, we had to pivot to more virtual delivery of education. We have learned that there are positives and negatives. The positives are that we practiced a new way to diversify our instruction and some students responded well. A negative is that we were unable to build the high impact learning relationships that we rely on. Since returning to in-person instruction, we have focused on rebuilding those learning relationships and that will continue into 2023.

Is there anything else that you would like to add about the Platteville School District? In the past year, our district has earned the following recognitions: Westview Elementary received the 2022 Blue Ribbon School Recognition, Neal Wilkins Early Learning Center is recognized as a Model School through Solution Tree, a K-12 education company that provides professional development, online courses and education books for teachers, and the Platteville High School has been recognized as a School of Promise through Solution Tree. All three of these awards are national recognition for the successful learning that is happening at the Platteville School District now and moving forward to through 2023 and beyond.