Be Informed. Get Involved. Stay Connected.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Downtown Montezuma Face Lift

Terence Blain, Executive Director
Montezuma Community Development

When a person chooses to undergo a face lift, it's typically due to tired, aging, old, saggy and baggy conditions that, if reversed, will hopefully improve the recipients attitude about themselves.  And secondarily, make a positive difference in their relationships and future interactions that impact their overall well-being.

But face lifts are a commitment and they are expensive.  It becomes easier to just deal with the wrinkles and hope for the best.  The harsh reality is that the sags and bags eventually lead to old age and to that inevitable expiration date.  So we apply mud masks, concealers, and invest in cheap as-seen-on-tv gadgets to firm, tone and hide our imperfections.  But underneath it all, we're just falling apart.  Not very comforting is it? 

Downtown Montezuma is in desperate need of a face lift and has long passed it's expiration date.  Many of our downtown buildings are more than 125 years old and few have been maintained to a level that will regenerate them into their next phase of life.  Downtown Montezuma is important, it is the core of our community, the place where our roots as a community began to take shape, and our living room.  Sadly, our couch cushions are tattered and worn, and the slip covering from the 1960's has lost that welcoming vibe.  Very few of us feel comfortable or spend too much time there. We are all guilty of it, but yet we say how important downtown is to us.

Analogies aside, the local efforts to create a vision for the future of Montezuma's Downtown are continuing to press ahead.  The visit from the Iowa Economic Development Authority and the Iowa Downtown Resource Center last October was a terrific exercise that gave our community the opportunity to express their concerns, hopes, desires, and dreams for our future.  The written report from that visit is now available online on MontezumaIowa.Org.  Hard copies of the report are being provided to every downtown building/business owner, or available for on-site review at the Montezuma Public Library

The report is very telling about where we are as a community and why we are all experiencing various levels of frustration.  Yes, we have tremendous assets that define us, but we EACH need to ask ourselves how WE will make the effort TOGETHER to make a difference in OUR future. 

We need to say thank you to the City of Montezuma for their financial participation and partnership in Montezuma Community Development's activities and for funding the downtown study last October.  These are important steps, and we appreciate the City's involvement. 

But aren't you just sick of studies and nothing ever happening?  Trust me, I've heard this expressed over and over again.  When you read the report, you will discover why that is, but in the meantime let me make it plain, EVERYONE IS WAITING FOR SOMEONE ELSE TO FIX THE PROBLEM.

In my travels throughout the community, I consistently hear:

"You know what we need here..."

"I see how busy you are trying to help the community, good luck with that...."

"I wouldn't want your job."

"I appreciate what you're doing, but I'm afraid you're spinning your wheels." 

"I don't understand why (name benefactor here) doesn't just fix, build, give money for, open something," yadda, yadda, yadda..

When I hear these comments I usually respond, "we're working on it."  But this reply only perpetuates complacency and acceptance of the status quo.  This community is lamenting about what it used to be, rather than looking ahead to what it can become.  You can choose to be involved and make a difference, or you can give up on your town.  WHICH GROUP DO YOU BELONG TO?

Monday night's city council meeting was a great example of people in our community who have not given up on their town, specifically Downtown Montezuma.  History was made as more than 25 citizens drew their support for downtown improvements that we must make to survive into the future.  We asked for the city's financial support to bring transformative change to our downtown storefront facades.  The city council agreed to provide matching funds, up to $63,000 should we receive a grant from the State for a $700,000 downtown renewal project.  In the near future, the city will also revisit the need to renovate the Memorial Hall.  We are grateful! 

Deb Collum-Calderwood with Poweshiek Iowa Development is working alongside our organization as we meet with Montezuma's downtown building owners and negotiate their commitment to the effort.  Each building owner that chooses to participate in the project must match a minimum 10% investment based on the scope of the facade work they agree to undertake.  The facade project, supported by CDBG funding will hopefully be a first phase of Montezuma's Downtown Development Project.  

If you are still reading, you realize that we are not going to allow our downtown study to collect dust on the shelf or live in a desk drawer.  Chances are you are in the WE CAMP and you know that YOU need to do something to help.  Some of you can help financially, some of you can get involved as volunteers and ask what you can do to support the project.  Many of you can do both!  Don't wait for someone else to do it for you. 

Financial Participation

We need private investment for the first phase of our downtown project.  Our first priority is to raise $70,000 before January 7, 2013.  Yes, this is a tall order in a short amount of time, but you may be considering a year-end charitable giving plan.  This is a perfect local project to support that will directly benefit you.  If the City of Montezuma and our downtown building owners are willing to put in $126,000, what are you willing to do? 

You may make a check payable to Montezuma Community Development Corporation before January 7, 2013.  Note your check for the Downtown Revitalization Fund and then mail or drop your check off at the Montezuma State Bank.  MCD is a 501(c)3, so your contribution is tax-deductible to the extent of the law.  OR, ask the MCD office for a Letter of Support indicating a personal match IF we receive grant funding. 

Consider long term investment in our downtown.  If you can't write a check now, you can make a pledge to support future community development projects and our operating budget.  We expect to make an announcement very soon about a new downtown project that will address the need for a destination restaurant and other mixed-use.  You miss The Apple Basket?  You think one person has the ability to buy a building, renovate it and open a business and expect to be successful?  This applies to any downtown business venture, not just the need for a destination restaurant.  Ask yourself why we have empty storefronts, then read this paragraph again.

Become a Volunteer in Your Community

The volunteerism and sense of pride in our community through local beautification efforts is a prime example of how, if everyone gives a little bit of themselves, the gift of time can make a huge difference. 

Young families and young adults are busy, but so are retirees and those who have given back to this community one-hundredfold, without ever asking for anything in return.  It's time for the rest of you to step up, or make a commitment to do a little more.

Become a Master Gardner so we can sustain the beautification of our downtown and gateways, volunteer to help the Montezuma Boosters with 1-2 events this year (the annual Business Expo is coming up, July 4th is a daunting and task filled event), get involved with the Historic Society they NEED you, join forces with the Historic Preservation Committee to help protect, promote and bring new life to our local historical landmarks and monuments, help raise money for our community childcare center or future fitness facility, come to a city council meeting, call the Nursing Home to ask how you can volunteer or ask to assist with Meals on Wheels (they need help in February and March), serve on a subcommittee for downtown revitalization, housing committee, future zoning board of adjustment, utility board, library board, childcare board, etc.

Be Informed.  Get Involved.  Stay Connected. 

And Don't Quit.  Commit. 

    “If you always do what you’ve done, you’ll always get what you’ve

    always got.” 

     - Ben Boozer

Comments on this blog are typically blocked.  However, this is an important discussion for this community.  Positive comments are encouraged.  Reasonably constructive comments are also welcome.  Inappropriate comments will be removed. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

FREE Tools for Local Businesses

An online survey was sent to Montezuma area businesses in November to understand what is needed to assist the small business community.  The results of the survey indidicate what is needed to grow exisiting businesses and encourage new entrepreneurs to seek opporunities locally.

Three areas from the survey showing the strongest support include:

1)  Gaining access to capital for expansion and start up.
2)  Assistance with marketing and promotion.
3)  Help with visual displays and store design.

Montezuma Community Development has been working closely with the Regional Alliance for Innovation at Iowa Valley Community College in Grinnell to begin looking at ways to offer assistance at the local level.  MCD is in discussion with Poweshiek Development and other affiliates with the Regional Alliance about how to best serve these needs in 2013. 

For now, there are immediate no cost opportunities on the horizon for any local business or future business that wants to take advantage of the resources available. 

FREE Small Business Consultations

Friday, December 14th from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at Iowa Valley in Grinnell. Paul Heath with the University of Iowa Small Business Development Center will be on hand for free confidential small businesses counseling services for start-up, expanding or existing businesses.  More information is available at Poweshiek Development. 

Future plans are underway to bring similar consulting services to Montezuma after the first of the year, as well as a local seminar on accessing capital. 

FREE Website for Your Business

Did you know the Montezuma community website features a complimentary online business directory?  Each listing contains the business name, address, interactive map, telephone information, hours if provided, and link to the business website.  The community website continues to grow, with more than 30,000 hits this year alone!

If your business does not have a website, you are missing a huge opportunity.  Only 66% of small businesses in the State of Iowa have an online presence.  Montezuma brings down the average with less than 20% of small businesses reporting their own website.  Did you also know that 97% of web saavy shoppers make their purchasing decisions based on information they obtain online?  This includes purchases made in brick and mortar stores.  If you didn't get it the first time, read this paragraph again. 
The State of Iowa and Google teamed up last year to offer FREE small business websites.  The process is simple and can be completed online or through hands-on workshops throughout the state.  If you can work your way through a word processing document and upload photos, you can build and manage your own website.  It's that simple!  Google offers website templates and 3 easy steps to get started.  More information is available at Iowa Get Your Business Online.
If you are still nervous about starting your own website, Montezuma Community Development will be offering complimentary technical assistance beginning in January.  Please call the MCD office to schedule a time, 641-623-7600.  If you create a new website, don't forget to let us know that too so we can update the online business directory!

FREE Webinars and Statewide Resources

Last month the State of Iowa launched it's newest online resource clearinghouse to guide Iowa's small business communities.  Information on funding, taxes, permits and licensing, human resources, marketing, real-time concierge services, and much more are all available at NO COST!  Also included are a series of FREE webinars so those with busy schedules are able to access the information and when it works best for them.  Another exceptional resource is unlimited access to blogging from the experts.  If you can't find it here, you can't find it anywhere.  Add this to your favorites list, IASourceLink.
The next FREE webinar is Thursday, December 13th at Noon.  What is the Value of Your Attitude?  With guest speaker, trainer and coach, Matt Booth.  You must pre-register to participate. 
Please share this important information with your business neighbors and friends.  Save a tree and use the convenient icons at the bottom of this post to share via email or through your favorite social media outlet.
Naughty or Nice?  A Case of Mistaken Identity
A Non-Fiction Short Story by Terence Blain
I generally fall into the Nice category, but a phone call I received last week led me to believe otherwise.  It made me begin to worry if my letter to Santa requesting a new laptop this year was a waste of my time.  And the sugar cookie ingredients that I picked up at SuperValu for Christmas Eve might not get used after all.
Apparently I caused a scene that day when I drove away from the pump at I-80 and Highway 21 without paying for my gas!  The very polite deputy called my cell phone that afternoon asking all the questions about where I had been that day, and explained that the convenience store had me and my license plate on video surveillance.  I closed the cover on the book I had just checked out from the Montezuma Public Library and I asked the deputy to describe my car.
"Well it's a Ford," he stated emphatically.
"But I wasn't even in that area today", I assured.  Knowing also that I had just filled up at Casey's the day before, I asked, "What color was the Ford?" 

"Black", was his answer. 

Uh, "mine is a silver Fusion". 

In disbelief he questioned, "you sure you don't drive a black Ford Focus?  The plates are registered in your name." 
"No, not me," I said while dreaming of sugar plums and finishing a delicious eggnog latte from Simone's Cuppa
"Ok, I'll drive out and look at the tape and investigate."  He was puzzled and I tried to clear my mind and not think the worse.  Has someone stolen my identity? 

Cleaning and straightening up always calms me down, so I gathered my recycling together for Audas Sanitation to pick up, and then tried to forget about it while I searched online for a place in town to buy my Christmas cards.  I gave up and took a nap. 
A few days had passed and I began to wonder if Santa would find me in the slammer to deliver my lump of coal.  I also thought maybe I have a sleepwalking problem that I don't know about.  Awfully cold as of late to not wake up during a long excursion to the edge of Poweshiek County.  Not to mention dangerous!  Maybe I should call the Montezuma Medical Clinic to schedule an appointment and get checked out. 
After eating a quick lunch at Subway, checking my mail at the Post Office, and drooling over a new car at Vannoys on the way back to the office, a call finally came.

"I'm kind of embarrassed", said the deputy.  "When I called you the other day, you must have thought I said Blain.  I meant, (name that rhymes with Blain).  I thought I was talking to someone else the whole time and I thought you were lying to me.  I didn't believe you." 
What a holly-jolly set of coincidences that my cell phone number once belonged to the alleged perp, we both drive a Ford with Poweshiek plates, and my last name and his first name rhyme.  Even though the deputy didn't believe me at first, I still believe in a Christmas miracles.  Now if I could only finish my local online shopping.  THAT would be a real miracle!
Dear Santa,
Adendum:  In case you were in cahoots with the deputy, I hope you find it in your heart to send that lump of coal somewhere else this year.  And if you bring me that laptop, I promise to be Nice and bake you extra sugar cookies.   Mr. Kitty wants a pony if it's not too much to ask.  Just in case you're worried about not finding the right laptop, I would happily accept a contribution to Montezuma Community Development.  Just drop a check down the chimney at the Montezuma State Bank where we have an account.  Merry Christmas Santa!
All Things Merry & Montezuma...
Merry Christmas and the Happiest of Holidays
from Montezuma Community Development!

South Diamond Housing Incentive

Montezuma Community Development is continuing to work with local builders and contractors in designing a builder incentive package for housing starts in the new South Diamond housing development. 
The builder incentive will be will be available to the first 10 housing starts within the development, and we expect to announce the details of the incentive next month.  As of today, the incentive package has an estimated value that exceeds $3000 towards building materials and contracted services. 
It's not too late to jump on board and add your service to the package deal.  We do not have incentives for paint, wallpaper, decorating services, landscaping, new furniture and appliances.  The deadline to participate has been extended to January 1st.  Please contact our office for details, 641-623-7600.
Montezuma Childcare Center Update
Provided in response to a report in The Record that indicated frustration on the part of the city council that nothing is being done to solve the need for childcare in Montezuma.  Yes, we are all frustrated, but this process takes time.  The Childcare Committee and First Children's Finance are only in the middle of our 6-month study.  Opening a local non-profit childcare center is the goal.  We appreciate the city's commitment to finance the $10,000 study, and would certainly welcome their on-going participation.  A report can be provided anytime a council member or anyone else in the community requests one.  Although the Childcare Committee meeting minutes are available from the city office, no one has asked for such a report or even struck up a conversation about our progress the past three months.   The minutes from last month's meeting are as follows: 
November 15, 2012
The Montezuma Child Care Committee met on Thursday November 15, 2012 at Montezuma City Hall at 9:00 a.m.
PRESENT:  Heidi Schlueter, Meryll Hicks, Pam Lynch, Shannon McNaul, Deb Calderwood, Terence Blain and Christy McCaslen
The committee met and reviewed agenda items from the meeting held on October 23, 2012 and then covered the agenda for this meeting.
Ms. Schlueter presented a visual of the project management tool that has been developed for the committee to use as they move forward with planning a child care center.  She explained the line items and columns on the spreadsheet and reviewed how to sort and pull information out of it.  Members of the committee offered or were assigned items for completion along with due dates for completion.  New activities were added as categories were reviewed.
The committee agreed that board orientation should be held at the next committee meeting before beginning the strategic planning.  The board will be involved in the licensing and hiring requirements for the center.  There was discussion on wages that are paid in similar facilities to use as a guideline in determining wages for a Montezuma Center.
Heidi also told the group that one of the outcomes of today’s meeting would be a working Mission and Vision Statement along with a center name.  She explained that all of these would be needed in order to file for non-profit status.
The committee members shared their answers from the Mission and Vision worksheet assignment from the last meeting.  After the sharing session, those present split into pairs and worked on writing a mission and vision statement. Key words from all the submissions were noted and at the end of the exercise the group agreed on a mission statement as follows.
Mission Statement:
ZumaZoo Child Care will provide quality child care in a safe educational and stimulating environment.  Our vision for ZumaZoo Child Care is to partner with families and the community to offer affordable child care and resources to support the area’s life-long learners.
Data was presented regarding Poweshiek County population, median family incomes, children and ages, child care space availability and more.   
The need to have more definitive facility specifications was discussed.  The specifications regarding floor plan, classroom sizes, staffing, children and other expenses, will be needed in order to complete a financial analysis of the facility. 
A list of typical monthly expenses was reviewed with assumptions being made for the director and other staff wages. 
Committee members were assigned prospective board members to contact to see if they would be interested in serving on the board. If so, they will be invited to the next committee meeting.  Heidi handed out sample letters to prospective members and said that she would supply folders to those that agree to serve on the board with relevant information. 
The next committee meeting is scheduled for January 16th, 2013.
The meeting adjourned at 1:00 p.m.
Stay tuned for a very important announcement about Montezuma's Downtown Development Project!
Be Informed. Get Involved. Stay Connected.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Downtown Group Focusing on Revitalization

Several local leaders have been gathering on a weekly basis to engage in conversation and plan next steps for Montezuma's downtown revitalization efforts.  The gatherings are a result of last month's visit by the Iowa Economic Development Authority and the immediate recommendations made for improving and bringing the community back to downtown.  About a dozen individuals representing local merchants, the city, and community organizations are working together on the new initiatives.

Store Signage Program

A unified store signage program that communicates store hours will be rolling out in the next two weeks.  Downtown group leaders Andrea Martin and Cathe Wilson have been visiting with store owners to present the signage program.  The Montezuma themed signage design was created by LeAnn Hjelmland. 
Stores are encouraged to place the new signage in a prominent area that can be seen by both pedestrian and commuter traffic.  The new signage program is a step to promote a consumer friendly environment and increase customer traffic to downtown area merchants and services. 

Facade Improvements

For several months, the City of Montezuma and Montezuma Community Development have been exploring Community Development Block Grant funding to bring facade improvements to our downtown storefronts.  As much as $500,000 could be acquired for a downtown revitalization master plan that would address current blighted conditions and begin bringing transformation to our city center. 
In order to proceed, participating building owners will need to sign a soft commitment to provide a 10-30% financial match toward each project.  To better understand what that match might be, MCD has recently received a proposal that would provide design concepts and cost estimates for each facade.  The proposal will be reviewed by the City of Montezuma with the hope that the city and local building owners will share ownership in the cost of the proposal.  The details are expected to be announced in the coming days. 
The grant application deadline is January 30, 2013.  Grants will be awarded next spring, with a project that could begin in 2014 and be completed by 2015. 

Winter Downtown Beautification

Downtown Beautification was a huge success this year and another positive step to visually enhance and create a more welcoming downtown environment.  New lamppost banners, added sidewalk planters, hanging flower baskets and a downtown clean-up all contributed to a beautiful street scape for the summer and fall seasons. 
A winter scape theme for our downtown sidewalk planters has been designed by Janet Pieffer from Blooming Endeavors.  In the coming days, sidewalk planters will be cleared out to make way for the winter theme that will be ready for our downtown holiday celebrations.  Montezuma Light & Power will also begin lighting up downtown in the coming weeks and in time for the Thanksgiving holiday. 
To contribute to local beautification efforts and to Montezuma Community Development, please click the "Donate Now" button at the top right of this blog.  Your online contributions enable us to continue doing this important work in Montezuma.  We appreciate your support! 

Hometown Holiday & Downtown Mingle & Jingle

Montezuma Hometown Holiday returns this year on Saturday, December 1st. 

Breakfast with Santa - 8 AM, Montezuma Memorial Hall 

Start your day out right as Montezuma Country Club prepares and serves breakfast.  Tickets will be available at the door.  Santa and Mrs. Claus will be on hand for kids of all ages.  Treat bags provided by the Montezuma Boosters.  Come back for Downtown Mingle & Jingle and warm up with a delicious Soup Supper at First Evangelical Presbyterian Church.  Supper at 5 PM.

Cookie Walk - 10 AM, United Methodist Church

Hundreds of tasty homemade holiday treats and goodies will be available for purchase.  Both small and large sized orders can be accommodated.  The Cookie Walk will also be open during the evening Downtown Mingle & Jingle event.

Children's Story Hour - 10 AM, Montezuma Public Library

Bring the kids to the Public Library for a special hour of Christmas favorites and activities.  Many holiday favorites will also be available for checkout.  Return with the family for Downtown Mingle & Jingle and enjoy another special 6 PM Story Time for kids at Ellis Home Interiors.

Downtown Mingle & Jingle - 4:30 to 6:30 PM, Around Downtown

Don we now your favorite Christmas sweater, elf costume or Santa hat, and join us for Montezuma's Downtown Mingle & Jingle!
Stores will be open with live music, and activities for families and youth.  Enjoy hot cider, cocoa, mulled wine, s'mores, and more.  Decorate the square with lighted luminaries, enjoy a live Nativity, wrap gifts for Christmas Joy, and if you missed Breakfast with Santa don't worry - Kris Kringle and his lovely sidekick will be back for all the fun!
Reindeer Games at Star Lanes - FREE Christmas glow bowling for kids from 4:30-7:30 PM!  Knock down red and green pins in a special 5-frame bowling activity.
Get your sugar plum on and find more sweet treats at the United Methodist Cookie Walk.  Stuff your stockings until the cookies are gone!
Decorate sugar cookies with Galaxy and purchase Monte Bucks at Vannoy Chevrolet. 
Home business showcase at Just4U Gifts & Consignments! Support school organizations during Open House at Coleman Agency and ManeStreet Hair.  Live local talent at many other participating businesses! Fa-la-la-la-lah!   
Vote for your favorite decorated Christmas tree at Remedy Drug or register for a free ham at any open business. 
Come sit around the rocking chair and hear the Christmas story at Ellis Home Interior at 6 PM. 
Join us at the Poweshiek County Historic Society at 6:30 PM for the Community Tree Lighting hosted by the Montezuma FFA.  The Montezuma Boosters will also announce the lucky winners of Christmas hams and downtown Christmas tree decorating contest sponsored by their organization. 
After the Tree Lighting, warm up at the Poweshiek County Museum with hot cider and traditional carols around the late 1800's pump organ.  Holiday classics will be on the big screen at Star Lanes as Reindeer Games continues, or join Aaron at Monte Tap to cheer in the holidays with live music and your favorite spirits. 
Many more surprises are in the works with something for everyone!
Hometown Holiday and Downtown Mingle & Jingle are a combined effort of downtown area merchants and Montezuma businesses, the City of Montezuma, Montezuma Boosters, Montezuma Community Development, area churches, and local youth organizations

Friday, October 26, 2012

Montezuma Community Development
Fundraising Campaign Underway
Montezuma Community Development has officially launched the 2012-2013 community fundraising campaign to support the work of the public-private organization.  In the coming days, all Montezuma postal customers will be receiving a brochure and an explanation of funding goals for the year's operating budget and planned private investment. 
The operating budget supports our ability to pay staff, obtain needed resources for growth, and provide community outreach.  Contributors also have an opportunity to partner in private investment for community beautification, downtown revitalization and community services. 
Three options are available for contributing to this important effort in Montezuma:    1) Return the enrollment form with a one-time contribution and check made payable to Montezuma Community Development.  2) Return the enrollment form and voided check to sign-up for a budget option deducted from a checking or savings account.  3) Donate online by clicking the "DONATE" button at the top right corner of this blog, then set up a budget plan or come back often and donate as you are able.  All contributions will be tax-deductible to the extent of the law. 
We wish to thank those who have participated in our efforts this year through financial and in-kind support of our operating budget, marketing and back office help, and for community beautification.  We could not have gotten started without you!
City of Montezuma, Poweshiek Development, Brownells, Montezuma Power & Light, A1 Fiberglass, Sutherland Printing, Poweshiek County Supervisors, Three Sisters Fabrics, Certified Local Governernment, Montique Treasure Seekers, Montezuma Boosters, Johnson Farms, Monte Manufacturing, ManeStreet Hair Designers, Montezuma State Bank, People's Bank, Coleman Agency, Professional Developers of Iowa, Heartland Economic Development Course, CamJac Solutions, Wilcox All-Pro Tools, South Central Iowa Solid Waste Agency, Ellis Home Interiors, Roorda Transportation, Monte Tap & Restaurant, Mahaffy Law Office, Central Iowa Bookkeeping, DeJong Manufacturing, Vannoy Chevrolet, The Record, Kingdom Klowns, Simone's Cuppa, Montezuma Public Library, Keep Iowa Beautiful, Montezuma FFA Greenhouse, Windstream, J.O. Parker and the Poweshiek County CR, Vicki Watts and Marengo Publishing, the Grinnell Herald, KGRN and KRNF, Poweshiek County Historical Society, and countless water brigade volunteers that kept our downtown flowers looking fantastic into the fall months. 
Thank you all for partnering with us!
Montezuma Community Development thanks you for your consideration and generous support!  Your community thanks you! 
Aaron McCaslen, Board President
Joek Kercheval, Board Treasurer
Christy McCaslen, Board Secretary
Jo Ahrens, Board of Directors
Clayton Hjelmland, Board of Directors
Charlie Sheets, Board of Directors
Andrea Martin, Board of Directors
Terence Blain, Executive Director

Monday, October 22, 2012

Continuing Mojo for Montezuma’s Downtown

The Iowa Economic Development Authority visited Montezuma on October 17th & 18th, meeting with local leaders and residents to begin a vision for the future of Montezuma’s historic downtown district.  The community engagement was funded by a contribution from the City of Montezuma. 

Thom Guzman, Director of the Iowa Downtown Resource Center, and Tim Reinders, a design specialist with Iowa Main Street, met with nearly 100 people in a group interview setting over the course of the two-day visit.  The 30-minute interviews were held at the Montezuma Public Library and coordinated by Montezuma Community Development.

During a public forum at the end of the second day, the pair presented their recommendations based on community input and their combined 50 years of experience in working with Iowa’s downtowns.  The forum, held at the Montezuma Memorial Hall, was attended by business and building owners, local residents, and city officials. The Montezuma Community Boosters provided refreshments for the crowd.  

The healthy and vitality of a community’s downtown reflects the positive or negative impression given to visitors and those who may be considering Montezuma as a place to do business or to relocate.  Guzman described downtown as a community’s living room, and both representatives from the IEDA praised Montezuma for an impressive list of community assets, including downtown’s unique architecture, interest in monuments, history, and availability of nearby outdoor recreation opportunities. 

Like many small communities, Montezuma’s downtown has suffered due to a variety of factors:   

·        External forces include competition (big box, internet sales, catalog sales, transportation and commuter trends.  More women have entered the workforce, making purchases after work and on the weekends. Spending habits and expectations are different for consumers groups.  Finding a unique niche for the future of downtown and marketing to the needs of today’s consumer are top priorities for Montezuma to have a thriving downtown district.  Much of a new identity will require a change in thinking and the way we currently do business.

·        Lack of reinvestment, deferred maintenance, gradual alterations and under-utilization of entire buildings has a dramatic effect upon the character of the downtown and its viability.  Many of our downtown buildings are in poor condition, and there are at least 11 retail spaces and 12 upper story living spaces that are not currently being utilized.  According to statistics, every 25 feet of under-utilized storefront space is equivalent to $250,000 in annual revenue.  In addition, buildings were built 100 or more years ago with the expectation that they would be financially solvent based on full first floor commercial and second floor residential uses. 

·        Boarded up, eliminated and scaled down windows create barriers--reducing the visible opportunity to advertise products and entice the customer into the store.  Inappropriate techniques and materials have been applied to several buildings in Montezuma’s downtown, including covering or installing smaller windows and slipcovering historic facades with metal.

·        Inappropriate, obsolete, unattractive and/or lack of signage affect customer traffic.  Guzman and Reinders said that Montezuma was one of the worse examples they had seen of poor and missing signage.  No businesses downtown had store hours posted and it was difficult to drive the square and know what businesses existed. 


Input shared by the community cited Montezuma’s downtown challenges as:
Empty storefronts, old and blighted buildings, the need for a destination restaurant, lack of retail shopping options, attracting people to spend time downtown, economics of rehab and operation, and absentee ownership. 


The community’s hopes for the future of Montezuma’s downtown include: 
More businesses, more restaurants, repaired/renovated buildings, better partnership with lake residents, an exciting, thriving, vibrant, quaint downtown that’s a destination/attraction, fully occupied downtown filled with unique niche businesses with evening and weekend store hours. 

A set of immediate recommendations were suggested by Guzman and Reinders, which includes a downtown clean-up, participation in downtown revitalization grant opportunities through the state, planning a downtown Christmas event, a unified store hours signage project, and continuing to spread the message about downtown revitalization.  A small group of community leaders met on Sunday evening to talk about a strategy for these recommendations.  


If downtown revitalization is what the community desires, the process will require a long-term commitment.  A project of this magnitude will need community wide support and involvement, creation of partnerships, public-private investment and an active local organizing effort. 

A final written report will be presented by the IEDA in the next 4-6 weeks and will be used as a tool for planning a future course of action.  For more details on the IEDA visit, or to request a copy of the written report, please contact Montezuma Community Development. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Montezuma Community Development Director, Terence Blain

Iowa's Downtown Resource Center will be visiting Montezuma on Wednesday and Thursday, October 17th and 18th. Throughout the planning stages, and as I have made final preparations for their visit, individuals throughout the community have had questions about what exactly the purpose is, how it will impact the community and who should be involved. While many efforts have been made to be transparent about the hope for downtown revitalization and historic preservation in Montezuma, it is possible that not everyone has followed the details and understands the possible outcome on a project of this nature in our community. I wanted to take a moment to give a history on what brings us to this moment as we examine our sense of place.
A few years ago, volunteers from throughout the Montezuma community began spearheading an effort to nominate Montezuma's downtown as a National Historic District with the National Park Service. The process was tedious, with hundreds of volunteer hours dedicated to researching the historical significance of our downtown buildings. After many months of waiting on a decision, and thousands of dollars in both public and private investment, Montezuma received a National Historic District designation this year. 
Prior to this announcement, Montezuma Community Development identified several needs in the community that would require additional energy and focus to reach levels for implementation. Access to housing, community daycare and downtown revitalization were all identified as top priorities. All three of these areas have been in various stages of progress since April. Late in the spring, Montezuma Community Development extended an invitation to the public to participate in some initial visioning for the future of our downtown. The invitation was published in The Record, our community websites, and hand-delivered to downtown business and building owners. Over the course of six weeks, three separate meetings were held to gain public input on how we might move forward with a plan for downtown revitalization. The feedback was administered and received through a SWOT analysis, or Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, & Threats for downtown. In all, nearly two dozen downtown business and building owners, and representatives from local industry, education, community organizations and area residents participated in the process. 
The SWOT analysis identified a strong feeling that members of our community cared about the future of our downtown, and wanted to find solutions to address the health and vitality of our historically significant, downtown business district. As a result, Montezuma Community Development approached the Montezuma City Council to propose a partnership and pursue Community Development Block Grant funding for a facade improvement project within our historic district. Based a community our size, Montezuma could be eligible for as much as $500,000 for a downtown revitalization or sustainablity project. In the weeks that followed, representatives from the city, community development, and the downtown community met with the Iowa Economic Development Authority to find out more information and explore the possiblity of applying for CDBG funding. Montezuma must meet several criteria to apply for this grant, including a request for technical assistance and recommendations for a downtown master plan. In September, another informational meeting was held. The City of Belle Plaine also hosted a walking tour for a half dozen of our downtown business owners, city and community development staff, and to share insight on a recently completed a downtown master plan and revitalization project in their own community.
The Iowa Downtown Resource center works with the Iowa Economic Development Authority in providing technical assistance for downtowns and communities. With 25 years of experience, the Iowa Downtown Resource Center has worked with hundreds of communities throughout the state, including Belle Plaine. Montezuma Community Development has been instrumental in moving the process forward here, but could not do so without public support from the City of Montezuma. The city has agreed to underwrite the $2500 cost for the two-day Downtown Resource Center event next week. Over the course of the visit, several 30-minute group interviews will be taking place at the Montezuma Public Libary. Press releases, emails, phone calls, personal visits from volunteers, website announcements and more have been utilized to recruit people to the table for participation in the group interview process. As of today, we have nearly 100 people signed up to participate. Included in this group are downtown business and property owners, historical preservationists, retirees, city staff and council members, community organization leaders, church groups, local industry employees, county representatives, city, rural and lake residents, a teacher and student leader group from the school, local media, and more. 
Gathering input on what YOU want for the future of our downtown is about YOU and about Montezuma. The purpose of the Iowa Downtown Resource Center is not to deliver a master plan for downtown that is required, mandated for implementation, or any other misinformation that has been filtering in. Personally, I am hopeful that we will be able to work together to come up with a plan for the future and a downtown that we can all be proud of.
There are a few remaining spots left to participate in the 30-minute group interviews, but they need to be scheduled no later than Monday, October 15th. If you cannot participate in a group interview, you can still participate in the public forum being held at the Montezuma Memorial Hall on Thursday, October 18th at 7:00 p.m. The Iowa Downtown Resource Center will spend that afternoon compiling the input received from the group interviews and then present their preliminary recommendations to the community during the public forum. Again, this will not be the plan, but recommendations based on what the community has shared. 
I hope this information has provided clarity to the process and to the potential project at hand. If you were not able to attend any informational meetings or you are still unclear, I am happy to again provide a packet of information for you, and meet 1-on-1 as my schedule permits. Additionally, recommendations from the Downtown Resource Center will be available on the community website,

Do not hesitate to contact the Montezuma Community Development office if needed. The office is not staffed full-time, but messages and emails are returned promptly. 

Your Partner In Community Development,
Terence Blain, Director
Montezuma Community Development
Phone:  641-623-7600

Friday, October 5, 2012

Local Officials Learn About Zoning

Two dozen local officials from three communities in Poweshiek County, including the City of Montezuma, participated in "Introduction to Planning and Zoning", a workshop presented by ISU Extension on Thursday, October 4th at the Montezuma City Office.  The 3-hour workshop focused on a history of zoning policy in the United States, the State of Iowa, and glimpse at the layers involved in implementing a zoning plan for communities.  A solid zoning map and comprehensive plan aids communities in the establishment of logical land-use plans, utilizing public resources more effectively, and provides a clear roadmap for commmunity growth strategies and infrastructure improvements. 

Montezuma has been exploring the need to implement zoning and to update an aging comprehensive plan for the city.  The city council will likely diliberate on the knowledge gained from participating in the workshop and make a decision in the near future about whether zoning is right for Montezuma.  Grinnell, Malcom, Brooklyn, and Poweshiek County all have zoning plans in place.   

Windstream Announces Faster DSL Service

Residential and business customers within the City of Montezuma will soon benefit from faster broadband Internet service provided by Windstream.  Recent improvements, including the completion of a fiber optic loop and other equipment will allow Windstream customers to upgrade their service up to 12 Mbps.  The expanded capabilities and speeds will alleviate the service interuptions and bottlenecks that many have been experiencing in the community due to an older information pipeline.  This is especially good news for the business community, customers who enjoy streaming services for music, video and gaming, and for future economic development in Montezuma.  Current cable modem customers will need to upgrade to DSL to be eligible for the improvements.  The new service will be available by Monday, October 8th.  Lake Ponderosa and rural customers will not benefit from the new changes until a later date, which has not yet been announced.  Please visit the local Windstream office for details on pricing.  Local businesses should expect a sales call from Windstream in the coming weeks. 

Poweshiek County Museum Now Open

The fantastic NEW County Museum is now open in Montezuma!  Stop by this weekend to tour the museum at the Historic Old Poweshiek County Jail, and also enjoy the Civil War Exhibit, "Trial by Fire".  Saturday 10 a.m.-3 p.m., and Sunday 7 a.m.-2 p.m.  Pancake Breakfast at the Memorial Hall on Sunday until 1 p.m.

Montezuma Booster Harvest Market on Saturday

Drop by the Montezuma Memorial Hall on Saturday, October 6th and enjoy the Annual Harvest Market sponsored by the Montezuma Boosters.  Arts and craft vendors, home businesses, and breakfast and lunch will be served by the After Prom Committee.

Master Gardeners to Meet in Montezuma

Join Poweshiek County Master Gardeners at their monthly club meeting on Wednesday, October 10th, 6 p.m. at Foster Center at Diamond Lake in Montezuma.

Anyone in the area who has completed Master Gardener Training, or would like to learn more about the Master Gardener Program should attend this meeting.

Participants will learn about Master Gardener educational opportunities, networking events, community activities and other events Master Gardeners participate in throughout the year.

For more information call the Poweshiek County Master Gardeners at (641) 623-5188 or Email Cathy Lents at:

Dream Big Grow Here Voting Now

Support Montezuma small businesses and entrepreneurs who are going after $15,000 in grant funding to grow their ventures.  Online voting is open now through October 15th.  Vote for our Montezuma partipants:  Just4U Gifts, Heartland Pediatric Feeding Services, Momma Teresa Salsa and Healthy Energy Drink.  Vote at  And don't forget you can vote everyday! 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Iowa Downtown Resource Center Visit

The Iowa Downtown Resource Center will be visiting Montezuma on Wednesday & Thursday, October 17th & 18th.  The purpose of the DRC team visit is to conduct a series of short interviews with residents and stakeholders throughout the community as we continue to strive toward a unified vision for Montezuma's historic downtown district.  Montezuma Community Development needs your help!  The goal is to interview as many people possible over the course of the two-day visit, 250 people total.  This is a huge undertaking for just one person to coordinate.  You can help by spreading the word to your friends, neighbors, favorite businesses, organizations you belong to, community leaders that you know should be involved, and more. 

Several 30-minute interviews will be taking place at the Montezuma Public Library throughout both days of the DRC visit.  The second day will culminate with a public forum at the Montezuma Memorial Hall at 7 PM.  The forum will be open to anyone in the community that wants to hear the DRC team's preliminary recommendations for the future of our downtown.  If you wish to participate in an interview time, just give me a call and leave a message or drop me an email with your name, time you wish to interview, and what group you represent.  The interview schedule below is a guideline, but can be interchanged to meet the needs of anyone that wants to be involved.  Groups are limited to 12.   

You can learn more about the Iowa Downtown Resource Center by visiting, Downtown Resource Center visit is being underwritten by the City of Montezuma.

Feel free to forward this information to your contacts by clicking on any of the share buttons at the end of this post.  Thank you for your time and consideration. 

Terence Blain, MCD Director
Office:  641-623-7600
Wednesday, October 17th
1:00   Seniors and Retirees
1:30   Small business and downtown property owners
2:00   Local industry and employee representatives
2:30   Community service organizations
3:30   Local industry and employee representatives
4:00   County and local officials
4:30   Community service organizations
5:00   Small business and downtown property owners
6:00   Community service organizations and school
6:30   Small business and downtown property owners
7:00   Montezuma and Lake Ponderosa Residents
7:30   Montezuma and Lake Ponderosa Residents
Thursday, October 18th
8:30   Small business and downtown property owners
9:00   Local industry and employee representatives
9:30   Montezuma and Lake Ponderosa Residents
10:30  Local media
11:00  Montezuma and Lake Ponderosa Residents
11:30  Open Group
12:00  Open Group
7:30 Public Forum at the Montezuma Memorial Hall on Thursday
Everyone Welcome!