Main Street Manning won the 2014 award for fundraising for its “Family Feud” event, held last fall. Shown are the planning committee with Gov. Branstad (right) and Lt. Gov. Reynolds (left).
Main Street Manning won the 2014 award for fundraising for its “Family Feud” event, held last fall. Shown are the planning committee with Gov. Branstad (right) and Lt. Gov. Reynolds (left).
May 5, 2014


In the 28 years Iowa has had a Main Street program, the return on public invest has been 87-to-1 - $87 invested by private businesses and organizations for every $1 of state funding.

On Friday night, Main Street Iowa - a branch of the Iowa Economic Development Authority dedicated to providing resources for communities to grow local economies - recognized leaders, projects and volunteers of local Main Street organizations for their efforts to use "preservation-based" strategies to promote healthy downtown districts and recruit new businesses.

Main Street Manning received the award in the fundraising category for its "Family Feud"-style fundraiser, held last fall.

The organizing committee distributed a survey during its summer Kinderfest and tallied the responses residents gave regarding Manning and its businesses. During the Main Street event, four teams competed, guessing what their fellow residents responded. One losing team got a second chance to play by racking up the most votes in dollars from the audience.

The event raised about $7,000 for the organization and resulted in the recruitment of an additional $500-level donor, said Debi Durham, Iowa Economic Development Authority director.

Manning shared the fundraising honor with Main Street Mount Vernon's "telethon a go-go," a 24-hour telethon event that raised nearly $16,000 to install air conditioning in the community theater.

Main Street Manning board president Ron Reischl was recognized as the organization's volunteer of the year for initiating partner projects with Iowa State University and the North Central Iowa Small Business Development Center. Reischl also promotes the organization whenever possible - through face-to-face conversations, local newspapers and online and social media platforms. A member of the Betterment Organization, he works to recruit and retain businesses in Manning's downtown.

"The Manning people have been dedicated volunteers for generations," Reischl said. "Main Street Manning provides an avenue for their efforts, and I'm proud to be part of it."

Main Street Manning had 23 people present in its contingent at the awards ceremony. Jean Stadtlander, one of the Manning residents in attendance, described the program as an inspiration.

"We'd be falling down in Iowa without Main Street," she said as she listened to description of more than 20 other projects completed in local communities. "I get motivated by this."

Presenting the honors in the Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center in Des Moines were Gov. Terry Branstad, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds and IEDA director Durham.

Branstad first proposed the Main Street program in 1985, during the heart of the farm crisis, recognizing the organization not as a "quick fix," but as an agent for change - the true impact of which he never imagined, he said.

Nearly three decades later, the organization boasts 52 designated Main Street communities that have supported 4,200 business starts or expansions, resulting in the creation of 12,300 jobs and $1.3 billion in investments into downtown districts across the state - the direct result of the "passion, dedication and commitment" of local leaders, Branstad said.

Sen. Tom Harkin also spoke at the event, commending the state Legislature for funding an additional $1 million in challenge grants for the upcoming year, citing downtown renovation as a "catalyst for positive change."

The challenge to keep Iowa prosperous is about its economy, but also about its identity, he said.

The Main Street organization is in a "class by itself," he added, "touching communities and people in concrete ways."