Chamber, art center, library share updates

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By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times 

Several local entities—the McGregor-Marquette Chamber of Commerce, McGregor-Marquette Center for the Arts and McGregor Public Library—went before the McGregor Council Jan. 17, sharing their accomplishments from 2017, as well as their plans for 2018.

McGregor-Marquette Chamber of Commerce

Executive director Kristie Austin said the chamber gained a dozen new members in 2017, bringing total membership to 113.

In addition to its signature events, like the arts and crafts festivals, Lazy River Beer and Wine Festival and Progressive Dinner, the chamber continued to promote other community events and activities, like Small Business Saturday.

Held the Saturday after Thanksgiving, the event encouraged people to shop local during the holiday season. Small Business Saturday was promoted in the newspaper, on the radio and online, in support of both chamber member and non-member businesses. After speaking with businesses, Austin said most, if not all, saw an increase in sales from 2016.

Looking ahead, into 2018, Austin said the chamber will continue to team up with other groups to promote events in the area. They also plan to develop new events and re-vamp some of the annual ones.

“We’re going to re-vamp the arts and crafts festivals,” she said. “I chatted with vendors about some different strategies, and we felt it would be better to develop more of a festival in the fall, and have more activities, not just arts and crafts.”

“If you look at the calendar,” Austin added, “[arts and crafts festivals] are getting really overloaded everywhere.”

One attraction in early October will be the return of the Great River Road Race (GRRR).

Later in the month, there are tentative plans to hold a mountain bike/fat tire bike ride.

Along with events, Austin said the chamber is also continuing to increase its online presence and that of the member businesses.

“We’ve been doing a lot with Facebook and digital marketing,” she said. 

The chamber sponsored a successful social media class earlier this month, a free opportunity for members thanks to funds from the November tailgate fundraiser. Over 40 people attended this initial class, and Austin said several other classes will be planned based on attendees’ feedback.

“We want to give the businesses the best skills possible to be found online,” she said.

McGregor-Marquette Center for the Arts

The Left Bank Shop and Gallery brought in $50,500 in total retail sales in 2017, the highest mark since the art center opened in 2011, said treasurer Bonnie Pruett. Approximately 10,000 people visited throughout the year, viewing and purchasing the work of 75 area artists that was displayed in the retail and event galleries.

Last year, The Left Bank featured four special events, continued its winter art workshops and held art programming for young people through Arts After School, the Turner Park Earth Day event and Funday Mondays.

Pruett said this programming will continue in 2018, and The Left Bank will again plan four special events.

Over the winter, thanks to $3,000 from the Goodale Trust, the gallery walls and display pedestals will be painted and lighting in the main room updated.

Another 2018 project will be the installation of a community mural project on the side of Steve’s Silver Dollar. Made possible through a grant from the Upper Mississippi Gaming Corporation, the project will feature four historic McGregor photographs. The hanging of the murals is expected to take place in late May or early June, noted Pruett.

McGregor Public Library

Library director Michelle Pettit said the library saw an increase in both the number of users and volunteers in 2017. 

Last year, there were 2,150 registered users, and nearly 11,800 visits to the library were recorded. Over 1,200 kids attended children’s programs at the library, which was also an increase from 2016.

Twenty-nine volunteers donated 137 hours of their time, helping with programming, story times, book sales, microfilm research and tech assistance.

The State Library of Iowa approved renewal of Pettit’s recertification on Dec. 29.  Pettit completed  45 contact hours of approved continuing education from 2015 to 2017.  These hours of continuing education are required every three years as library director. Pettit completed courses on website development, summer library programs, marketing, technology and maintaining the library collection.

Pettit said staff are currently preparing for visits from the MFL MarMac kindergarten through third graders in February. The visits bring in around 240 kids.

“It’s always fun,” she shared. “There’s always a lot of energy coming through.”

Plans are also in the works for the library’s summer reading program, which will be based on the theme “Libraries Rock.”

Last year, with the help of a grant, the library had a needs assessment completed, evaluating what the library has and how an expansion could be part of a potential community center project in the lot next door.

According to the assessment, which was prepared with assistance from library planner George Lawson, “the library’s collections, services and operations are limited by the existing building.”

The biggest need is the space for programming.

“Different groups ask to use our meeting room, but sometimes there’s not enough space,” Pettit said. “Even for us, there’s not always enough space.”

“A combined use addition to the library for a large program room as well as space for the library’s other needs would be a ‘win-win,’” noted the assessment. “The community room could have both its own identity and entry as well as an interior entry from the library. This type of solution is not uncommon in Iowa.”

Pettit said the assessment is a good informational tool.

“It’s good to have that information in front of people, to help them make a decision,” she said.

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