Written By: Karin Chitty, Executive Director, Campustown Action Association
I am not an expert on economic development. I might be considered an expert on Campustown. This is my take on economic growth in the Campustown District disguised as a Top 5.
1. View the streetscape improvements made to the 100 block of Welch Avenue. Replacement of infrastructure under the road was the driving factor behind this project, but it also provided several additional opportunities for growth. Federal grant funds were awarded to install stormwater quality improvement features. The project also brought wider sidewalks, dedicated bike lanes, improved signage, and a mid-block crosswalk. These factors aim to improve the experience of moving throughout the Campustown district. Not only do projects like these make the district even more appealing to residents and visitors, but it also sets the district up for future growth and development.
2. Shop and support local businesses. You might be surprised by all the retail and service options housed within the Campustown district borders. Everything from jewelry, gifts and apparel can be found along with grocery, pharmacy, dental and salon/barber services. There is even a post office. Shopping local supports our friends and neighbors and keeps money in our local economy. In fact, for every $100 spent at a small business, $68 of it is reinvested in the community!
3. Unique food experiences are something else Campustown brings to the table. From the European-style café offerings at Clouds to the Brazilian fare at Café Beaudelaire, the authenticity of Joy’s Mongolian Grill to the classic taste of Pizza Pit, the restaurant scene in Campustown continues to grow. It’s the diverse offering that keeps people coming back for favorites and to discover something new.
4. Murals old or new. A few neighborhood businesses are working to bring a new mural to the district this summer and we cannot wait for you to see it! In the meantime, stop and view the mural at 206 Welch. Painted over 10 years ago, the mural depicts many local icons and is a bright, colorful nod to the traditions of ISU and Campustown. Both murals are a great backdrop for your Instagram and while you’re in the neighborhood take some time to explore different shops and restaurants.
5. Summerfest in Campustown. Summerfest is a great way to explore the district. Join us Saturday, June 5th for our annual kickoff to summer event featuring family-friendly activities, live music, and a beer garden.
Written By: Caleb Grawe, Business Engagement Collaborative, Ames High School,
It’s virtually impossible to walk down Ames’ Main Street without gaining some appreciation for the town’s energy. Despite being only a few blocks long, it’s home to a variety of cultural venues, innovative businesses, and unique art pieces.
One of the newest additions to the already vibrant downtown area is a mural on the side of the Quilting Connections store, painted by Lauren Gifford. The piece features stylized text highlighting just a few of the qualities that make Ames special, each word wreathed in a flowery design.
Gifford is known for creating art with bold colors and positive messages. Her business, Letter With Lauren Liz, focuses on handmade text art with a personal touch. The scope of her previous work includes various wall art exhibits, interactive outdoor art, sidewalk murals, and more.
Not long ago, Gifford approached Ames Main Street about the prospect of adding new art installations to the downtown vicinity. As soon as the organization agreed, she immediately took the initiative to start contacting local businesses to fund the project. Renewable Energy Group ended up supplying $5,000 to make the project a reality, and on October 29th of last year the mural was unveiled in a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
With this colorful new tribute to the town’s spirit and heritage, Ames’ Main Street has acquired yet another layer of intrigue and charm. And in a time where normalcy and uncertainty are continually at odds, projects like this one serve as an example that inspiration and ingenuity continue to thrive in our communities.
The Chamber’s flagship summer intern program, See Yourself in Ames, will kick off virtually at the end of May.
Each summer, we invite area employers to send their interns or recent hires to a series of events designed to introduce them to Ames and Story County in hopes they will want to stay here to live, work and play post-college. The program continues to grow, averaging around 125 interns at each event.
The events are an opportunity for interns to better acquaint themselves with our community, network with other interns, and take away professional development skills and tools as they prepare to enter the workforce full-time.
This year, we will be offering two virtual sessions and two in-person sessions. Here’s a sneak peek of the 2021 Program:
There is no charge to attend, but registration is required. Registration is now open, we look forward to seeing you this summer!
Thank you to the Ames Chamber Workforce Solutions sponsors for making this program possible!
Last week we featured Ames’ “Super Park,” – Prairie View Industrial Center. Lucky for our community, Prairie View isn’t the only Super Park in town! With over 50 different recreational facilities from pools to the community center to parks, Ames’ newest park brings a fresh sense of inclusivity, thoughtfulness and fun to our community.
The Ames Miracle Playground and Field opened last October and is our first 100% accessible playground. Not only does it feature rubberized turf for safe and easy access for all, it also offers Swing Alley, Mushroom Cove (for young kids), Slider’s Canyon (for older kids), Spinners Squall, Miracle Field, Acorn Music Hall, a picnic area and a sensory plaza. Say it with me, WOW!
With so much to do in the park, there’s no doubt children of all ages will gleefully explore every nook and cranny. Visitors are welcomed by one of two signs – “Let Miracles Happen” and “Miracles Happen Here.” Who knew you could feel so inspired by a quick trip to a neighborhood park?
The project raised over $2.3 million, $700,000 more than the park’s original price tag. What does that tell us? That as a community, we were so united, we were so committed to offering this amenity to residents and visitors, that we came together and we made it happen.
If you haven’t visited the park yet, add it to your weekend to-do list. I promise, you don’t have to be a kid to appreciate it.
Earlier this month, Ames received a $1.5M grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) to construct critical water and sanitary sewer infrastructure for the Prairie View Industrial Center in east Ames. This is a huge win for our community and the site and will be to our advantage as we attract new business to our area.
This isn’t the first time Prairie View has made headlines. In 2019, the site was designated a Certified Site through the Iowa Economic Development Authority’s certification program. Of the 27 certified sites in the state, Prairie View is one of two to be designated as a Super Park. Super Parks must have at least 500 acres of land—Prairie View is over 1,300 acres with 730 under purchase option.
As we work to bring economic development projects to the community, it’s not uncommon for projects to need 50, 100, 300 acres or more. We now have the capacity to meet and exceed expectations for large-scale projects. Combine this asset with the other business parks in the Ames and Story County marketplace and unique partnership opportunities with Iowa State University and we are in an enviable position for businesses looking to relocate or expand.
What does this mean for Ames? In a word, growth. When a new company move to town, it triggers a chain reaction. The construction industry picks up as facilities must be built. Job growth skyrockets as there are new opportunities for positions at all levels. People move to town to take new jobs and start spending their money here. Our Super Park is positioned to spark tremendous growth in our community in way we’ve not experienced yet.
Changemaker—what a powerful-sounding world. Are all Changemakers some kind of boat-rocking, swim-against-the-current kind of folk? What is a Changemaker and how do I become one?
The beauty of being a Changemaker is that there is no one definition. Changemakers are builders, networkers, nurturers, resisters, communicators, investigators and more. Changemakers are those who are ready to pull up their sleeves and get down to business. You can be a Changemaker and so can I.
These are our most practical friends. The ones who love math and science. The ones who quietly think and then offer up a completely thought-out idea. Building an inclusive playground in four-season community? Get a Builder on your team.
The ever-loving, little-engine-that-could people who keep us going. They are thinking about everyone’s well-being more than anything else. Hosting a day-long fundraiser? The Nurturer will be the one bringing you snacks and water to help keep you going.
Otherwise known as the extrovert. They’re the ones who have a guy (or gal!) for everything. Need a speaker for an upcoming event? Odds are the Networker’s cousin’s friend’s brother’s mother-in-law could do it.
These are the objective thinkers. The ones who see and relish the many colors around us. The Communicator might challenge your thought process, but they will take the time to listen and help work toward a creative solution for the greater good.
No, not the two-year-old who refuses to nap. The Resister is on the frontlines. They pave the way for future generations through action. They lead with a dynamic influence and will always be there when you need them.
The detective of the group. You might not even realize when they're analyzing and deducing but you can count on them to think outside the box, expose problems and pose solutions. Think of them as your resident Sherlock Holmes.
Now that you have an idea of which Changemaker Archetype you are, it's time to shake, rattle and CHANGE! Join us for our Changemaker Series by registering for the first event today!
Written By: Greg Piklapp, City of Boone Councilmember
Boone is a community that represents rural Iowa in everything; past, present and future. Our founding was based on farming, railroad and coal, grew in the early 20th Century with connected mercantile and local business expansion, the 1980s Farm Crisis and impacts starting a stagnation that changed it forever. But the future is our focus now and our community is experiencing growth not seen in decades.
We take pride in being the hometown and headquarters for Fareway Stores Inc. We have 21st Century fiber connections to help telecommuters and small business start ups. A strong focus on our historic downtown main street revitalization with building grants, new business and retail development support. A vibrant school district with new elementary, middle school and high school buildings working in STEM and trade skill programming. Our local DMACC campus has recently expanded with new sports facility upgrades as well and we work hard to forge local partnerships across age differences, political affiliations, between long time families and new arrivals.
Community publicized rankings in 2019:
A lot of hard work has taken place to gain this momentum and it hasn’t stopped. Quality affordable housing options are available in brand new construction or historic renovations. The City is making million dollar investments towards infrastructure upgrades, partnering for expansions in our industrial park with railroad access and helping drive growth in good paying jobs from building trades to cutting edge agriculture bio-sciences. We are only 15 minutes from the Iowa State University Research Park and the cutting edge work being accomplished. Boone also has over a dozen local parks, with nearby attractions that include boating/canoeing in Des Moines River Valley, beautiful campgrounds, historic Ledges State Park, even winter skiing and more booming tourism attractions including a new hotel and conference center.
We have a lot to offer, be ready to call Boone home!
When talking with our members about recruiting talent, one of the most common topics we hear about is the challenges and opportunities in young hires. So often, young employees come in with technical training but, to no fault of their own, lack real-world experience and the understanding of the expectations that come will full-time employment.
To help relieve that pain point, the Chamber is partnering with the Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) for a third year to host the Teaching for the Workforce Academy (TFTW).
Teaching for the Workforce is a four-day, license renewal course that brings teachers, counselors and other education employees together to learn about local industries, hiring needs and practices, and identify potential business partners for work-based learning collaborations. Connecting with local businesses provides valuable perspective on what employers are looking for when making hiring decisions.
Participants explore the worlds high-demand industries including healthcare, advanced manufacturing, information technology and more. The class hears from nearly 30 speakers in a variety of industries through panels, networking events, tours, and presentations. Not only do participants make connections, many of them walk away with new strategies they are able to implement into their classrooms.
Upon graduation from the Academy, one participant commented, “There are so many different career paths other than the four-year degree plan. Companies strongly desire soft skills and they’re willing to invest in people who design to grow at their company.”
Spots are limited, so if you are an educator or know one who is interested in this course, sign up today!
A year into a global pandemic, many people are still wary of traveling for vacation. If you find yourself in that boat, fear not! Celebrate Spring Break with a Staycation right here at home.
Okay, a Staycation might feel a little less exciting since we’ve all essentially been on one since last March. But—there are new and fun things to do right here at home, especially with the warmer weather!
Tried and true, fresh air never fails to renew one’s spirit. From 37 community parks to 55 connected miles of trails, there’s plenty to keep you active over Spring Break. If you haven’t had a chance, be sure to head over to the new Miracle Playground and Field. This state-of-the-art inclusive park ensures all residents and visitors have a place to play.
Shop, Eat & Drink
Just like any other vacation, you can go out and reacquaint yourself with the area. Bop over to the original Starbuck’s Drive Thru (burgers, not coffee) in Nevada or grab a craft beer at Fenceline Beer Lab in Huxley. Check out local businesses in Campustown, Downtown or at North Grand Mall, you never know what you might find just by stopping in!
Have you ever wanted an entire movie theater to yourself? Now’s your chance! North Grand Cinema offers theater rentals with an array of movies to choose from. Bowl, play arcade games or ignite a family rivalry in laser tag at Perfect Games. If the weather cooperates you could even go for a round or two of mini golf!
Learn Something New
Did you know Ames is home to a number of museums? That’s right! Channel your inner creativity by visiting the Octagon Center for the Arts or Brunnier Art Museum. While technically not a museum, the Park Library on campus is home to a number of beautiful originals by Iowa native Grant Wood. Step back in time at the Ames History Museum or Farm House Museum.
Mural, Mural on the Wall
Go on a mural hunt! There are several amazing murals throughout Story County. See how many you can find and snap a selfie. To help get you started, check out Downtown Ames, Zearing and Maxwell.
These ideas are just the tip of the iceberg. I haven't even gotten to Reiman Gardens, Ledges State Park or the many public libraries in the county. Whatever you choose to do, stay safe, support local and have fun!
Written By: Matt Stenzel, Intern, Iowa State University Research Park
“Let’s start a podcast.” – pretty much everyone in the last 3-5 years.
That’s precisely what went through my head when Alison suggested starting a Research Park podcast focused on entrepreneurship and innovation. There are a million podcasts out there for folks to listen to; how will we attract anyone to listen to ours? Also, how do you even start a podcast? Don’t I need thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment? I called my friend Joe Rogan, but he was no help.
Research Park events (of the in-person variety) have been slow with the pandemic. We wanted to try a new outlet, so I put my concerns aside, and we started researching what it might take to do a podcast. As it turns out, it’s not as expensive as you might think. We pay a monthly fee (~$20) to a website to “host” our podcast, and we bought a few condenser microphones that plug into our laptops. In the financial category, that’s about all it took.
The next part was a bit more complicated. Who do we interview? And what do we talk to them about? Well, we want to highlight stories of people who are “Innovators,” the namesake of our show. So naturally, we started with some of the best entrepreneurship stories we know: Clayton Mooney with Nebullum, Jim Fay who invented the Diaper Genie, and Judi Eyles from the Pappajohn Center were some of the first to come to mind. During these podcasts, we discovered the conversation part is pretty straightforward. These people all have such deep wells of knowledge that it’s almost impossible to record a podcast in under an hour.
During the first few shows, I typed up long lists of notes to make sure we hit all of our “talking points” but have since relied more on my own curiosity and whatever questions pop into my mind. Once you convince an Innovator to tell their story, they’ll talk as long as you let them because their businesses are their pride and joy. My favorite part of doing this podcast is the energy I feel after each recording. You can see and hear the passion in their eyes and voices. It makes me excited for the Ames, the ISU, and the Research Park communities.