Gowrie hears results of downtown assessment

Friday, September 08, 2017

Main News Photo

Joe Sutter

With the hope of doing some revitalization work in the future, the second-largest town in Webster County invited experts from the Iowa Economic Development Authority to do a three-day assessment of the downtown.

The visitors were impressed with the number of people who loved their town and want to work on bettering it, said Terry Poe Buschkamp, promotion specialist for the Iowa Downtown Resource Center.

“Everybody we talked to loved Gowrie,” Buschkamp said. “We talked to the GDC, and we know that group is very committed to improving the downtown.

“You’re all passionate and committed to this community.”

The group also found problems on their walk through the downtown.

There is a large number of vacant buildings, Buschkamp said, along with peeling paint on buildings, sidewalks in disrepair, and a lack of signs. In places needed maintenance has been deferred.

Working on a facade project for downtown businesses, and updating the streetscape are priorities for Gowrie, said Mayor Gayle Redman and Councilmember Terry Willardson.

“We are thinking of applying for larger grants in the future, and this was an inexpensive way to get some beginning information to help us apply for grants later,” Redman said.

“We need to figure out how to fill in the vacant spots we have downtown, and throughout the community. We’re focused on downtown. If the downtown looks nice, people will want to come here and shop,” Willardson said. “The biggest goal is to keep the existing businesses in business, and help them profit more, and bring in new businesses that we need.”

“We recommend you work hard to retain what you already have,” Robin Bostrom, business specialist, said. “I know it’s more fun and more sexy to go out and recruit the new things, but you guys have a lot of good stuff here the community doesn’t want to lose.”

There may be opportunities for existing businesses to grow to fill new needs, Bostrom said. For instance, after Gowrie lost its hardware store, the grocery store in town created a large new lumber section.

“These are the categories people are leaving the community for,” Bostrom said, presenting a list. “So is there an opportunity for existing businesses to do similar to what the grocery store has done?”

The categories include furniture stores, building materials, lawn and garden, gifts and office supplies.

On the other hand, customers were coming from out of town to purchase electronics and appliances, food and beverages, gas and floral products, she said.

And there was other demographic good news — Gowrie is actually growing, with a population of right around 1,000 at the 2010 census and 1,121 estimated in 2017.

Full article.

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