Pella Tackles Big Ticket Initiatives for Community's Greater Good
Pella, Iowa is a small town located just forty miles southeast of Des Moines. As of 2017, Pella held a population of 10,225 and brings in approximately 6,841 workers from outside of the city limits. That’s a lot of commuters! Pella is widely known for the Tulip Time festival in the springtime, its bustling downtown retail and for the recreation opportunities around Lake Red Rock. Pella is also a major hub for multiple big name businesses. Vermeer Corporation, Pella Corporation, Pella Regional Health Center, Central College and the Pella Community Schools are the top 5 employers in town, to name a few.
While Pella promotes tourism, retail, recreation and businesses, we also promote growth. We are in the midst of a momentous growth phase with many progressive projects underway. Here are a few of them:
By 2021, the Pella community hopes to increase housing inventory by 250 units, with an ultimate goal of adding 960 by 2025. While we have plenty of job opportunities, we don’t have enough housing to keep up with those opportunities. We have several housing units underway, varying from single family households, rental housing and housing for the 55+ age community.
Childcare goes hand in hand with housing. The more families we welcome to Pella, the more childcare we need available. To remedy this need, we had parents and employers participate in a Childcare Needs Analysis Survey in September and October. These surveys asked questions surrounding the different types of childcare, as well as what Pella is lacking. The next step is using this information that we’ve gathered to plan what it is we need, and how to fulfill that need.
Downtown Streetscape Reconstruction
Downtown Pella is preparing for a very large construction project for the next few years. There’s an unavoidable need to replace 100+ year old infrastructure that lies beneath our downtown and we’ll be taking the opportunity to update the aesthetics as well. The City of Pella partnered with RDG Planning & Design to gather input from residents and businesses about what needs to be changed, added or remain. Items included wider sidewalks, increased pedestrian safety, focal features, technology-based wayfinding, public restrooms, murals and lighting. The end result will be a downtown true to our heritage and one you will want to check out!
Municipal Broadband Utility
In May 2018, we held a referendum asking should the City of Pella move forward with establishing its own municipal telecommunications utility. This referendum passed with an overwhelming 92 percent approval. We are moving forward with formulating a business plan with the help of FARR Technologies and IT experts from PACE Members. The goal is to have Pella become a gig community supporting residents and businesses.
Our over-arching goal for Pella is to continue to expand on our ability to make people feel welcome here. Whether that be through a scenic downtown experience, a vibrant business mix, an abundance of resources for the individual as well as business owners, or an array of housing opportunities — we want anyone and everyone to feel as at home in Pella as we do.
About the Chamber
Chamber Name: Pella Area Community & Economic Alliance (PACE Alliance)
Elected leader for 2018: Mark Putnam, Central College President; President of the PACE Board of Directors
Professional Staff Leader of the Chamber: Karen Eischen, Executive Director
Number of Members: 305
What inspired you to first get involved with your Chamber?
Like many of my counterparts, I didn’t know exactly what Chambers, CVBs and Economic Development organizations did for their community. During my junior and senior year of college I had an internship at a CVB which was part of the Chamber and Economic Development office. This afforded me the chance to see first-hand from all departments the opportunities that could be created, and the challenges that were solved, through collaboration with Members and governmental bodies. I knew I wanted to be a part of that movement.
What’s a signature offering of your Chamber?
A voice. Every Member and their employees can serve on one (or more) of our five working Councils without being elected or waiting for a seat to “open.” Eliminating the election process and size limit of our working Councils resulted in an additional 120 Members joining the working Council to lend their expertise, talents, passions, resources and connections to move our community forward. We are completing our second year under the working Councils structure, the progress towards solving community challenges is staggering thanks to these individuals.
What is your Chamber’s biggest accomplishment in the past 12 months?
PACE has been working on many initiatives this past year, including two items that are very challenging to employees and employers: available housing and childcare. On the housing front, studies have shown Pella needs 966 housing units by 2025. This year our community has made great progress toward that goal with 172 units underway and more in the planning stages. While we are proud of this progress there is much more work to be done. Parents and employers report there is a shortage of childcare availability in Pella. This year we launched a study to evaluate current/future capacity needs and type of care desired.
Any initiative or project that you are looking forward to in 2018?
In addition to continuing to add housing units to our community, we will also work on strategic plans for adding childcare capacity, assist the City of Pella with finalizing plans for a municipal broadband utility and create a communication plan for our upcoming multi-year streetscape project to minimize impacts on businesses during the construction periods.
What upcoming events should people watch for?
As always Tulip Time is a fantastic way to celebrate all that is Dutch from food, tulips, windmills and costumes to parades and performances (May 2-4, 2019), however Pella is equally as magical during the holiday season particularly during the Tour of Homes was just concluded in 2018.
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