Council Bluffs would appear to be just a nice, quiet suburb of Omaha, Nebraska, which sits on the other side of the Mississippi River. But Council Bluffs has a lot of charm and excitement of its own. Some people come for the casinos that sit along the river. Gambling has slowly become a larger part of the city’s economy since a dog racing park was established there in 1986. You can still catch some greyhound racing in town, but we went to the casino instead.
When we visited, we spent our evening at an Italian restaurant, a casino, and watching baseball games back in our respective hotel rooms. Then we spent the whole next day running from meeting to meeting before heading to the Omaha airport and our flights home. So we missed our chance to take in the local history.
Council Bluffs is the seat of Pottawattamie County and the home to about 62,000 people. In the late 1840’s, the city was home to many Mormons who used it as a place to prepare for their big migration West. Because it sits on the Oregon Trail, Council Bluffs saw lots of wagon traffic until shortly after the Civil War, when most migration moved to the railroads. Since many railroads passed through town, the economy was based largely on rail activity well into the twentieth century.
The city became a manufacturing hub in the middle of the twentieth century but, as manufacturing jobs have dried up, the economy has diversified and for a while the population declined. A recent important addition to the local economy is a large Google server farm.
The town was nice, the casino was fun, and we saw a lot of people having fun at some party at the Microtel as we went to sleep. But what was the best part of our visit to Council Bluffs? The visits with small businesses and, as we describe in the book, we kind of had a favorite: our visit to Arnold Tool , Inc. President Jim Hackett and his team showed us many cool things they made. We also had a great visit to Tish’s restaurant where we met the long-time owners. While we did not find a way to work them into the book, we’ll surely have more to say about them here at some point. Stop by their restaurant if you are ever in town – we guarantee they will treat you well.
Oops, there was one other highlight of our visit to Council Bluffs. Paul snapped this picture but Scott did not follow through on the sign’s advice…