Be Informed. Get Involved. Stay Connected.

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!