Design Committee Plans May 17 Cleanup Day

Jefferson Matters: Main Street is sponsoring Clean Up Day in downtown Jefferson on Saturday, May 17, from 9 to 11 a.m.

The downtown cleanup is spearheaded by the Design Committee of Jefferson Matters: Main Street. Committee members will be joined by the Jefferson Kiwanis Club and the Greene County Master Gardeners as they work to get the downtown district spruced up for the summer tourism season.

Master Gardeners will be planting trees, shrubs and flowers in the Sally’s Alley, a project of Tower View Team of Jefferson Matters: Main Street.

Kiwanis Club members will be making improvements to several downtown storefronts as part of the Downtown Building Improvement Program, co-sponsored by Jefferson Matters: Main Street and the City of Jefferson. The program awards grants up to $250 for property owners in the Main Street district to paint, tuck point, replace windows and doors, and remove non-conforming elements of their building.

Volunteers are welcomed to help clean up the downtown area. Helpers are needed to wash windows, sweep sidewalks and entryways, and to help with painting and other general cleanup tasks. To volunteer, contact Jefferson Matters: Main Street at 515-386-3585 or email




Play Me Pleez Earns MSI Honors

Play Me Pleeze, TVT, State Awards 5-2-14Jefferson Matters: Main Street received awards for reaching the $2 Million Benchmark in downtown revitalization and for its Play Me Pleez promotion at the 27th annual Main Street Iowa Awards celebration that was held on Friday, May 2 at the Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center (Iowa Events Center) in downtown Des Moines. Jamie and Cindi Daubendiek, Harry and Carol Ahrenholtz, Marc and Deb McGinn, Lynda Cochran, Amy Roberts, Deb Kucerak and Alan Robinson represented Jefferson Matters: Main Street at the event which was attended by approximately 500 individuals representing communities across the state.

Competitive nominations were submitted for 77 projects and activities within the five categories of design, economic restructuring, organization, promotion and overall program. Nineteen were recognized with awards and two received honorable mention.

Promotion winners were honored in three divisions: Image, Special Event and Retail Activity.

Play Me Pleez was selected in the Image division. Play Me Pleez was conceived and executed by the Tower View Team Committee of Jefferson Matters: Main Street. The group secured a used piano that Kathy Hankel, a TVT member, then repainted in bright, vibrant colors in her garage. TVT engaged local volunteer help to secure the piano and move it from the high school to Hankel’s garage for painting, and then to the Bell Tower Plaza on the courthouse square in downtown Jefferson for the duration of the summer.

The piano was placed just outside entrance to the Mahanay Memorial Carillon Tower, a major attraction in downtown Jefferson, with the intentions of encouraging visitors to stop and “play me, please.” And they did! The project was deemed a major success by both visitors and residents of Jefferson. In late summer, the piano was relocated to a new bakery that opened across the street from the courthouse and the bench was repositioned to the Jefferson Matters: Main Street office at 110 Lincoln Way.

The honors were presented to Jefferson Matters: Main Street by Governor Terry Branstad, Jamie Daubendiek, Lt. Governor, Governor 5-2-14Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds and Debi Durham, director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA).In addition to the competitive nominations, 51 individuals or couples who were selected by their community for outstanding dedication and volunteer service benefiting the local Main Street program were recognized during the awards ceremony.

Hankel was honored as Volunteer of the Year for Jefferson Matters: Main Street for all her work on the Play Me Pleez project and her ongoing support of both Tower View Team and the arts in Jefferson and Greene County. She was unable to attend the awards event, but will be honored for her Volunteer of the Year at a later date in Jefferson.

“In my 1985 State of the State address to the Iowa Legislature, I proposed finding the funds to create Main Street Iowa,” stated Governor Branstad.  “We knew from the very beginning that Main Street was not a quick-fix solution, but rather an incremental approach to fostering positive change. In my travels across the state, I have seen the program at work in small towns, mid–size cities, urban centers and neighborhood commercial districts.   It has had far greater impact than we ever could have imagined in 1985.”

In its 27-year history, Main Street Iowa has tracked over $1.3 billion in private investment in the purchase, construction and rehabilitation of property in participating commercial districts, significantly increasing the state’s job and business base. In addition, nearly two and a half million hours of volunteer time have been logged collectively by local main street organizations.

“We must all appreciate the fact that healthy historic commercial districts are a key deciding factor for industrial and business recruitment. In order for us to create 200,000 new jobs, we need healthy Main Streets,” commented Lt. Governor Reynolds. “Main Street Iowa was created to bring jobs, investment and new businesses to our downtowns and historic commercial neighborhoods, and taxpayers are certainly getting their money’s worth. Since 1986, for every dollar the state of Iowa has invested in operating the state Main Street program, the private sector in those communities has invested $87.99 into building improvements and acquisitions.”

Jefferson was one of 12 communities recognized at the event for reaching significant benchmarks based on private dollar investments made in the purchase and revitalization of properties within their respective commercial districts.  Chariton and Colfax were each recognized for reaching the $1 million benchmark in the last year, with Jefferson, West Branch and West Union honored for $2 million in local investment. Belle Plaine was awarded a certificate for $3 million in local investment; with Hamilton County, Ottumwa and Washington all recognized for achieving the $5 million level. Bloomfield and Conrad both attained $10 million in local investment since being designated as local Main Street programs, and Cedar Falls reached the $50 million benchmark. The communities of Bedford and Dunlap received recognition for their 20 years of participation as designated Main Street communities; and new Main Street organizations in Avoca, Guthrie Center and Newton were recognized and welcomed into the program, bringing our total to 52 active Main Street districts.

As a highlight of the evening, a special award was presented to the community of West Union for their innovative thinking, persistence to accomplish great results and partnerships to enable success in the implementation of the Green Pilot Streetscape Project as the “Signature Project of the Year.” This award honors a project that rises above traditional award categories in impact and significance. West Union’s project leveraged resources from many local, state and federal partners including the Community Development Block Grant program.

In 1985, the Iowa Legislature adopted the National Main Street Center’s Four Point Approach® to district revitalization by establishing Main Street Iowa within the agency that is now the Iowa Economic Development Authority. Since its inception, the state program and its communities have been considered examples of excellence in the national effort to revitalize historic commercial districts across the country.

For more information about Main Street Iowa and how all Iowa communities can access commercial revitalization assistance through the Iowa Downtown Resource Center, visit, e-mail or call 515.725.3051.



National ‘Main Streeter’ Meets with JMMS

Jefferson Matters: Main Street was privileged to spend two days last week with representatives from the national and state Main Street programs. Their time in Jefferson was billed as a “tech visit” and is part of the services provided by the Main Street Iowa program to its member communities across the state.

The visit was facilitated by Michael Wagler, state coordinator of Main Street Iowa, who has been engaged with the program here since the application period to become a Main Street community got underway in 2011.

He journeyed Norma Miess, Nat. Main St. with Norma Ramirez de Miess, director of leadership development with the National Main Street Center, based in Chicago. Norma was in Iowa to spend time in Hampton to help the community and the Main Street program there facilitate outreach to Hispanics and to conduct the tech visit here in Jefferson.

Norma is a Main Street veteran, having served as a program director in Elgin, IL, a Chicago suburban community that has had great success through Main Street. She helped make Elgin (pop. 110,000) one of the largest and most diverse downtown revitalization programs in the nation. Through her work with the National Main Street, an independent subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Washington, D.C., she has helped communities across the nation assess organizational and programming needs and implement strategies that build successful revitalization efforts.

We were asked to set up meeting times with Norma, Michael and the various stakeholders and participants in JMMS. So over the course of two days they met for a lunch discussion with our board of directors and a late afternoon work meeting with our committee members. They also spent time meeting with city officials, Chamber of Commerce leaders, and property owners. They also touredNorma Miess 2 the district and visited several downtown businesses.

Their visit concluded with a wrap-up session for our board and committee members where they reviewed their findings in an atmosphere that was encouraging and supportive.

First off, they have indicated that I need to take more of a leadership role in the organization. Agreed. They also noted that our program was making progress but we needed better communication to the community and our strategic partners to inform them of that progress. Our strategic partners are the city, county, business and property owners, donors and volunteers.

Initiating a monthly column in the Herald had been in the works for several months but had never moved beyond the “back burner” stage. So, a “maybe, sorta” startup date was changed to clear, firm date—May 1.

We’ve also launched a Jefferson Matters: Main Street newsletter. Main Street Beat is being distributed this week to the audiences we communicate with periodically via email and regular mail.

Norma also told us we need to strengthen our committee structure. Committees that support the four points of the Main Street program—organization, design, promotion, business improvement—are the backbone of a program like JMMS. We were urged to build our committees so that each has five to eight active members. From there, we need to further develop our base of volunteer helpers to support the work of the committees.

This tech visit was scheduled midway between last year’s annual visit in October and the upcoming 2014 annual visit in September. It could be considered a “mid-term” exam, so to speak. At the annual visit, we are graded. A program must fulfill a checklist of criteria to maintain its Main Street affiliation.

Last fall, we were found lacking in promotion. It was believed initially that JMMS could have the Chamber of Commerce fulfill that role, as that organization plans and executes a number of festivals that occur within our downtown district. Main Street—in its assessment—found otherwise. Our presence was not visible. As individuals we may have been helping out at events like Bell Tower Festival, Spring Into Greene and Hot August Night, but an actual presence of Main Street was absent.

We set about correcting that misstep by forming a promotion committee. We, and the Chamber of Commerce, continue to struggle with the role that each entity plays in the downtown district. Norma and Michael were quick to step in during our wrap-up discussion and make clear that Terry Poe Buschkamp, the Main Street Iowa specialist who handles promotion, was available to come to Jefferson this month to bring together our promotion committee and the Chamber’s newly-formed events and tourism and longstanding business promotions committees to help facilitate that discussion. Look for more information on those meetings in future columns in this space.

Norma was also quick to point out what we knew, but were struggling with—the need to reform our organization committee. So, that is another task ahead of us.

We have great support with our larger businesses, the city of Jefferson, and Greene County. But we need to enhance our level of engagement with the Chamber of Commerce, Greene County Historical Society, Greene County Development Corporation, Greene County Schools, downtown property owners, and businesses in downtown Jefferson.

Alan Robinson is program director of Jefferson Matters: Main Street. He can be reached at 515-3585 or