Regular check-ins are healthy for your business

By Sheri Benson, ISU SBDC business counselor

The holidays are upon us! It is a busy time working IN your business. Did you know that it is, also, a great time of year to work ON your business? We change the batteries in our smoke detectors annually.  We keep annual dental, vision and/or medical appointments to make sure we are running smoothly. We even honor service schedule for our vehicles!  SO, how about scheduling regular check-ups or ins with the people who help keep your most important economic engine healthy- your business?

For instance, year end is a great time to talk to your accountant. Discussion topics could include: Am I maximizing my tax deductions? I am contemplating hiring a new employee, what does that look like? I understand that there are changes coming to the Iowa Sales Tax system. What does that look like for me? I am frustrated with my bookkeeping software. Can you help me? I might want to sell my business this year. What should I think about? How do I know how much it is worth?

Then, how about a conversation with your attorney? Perhaps, the business has been organized as a sole proprietorship since inception. Your attorney is a great resource to help you think about the different legal forms an Iowa business can organize. There may be benefits available to you through organizing differently than when the business first opened.

How about your insurance agent? Sometimes we steer clear of these business partners, because they might “sell us something”. They might ALSO keep us from experiencing a financial loss, because the business insurance coverages do not match the current business risk. Does your agent know that the business keeps inventory at the owner’s home? Does the agent know the business has expanded into woodworking and has a lathe? Does the agent know the building has recently been fitted with new wiring, plumbing and mechanicals? An annual check in/up is a great way to convey changes.

Finally, if your business continues to feel the effects of COVID, and the PPP loans were not quite enough, there is time to apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan. These loans are administered directly by the SBA and are available until December 31, 2021. You can find more information online at

SBDC is here to work with you. How can we help? Let’s get a conversation going. You can reach us through a click or a call. The fastest method to connect with us is to visit our website at, select the request counseling button, complete the electronic form and choose Iowa State as your center of choice. Call us at 515-296-7828 or, ask a Chamber official how to reach us and they will point you in our direction.

Enjoy today-Sheri Benson, CBA, CGBP, ISU SBDC business counselor

From disaster to destination: Damaged tree from tornado gets new life as a gnome

Marshalltown Iowa gnome from a damaged tree

There is a brand-new tourist destination in Marshalltown and a dead tree had something to do with it.

A pin oak damaged from the 2018 tornado was transformed into a six-foot Hawkeye gnome by the amazing chainsaw artist Gary Keenan.

It is located at the home of Lonnie and Beth Barnes at 509 N. 1st. Street. The couple loves to cheer on the Iowa Hawkeyes, so they wanted to show their allegiance in their front yard.

Beth Barnes said the response has been very positive to the gnome, which was created over a few days in October.

“People have stopped and have taken pictures,” she said. “We see lots of smiles and people are kind of amazed at how big he is.”

Keenan often can be spotted at the Iowa State Fair making wood sculptures and amazing visitors.

See a video on this story on the Marshalltown Area Chamber of Commerce YouTube channel.

Marshalltown Iowa

Fabulous 50s reunion held in Marshalltown

The Fabulous 50s Marshalltown High School reunion was held September 24-26, 2021 in Marshalltown. This included the classes of 1950-1959 at MHS. Chamber Tourism Director Andrew Potter worked with the group to have a successful weekend. See the video for much of the action. Thank you for coming back to Marshalltown.
The Fabulous 50s reunion group enjoys and evening at the Midnight Ballroom on September 24, 2021.
Marshalltown courthouse donation
Courthouse model donated to Historical Society

Bob Norris, left, of the Class of 1956 of Marshalltown High School, presented a model of the Marshall County Courthouse to Michelle Roseburrough Halverson of the Historical Society of Marshall County and Mayor Joel Greer on Friday night at the Midnight Ballroom. The model was made 20 years ago by Grigori Fatayev, who studied architecture and modelling in Russia before arriving in the United States. The actual courthouse has special meaning to the Norris family. Bob’s dad, John W. Norris, was instrumental in getting area leaders to renovate the crumbling courthouse in the 1970s.
Bob Norris is in town for the Fabulous 50s reunion this weekend. The reunion features graduates from Marshalltown High School from the classes of 1950-1959. It was organized by Class of 1956 graduate Ward Brimmer.
A group from the Fabulous 50s reunion group enjoys some time together at Elmwood Country Club on September 25, 2021.
Marshalltown Fabulous 50s reunion
Chamber Tourism Director Andrew Potter gets ready to take the Fabulous 50s group on a tour of Marshalltown on September 25, 2021.

Marshalltown positioned well for growth in next decade

According to the population numbers recently reported by the U.S. Census Bureau, Marshalltown kept pace with similar-sized communities in Iowa. Between 2010 and 2020 Marshalltown showed a slight growth from 27,552 to 27,591 or an increase in population of 0.1%.

“Given what has transpired in this community over the last several years with two significant natural disasters, you would expect to see a sharp decline in population as a result,” said John Hall, President & CEO of the Marshalltown Area Chamber of Commerce. “The results we received of effectively holding steady came as a welcome surprise and means we are incredibly well positioned to bounce back from those disasters and grow from there.”

In comparison to other cities of similar size in the state, Marshalltown, Muscatine and Ottumwa saw growth while Fort Dodge, Mason City, Burlington and Clinton saw a population decline.

Marshall County as a whole did see a decline of 1.3 percent in population.

“We will continue to work with our partners in other area towns to help with the growth of the county,” Hall said. “It’s no secret that the Marshalltown Area Chamber of Commerce has ambitious growth plans for Marshalltown and Marshall County and it’s going to take growth in all corners of the county in order to make that happen.” 

Loving my role as Marshalltown’s tour guide

Andrew Potter gave a city tour to new Marshalltown Community School District teachers on August 11, 2021.

By Andrew Potter, Tourism Director

One of the best parts of my job is giving city tours to prospective employees or new hires for Marshalltown businesses and other entities. 

I get to talk about something I love – Marshalltown- and I essentially get to give a 45-minute commercial for the town.

I get to meet people from various backgrounds who are willing and interested in learning more. A few years ago, I also had the pleasure of helping a candidate push his airplane across the runway at the Marshalltown Airport so he could gas it up before his flight home – that always makes for a good story.

The route I take and each tour’s focus is usually dictated by the interests of the person I’m with. 

Several months ago, a young man on our tour said he loved playing tennis and biking on trails. As you can guess I had a field day with him pointing out the brand new Marshalltown Court Complex, the Linn Creek Recreational Trail and River’s Edge Trail. That was a slam dunk in my book.

I’ve also been fortunate to give tours to small buses of international visitors. I’ll never forget driving by the Alliant Energy plant east of town, which then started a discussion of power plants on the bus. One international visitor brought up a slice of Americana that he knew – Homer Simpson. I assured him that this was not a nuclear power plant and Homer Simpson, in fact, did not work at that plant in Marshalltown. It was good for a laugh, though.

I’m looking forward to one of my biggest tours yet this September. I get to lead a tour of a bus full of Marshalltown High School graduates from the classes of 1950-1959 as part of the Fabulous 50s reunion. They will visit as part of Oktemberfest weekend and are sure to have a lot of fun in town.

As we look to continue to get positive messages out about Marshalltown, I encourage all of you to be my assistant tour guides. When you have new people in town, point out the Linn Creek Recreational Trail as it winds through town. Hop out and do a quick tour inside the Marshalltown YMCA-YWCA, which has impressed more visitors than I can count. Swing by Main Street which is seeing improvements by the day and then let them soak in the uniqueness of the 13th Street District. A few chocolates from Lillie Mae’s there can help sweeten any deal, by the way.

Many of the people that I’ve taken on tours are surprised and often say “I didn’t know Marshalltown had this much to offer.”

It is all of our jobs to make sure we get the word out on the great things we have to offer here in Marshalltown. Since we reside here, we already know what a great place Marshalltown is to live, work and play. Let’s be more adamant in not keeping that a secret.

Andrew Potter is Tourism Director with the Marshalltown Area Chamber of Commerce.

John Hall named next President and CEO of Marshalltown Area Chamber of Commerce

John Hall has been named the next President and CEO of the Marshalltown Area Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber’s Board of Directors made the announcement this week. Hall comes to Marshalltown from his post as Vice President of the Ames Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Commission. His work at the Ames Chamber of Commerce focused on business and community development. 

“I’m incredibly excited for the opportunity to serve as President and CEO of the Marshalltown Area Chamber of Commerce,” said Hall. “The community is tremendously well positioned for growth and opportunities for new business, new housing, new residents, and increased tourism.”

An Iowa State University graduate, Hall also holds a certification in economic development from the International Economic Development Council. 

His experience in Ames had him serving as Executive Director for the Nevada Economic Development Council and Ames Main Street, in addition to leading the Ames Seed Capital organization. 

“We had an extensive search for our leader of the Chamber and we couldn’t be more excited about the choice of John Hall,” said Joe Carter, Chair of the Marshalltown Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. “John brings a ton of experience to the position, but more importantly he brings a skill set and enthusiasm to lead this organization and help our local communities and businesses grow and thrive. We are excited to welcome John and Brianna and their new daughter to Marshalltown. They will be a huge asset to the community and I’m proud to have them join us!” 

Hall will begin leading the Marshalltown Area Chamber of Commerce on August 2nd
Contact John Hall, President & CEO at