McGregor-Marquette Chamber holds annual awards banquet

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The McGregor-Marquette Chamber of Commerce held its annual dinner and awards banquet Nov. 6, in The Sevens Show Room and Banquet Room at Casino Queen Marquette. Those honored included Alpine Communications (award accepted by customer service manager Lori Keppler), Lynette Sander, Juanita Lang and Crystal Scarff. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor

The McGregor-Marquette Chamber of Commerce held its annual dinner and awards banquet Nov. 6, in The Sevens Show Room and Banquet Room at Casino Queen Marquette.

The chamber’s executive director, Kristie Austin, who took over the position this summer, led off the night by introducing herself and sharing some of the chamber’s plans for the coming year.

Chief among the plans is bringing back the Great River Road Race (GRRR). As in the past, it will be held the second week of October, Austin said.

Plans are also in the works, she noted, to organize a bike ride in Clayton County. In addition, Austin hopes to attract people to the area for activities like snowshoeing and cross country skiing, to help everyone enjoy the outdoors all year long.

“We’re really looking at touching different groups,” she said, sharing that the communities want to attract everyone from retirees to millennials. “We have what every generation wants.”

A big proponent of shopping small, Austin also used her speech to encourage chamber members to support their fellow small business owners.

“Go into their shops and see what all they have. There are gems all over in our towns,” she remarked. By spending just a few dollars more, “it creates a wonderful energy of economic growth.”

The chamber’s president, Katie Ruff, owner of By the Spoonful, was a speaker at the banquet, as well. She advocated for chamber members to grow their online presence through social media like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Sites like Yelp and Google, where people can leave business reviews, are also important, she said.

“It’s crazy how many international people find us online and on social media,” Ruff said. “People always have their phones. They’re always doing research on us.”

Recent visitors to the area have come from places like England, Germany, Hungary and South Africa. The McGregor-Marquette area is even becoming a honeymoon destination.

Ruff said she’d like to see the chamber offer some workshops in 2018, to help members better utilize and understand social media and their online presence. By helping other businesses succeed in those areas, all the businesses succeed, she noted.

“It’s important to stay on top of trends while also keeping our historic charm,” she said.

Alpine Communications’ recent fiber optic investment in McGregor will also help. 

“It’s a game changer,” Ruff said. “It will help our businesses and hopefully bring in new ones who are more high-tech. The possibilities are endless.”

Following Ruff’s address, she and Austin presented four awards to local businesses and community members.

The first, the James King Award, went to Juanita Lang, in recognition of the time and talent she’s devoted to events and projects in Marquette and McGregor.

The Alexander MacGregor Award went to Crystal Scarff, owner of INKspiration Tattoo, for her progressive leadership and hard work in re-opening her business following the tornado.

Alpine Communications, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, was given the Longevity Award.

The Lena D. Myers award, which recognizes an individual who’s worked to preserve the community’s history and culture, went to Lynette Sander, city administrator for the city of McGregor.

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