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Ruter, Hevern and Jensen talk up Estherville’s Elements of a Good Life

By Staff | Oct 2, 2016

Thursday started so cold, organizers worried they would need to put out space heaters in the Ft. Defiance State Park Lodge for the evening’s Big Fall Meeting.

Fortunately, the sun warmed the air inside and outside the lodge for a cookout.

After social time and dinner, Estherville?Chamber of Commerce Director Lexie Ruter gave the first presentation of the evening.

“We really do have a little treasure, right here in the top of northwest Iowa,”?Ruter said. “I’m sometimes reminded when I talk to people who have never been to Estherville before, just how great we have it.”?

Ruter highlighted the Shopko Hometown Store opening as an accomplishment of the last year.

“If you haven’t been to Shopko, it’s packed; we’re really excited to have it back, so be sure you’re supporting it. Be sure you’re supporting all of the local retailers and service providers,”?she said.

Ruter said there were vacancies on community development committees, including beautification.

“This is maybe the best committee. You pick out pretty things and spend money to buy them,”?she said.

Ruter also announced changes to this year’s Fright Hike.

“This year we’re going to go from six to seven p.m. with the lights on, for those with kids and grandkids who are a little young, but still want to go, and don’t want to be totally terrified. I have a couple of volunteers who are just too good at being scary,”??Ruter said she usually took the part of explaining the rules at the Fright Hike because, “I’m just not scary,”?she said.

Ruter also announced the near-completion of a promotional video for Estherville.

“We have one more day of shooting, then we hope to release it at the beginning of the year,”?Ruter said.

Economic Development Director Lyle Hevern highlighted the Excel!?Building, reporting on the finished second floor of the former JCPenney location on South Sixth Street, where Mark Gruwell has located his customer service education company, LearnAcre.

“We have room for three or four more companies to locate there, and several interested in moving their business into one of the offices,”?Hevern said.

Hevern also pointed out the former second-floor ballroom, which is now a collaborative space for entrepreneurs to work, or “there’s lounging kinds of things there,”?Hevern said. “Our hope is that it will be a collaborative space not only for the tenants who work there, but also for the general public. Through our marketing, we hope to invite people to come work for a day. Perhaps they work from home, but could use a place to get out of the house and have a desk and some privacy, or if they are a traveling business person, they can have a professional environment in which to work if they’re in Estherville for several days or a couple of weeks.”

Hevern shared news of the entrepreneurial climate in Estherville.

“We have had 27 ribbon cuttings,”?Hevern said. The Economic Development organization had a name change and issued new bylaws, “to reflect that we’re not just about industrial development, but about all kinds of economic development in the community,”?Hevern said.

“It seems like we receive more and more calls from people that have expressed an interest in starting a business here in town,”?he said. “A couple of them already have. A couple of them are very close to doing so. We’re very hopeful that this will continue.”?

Hevern said he recently had a conversation that made him consider what was going right in Estherville. The additions to Avera Holy Family Hospital, the Regional Wellness Center, the new middle school and addition to Demoney Elementary School, “Those are the things that make a great quality of life in a community,”?he said.

Hevern challenged the community members and leaders in attendance by stating one of the opportunities for improvement facing Estherville:?the shrinking population and the lack of housing to meet the needs of the community.

“Those are factors in every community,”?Hevern said. “They are elements to work on for the future.”?

Bob Jensen of Excel!?Estherville recited a bullet-point-style list of the projects Excel!?has jumped into over the past year.

Highlights included the Music on the Square and Gospel on the Square programs from the Excel!?Estherville Arts &?Culture Committee, Christmas decorations, lighting around the cities, flowers, hanging baskets, banners, bike racks, refurbishing second stories on downtown storefronts, the lights on the swinging bridge, the meteorite center, support of the back to school bash, rodeo, and other events, and the Steven Blass memorial flag.

“Anyone who has a good idea of how we can fix the railroad underpass…we’re trying to figure out how to enhance it,”?Jensen said.

Among future plans, Jensen listed a dog park, performance stages, and enhancing the arts and culture.

“I?just wanted to show you how dedicated your board is, and we have so much more to do,”?Jensen said.

The three groups chose to join forces and have a fall event to replace the January Chamber dinner in part because of weather concerns and because of other January events.