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!
If you own a business, you know first-hand the challenges with workforce. When I meet with any of our businesses, I often ask what keeps them up at night, and undoubtedly the first answer I receive is 'workforce'. Whether it's finding people in general, or finding the right people to round out your business, it's a tough environment due to the low unemployment rate. While a low unemployment rate is often a good thing and a sign of a strong economy, it also presents challenges for many of our area employers, regardless of their size.
In an effort to help create a workforce pipeline and solve some of the workforce challenges, the State of Iowa announced last year initiatives via the Future Ready Iowa program. The program aims to help connect Iowas to training and education required for good paying jobs and careers in Iowa, and as part of this, explores apprenticeship opportunities and programs with businesses across the State to ensure access to employers. Representatives will be in Grinnell next Thursday, November 21 to share more about Future Ready Iowa and encourage area employers, as well as educational professionals, to consider this as a possibility for growing their own talent pipeline.
This week, the Small Business Administration (SBA) celebrates National Apprenticeship Week, taking time to recognize small businesses creating apprenticeship opportunities while also shedding light on the importance of programs like Future Ready Iowa and others across the country. We know that apprenticeships are becoming more and more common in helping solve some of the workforce challenge. As a business, do you offer apprenticeships? If so, let us know so we can help promote your opportunity! If you don't currently but are interested, make plans to attend next week's seminar brought to you by our partners at Poweshiek Iowa Development by signing up here!
Is anyone else in disbelief that it's already November 7? I mean, how did October come and go so quickly?! I spoke on Let's Talk this morning for KGRN's morning show, and Tim reminded me that Jingle Bell Holiday is only 15 days away - hard to believe!
Speaking of time flying, Peace Tree Brewing Company (PTB) will be celebrating their TWO YEAR anniversary in Grinnell this weekend. It seems as though we were just completing our initial downtown focus group sessions (which means I was also about to have a baby for those of you who remember that!). We often get consumed in the day to day, and forget to stop and think about all that's been accomplished in a short period but in reality we've had several areas of progress over these past three years, including the addition of PTB and other downtown businesses and initiatives.
There are more initiatives to come out of our efforts with the downtown planning, and we're excited to continue working with many of you, and hearing from even more, on the possibilities for our community! If you've not had a chance to follow the progress from these meetings or simply have questions about the process and the information learned and projects started since that time, please give me a call or send an email as I would love to share more.
While the calendar may say it's the last day of October, the weather seems to be a bit confused! Winter decided to arrive in Grinnell this week (I'm hopeful we'll have a 'fall' reprieve soon as I'm not a big winter fan!), which has caused Grinnellians to dig out winter gear, clear snow and ice and prepare for the next several months of the same. If you've been in the vicinity of 5th Avenue & Highway 146 this week, you may have also noticed increased vehicle traffic there as more people have been taking advantage of the new drive-thru coffee shop, Lucky Cat Coffee! The timing couldn't have been more perfect for entrepreneur, Sam Cox, to get her new venture opened up in preparation for these cold morning (and afternoon) temps!
We were happy to have played a small part in this particular venture. Beginning in the fall of 2016 our office, in conjunction with our partners at the City of Grinnell, co-hosted a number of focus group sessions in an effort to gain a better understanding of some of the things business owners and community members wanted to see in Grinnell. We heard many different things, from enhanced marketing for businesses and hospitality training to gathering spaces and destination events. We also heard some very specific businesses that were desired in the downtown which included a brewery (enter Peace Tree Brewing Company) and a bakery (enter Grin City Bakery) as well as a pharmacy and activity center.
In the spring of this year we reconvened this process, meeting with more community members to give them an update of our progress since the fall of 2016 while also asking for their feedback and next steps. In those meetings, we continued to hear about several specific businesses, including the desire for a drive-thru coffee shop. Enter Lucky Cat Coffee! While neither our office or the city recruited this business, the legwork completed through the focus group sessions gave reassurance that it was a venture worth exploring and one that would seemingly be supported by the community.
So now's your chance to support this new business venture, especially now that the weather has turned colder! Enjoy a cup of joe from one of Grinnell's newest businesses.
p.s. If you're interested in learning more about our downtown planning process, or are interested in exploring a possible business venture in downtown, please let me know as we'd love to share more and work with you!