Celebrating new developments

MANSON – Three new businesses, continuing housing development and the completion of the Manson Area Community Center show that the town is moving forward, according to the Manson Economic Development Corporation.

Lisa Shimkat was the featured speaker at the corporation’s annual meeting, when board members and others from the community also heard an update from city leaders.

“Manson has been extremely active in the last 18 months,” Shimkat said.

Shimkat is Regional Director of the Iowa Small Business Development Center, which provides free counseling for small businesses.

She said Manson has sent her a lot of inquiries into new businesses.

“We’ve been able to work hand in hand with not only the banks, but the revolving loan funds and economic development, to really move a lot of these projects forward more quickly,” she said.

People often ask her what are the directions for starting a small business, but the answer is complicated. Like raising a small child, every business is different, and what works for one might not work for another, she said.

She shared three important points: Always keep educating yourself; grow your network; and always do more than you’re expected.

“It’s not about being the smartest person in the room, it’s about knowing where to get the answer,” she said.

It’s also important to know your target audience, and find how to reach them. That doesn’t always mean just beefing up the latest technology.

MEDC President Randy Kaiser gave an update on development in Manson over the past year. Three new businesses came to town, he said – a new dentist, the Fringe beauty salon, and the Shoreside Pub and Grub.

Dentist Sarah Hoban got some funding from the MEDC, he said.

The Shoreside is located in the former Pizza Ranch building that burned about 12 years ago, he said. The MEDC had to spend years tracking down paperwork to make the building available for sale again.

Some of the biggest news in town is the new MAC center, Kaiser said. The MEDC gave $50,000 to help get the center open.

MAC center board chairman Joe Horan spoke a bit on how that was coming along.

“I think it will draw people to us,” he said.

“We have 191 memberships as of yesterday. If you figure the family memberships as two people, that puts us over 300 members. For a town of 1,850 people, that’s a wonderful testimony to what we can do if we go after it.”

Now the board is working out what to do with the rest of the building, he said, and turning the former cafeteria into a multipurpose community room.

Mayor Dave George said the new Braginton addition on the north side of town is ready for the first houses to be built, with all utilities in place to the lots. He said the city continues to look into upgrading the fire department and doing something about abandoned buildings on Main Street.

A new test well will also be drilled on the city hall block, since the last attempt at drilling a new well did not produce enough water.

School Superintendent Mark Egli said the new blended curriculum allows students to learn at their own pace aided by computers, but doesn’t fundamentally change the role of the teacher.

“Students have digital textbooks, and it’s a textbook that allows the teacher to get online and see if the student’s been reading it, where they are in their work, whether they’ve been answering the interactive questions,” Egli said.

“Some people are thinking the teachers are snoozing in the back of the room and the students are getting all their material online. That’s really not what’s happening.”

Plus, now that students can work at their own pace, no one will get a D or an F because they just ran out of time to learn something, he said.