Jefferson Matters leading effort to recruit downtown businesses

A business recruitment expert predicted Jefferson’s population will grow by 500 in the next five years after “testing” local recruitment efforts last month. The Jefferson Matters: Main Street economic vitality committee is spearheading the recruitment effort.

The committee participated in specialized training through Main Street Iowa this spring with the goal of preparing to recruit businesses to the Main Street district of downtown Jefferson.

Robin Bostrom, business specialist with Main Street Iowa, and Jay Schlinsog, a consultant with Downtown Professionals Network, met with a team of 11, leading them through the strategies and development of a prospect visit.

An updated market snapshot for downtown Jefferson utilizing current information from ESRI (Environmental Systems Research Institute) statistics was the first step. The demographic information of population drawing from up to a 20 minute drive time, income levels and employment data was analyzed by the team. Retail sales and consumer spending was reviewed as well as sales gaps in the community.

From this data, the team developed a top prospects survey that was distributed electronically. The survey surpassed the needed respondents with more than 470 people responding, including Jefferson residents to those living 20 miles away and a wide variety of age and demographics.

The results reinforced the potential for business recruitment or local expansion in a number of areas. A full-service restaurant and brew pub/tap room had over 58% of total responses for most likely to frequent. Other strong areas were general merchandise, clothing – children’s and men’s, specialty foods, and sporting goods. The survey broke down each area with the services or features that were most important or appealing to the local consumers. This data will be used as a recruitment tool to attract businesses or promote expansion to our current businesses.

Materials were designed by the committee using the new Jefferson logo and include a profile page, commercial building listings, maps and information for new businesses. A grant from Alliant Energy was received for the development and printing of these collateral materials.

A driving tour and walking tour incorporating the view from the Mahanay Bell Tower and visits with current business people were part of the “recruitment test” on June 21. The focus for the team throughout this process was drawing young families into the community. Main Street Iowa engaged a prospect who gave feedback and recommendations for improvement to the team members following the visit.

The report was the highest score of the six Main Street communities involved in this training and the top score ever given by this “prospect”. A comment was that he predicted an increase of 500 people in the next five years in Jefferson because of the opportunities available for growth.

Recruitment team members are all involved on the economic vitality committee of Jefferson Matters: Main Street. Jamie Daubendiek, Amy Milligan, Bonnie Silbaugh, Dan Meythaler, Nick Sorensen, Brandon Hommer, Amanda Bills, Ethan Murray, Scott Weber, Chris Nelson and Peg Raney are all members of the recruitment team.

This team would appreciate any contacts the community would have to discuss new businesses in the downtown. Contact members individually or contact Raney at the Main Street office by emailing director [at] jeffersonmatters [dot] org or calling 515-386-3585.

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