Representatives from Coon Rapids, Main Street Iowa and the Iowa Economic Development Authority gather Tuesday to recognize Coon Rapids as a new Main Street Iowa community.
Representatives from Coon Rapids, Main Street Iowa and the Iowa Economic Development Authority gather Tuesday to recognize Coon Rapids as a new Main Street Iowa community.

August 14, 2019

COON RAPIDS

Coon Rapids has joined more than 50 other Iowa communities that have been selected for a state program that seeks to spur economic development through the revitalization of downtown business districts.

“Main Street is not just a symbol that’s posted on the edge of your community,” Michael Wagler, state coordinator of Main Street Iowa, said at an announcement event Tuesday afternoon in Coon Rapids. “It’s a way of life, and it’s a culture change to your community to look at downtown as your key to economic success.”

The Main Street Iowa program provides a framework for cities to rejuvenate their downtowns. Among its participants are Sac City and Manning, a town that is routinely lauded for its economic development efforts.

In 2015, Manning surpassed $1 million of private investment dollars that have been funneled into downtown projects, which included facelifts of at least 17 historic buildings.

“It’s been a wonderful benefit to Main Street,” Ron Reischl, chairman of Main Street Manning’s Business Improvement Committee, said of the program. “The Main Street Iowa staff are wonderful, and they truly desire to help the Main Street communities grow. … I was thrilled to hear that about Coon Rapids. It’s great.”

To be included in the Main Street Iowa program, Coon Rapids had to raise $35,000 to aid its economic development efforts.

“We are excited for the future of Coon Rapids,” Mayor Jeff Anthofer said Tuesday. “We have a strong community, and we will use the growing momentum and excitement for downtown to ensure the bright future of the community for generations to come.”

The Iowa Economic Development Authority inducts up to two cities into the program every two years. This year, the other was Nevada.

“We have our work cut out for us,” said Debi Durham, director of the authority, “considering people don’t think of us always as a place for cutting-edge careers or with things to do — critical factors when it comes to attracting new citizens. But Coon Rapids already is challenging the norm and realizing what we are trying to accomplish. … Young families are moving back.”

Katie Mason, community coordinator for Coon Rapids, echoed that sentiment.

“This is the most exciting thing I have been able to be a part of since we moved back six years ago,” Mason said. “The sky is the limit as to what our future can be.”

Reporter Annie Mehl contributed to this article.