Don't worry, I'm not talking air conditioning just yet -- if I wanted that I'd just take a step out to the arctic blast this morning! Today we're talking AC as in AmeriCorps -- did you know that Grinnell has had a very robust AmeriCorps partnership for the past several years? Largely spearheaded by Grinnell College and in collaboration with the Grinnell Education Partnership, the effort integrates several different organizations and partners from the Chamber of Commerce to the Greater Poweshiek Community Foundation, Grinnell Regional Medical Center, Drake Community Library, LINK, Grinnell College Museum of Art, Grinnell-Newburg School District, Grinnell Community Early Learning Center, Claude & Dolly Ahrens Foundation and so many more, in an effort to support kids and families in Grinnell. The program aims to give students a strong start so they can succeed early in school and ties with the Campaign for Grade Level Reading. Locally, the program truly is a collaborative effort to establish various programs in many different facets, and have supported many great programs including healthy readers, summer programming, addressing skills gaps and after-school care.
Cut-out hearts of what we love about the Partnership.
Our team participated in a meeting of the Grinnell Education Partnership just last week to talk about accomplishments, while also taking a look ahead to the future, and I have to share some of the remarkable successes as a result of this partnership. Just in the past year, the Partnership has been recognized by the International Town Gown Association (ITGA) with a Presidential Excellence Award for Volunteerism, a Pacesetter Award from the Campaign for Grade Level Reading, and Outstanding Nonprofit Collaboration Award from Volunteer Iowa. And while awards are rewarding and exciting to share, what may be more exciting are that reading test scores of our youth are improving, school attendance has improved, and children are entering kindergarten more 'school ready' than they have in the past, in part due to this collective impact initiative that is working to build sustainable models and programs.
AmeriCorps members help supplement the work happening in many of the aforementioned agencies around their work on the campaign, and have truly added so much to each of these programs. Over the past five years, more than 150 AmeriCorps members have been placed, and 300+ volunteers have contributed nearly 1,000 hours of volunteer time, and they're looking to expand that number even more by placing approximately 35 individuals this summer! If you or someone you know might be looking for a summer opportunity to help Grinnell's youth, this is a great one - you can find details here!
When you think of tourism in Iowa, you likely think about warm summer days, a bit unlike today! While most tourism takes place in warmer months in Iowa, smaller communities often see a tourism boost in different ways. The next several weeks will bring an influx of visitors to our community thanks to so many activities and events being held in Grinnell.
Not only sports tourism, but arts and culture, are drawing thousands of people to our community over the course of the year. This weekend alone, there are many events bringing visitors to our lovely community, including the Midwest Conference Swimming & Diving Championships at Grinnell College's Natatorium. And if you've never been to that facility, you need to check it out - especially on a day like today when it's so cold outdoors! If you check the activity calendars at the high school, college, and Ahrens Park, you'll see how many other weekends are filled with events that will bring visitors to our community.
These events have tremendous economic impact on our community as well - these visitors are putting money into our local economy by purchasing food, going shopping, filling up at the gas station and staying in our hotels.
Do me a favor over the next few weekends, and share the love (remember, today is Valentine's Day!) as you greet these visitors with a friendly 'hello'. After all, if they have a good experience in our community, they'll be more likely to return for a visit when they have more time to enjoy all Grinnell has to offer.
p.s. Our Annual Celebration will take place March 11, and we're looking for your best experiences over the past year. Please consider submitting your nominations online here and purchase your tickets for the event here!
Join us for a slice of pie next Wednesday as we talk Census 2020! Did you realize 2020 is a Census year? Beginning April 1, we'll be encouraging you to complete your census invitation so we can ensure a complete count of Grinnell! In an effort to help share this information early and encourage residents and businesses to be prepared we are co-hosting, along with the Grinnell League of Women Voters and the Grinnell Complete Count Committee, a Census Forum next Wednesday, February 12 at Drake Community Library. Two forums will be held, each lasting approximately one hour, with the first beginning at 4PM and the other at 7PM.
Census information will be shared by John Cook, a partnership specialist with the US Census Bureau, and will provide information on how a complete census count aids in long-term planning and sustainability for communities like Grinnell as well as Poweshiek County and the State of Iowa as a whole. We want everyone to be counted in this effort, including, but certainly not limited to, previously 'hard-to-count' demographics of ages birth to 5 years old and millennials.
I nearly forgot one of the selling points -- PIE! As we look to get our piece of the 'Census Pie', we thought it only fitting to serve pie at the event. Pie slices will be available courtesy of the League of Women Voters.
We hope to see many of you next Wednesday as we learn more about Census 2020 and how we can all be prepared to ensure Grinnell's Complete Count.
As Iowans, I know many of you are getting tired of the political landscape at the moment, and are counting down the days until the Iowa Caucuses. After all, we have been seeing and hearing from political candidates for well over a year now, whereas the rest of the country is just gearing up for what we've already become accustomed to. But let me take a moment to remind you that this is our time to shine - regardless of what political party you align with - Iowa is afforded an opportunity unique of anyone else in the country. I was reminded of this recently as I was with a group of colleagues from across the country and found myself frequently defending Iowa's position as the first in the nation. It was in those moments that I was reminded what an incredible moment this really is for Iowa, and while yes, I, too, am a little tired of all the political ads flooding the television and social streams, it's important to remember that this is our right. As Iowans and Americans, we have the right to vote and make our voices heard. There are not many places in the country who will be able to say, regardless of how the November election turns out, that they've had a chance to hear first-hand from the President of the United States in their coffee shop, diner, business operation or a rally. But as Iowans, we are often afforded that opportunity.
As Caucus night nears, I would encourage you to take part in the process, even if as an observer. This is a unique process, and we should embrace it as it truly does put our State on a platform that has trickle-down effect for all of us, not to mention the positive economic impact it's created for the State (2,000+ media correspondents are in Des Moines this week/weekend alone) as a whole but even our smaller community. From political offices leasing space, to media buys and coverage, to constant recognition across the country - these all have positive economic gain for our community.
As long as we're talking about our rights, I want to remind you of the Legislative Coffee, the first of which will take place this Saturday at 9AM at the Presbyterian Church. Our elected officials, Senator Kapucian and Representative Maxwell, will be in attendance to share some of the house happenings as well as take questions from attendees. These are important opportunities to share your praises and concerns and take a more active role in local government and policy. These events are co-hosted by the Grinnell Chamber of Commerce and Grinnell's League of Women Voters.
p.s. If you're interested in Caucusing, or observing the evening, but not sure where to go you can find that information here.
We are busy making plans for the Chamber's Annual Celebration, our annual event to connect with the business community while focusing on the achievements we've had in the previous year and outlining the slate for the coming one, all while recognizing our amazing business community and contributors.
Each year we ask you, our community-at-large, to nominate your favorite businesses, organizations and individuals for these annual awards. We believe success is best when shared, and we want you to share some of the successes you have had or recognized over the past year. Where have you had an extraordinary experience, who has done amazing things with their business, who are the up-and-comers in our business community? These are the people we're looking to recognize - those people who put tireless hours and passion into their businesses, careers and community.
Everyone is invited to submit nominations: you do not need to be affiliated with a Chamber Member in order to nominate businesses or individuals. Nominations will be accepted until 5 p.m. on February 28; past award winners are denoted on the nomination form as they are not eligible for the same category for two years; however, they may be eligible to receive an award in another category. The award recipients will be recognized at the Chamber of Commerce Annual Celebration which will take place Wednesday, March 11.
Submit your nominations online here and purchase your tickets now for the celebration of our business community!
You know the saying 'time flies when you're having fun'? I suppose the same could be said for working on visionary projects, which is what we have been busy doing for the past three plus years regarding broadband options in Grinnell. In many ways, it seems like just yesterday that we began working with the City to convene focus group meetings to better understand and determine next steps for downtown (it was actually Fall 2016!). Throughout the meetings, a number of common themes were articulated, including having broadband/reliable internet available to businesses and residents in Grinnell. Following those meetings, the Chamber's Board of Directors charged the staff to develop a comprehensive plan to address the fiber needs of the community and incorporated it into the Chamber's strategic plan. Since that time, our office has spent much time convening meetings, learning and having discussions to lead us to possible solutions.
Nearly one year ago, we used this newsletter to help launch a short survey to better articulate the need and desire for broadband in Grinnell. As a result of those survey responses, earlier this week Mahaska Communications Group (MCG) announced they are coming to Grinnell in 2020! They will begin developing a fiber installation plan and expanding their network to the Grinnell community beginning later this year. While they do not have their exact starting locations and timelines identified just yet, they are committed to running fiber to the entire Grinnell community and will offer a suite of services. Their entire build will likely take about two years; however, customers will be able to 'go live' in networks as soon as they're built. And rest assured, as soon as MCG has identified their zones and build dates, we'll be sure to share it with you, but for now you can find more details on their website.
(MCG team presented to the Grinnell City Counsel and community members on January 14th)
While it has been a long process, it's certainly a rewarding one, especially knowing that just a few months ago our community had very little fiber but following this announcement, and coupled with other area providers' efforts, will soon be a very connected community. We're excited to help share this news with you, knowing broadband and connectivity is something that many of our businesses and residents have been so passionate about for the past few years.
It's hard for me to believe another year has come and gone, but I am excited for the coming year. Have you set your resolutions for 2020? If you, too, are just getting started with your planning for the coming year and are contemplating making a career change or taking the plunge into business ownership, make plans to connect. Our 'Job Opportunities' page of our website is continually updated with new opportunities from our members.
If a new business venture is up your alley, we invite you to connect with our office as one of your stops. We work with all types of businesses that are looking to start and grow in Grinnell, and aim to be a resource to businesses no matter where they are in the process. From brainstorms over coffee to giving feedback on business plans and connecting with community resources, we work with several prospective business ventures each year, especially around this time of year.
If you're thinking of starting a business, now is a great time to get serious about it. Whether you're ready to launch now, or just want to explore the possibilities, please get in touch with our office to see how we can assist you. It doesn't matter if you're about to open, or if you're not even sure if your idea would work here. Let us help you get started.
Have you taken the time to come downtown following Jingle Bell Holiday to get into the holiday spirit? I'm so proud of our downtown and how festive everything looks this time of year. From the City crews who help hang all the lighted snowflakes and banners, to the businesses and community members who decorate the trees on downtown corners and the dedicated team of volunteers who helped bring Central Park to life for the holiday season again this year, THANK YOU! It brings so much joy to so many this time of year and truly helps brighten the holiday season.
(Our Central Park Decorating leaders pictured L-R: Jim White, Gailanne Dill, Esther Ware, Daniel Clements, Jill Hollingsworth, Jennifer McAlexander, Michelle Butler, Kerri Olson).
The vision for a Central Park Holiday not only involved the lights and displays, but more user-ship of the space as well. As part of this effort, we have two additional opportunities to visit with Santa. Santa will be in the Shelter this coming Saturday (hosted by Lions Club) and next (hosted by Grinnell Optimists), and we've updated the time this year to reflect your suggestions! Santa will be in the shelter from 3-5pm which will provide a great time to come downtown and see the park and downtown all brightly lit for the holiday season!
After you have visited Santa, explore Central Park and then make plans to finish some of your holiday shopping and spend the evening dining out in one of our restaurants.
We hope to see you in Central Park over the next couple weekends. And don't forget, there are many other holiday happenings in the next two weeks - be sure to check our website to help plan your outings!
p.s. Special thanks to the Grinnell Rotary Club for hosting Santa in the Shelter on Small Business Saturday this year.
p.p.s. THANK YOU to all who chose to Shop Small on this 10th Annual Small Business Saturday. American Express reports the highest year of sales with over $19.6 Billion spent in small stores across the country on this year's Small Business Saturday!
Pledging Local First
Christmas is only 20 days away - can you believe it? Hanukkah starts in 17 days, Kwanzaa begins in 21 day and all your holiday parties are starting to kick off as well! I've not even started my holiday shopping yet, and quite frankly am not even sure what will be on the lists. Again this holiday season I am making a commitment to Look Local First for everything on my shopping list, and am fairly confident I will be able to find nearly everything I need right here in Grinnell. If you haven't started your search yet, would you, too, make the commitment to Look Local First? It's amazing what can happen if we support our local businesses with our purchases! Not only do we see tangible economic benefit, but local business owners often donate more to community causes, provide better customer service, contribute to the vibrancy of our community and support each other with shared responsibility.
If you do happen to be a procrastinator like me, or are still adjusting to this year's shortened holiday season, there are a number of our businesses who can help accommodate and ensure you have great gifts to give!
p.s. Many holiday festivities are taking place this weekend, including the Holiday Tour of Homes. Check them out here!
Tomorrow evening marks one of my favorite nights in Grinnell: an evening to help us welcome The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, per Andy Williams' 1963 musical classic. Jingle Bell Holiday is set as a kick-off to the holiday season in an effort to keep more sales local and encourage customers to see what our businesses have to offer right here in our community. It's a fun-filled evening giving the opportunity to get out and explore our retail community - downtown sidewalks are filled with people, horse-drawn carriage rides are circling the business district, families are out enjoying treats and crafts and all the shops are decorated for the holidays. What's equally great about this event is that many service businesses and non-profit organizations get involved as well - it's wonderful to see so many come together to build and support community.
Jingle Bell Holiday activities are set for 5 to 8 p.m. Friday evening (November 22) and I'm excited to see you downtown. Dozens of businesses and organizations have events planned for the evening, including open houses and activities, a winter farmers market, photos with Santa at Grinnell State Bank and double punches on your holiday punch card for any purchases made that evening.
Our Central Park Holiday team has been hard at work over the past several weeks,and will be officially helping kick-off the holiday season with the lighting of Central Park! Michelle's Dance Academy will hold a holiday dance performance followed by the Central Park and Tree Lighting at 5:15pm from the stage in Central Park and free horse-drawn carriage rides will be available through downtown from 5:30-8pm.
A special thanks to Community First Credit Union, Grinnell College, Dari Barn (who will be downtown with their On the Mooove trailer) and Temp Associates for their support of Jingle Bell Holiday activities. For a complete list of activities and participants, check out the regularly updated list on our website. I hope to see you downtown tomorrow evening enjoying this festive tradition!