JEWELL - "The improvements made with Main Street funding touch communities and their residents in very real ways," said Iowa's retiring US Sen. Tom Harkin on Friday as he toured three Jewell properties impacted by Main Street challenge grants he has championed.
Gravy Home Goods, Photography by Becca and the reconstructed Shorthorn Building are three of the four Hamilton County businesses which have received over $240,000 in federal grant funds since 2007 for improvements, reconstruction or renovations.
Additional grants through the Iowa Legislature and private funding through Jewell Area Development Enterprises (JADE) have leveraged over $650,000 for the Jewell projects.
U.S. Senator Tom Harkin waves as he exits Gravy Home Goods in Jewell on Friday.
Since 2002, Harkin has secured nearly $5 million in federal funds for the Main Street Iowa program. Over 85 communities statewide have been able to build, revitalize, restore, refurbish and improve main street businesses through the Harkin initiated program.
"Main Street Iowa helps preserve our state's heart and soul by providing funds to revitalize small towns," said Harkin.
The Jewell stop was also part of Harkin's Legacy Tour which began earlier this year, designed to highlight changes and improvements he has worked to bring to Iowa in his 40 years of public service first as a congressman in the U.S. House of Representatives and then as a U.S. Senator.
The first stop on Friday's tour was Gravy Home Goods, a ground floor gift shop owned by Rachel Faga and Grant and Joan Fairchild, located in the 600 block of Jewell's Main Street. The building's second floor features a renovated apartment where the Fairchilds live with their son Hank.
The next stop was the former Shorthorn Building. Built in the early 1900s, the building has a colorful history, said owner Fred Marcalus. It was originally a dance hall, he said. It also served as the home for the Jewell American Legion before the roof collapsed.
Through the Main Street Iowa program, the building's structure, electrical and heating and air conditioning systems have been updated.
Further improvements will be made to a potential tenant's specifications, said Marcalus.
Photography by Becca was the final stop on the tour. Owned by Becca Gansen, the business sits on the corner with a front business office and a back studio.
Main Street Iowa is a matching grant program which encourages local entrepreneurs to invest in communities which then result in a multiplier effect explained Harkin.
For every federal dollar appropriated, $173 in local funds are invested, according to the Iowa Economic Development Authority.
The program is made possible through the efforts of both federal and state entities. Federal funds are secured through the Department of Housing and Urban Development under Congressional direction proposed by Harkin. The Iowa Legislature has provided $200,000 in additional funds for the program and the Iowa Department of Economic Development directs specific funding on merit-based analysis of the applicants.
The Iowa Economic Development Authority also provides technical support to communities, said Michael Wagler, State Coordinator, Main Street Iowa for the Iowa Economic Development Authority.
"Through the Main Street program, we provide technical assistance with eight staff members who provide their expertise on different levels," said Wagler. Some of the services provided include business and service education, design, development and capital fundraising ideas.
"We help the local programs become sustainable," said Wagler.
The IEDA provided technical support as JADE worked to complete the total restoration for each building facade as well as finishing the upper floor apartment and the two street level business spaces.
The efforts of all these entities working together resulted in a positive, cumulative effect for the community, said JADE member Bruce Johnson.
Following the tour, Harkin congratulated JADE and community members on their efforts as well as expressed his gratitude.
"I want to thank you for your involvement," Harkin said. "Small town Iowa is not dead. It may not be as vibrant as it once was, but it is not dead as more people are seeing small towns as a safe place to live and raise their families."
As Harkin wrapped up his tour, he shared a personal message.
"Thank you for giving me the honor to serve you for the last 40 years," he said. "I look forward to seeing you when I retire. I will be coming home to Iowa and it may shock you, but I intend to enjoy myself."