How to achieve a ‘welcoming, vibrant and growing community’

Attracting visitors and new residents is becoming increasingly important for Iowa’s mid-sized and rural communities. Throw in an EF-3 tornado and those visitors or newcomers become vital to economic vitality.

At last week’s city council meeting, councilors discussed support for the Marshalltown Convention and Visitor Bureau and Vision Marshalltown. While no votes were taken, the discussion set the stage for possible increases in funding to the organizations. At the core of the discussion was the city’s strategic initiative to promote Marshalltown as a welcoming, vibrant and growing community.

This public relations work is but one of many goals the city hopes to achieve. Ensuring the quality of life for current residents is perhaps the most important part of promoting the city. In some cases, having supporters or influencers on your side is just as important as having a good marketing message. There is no better form of public relations for cities than happy residents who take pride in their community and willingly share that with others.

That being said, we believe this funding and initiative is important to Marshalltown’s economic vitality. Promoting our city and its great features is worth funding, especially in the wake of the tornado when people need to know our town is more than the storm. The funding, however, must come with measurable results as parameters.

In today’s day and age, social media and website analytics are easily at the fingertips of marketing teams. You can see how many people are following social media accounts, the number of people you reach with posts, how many people are reading content and how long those people are staying on a website. While it may be hard to specifically measure if the city has done a better job of promoting itself, measurable goals for number of people reached online in a year or increases in visitors coming to city are possible.

If the city council is putting this important goal in the hands of the CVB and Vision Marshalltown, we believe the organizations should share with the council — and residents — some of those measurable goals they hope to reach. The results of those goals will help taxpayers see whether their money was spent well.

These two organizations serve a great purpose for our community. We also know collaboration is extremely important and would like to see a variety of entities working with the CVB and Vision Marshalltown on this goal.

So what can the city do to keep residents happy, attract visitors and bring in new Marshalltownians? Well, it probably depends who you ask. But for the most part, residents need affordable housing, access to social services and recreation opportunities. We’re on our way there, but there’s still much work to do. Write to use and tell us what you think it takes to make Marshalltown a welcoming, vibrant and growing community.