Article by: Gordon Wolf, Denison Bulletin & Review
Strategic goals and progress throughout the county were topics highlighted by Evan Blakley, executive director, during the Chamber & Development Council (CDC) annual Business Appreciation Breakfast Thursday morning at Stables at Copper Ridge in Denison.
He listed the following top strategic goals for the next three to five years: Industrial site identification and development; Ignite Denison (read more about this later in this article); housing advocacy and coordination; website redevelopment; and working on forming on the CDC Immigrant Business Outreach Committee.
Blakley spoke about a few key projects happening now in the county and added that it is less a celebration of CDC accomplishments but an opportunity to highlight progress. Blakley said the CDC assisted on some of the accomplishments and on others the CDC was standing on the sidelines cheering them on.
Industrial expansion at Monogram Quality foods, formerly Quality Food Processors, a $13 million investment. Blakley said the CDC coordinated the local support of the project so Monogram Quality Foods could obtain high-quality job benefits from the State of Iowa.
Eventide skilled nursing facility project, a $20 million investment. Blakley said a tour of the facility was offered at Eventide’s annual meeting and he believes people will be impressed by the facility and enhanced level of care it will offer when completed.
Housing is a priority of the CDC all the time. Blakley said it is one of the easiest initiatives to work on to help ease a challenge to attracting workforce. The first Homes for Iowa house was delivered to its foundation on a lot at Avenue C and 2nd Avenue North in Denison last Thursday. The Denison Community Housing Authority, of which Blakley is a member, is the city organization that brought the Homes for Iowa house to Denison. “I hope this is the first of many units to be brought to Denison to help address affordable housing in the community,” he said.
Childcare capacity is another important aspect attracting workforce for businesses. Blakley said he is happy to see that two communities are currently addressing this concern. The two childcare facilities are Under the Son in Schleswig and Little Hawks in Manilla. These are being developed at a grassroots level with local volunteer boards planning and conducting the fundraising.
Tri City BBQ Fest, an event of the CDC, made a fantastic return in 2021, said Blakley. It was cancelled last year due to the coronavirus pandemic; an abbreviated festival, called the Backyard Brew & ‘Que took place instead. Blakley said the response of volunteers was amazing this year and that a record was set in the amount of sponsorships provided. “We’re still going through the books but it does look like we were able to turn some profit in an uncertain year,” said Blakley.
Ignite Denison, the CDC’s project to refurbish the former Denison Community Room building into CDC office space for itself and as business incubator/accelerator space, is very close to completion, Blakley said. Fundraising is at the 92% level with $243,520 raised toward a total goal of $265,000 or a little bit more. He said people will be able to see more construction progress over the coming weeks. “We’re working on approaching a few more community partners, for tax-deductible contributions, and then we will not only have the first CDC-owned office in our history but perhaps more important is that we’re doing this to establish a home base for the next generation of entrepreneurs in Crawford County,” Blakley said.
Blakley also said the CDC gift card program is another initiative that CDC members make possible. Record sales of $72,000 in gift cards were achieved in 2020, nearly double the amount of the previous record.
A full report on CDC activities is given each summer at the annual meeting.
Following is the funding stream for the Ignite Denison project as of October 12.
CDC down payment, $50,000
City of Denison 10-year TIF, $50,000
Crawford County Community Foundation, $45,000
Denison Municipal Utilities, $25,000
Black Hills Energy, $20,000
Wells Fargo, $14,000
Denison Rotary Club, $12,500
Union Pacific Grant, $10,000
City of Denison Development Grant, $10,000
Availa Bank, $4,500
Individual donations, $20
List of CDC events and promotions in fiscal year 2021-2022
Teacher Appreciation Breakfast
St. Patrick’s Day Parade (assist)
Business Appreciation Breakfast
Holiday Open House and Recipe Walk
Free Christmas movie and Santa
Holiday Tour of Homes (Women In Business Impact Organization)
Horse Drawn Wagon Rides (WIBIO)
Crawford County Beautification Day
Women in Business Luncheon
Manilla Madness Ride
CDC golf outing
Red, White & Boom! Celebration
CDC annual meeting
Cat and Dog Days
Tri City BBQ Fest
Tax Free Weekend
Employer Shop Local Weekend