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Penney’s building restoration a step in the right direction

By Staff | Jan 24, 2014

Sometimes it’s the intangibles that give a community its flavor and character.

Estherville still has those intangibles – buildings from the early 20th and even late 19th centuries that make a statement about us and how we regard our past. When visitors drive down Central Avenue, they see these beautiful old buildings as a statement that Estherville is making about itself.

Tragically, some of Estherville’s most remarkable landmarks – the old railroad depot, Grand Theatre, former Elks building and the older portion of the old Lincoln School which was probably the best example of Greek Revival architecture in western Iowa – went the way of the wrecking ball.

When the Estherville City Council Monday night agreed to approve an Excel Grant to the Estherville Industrial Development Corporation to renovate the former J.C. Penney building at 12 S. Sixth St., it not only approved saving the building. It also agreed to save an essential part of the character of South Sixth Street, probably the most progressive entrepreneurial area of the community.

South Sixth Street is indeed unique. The businesses are active and vibrant. And they’re all ahead of the curve – anticipating that great things will happen in this entrepreneurial area of the community that has come together under an umbrella of wanting to preserve the neighborhood character.

Beyond that, though, Estherville Industrial Development Corporation plans on bringing in businesses specializing in high-tech commerce who can work together to bring in new ideas and technologies to our community.

And that’s an absolutely fantastic idea.

Right here at Iowa Lakes Community College, we have both a fantastic graphic arts and Web design program. Having this second-floor entrepreneurial high-tech community would give graduates from those programs immediate jobs in which they could design websites, start advertising agencies, create e-books and promote e-commerce not just locally but throughout Iowa, the nation and the world.

Having ready jobs for graduates from these programs would in turn increase the number of students enrolled in those programs, bringing more money into Estherville.

All the EIDC is asking for is to create jobs for the students graduating from a college right here in Estherville. They want them to live here, marry here, have kids here and make our community grow and thrive – not shrivel up and die.

And doesn’t that make sense?