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.