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What Makes a Great Place?

Posted on 04/22/2019 at 11:48 AM

What comes to mind when you think of a great place? What are we doing well as a community? Where can we continue to build on our successes? What are some things we should be considering for Grinnell in the future? We recently asked these questions, and more, to several community members as we conducted focus group meetings to give an update to some of the work we've been doing since our last round of input sessions in the fall of 2016, and to gain feedback on ways we can continue to improve Grinnell. 


Throughout the course of these meetings, we heard many great ideas and suggestions, and several common themes began to emerge over the course of these 20+ meetings. We're working to compile these thoughts and ideas now, and will be identifying areas of focus which will be shared via this email newsletter in the future. We know we were not able to meet with many of you, but that you likely have some great ideas and suggestions as well. I'm hopeful you'll take a moment to respond with your ideas. How can we ensure Grinnell is a 'great place' for years to come? 


Calling All Women!

Posted on 04/15/2019 at 8:45 AM

We've partnered with the Knoxville and Newton Chambers to bring together women for a night of networking, coaching and mentoring sessions! Our Regional Mentoring for Women event will feature ladies from each of our individual communities and everywhere in between to share their stories and learn from one another. 


Next Thursday, we'll kick off the evening at The Cellar Peanut Pub in Newton at 4:30pm with drinks, snacks and networking. The event will feature a series of four round table discussions, revolving around common obstacles women face at home and in the work place. Discussions will be led by individuals from each community with strong ties to their topic. These topics include: 

  • Women in Leadership: Breaking the Glass Ceiling and Providing Opportunities for All
  • Balancing Work & Life: Comfortably Navigating Professional and Personal Life
  • Growing and/or Buying a Small Business: Taking the Next Step and Striving for More
  • Gaining Confidence and Overcoming Obstacles: Establishing Your Purpose in the Professional World 

We're looking forward to a great night of discussion and networking with our Grinnell ladies and are excited to make new connections with our partners and friends in Knoxville and Newton. Interested in attending? This is event is open to chamber members and non-members, business owners, employees, stay-at-home moms, students or anyone else! You can sign up on our website or check out the  Facebook event for more details. Not sure if your company is a chamber member? Give us a call at 641-236-6555 and we can help you out!


Special thanks to our local sponsor, UnityPoint Health - Grinnell Regional Medical Center, along with our partners, Pagliai's, Peace Tree Brewing Company, and Gezellig Brewing Company for their support of the evening! 

One to Watch - Katy Wells

Posted on 04/09/2019 at 12:28 PM

The One to Watch Award recognizes individuals who have started businesses, expanded operations or done exemplary work as part of an organization. These individuals strive toward the highest levels of personal and professional accomplishment, and serve as role models for others in the business community. 

Our final One to Watch recipient is driven, energetic, outgoing and personable. These qualities paired with her work ethic and dedication are proven keys to her success. 

She works with clients to achieve strategic and creative approaches to help their businesses thrive. Her entrepreneurial spirit and passion for her work and clients has helped her quickly grow her business. 

When she’s not working, you can find her volunteering her time to help organize golf tournaments on behalf of area non-profits, and sometimes out on the course herself! 

Help us congratulate Katy Wells of Double You Marketing on her One to Watch award. 

Fiber: Do You Want It? 

Posted on 04/04/2019 at 3:29 PM

Nearly two and a half years ago, the Chamber and City collaborated to convene focus group meetings to better understand and determine next steps for downtown. Throughout these meetings, a number of 'common themes' were articulated which resulted in this document , including having broadband/reliable internet available to businesses and residents in Grinnell. We have spent much time over the past two years better understanding this need, and meeting with various providers to determine possible solutions.  

The City and Chamber were recently approached by Mahaska Communications Group (MCG), a division of Musco Lighting in Oskaloosa, to explore the possibility of running fiber to the Grinnell community. After several initial conversations to further explore this option, they have launched a survey to better understand the community need for the service. Would you take a minute to answer this two-question survey to help MCG understand the level of community support behind this potential project? If the survey yields favorable results, we will work with the MCG team to develop a more defined timeline for running service to Grinnell, which would be likely to occur in the 2020 calendar year. 

We look forward to working with our community members to better understand this need in our community. We are also beginning to look at 'next steps' and have recently re-convened focus groups to identify future priorities for the community. If you're interested in being involved and giving feedback, please let me know so we can be sure you're included in these ongoing conversations. 

--Rachael Kinnick

One to Watch - Susan Schmidt

Posted on 04/03/2019 at 12:13 PM

The One to Watch Award recognizes individuals who have started businesses, expanded operations or done exemplary work as part of an organization. These individuals strive toward the highest levels of personal and professional accomplishment, and serve as role models for others in the business community. 

The third One to Watch recipient is a native of Grinnell, and is passionate about the community. For years she has been inspired to consider an entrepreneurial venture and recently took the steps to make it happen. She is dedicated to growing a hometown business and is continually inspired by others in the community. 

Having opened a business in June 2018 in a downtown space, she is passionate about fashion and helping ladies feel their best while having a fun place to shop. Although her business hasn’t even celebrated one full year yet, she is establishing new partnerships and building connections with Grinnellians and other communities alike. She established partnerships with other boutiques in neighboring communities to host various shopping events encouraging women to travel and explore new stores. 

She has many exciting ideas on the horizon, and we’re pleased to recognize Susan Schmidt of Suzi’s Boutique as a One to Watch this year. 

One to Watch - Bill Kostow

Posted on 04/01/2019 at 4:04 PM

The One to Watch Award recognizes individuals who have started businesses, expanded operations or done exemplary work as part of an organization. These individuals strive toward the highest levels of personal and professional accomplishment, and serve as role models for others in the business community. 

Our second One to Watch recipient is quickly developing into a true community leader. Whether through his professional role or his dedication to the youth of our community, he has committed his leadership and time to numerous organizations and leagues. 

He’s a leader with core values and understands community and faith. He teaches these values to the children in our community through his active involvement in sports teams as a coach, volunteer and supporter. His mentorship, knowledge and energy is contagious. 

His number one rule is to Have Fun and the second is to Listen. These rules albeit basic, are refreshing and thought provoking whether in a work environment or on the fields or courts. 

He is one of this year’s most nominated individuals, and we simply cannot ignore his dedication to this community.

Congratulations to our second One to Watch recipient, Bill Kostow of Lincoln Savings Bank and Community Youth Volunteer Extraordinaire! 

One to Watch - Cheryl Juhl

Posted on 03/29/2019 at 4:01 PM

The One to Watch Award recognizes individuals who have started businesses, expanded operations or done exemplary work as part of an organization. These individuals strive toward the highest levels of personal and professional accomplishment, and serve as role models for others in the business community. We awarded 4 One to Watch awards this year. 

Our first One to Watch recipient is someone who is driven, caring and compassionate. Last year she responded to an advertisement seeking an entrepreneur and has certainly gotten her feet wet in business ownership over the past year. She recently started her own business in the service and retail industry and is committed to helping make Grinnell a vibrant place to call home and her business compares to something you might find in much larger cities.  

She is passionate about animals and loves spending her days with them. Alongside the building owner, she worked hard to outfit her new space to help satisfy a growing community need; pet care and supplies. 

We look forward to seeing what she accomplishes with her new business.


Congratulations to our One to Watch recipient, Cheryl Juhl, owner of Hair of the Dog Salon. 

Volunteer of the Year

Posted on 03/28/2019 at 11:53 AM

The volunteer of the year award recognizes someone or someones who have devoted significant time and efforts to community service initiatives. This year we recognize an individual who spearheaded a successful effort to gain community support while pulling in an incredible team of folks to help achieve the project. 

With a little less than nine weeks from start to finish (and more realistically about 6 weeks from the time approval was gained), this individual hit the ground running and immediately assumed a leadership role. She demonstrated incredible organization and collaborative leadership to pull all the pieces together. From a limited budget to an even more limited timeline, a vision was created and individuals from all walks of the community convened to assist in executing the vision. 

The group began meeting weekly with even more regular email check-ins to ensure the project would come together in time for the kick-off event. And thanks to this dedicated team, Central Park became a winter winterland for the holiday season, debuting in front of a full house during our annual Jingle Bell Holiday event. Community members and visitors alike found themselves wandering through the beautifully decorated space and made special trips to visit Central Park in the six weeks it was decorated. The excitement and fun photos generated from this project was unprecedented. 

And it didn’t stop there – the group helped organize Santa in the Shelter which was held every Saturday in December with community members and visitors making special trips downtown to partake in the events. Service organizations stepped up to help support and organize this well-received community event and provided hot chocolate, cookie decorating and a chance to warm by the fire. ​​​​​​​

And the great news? Efforts and planning have already commenced for this year’s holiday season! 

This group, led by their fearless leader, is to be commended for their amazing efforts to make Central Park and the 2018 Holiday Season one to remember.

Congratulations to Jennifer McAlexander and the Central Park Holiday Committee of Michelle Butler, Daniel Clements, Gailanne Dill, Jill Hollingsworth, Kevin McAlexander, Kerri Olson, Dodi & Dennis Reilly & Jim White, our 2019 Volunteers of the Year. 

Community Betterment Award

Posted on 03/26/2019 at 9:05 AM

This year’s Community Betterment Award pairs a vacant downtown building with a community need, culminating in another wonderful example of public-private partnership. While variations of this project have occurred in recent years, nothing quite this visible and collaborative had yet taken place. 

Communities across the state and nation, both smaller and larger, are envious of this public-private partnership and have reached out to better understand all that goes into making it successful to see if it can be mirrored in their own communities. This project has helped establish Grinnell as a vibrant, collaborative and hip place to live and visit. 

We believe this project will continue to aid in the creation of 18-hour vitality in our downtown and encourage entrepreneurship and artistic flair simultaneously. The downtown building has been completely renovated to house various uses and groups, including a storefront which regularly hosts events and local artists markets, studio space for artists, the MLab: a makers space collaboration for creative community, fabrication and tinkering, and a ceramics community. 


This project has brought community members together in a way that uses arts and culture as the impetus but is more widespread in encouraging community to engage in new and different ways. 

Congratulations to The Stew Art Studios, the recipient of the 2019 Community Betterment Award. 

Entrepreneur of the Year

Posted on 03/24/2019 at 11:18 AM

The entrepreneur of the year demonstrates entrepreneurial spirit, leadership, creativity, determination and perseverance. 


This entrepreneur is hard-working, dedicated and passionate. Having recently opened a storefront in downtown Grinnell to give better recognition and accessibility to his business, he also recognizes the value of involvement. He realizes he gains more personally and professionally by being involved and engaged in various ways. He is strongly committed to his work, his family, his faith and the Grinnell community. 


He recently said, “Building a business requires a lot of time and money. You need to be willing to invest both.” Perhaps it’s because he drives a very visible truck for his business or because his storefront is lit at all hours of the day, but it’s an understatement to say he invests a lot of time working and growing his business. 

Congratulations to Kevin McAlexander of Hawkeye Lock & Security, our 2019 Entrepreneur of the Year. 

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