Posted Online: Jan. 09, 2013, 5:26 pm

Loebsack hears concerns of Isabel Bloom owners

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By Kelly Steiner, ksteiner@qconline.com

More photos from this shoot
Photo: Paul Colletti
Congressman Dave Loebsack (Iowa, 2nd) talks with Lynn Reffett at the Isabel Bloom production facility in Davenport on Wednesday, January 9, 2013. Congressman Loebsack toured the Quad-Cities small business asking its owners about their business needs and what role they would like the government to play in small business development.
More photos from this shoot
Photo: Paul Colletti
Sandy Inskeep paints an Isabel Bloom statue at the company's production facility in Davenport on Wednesday, January 9, 2013.
More photos from this shoot
Photo: Paul Colletti
Dave Bedford demonstrates to Congressman Dave Loebsack (IA, 2nd) how a concrete sculpture is cast at Isabel Bloom in Davenport on Wednesday, January , 2013. Congressman Loebsack toured the Quad City small business learning about the company's employes, production techniques and business needs.
U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Mount Vernon, toured the Isabel Bloom factory in Davenport on Tuesday as part of his small business tour across Iowa. He talked to owners about what he can do in Washington to help them.

Rep. Loebsack watched workers pour concrete, add finishing touches and package the cement sculptures that are unique to the Quad-Cities. Afterward, he sat down with co-owners Bill Barrett and Cathy Nevins and asked what he could do to help.

"We can't absorb all of the ups and downs," Mr. Barrett said.

"Our No. 1 increase every year is health care," Ms.Nevins said. While health care won't be cut, Ms. Nevins is worried about effects the rising costs could have. "We want to do everything we can for the employees we have."

"We can't give them (employees) raises when we're paying all the overhead costs," Mr. Barrett said, adding that moving production overseas isn't an option. "We want to stay right here. We love it here." The previous owners planned to move production to China but changed their minds after a public outcry.

Rep. Loebsack told owners he understands the shaky economy makes it hard for small businesses.

"Certainty is absolutely critical. Uncertainty creates tremendous problems for business owners" because they can't plan ahead, he said. Rep. Loebsack plans to push for a long-term fiscal deal.

However, he predicted a continuation of the "food fight" between Democrats and Republicans over spending issues..

In the meantime, Isabel Bloom is doing well. Business is steady and no big changes are anticipated, the co-owners said. The purchased the venerable Quad-Cities business in October 2011.

The company was named one of the Quad City Chamber's small business of the year in 2012 and employs 66 at the factory, 33 of whom are full time.

Donna Young, a sculptor and another co-owner of Isabel Bloom, said she believes the product keeps getting passed on to future generations.

"It's more about the emotion in the piece," she said. Each sculpture has initials carved in the bottom to give it a more personal feel.

"It's become quite a home business for the Quad-Cities," Mr. Barrett said. "That's why we keep going. We have so many people who are involved in our product."