Chamber banquet highlights exciting year in Marshalltown
There was plenty to celebrate during the 124th annual Chamber banquet at the Midnight Ballroom on Wednesday night, which was held in person for the first time since before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Marshalltown Area Chamber of Commerce President/CEO John Hall, who took on his current role last July, highlighted a busy year in the community during his introductory remarks and annual report as attendees from member organizations enjoyed drinks, dinner and cupcakes. One particularly strong area of recovery, according to Hall, was local tourism.
“What I can say is tourism is back. We went through a couple of very rough years, but our hotel occupancy is near pre-COVID levels. And we’re still down one hotel,” he said. “We’re starting to see weeks where our demand is outpacing our availability.”
Hall also discussed plans for a relaunched grant program, the rebranded Connect Marshalltown events, the new and improved Leadership Marshalltown class, the new workforce development position, the $10,000 Make Marshalltown Home housing incentive and various other opportunities to spotlight member businesses. Capital investments were another bright spot with over $60 million put toward new healthcare facilities and a major expansion at the Karl automotive dealership on the north edge of town.
After wrapping up his report, Hall passed the microphone off to keynote speaker Jason Duff of Small Nation, an organization focused on helping smaller communities across the Midwest and the U.S. revitalize their downtown districts and attract new businesses and housing.
Throughout his remarks, Duff frequently drew parallels between Marshalltown and the community he calls home, Bellefontaine, Ohio (pronounced “Bell Fountain”), a town of about 13,500 residents located about 50 miles northwest of the state capital. Bellefontaine suffered a devastating ice storm in 2005 and a derecho in 2012 that badly damaged the county courthouse.
“Does any of this sound familiar?” he asked in jest.
Whether it was a stay at the Tremont on Tuesday night, a Maid-Rite at Taylor’s or a pizza at Zeno’s that sealed the deal, it didn’t take him long to fall in love with Marshalltown.
“The definition of resilience is in this town and this community,” Duff said.
As the son of two small business owners, Duff said he began to reflect on the importance of what made a city a destination for visitors and residents alike at a young age, and he emphasized some of the things that make Bellefontaine “weird” — concrete was invented there, for example, and it is home to the shortest street in the United States. It is also the highest geographical point in Ohio.
From there, Duff launched into several success stories about local business development. Over the last 12 years, 17 specialty retail stores, 34 upper floor loft apartments, three new event centers and seven restaurants have opened in downtown Bellefontaine, and 56 historic buildings have been revitalized. It wasn’t an easy process, and Duff and his co-collaborators faced plenty of doubts along the way. But in the end, he said, it’s all been worth it.
Before he concluded, Duff recalled a conversation with a woman who thanked him for helping her fall in love with her town again, and he predicted a similar rebirth on the horizon for Marshalltown.
“The momentum and the new ideas and the new investment, you cannot walk up and down the streets of your town (without), number one, you’re going to see it, but number two, you can feel it,” he said. “I’m here to tell you this town is going to be on fire. It already is on fire in a very good way with passion, with drive, with new investment.”
Hall then presented the Community Impact Award to UnityPoint Health — Marshalltown and thanked the leadership of the organization for taking over the bankrupt Central Iowa Healthcare in 2017 and ultimately investing in a brand new hospital on the south edge of town.
“We were at risk of losing our hospital in our community, and really, the void that was going to create, the sucking sound that that would create in our town would’ve been tragic,” Hall said. “But then to see the incredible investment that (UnityPoint) has made here in our community is absolutely outstanding.”
Pam Delagardelle, the President/CEO of UnityPoint Health — Waterloo, accepted the award alongside Vice President/Chief Operating Officer Jenni Friedly, and Delagardelle became emotional as she recounted the long and challenging journey that culminated with a brand new, $38 million state of the art facility.
As she recalled, when UnityPoint first took over for CIH, staff members were bringing in their own food and supplies as basic as toilet paper just to ensure patients got the care they needed.
“Without these passionate individuals, it is not likely that this hospital would exist. It would’ve been impossible,” she said. “Marshalltown matters. We promise that we are not going to disappoint you, and we’re only just getting started.”
In a subsequent interview, Delagardelle said she developed a strong connection with the Marshalltown hospital during her tenure as the leader of the nearby Grundy County Memorial Hospital, and she felt obligated to do something to help when she heard of its financial struggles.
“I am so proud of our team by what they’ve done with this project (and) the way they’re embracing the community. They’re so passionate, really, about providing healthcare,” she said. “We’re looking forward to all the ways we’re going to continue to support the Marshalltown community with their healthcare needs.”
Outgoing Chamber Board President Joe Carter of MARSHALLTOWN Company was recognized for his service over the past year, and he expressed excitement about the direction of the organization under Hall’s leadership. Mike Miller of RACOM was then introduced as the next board president beginning on July 1.
Contact Robert Maharry at 641-753-6611 ext. 255 or