March 31, 2023

Facade improvement program has proven beneficial to smaller communities

Six new businesses have revamped their look and will likely increase assessed value

Jeff Davidson, executive director of Jasper County Economic Development Corporation (JEDCO), speaks with the board of supervisors on Jan. 3 about the facade improvement program, which offers matching grants to business owners who want to reinvigorate their storefronts.

With three completed projects and another three underway, the county’s facade improvement program has shown this past year it is a benefit to business owners wanting to revamp their storefronts and make their community a more attractive place to live, work and play.

Jeff Davidson, executive director of Jasper County Economic Development Corporation (JEDCO), showed the county board of supervisors a presentation on Jan. 3 about the program and asked them to consider action on the program’s renewal on 2023.

The JEDCO board directed Davidson to develop the program two years ago. Although the first year only produced one facade improvement, the program has since picked up steam. Six projects have taken advantage of the facade improvement grants, which are brought to JEDCO by the cities.

Davidson said the program enables JEDCO to invest public funds in a manner that would “help stimulate economic activity” in Jasper County.

All communities outside the City of Newton are eligible for the program.

The following businesses have their facade improvement projects completed:

• Salon Essence, of Monroe, is a beauty and hair salon that resides in a former Casey’s General Store building, 101 S. Monroe St., near the town square.

• Coffee and Carnations, of Prairie City, is a coffee shop and flower shop residing in a former doctor’s office, 101 E. Jefferson St., also near the town square.

• The Monroe Golf Club, of Monroe, is a sporting business that provides golf simulation in a former bank building, 108 E. Washington St., across the square.

Other projects underway include the Gard Woodworking building in Colfax, the Napa building in Colfax and KJM Design and Woodwork in an old bank in Mingo.

Davidson was enthusiastic about the upcoming projects.

“We’ve definitely created some new employment, in addition to the six new businesses,” Davidson said at the end of his presentation. “I do believe when these buildings are reassessed the assessed valuation is going to go up, which is, again, a goal of what we’re trying to do here.”

To date, the program has leveraged $48,937 in city funds and a total of $231,201 in private funds. The county’s budget for the program is $50,000.

“We have accomplished what we set out to do. We can always do better and we’re always striving to do that,” Davidson said. “…If the JEDCO board or the board of supervisors desires to tweak the program we can tweak the program. But I do think it’s worked well.”

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig has a strong passion for community journalism and covers city council, school board, politics and general news in Newton, Iowa and Jasper County.