Continuing to accelerate Marshalltown forward in 2022

By John Hall, Chamber President & CEO

John Hall

As my staff prodded me to sit down and write a year-end recap for 2021, I struggled with figuring out the best approach. Obviously, being new to this position in August makes it difficult to know and understand all that happened in this last year. However, as I sat and thought about my transition to this role, it really is indicative of the changes our organization addressed in the last year and what we see coming in early 2022.

Only one person on our team is in the same seat that they started in for 2021, and a few more changes are coming with regards to our team in 2022. In the last year, we chose to eliminate the Economic Development position and instead I retained those duties as President & CEO. This was done for two reasons; first, my background and expertise are economic development and second, we know that this is a major focus of our organization and the goals of the community into the future. This meant that many of the duties previously held by my position shifted to the rest of the team and they took it with great stride. In 2022 you can expect to see a couple of new faces on the team as well. We are just wrapping up the process of hiring a Workforce Development Coordinator that will replace the Economic Development position. The focus of this role will be based on supporting and growing our workforce locally through a multitude of strategies. Additionally, we will be bringing on a new Administrative Assistant as our current Office Assistant has taken a new position and will be leaving us just before the holidays. What this means is that our organization is trying to be cognizant of the challenges our business community is facing and we will be imploring new strategies and solutions to help address those issues.

We certainly can’t reflect on 2021 without recognizing and celebrating the fact that we were able to return to in-person events! I think that early in 2020 when the pandemic first began, we all enjoyed a brief moment of slow down, but as 2020 dragged on we all missed the company of one another. Well, this last year we were finally able to come back together and celebrate again. We look forward to continuing to expand our offerings and doing more in-person in 2022. But we certainly came through with some new skills from the pandemic so be on the lookout for more webinars and ways to engage remotely with information at your convenience.

As for the bulk of our 2022 efforts, look for our efforts to continue accelerating as we push our economy to be full steam ahead and begin building toward the future of Marshalltown. With all of our hotels expected to be returning to open early in the year, we expect tourism to return to pre-pandemic levels with hopefully some new events and activities choosing Marshalltown as their preferred location to host. Our conversations next year are going to be centered around workforce and how to improve our ability to attract more workforce into the future. Look for advancements in housing and retail efforts as elements of attracting new people. Downtown is going to have a major focus in 2022. Hopefully the deconstruction will be completed early in 2022 and we can lean into our redevelopment opportunities. Finally, we hope to find our new home next year. Since the derecho we have been operating in temporary office space. With the Marshalltown Arts & Civic Center (formerly Fisher Community Center) changing their focus, new space is on the docket for us. We will share more as that process unfolds for us, so stay tuned.

What is clear to my team, our board, and hopefully you as business leaders in our community is that we can put a mark in the sand today to show where we have been because in 2022 we aim to start taking incredibly large steps forward and building a Marshalltown that is bigger, stronger, and more inclusive for everyone.

5 things to do in Marshalltown in 2022

Marshalltown, Iowa
The newly-surfaced Linn Creek Recreational Trail in Marshalltown.

Yes, there will be way more than five things to do in Marshalltown next year, but we thought we would whet your appetite with just a handful as we all look forward to 2022.

1. Ride the newly-surfaced Linn Creek Recreational Trail. Portions of the trail will be brand new for use in 2022 including the stretch through Marshalltown. Parks & Recreation Director Geoff Hubbard said the trail through town was paved in concrete sections by Con-Struct.  “It should be a smoother ride next year once that work is completed,” Hubbard said.

This work is being done in addition to the overlay already completed by Marshall County on portions of the trail toward Grimes Farm. 

2. Soak in Oktemberfest. This annual fall festival was back this past year and was a huge hit. They always have things to do for all ages, top-notch musical entertainment and family-friendly activities. The carnival was also very popular in 2021. Mark your calendars for September 22-25, 2022.

3. Visit “The MACC.” The renovated Marshalltown Arts & Civic Center will be open next year and will be spectacular. It is the former Fisher Community Center, which will have an updated art gallery, meeting spaces, offices and more. 

4. Visit the traveling Holocaust Exhibit. The Marshalltown Public Library will be the only place in the state of Iowa to host this esteemed exhibit. Be on the lookout for programming surrounding this exhibit, which is scheduled to be in Marshalltown March 26-May 4, 2022.

5. Spend some summer days at the Central Iowa Fair. This fair is always a fun time and will return to Marshalltown from July 13-16, 2022. Whether you like to check out the animals, live entertainment or food, our county fair never disappoints.

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

Membership Hack: Are you getting the most out of your membership?

It’s that time of year to remind everyone of the ways in which they can get the most out of Chamber membership. 

Check your chamber emails. Members receive frequent e-newsletters (Chamber Headlines & Happenings) that contain pertinent information, reminders of upcoming events, and general information. Take time to read these and reach out to the Chamber with any questions.

Attend events whether virtual or in-person. Despite the changing times, we’re in, the Chamber has continued to provide value, while respecting COVID-19 restrictions and concerns. Attend Chamber-sponsored webinars or online events. This is a great opportunity to learn new things AND connect with others.

Sponsor a Chamber event. Sponsoring an event will allow you to advertise your business to a targeted audience, have brand visibility, create some potential leads, and provide community goodwill. 

Free job postings. Did you know the Chamber will post your job opening on our website, thereby increasing your chance to connect with qualified candidates? It’s true! And it’s part of your membership!

Purchase mailing labels for $30. We will print mailing labels for all Chamber members (close to 500) for you to use for your business’s marketing campaigns. This is a great, inexpensive way to connect with other Chamber members.

Become more involved. Join a committee or become a volunteer. This is a great way to get to know others in the community while providing assistance to the Chamber.

Work on your business

Do you believe your company’s success hinges on how well you prepare your budget, the kind of product you have or your customer satisfaction scores? Yes, those aspects do matter – but ultimately business will just be as good as the employees performing the work. Business wise, it makes more sense to hire smart people to add value to your company as opposed to resorting to the antiquated command and control model.

Autonomy in the workplace goes a long way to promoting and fostering creativity and innovation. As long as an organization has a clear trajectory and plan laid out, the leadership should be providing direction and oversight of its execution. David Ricardo, a British economist spoke about comparative advantage which has to do with matters of trade and relates to a country’s ability to execute economic activity in a more effective and efficient way compared to other nations. This principle can be applied to management, we must capitalize on what we are poised to do best. If your role involves being a manager then by all means, manage but leave the human resources to your HR Director.

Time is a finite resource and with the plethora of activities already in a manager’s calendar, it is important to know how to allocate time and resources appropriately. For example, consider a startup that is currently expanding. In the beginning the Founder & CEO most likely wore many hats if not all of them, from marketing and sales to coding, graphic art and fundraising. One day the company is able to fill those roles, vice presidents, directors and coordinators now roam your building, looking to maximize and perform the job they were hired to do. It is not unreasonable for the Founder & CEO to believe they can do a better job than the staff (which may or may not be true). The question is, should they? No, their time would be best spent pursuing growth opportunities for their company and strategizing their next move in the market.

Analyze your company’s mission, vision and overall strategy, even though management styles diverge across the board, remember that the way you approach it can make the difference between growth and stagnation. Even though success is in the details, it is important to know when to delegate, provide feedback and step in when needed. Are you working on your business or in your business?