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!
We took time last week to connect with our board of directors as we begin to craft our agenda and scope of work for the coming year. It's always so exciting to begin to think about next steps and new projects, and I have no doubt the coming year will be full of exciting things for our organization and the Grinnell community. As we took a look toward the future, we also took time to recall the projects we've accomplished and worked on over the past twelve months, and it's safe to say we've certainly kept ourselves busy! From fiber to childcare, and support for education and workforce development, to downtown planning and technology improvements, we have convened many meetings and made much progress in many of these areas, with more work to come.
When asked by a group of students just yesterday why developments often take so long, I reminded them that community development efforts seem to take about 2 steps forward to take 10 steps backward (very normal in that line of work!), but it's often the relationships built that help forge projects ahead. Relationships take time to build and nurture, but when they get to that point, they can be incredibly powerful. We are thankful for strong relationships with many of our members and board members as we work to identify our upcoming projects, knowing our work is strongly influenced by our membership at large.
What are you most looking forward to in the coming year? Any big projects at your business or in the community? Let us know by responding to this email!
p.s. Have you registered for our Grow with Google workshop and Marketing Power Hour yet? These events will both be held THIS week, and RSVP's are required. Sign-up for both today!
Have you ever said this phrase? I feel like I do this far too often in my daily life! But the reality is, many of us turn to Google whenever we want to gather more information - from how to get from one location to another, to learning how to help with math homework, to searching for businesses - and that number is increasing every day. Do you know how to get good 'search results'? Is your business or organization well-represented on Google?
The Chamber is hosting a one hour 'Grow with Google' session on Tuesday, October 29 at 8:30AM, facilitated by Google-supported trainer Erin Bemis, to learn more about the tools available to businesses and organizations to help ensure those of us who are actively 'googling' on a regular basis can find you and your information! This session is free and open to anyone in Grinnell and the surrounding area to attend (need not be a chamber member to attend). If you represent a business or organization, this session is for you! You can learn more and RSVP here.
We're excited to be bringing this session to Grinnell to offer our businesses and industry the opportunity, which are often targeted to more metro-areas, to learn how to get better recognition on online platforms. At the end of the day, internet platforms are not going away, and we want to ensure our businesses have the same playing field, and having accurate, up-to-date online listings is the first step! Join us as we Grow with Google.
p.s. Erin will also be leading our Marketing Power Hour the following day (October 30) on e-newsletters and blogging. You can register for the educational session here!
You may be wondering, what on earth is Prairiepalooza? It's a new, one-day music festival being held in Central Park the end of this month. Mark your calendars now for Sunday, September 29 for this fun event!
Nearly a year and a half ago, our organization along with our colleagues at the City of Grinnell, began brainstorming ways to enhance and better utilize Central Park as the space was just getting ready to re-open after its major renovation. We and other organizations have done a number of things in that space since that time, but have always dreamed about a music festival that could be compelling for community-members, surrounding communities and tourists alike. Enter Prairiepalooza. The event is designed to be a day filled with music, activities, food and beverage and great conversation with community, and the genre can change year after year keeping it fresh and exciting.
While our team is furiously working to finalize more details and bring the event to fruition, we are very excited to announce that our headlining act for this inaugural show is Love & Theft, a country-music duo out of Nashville, Tennessee with several hits including Whiskey on my Breath, Angel Eyes, and Runaway.
Prairiepalooza is an event open and free to the public; VIP ticket options are available and food, beverage and some activities may require a fee. Learn more and stay updated with event details by liking the facebook page and event here or visiting prairiepalooza.com! We'll plan to see you on Sunday, September 29 in Central Park for the first-ever Prairiepalooza!
p.s. We are seeking organizations and groups to provide kids' activities (can be as a fundraising opportunity!) for this event. If you're interested, click HERE for the application or call our office at 641-236-6555
As I was looking back through past newsletters this week, I realized that a year ago last week we launched a follow-up survey to the childcare feasibility study to gain a better understanding of the before-and-after-school care needs in the Grinnell community. Fast forward nearly a year to the date, and I'm excited to share the news of a new program being developed to help address this community need.
It has been a lengthy process that our organization has helped lead along the way, from conducting a community-wide feasibility study, to actively convening a working steering committee since hearing the study results, and spending the better part of the past year completing due diligence in an effort to help address the ongoing challenges facing childcare in and around Grinnell. After spending time and energy working to help address this issue, I am very proud to be serving as an inaugural board member for LINK Grinnell, an organization committed to support the community's long-term and ongoing efforts for childcare and youth development in the Grinnell community. LINK's mission is to lead, inspire, nurture and keep children enriched, engaged and educated in the Grinnell community and will begin by launching an after-school program (next week!) housed at Davis Elementary School.
The organization learned this week that the LINK program is authorized to commence next Tuesday, September 3! If you know of someone in need of after-school care, please encourage them to complete the interest form found on LINK's website. Together with our business community, we are excited to be addressing this ongoing community need and look forward to convening similar projects and efforts in the future!