Council Bluffs once enjoyed the label "gateway to the American West" and was a stop for more than 30,000 Mormons as they traveled across the country to the Great Salt Lake Valley. Many Mormons opted to stay in the area, and they founded more than 80 communities. Those communities flourished when the gold rush began and miners flooded through the area. Today, Council Bluffs is experiencing an explosion of new growth in all aspects of its economy. Since 1998, more than 4,000 housing units have been built in the city limits of Council Bluffs. Well over half of those were single-family dwellings. The business and industrial populations are experiencing similar growth.
ECONOMY AND INDUSTRIES
With a major airport and two interstates, Council Bluffs is well situated for continued economic growth. The Greater Council Bluffs Regional Economic Development Partnership is a committee focused on retaining current business and industry while luring more economic development to the area. This commitment to growth has spawned a boom in transportation centers, medical facilities, retail businesses and financial services in Council Bluffs.
Council Bluffs enjoys a diverse employment base that includes manufacturing, agriculture, insurance and the telecommunications industries. The largest employers in Council Bluffs are the casinos: Harrah's, Ameristar Casino and Hotel and Bluffs Run Casino. Because of the change in gaming laws, Council Bluffs became the 19th largest casino market in the United States by the mid 2000s, with the casinos bringing in more than $400 million in revenue. Council Bluffs is also host to a number of other large businesses:
- American Games, Inc.
- Barton Solvents, Inc.
- ConAgra Foods, Inc.
- Griffin Pipe Products Co., Inc.
- Katelman Foundry Co.
- Omaha Standard
- Red Giant Oil Company
- Tyson Foods, Inc.
NEIGHBORHOODS AND DISTRICTS
- Downtown: Downtown Council Bluffs runs along West Broadway, marked on one end by Old Town and the other by the railroad depot. The 100 block of West Broadway is listed as a National Historic District. This district and the United Methodist Church on West Broadway are key landmarks in the downtown area.
- Old Town: The area known as Old Town includes the Potawatomi settlement created in the 1930s by Billy Caldwell, as well as Miller's Hollow, which was created by the Mormons in 1848. Old Town is home to Kanesville Tabernacle, which is now run as a museum by the Mormons.
- West End: This expansive neighborhood has tree-lined streets as well as busy commercial streets such as West Broadway. This area of West Broadway is filled with car dealerships and fast-food restaurants.
- Casino Row: Casino Row is located near the banks of the Missouri River south of West Broadway and north of I-80. With the addition of riverboat casinos, this once-industrial area has seen the addition of several restaurants, theaters, retailers and a dog-racing park.
- Twin City: This area came about in the 1960s when workers from Omaha factories and Offutt Air Force Base began to settle down to raise their families. The area is home to the Bluffs Acres manufactured home development and the Western Historic Trails Center.
- Oakland Avenue: Oakland Avenue is most known for its 19th-century architecture, including the Judge Finley Burkey mansion. Other landmarks in the Oakland Avenue neighborhood include the Lincoln Monument and Ruth Anne Dodge Memorial.
- Manawa: Manawa was created as a trolley park when a channel of the Missouri River was closed in the 1881 flood and formed what is now Lake Manawa State Park. When U.S. Route 275 and I-80 were completed, the area saw another growth spurt and is now home to several businesses, including the TA Travel Center truck stop and multiple auto dealerships. The southwest shore of Lake Manawa is a favorite resting area for bald eagles in the months of February and March.
- South End: The South End was populated by Danish immigrants and became known as Dane Town, or Little Copenhagen, in the early 20th century. The Railswest Railroad Museum and Peterson Park are located in the South End.
The committment to education in Council Bluffs is evident in the number and scope of learning institutions it features, including:
- Bellvue University
- Buena Vista University
- Clarkson College
- College of Saint Mary
- EQ School of Hair Design
- Heartland Christian School
- Iowa School for the Deaf
- ITT Technical Institute
- University of Nebraska Medical Center
- Education Agency 13
- Ancient Wisdom College of Healing Arts and Wellness Center
- Headstart Council Bluffs
- Squirrel Cage Jail and Museum: This museum was created from an 1885 jail built on a rotating lazy Susan, allowing fewer jailers to guard the prisoners. The museum is named for the vast number of black squirrels that inhabit the area.
- Western Historic Trails Center: This nature park features four historic trails and is part of the Lewis and Clark trail system. It includes sculptures, photographs, Native American exhibits and educational opportunities.
- Railswest Railroad Museum and HO Model Display: Located in the restored 1899 Rock Island passenger and freight depot, the Railswest Museum displays regional, local and national train memorabilia along with the only permanent HO scale model train display in the Council Bluffs/Omaha area.
- Mall of the Bluffs: This enclosed mall is home to more than 100 retailers, including specialty shops, dining, a play place and kiddie rides.
- Valley View Village: This open-air mall is arranged around a central clock tower and is filled with upscale boutiques.
- Oak View Mall: This is a two-story mall featuring retailers such as Victoria's Secret, Dillard's and Gap. There are 13 locations in the food court, and the mall boasts a play area.