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Doors are opening all over North Iowa JACI SMITH

Globe Gazette


y mother used to have a saying she’d trot out every time I faced some sort of obstacle growing up. “Whenever one door closes, somewhere, another opens,” she’d cheerfully assure me. JACI SMITH In the last year, I often felt as if the only door I found open once COVID-19 struck was that of a dark closet in my house, where I sat with half a bottle of wine and a sleeve of Thin Mints I’d found in

the bottom of the freezer drawer. I’ve spent a lot of time cursing that well-worn saying of my mother’s, but in all seriousness, in the last year, it provided both guiding light and truth in North Iowa. It’s also the reason why we chose Perseverance as the theme for our annual Progress edition. Doors were closing all around us. It started on March 9, when we ran the first story of three Iowa residents who were on a cruise to Egypt and contracted the coronavirus. A day later there were eight cases, five days later it was 17. On March 12, NIACC canceled in-person classes for a week so it could figure out a suitable re-

sponse. Local school districts quickly followed suit. By March 15, toilet paper could not be found on any grocery store shelves in Mason City. More doors closed – Gov. Kim Reynolds announces a series of mandates limiting public interaction. Local government offices close down. Layoffs began to follow. Families found themselves with loved ones out of work, elderly alone in long-term care facilities, kids who could not go to school and eventually would have to learn from home, and no immediate end in site. But just as Mom predicted, other doors opened. As you’ll read in these pages,

North Iowa persevered and found innovative ways to make it through. Restaurants that could not fill their dining rooms pivoted to curbside pickup or delivery and found themselves with as much business – if not more – than they could handle. You’ll read about one business that, for the sake of safety, closed its doors to the public but then created a vending machine uniquely constructed so its product could be accessible 24/7. A local manufacturing business turned its considerable talents to the making of protective equipment for the local healthcare community. Nonprofits were inundated with

requests for aid, but the community rose together to meet it. Our example: The Globe Gazette’s Christmas Cheer fund raised more money and gave out more money last December than it had in recent history. We couldn’t go to the movies, but we could order movie theater popcorn and drive by to pick it up to help support our local movie theater. We learned how to order our groceries online, we attended concerts on Facebook and we attended church and political campaign stops in our cars. Parades became a thing. So did creative sign- and mask-making. We persevered and found the open doors. Thanks, Mom.

INSIDE THIS PROJECT Section F About the project ... F1 COVID-19 and business ... F1 Clear Lake businesses ... F2 Doug Gee column ... F2 Stacy Doughan column ... F2 YMCA update ... F3 North Iowa venues ... F4 Mason City demographics ... F4 Art outreach ... F5 Clear Lake demographics ... F6 COVID-19 and schools ... F7 Dave Versteeg column ... F7 Section G North Iowa real estate ... G1 Nonprofits persevere ... G1 Water recreation ... G1 North Iowa food trucks ... G2 Bill Schickel column ... G3 Robin Anderson column ... G4 Megan Studer column ... G9 •••••••• NORTH IOWA PROGRESS 2021 Editor: Jaci Smith 641-421-0564 Advertising and Circulation: Olivia Stalker 641-421-0548 Publisher: Janet Johnson 641-421-0507 janet.johnson@globegazette. com Special Projects Editor: Jerry Smith 641-421-0556 Content Reporters: Ashley Stewart, Jared McNett, Shane Lantz, Melanie Mergen, Mary Pieper, Rob Hilleslad, Jason Selby, Steven Thompson Photographers: Chris Zoeller, Lisa Grouette North Iowa Progress 2021 is a special publication of the Globe Gazette, Press News and Summit-Tribune. Reach us at Box 271, Mason City, IA 50402-0271 or by email at

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Owner Eric Follmuth stands at one of the screen-printing machines at Splash Multisport and Custom in Mason City.

When small business suffers, it impacts all Schreck: Struggles, challenges will help in future successes JARED MCNETT

Globe Gazette


or certain businesses and business approaches, the COVID-19 pandemic in North Iowa was an accelerant. Eric Follmuth, the owner of Splash Multisport in Mason City, had been wanting to bet more on local business and T-shirt/ embroidery sales, as opposed to traveling competitive swim equipment sales, and the pandemic forced his hand. “We’ve been focusing on that the past few years as these online discount retailers affect the swim industry and you can see that coming,” Follmuth said. “This COVID situation has made us accelerate that focus.” Still, even with the pivot, Follmuth said that COVID causing event cancellations left and right made for a tenuous summertime.

In a normal year, Follmuth said a free weekend in the summer months would be the exception and not the rule. He’d travel to different towns and sell to various Iowa swim clubs. Not so in 2020. “I’ve never had a summer of nothing to do,” Follmuth said. “It not only affected us but all of the teams we worked with. These are income generators for these mostly non-profit youth organizations. It’s this huge trickle-down effect. It wasn’t just us. It affects everybody.” Based on data in a July 2020 study from Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 43% of small businesses surveyed for the study had to temporarily close almost entirely because of COVID. Despite such stark numbers, there’s evidence to suggest that 2020 wasn’t all gloom and doom for small business operators in North Iowa. According to Brook Boehmler, who directs the Small Business Center at the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center, small busi-

Businesses added Even with the pandemic, a number of bigger business projects have either seen completion or had major work done over the past year. Here are just a few: Clear Lake Marriott: The 85-room hotel and event center is scheduled to be completed in August. In January, Kwik Stars galore: Just in Mason City, two new Kwik Stars have opened up in the past year. One on Fourth Street Southwest and the other on South Eisenhower Avenue. Talon: The South Dakota developer had a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the 133-unit “River” complex in downtown Mason City in January. Already, the establishment has reported occupancy rates of 75%. ness starts for the fiscal year that ended in June 2020 totaled 20. For the year prior, that number was 23. And while that was down slightly from the year prior, the number of people coming in looking to start new small businesses was up according to Boehmler. It was 9,894 compared to 4,000. “We still have a lot of people, either because of displacement, looking for new opportunities,” Boehmler said. Despite the pandemic, Boehmler said that the advice the Small

Business Development Center staff hasn’t really changed the advice it gives to people coming in and thinking about starting a new business. The fundamentals are still the fundamentals. “Starting during a pandemic is about the cash flows. Will the revenues be there to support the business?” he said. With that, Boehmler did acknowledge that consumer attitudes factor into the equation too. Please see BUSINESS, Page 9


F2 | Sunday, March 7, 2021

Clear Lake’s 2020 mantra, ‘Together We Rise’ STACY DOUGHAN

Special to the Globe Gazette‌


n 2020, the Clear Lake Area Chamber of Commerce had the opportunity to serve our community and area businesses in ways we did not anticipate at the beginning of the year. We fully expected to host all of the great events our community and visitors love. STACY DOUGHAN By mid-March, it was clear many events would not happen, and our team quickly re-focused on responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. We concentrated on being a resource to area businesses, shopping local, and maintaining a positive community mindset. As soon as the state shut down, our region united around shopping and supporting local. Clear Lake truly embraced the COVID mantra, “Together We Rise.” Businesses rose to the occasion


Business development succeeding in Clear Lake Despite challenges, and without some big events, city persevered ASHLEY STEWART

Globe Gazette‌

‌The Basic Birder in Mason City has been in business for 25 years, and in 2020, its general manager Kelly Biery decided to open a second location in Clear Lake amid the COVID-19 pandemic. “We couldn’t have picked a better year to start,” she said, with a chuckle. The past year has posed unanticipated and unimaginable challenges for small locally owned businesses in communities across the United States as the coronavirus, and subsequent restrictions, have limited their capacities, altered their services and in some cases prohibited their operations altogether, and Clear Lake hasn’t been unaffected. The city, which attracts tens of thousands of people annually, didn’t host signature events downtown, like Thursdays on Main, Bicycle, Blues and BBQ Festival and Fourth of July, to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which meant less guaranteed foot traffic for businesses during the summer. In August, several downtown business owners said they were pleasantly surprised with the traffic they’d seen since the pandemic shuttered their retail stores, restaurants and businesses for weeks at the onset of Clear Lake’s tourism

season and canceled many of its popular summer festivals But the absence of such events didn’t deter business development in Clear Lake. In fact, 2020 was an exceptional year for such a thing. About 10 businesses opened, expanded or relocated within Clear Lake, and construction began on at least two others, including the multimillion-dollar Marriott ho-

“Clear Lake’s a great community and we have such great support … We’re lucky,” Dani Gansen, who co-owns Brin & Lew with Amber Roske.

and continued to serve their customers by offering delivery, curbside pickup, and personal shopping. Social media was flooded with pictures of what people ordered for supper from local restaurants. Lake Time Brewery even had an Emergency Beer Hotline and Cookies, Etc. installed a 24x7 cookie ATM. Thursdays on Main went virtual with Thursdays Online. And we launched a Be a Tourist in Your Own Backyard campaign, inviting community members to see Clear Lake through the eyes of a tourist. Our “Buy-In Clear Lake” gift card campaign made $30 gift cards available for $20, thanks to the support of over 100 generous sponsors. We sold over 2,200 gift cars and pumped over $67,000 into the local economy early in the pandemic when businesses were forced to close or drastically reduce operations. The Clear Lake Area Chamber of Commerce also worked alongside Vision North Iowa partners to serve area businesses by pro-

viding timely information, resources, and training. We championed a local grant program that provided over $400,000 in funds to impacted businesses. Even though we were forced to be apart, technology allowed us to stay connected and build partnerships that will continue to serve North Iowa well into the future. And while the pandemic isn’t completely behind us, the Chamber has every confidence we will recover and build a better North Iowa. As we look ahead, we remain committed to connecting member businesses with the information and resources they need to recover. We’ll also continue to champion the “shop, dine, and support local” messaging, building on the foundation laid in 2020. Together we will recover, rebuild, and be stronger in 2021. Stacy Doughan is CEO and Board Secretary for the Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce.

Clear Lake Schools expand programming DOUG GEE

Special to the Globe Gazette‌


tel and event center project in the Courtway Park subdivision east of Interstate 35, last year. About one-third of them can be found on, or near, Main Avenue in the heart of downtown. The Basic Birder is among them. The home and garden store opened at 18 N. Third St. Suite 100 on Aug. 1 to offer a variety of feeders and seed as well as a large selection of yard and garden art. “To be completely honest, it’s a little slow right now,” Biery said in early February. “We expected that because of the pandemic and this Please see BUSINESS, Page F6

have never been more inspired by a group of people than the people who work for the Clear Lake CSD. Last March, when the pandemic closed schools our teachers made a commitment to do their very best to educate all stuDOUG GEE dents. They immediately worked to set-up virtual teaching for all students. The district made sure all students K-12 had a device in their hands and CLTEL ensured that all families had internet access. It was truly a community effort. The 2020-21 school year definitely presented challenges, but again the school staff stepped up and held in-person instruction every day with all students that




felt comfortable doing in person learning and also provided an option for those that felt more comfortable learning virtually. Our teachers’ remarkable ability to teach a classroom full of students and at the same time have students zooming live into the classroom is incredible. The staff have continued to balance safety of the staff and students along with providing a quality education for ALL students. The Clear Lake School District was also recognized as a Model Professional Learning Community (PLC) District at work by Solution Tree after starting the PLC process only 3 ½ years ago. This is a huge accomplishment, given that there are less than 25 school districts in the U.S. and Canada with this distinction. The district also added the Biomed Project Lead the Way (PLTW) strand at the high school and added more PLTW classes

to their computer science at the middle school and high school. The district has expanded the PLTW launch at the elementary to meet all of the Next Generation Science standards. Clear Lake has expanded its High School Registered Apprenticeship program to know included General Construction along with the welding apprenticeship. Enrollment continues to grow at Clear Lake, with the served enrollment up by 110 students over the last four years. This has been driven by the increase in open enrollment into the district, which grew by 50 students this year and has grown by 110 over the last four years. Even in a pandemic, Clear Lake School District continues to thrive. Doug Gee is the superintendent of Clear Lake Community Schools.

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Sunday, March 7, 2021 | F3

YMCA struggles to recover from COVID-19 impact Rock Steady Boxing an example of community persevering

Rock Steady Boxing Mason City The Rock Steady Boxing class is offered to people with Parkinson’s at the Mason City YMCA twice a week. The class is aimed at slowing down the progressive nervous system disorder. If interested in the class, you can check the Rock Steady Boxing Mason City Facebook Page or call the YMCA at 641-422-5999.


Globe Gazette‌


f there’s one group in Mason City that’s had to literally fight its way through the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s the Rock Steady Boxing class. The class, offered at the Mason City Family YMCA, is a workout program for individuals with Parkinson’s disease. During the workout, the boxers work on physical and mental well-being by participating in various non-contact boxing and mental drills. The goal? Slow down the progressive nervous system disorder. “From all the research I did, this, boxing because it’s left-brain and right-brain, it attacked all those issues,” Todd “T-Force” Forsyth, 56, said. “The main reason I’m in it is to slow down the disease.” The class is offered for all people with Parkinson’s, regardless of the stage they’re in. Forsyth is in the level one and two class. There’s also a level three and four class for boxers in a more severe stage of the disease. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March, the class and YMCA had to shut its doors. During that time, the boxers didn’t get to meet every week to do their exercises. Because of age, the disease and other factors, it was too risky at the time to have them come in. “We’ve got people with cardiovascular challenges, we’ve got people of diabetes, so every single one of our boxers are high risk,” coach Jana Mentzer said. “We took a conservative approach and shut down until June 1.” The Rock Steady class is one of the many the Mason City YMCA offers. When it shut its doors, director Heath Hupke says the YMCA had to lay off much of its staff. Since March of last year, the YMCA has experienced a 15% to 20% membership drop, which has made things tough financially. “It’s definitely put a strain on

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Todd Forsyth works a station at the Rock Steady Boxing Class at the Mason City YMCA.


Bill Mahoney hits the bag held by coach Jana Mentzer at the Rock Steady Boxing class at the Mason City YMCA. finances when you lose that many members,” Hupke said. If there was a positive, the nonprofit organization used the time where no members were there to improve the facility. The pool was emptied and re-painted and staff removed 47 balls from the rafters. But the YMCA missed its mem-

bers. The organization offered online classes and performed membership check-ins to stay connected as best it could. “YMCAs are meant to bring people together,” Hupke said. “We had to persevere and bring people together without always physically being together.”

Eventually, the YMCA would open back up in May. At the end of that month, Mentzer sent out a poll to her boxing classes asking if they would like to stay home, work out on Zoom or come back to class. Mentzer was unsure what the response would be. Almost all the boxers answered with a resounding yes. But when the boxers initially returned, they could tell that the time off affected them. It was time to get back to work. “I saw a real backward trend in strength and mobility,” Forsyth said. “You could just feel it, after three months, start to come back.” Outside of a short break around Thanksgiving when the COVID-19 numbers were at its peak, the class has been meeting face-to-face since June. Mentzer and the other coaches are adamant in staying safe. She still only goes out when she has to, and orders takeout instead of sitting in a restaurant. When boxers arrive at the YMCA, the workout room that used to have chairs close to each other now has chairs spread out to social distance. Boxers are required to wear masks

and the bags are sanitized regularly for safety. For boxers like Mason City resident Bill “Boom Boom” Mahoney, 79, missing out on the class just isn’t an option. Wearing masks and being cautious isn’t hard to do when the reward is slowing down Parkinson’s. “That boxing, I think it really helps you,” Mahoney said. “In a way, then everything keeps kind of progressing. I keep at it.” Boxers come to the YMCA from all over North Iowa to take the class. Mentzer spoke passionately about a boxer in the level three and four group nicknamed “Striker,” who has her husband drive her from Lattimer to get to class. Despite COVID-19, the weather and a disease that limits her physical mobility, “Striker” pushes on. “Here’s a lady who drives 45 minutes to come to the Y, who gets pushed into class in a wheelchair, upstairs across the entire second floor to come into a workout to join four other people with Parkinson’s and workout for an hour and a half,” Mentzer said. “If that isn’t perseverance, I don’t know what is.” Hupke is hoping programs like Rock Steady boxing will be enough to bring the YMCA back to full strength. Rest assured, the YMCA isn’t closing its doors. According to Hupke, the community needs the YMCA. And now more than ever, the YMCA needs the community. Gunnar Davis covers education and sports. Reach him via email at or by phone 641-421-0598.


F4 | Sunday, March 7, 2021

North Iowa venues looking for a comeback Shows, events lost to COVID-19 had negative impact

2021 North Iowa Band Festival When: May 28-30


Where: If in-person events do happen, downtown Mason City will play host to the festivities.

Globe Gazette ‌

‌North Iowa Community Auditorium event booker Lindsay Dalrymple had a 2020 slate set for the venue, and she was proud of it. To follow a 2019 season that saw such highs as one of the two living Highwaymen Kris Kristofferson performing, Dalrymple put together an eclectic lineup that would’ve included Charleston, South Carolina, band Ranky Tanky which won a Grammy in 2020 for “Best Regional Roots Music” album. When Dalrymple saw them perform she was blown away. “They’re the most fun group I’ve ever seen,” Dalrymple said. That fun never got to be had in 2020. Once March brought the initial devastation of COVID-19, Dalrymple thought that maybe the pandemic wouldn’t be that long of a push and events could get back on track by year’s end. Instead, nine months of shows that Dalrymple worked on were scrapped. She said that hit hard because such event planning can be an intimate process. “When you build a season, every show almost becomes one of your children. You love all of them a little bit differently,” she said. If that’s true, there were a lot of orphans in 2020 in North Iowa. The Mason City multipurpose arena alone added $100,000 in debt due in large part to more than a dozen shows being canceled. The Surf Ballroom had to cancel its in-person 2021 Winter Dance Party due to ongoing COVID concerns and executive director Laurie Lietz said during the worst of

Mason City ‌ opulation: P 2000: 29,312 2010: 28,079 2018: 27,309 2019: 27,200

Who: A lot of the call on whether or not to have in-person live events will rest on area band directors though the Mason City Chamber of Commerce is also helping to organize.


North Iowa Community Auditorium event booker Lindsay Dalrymple stands in the NIACC Activities Center. it “Things are pretty dire for us.” One of the early tests for the viability of performances in North Iowa in 2020 was the North Iowa Band Festival, which hadn’t missed a year since 1945 when World War II was going on. With more than 80 years of celebrations, it’s a live event institution for the area. On Wednesday, April 15, 2020, that institution had to be halted. Mason City Chamber of Commerce Vice President Colleen Frein said that the decision was labored over by band directors and the planning board and that the effect of not having the event in 2020 was immeasurable. “I know it has a major economic impact. Folks come in to stay at hotels. They eat at our restaurants. It was very difficult. Especially being the first year we would’ve had the arena to lean on as well,” she said. Only at the beginning of the year did the event planners start seriously looking at what a 2021 Band

Festival over Memorial Day weekend would look like. According to Frein, there’s a lot of enthusiasm for holding a live, in-person event such a choice requires input from municipal bands in the North Iowa area. “We first want to make sure that they are able to participate,” Frein said. “When we’re thinking about the parade, those that are involved from a community standpoint, how do we make sure they’re safe?” Even if band performances do take place, Frein pointed out that other downtown entertainment is by no means a guarantee. The carnival, with its food vendors, games and rides, could be pared down or non-existent. So much depends on the next months of the pandemic. A stripped-down Band Festival would still be a cause for celebration for Frein. “Honestly, it gives me goosebumps to think about holding that again,” she said. “It’s such an

Will there be a carnival?: Whether or not there is a carnival and how big it will be depends on what state guidelines are closer to Memorial Day Weekend. important part of our culture. It’s the kickoff to summer. Being able to have this again will really mark a turning point for our North Iowa community in that we can find ways to get together again and have fun.” What shape the North Iowa Band Festival takes could well be a harbinger for this year’s North Iowa Fair. While the North Iowa Fair Board of Directors announced on May 26 that the 2020 North Iowa Fair would be canceled due to continued health and safety concerns, it intends to hold events in 2021. But it will be with tweaks for both safety and practicality. North Iowa Events Center Director Jim Barkema said that the 2021 fair will have the normal events for 4-H club members and maybe other outdoor options for attendees. This time around, Barkema said that event planners decide to merge the North Iowa Fair with a barbecue bash and a

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steak cookout which will give people even more options for the first full weekend of August. “We’re trying to find a typical fair feeling but being spread out enough to feel safe,” Barkema said. Along with the North Iowa Fair, workers at the Events Center are booking horse shows, weddings and banquets as best they can. Though it won’t paper over the dozens of events lost in 2020, Barkema does think the 2021 schedule will be a bit more normal and he thinks that’s exactly what folks need. “In my mind what I see, people want something to do. This year has been so different. So closed off. People are looking for interaction.” When shows start up again the North Iowa Community Auditorium, Dalrymple said patrons will work down brand new carpet to brand new seats. She’s excited for them to experience a brand new venue. She’s also excited for people to again get to feel that feeling that can only be felt at a live event. That experience of being a part of something with hundreds of other people at the same time. Total strangers on the same wavelength if only for a moment. For the 30 seconds it takes to sing a chorus. “There’s just something that you can’t recreate about being able to share that experience with people around you,” Dalrymple said. “Those shared experiences are going to be crucial to that recovery. We can’t heal as a world until we can do those things together again.” Jared McNett covers local government for the Globe Gazette. You can reach him at or by phone at 641421-0527. Follow Jared on Twitter at @TwoHeadedBoy98.


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SUNDAY, MARCH 7, 2021 |


Technology keeps art available during pandemic ASHLEY STEWART

Globe Gazette

Four masked students played at socially distanced pianos one evening in February at the Surf Ballroom Music Enrichment Center in Clear Lake. The students, between 7 and 11 years old, were participating in Karen Miller’s piano lessons that prior to COVID-19 were held in her home. “This space has been awesome,” she said, noting her living room wouldn’t have allowed the students to distance as much as needed. The Music Enrichment Center at 509 Buddy Holly Place has been a beacon for the North Iowa Cultural Center & Museum, the nonprofit that operates the historic Surf Ballroom & Museum. The building, which was acquired in 2019, provides space for the organization’s musical outreach programming for children and adults. A year ago, Surf Ballroom Executive Director Laurie Lietz and Surf Ballroom Education Coordinator Nikki Foss were working on a grand unveiling for the new space, and then COVID-19 happened. In a matter of days, the pandemic cleared months of scheduled concerts, productions, programs and events from the calendars of the Surf Ballroom & Museum, North Iowa Area Community College and other local venues as they — and others — hunkered down to weather the storm. But instead of retreating their plans, Lietz and Foss decided it was necessary to make some of the Music Enrichment Center’s resources available while children and adults were social distancing, so they launched a Facebook page where they shared learning opportunities and more. “The Winter Dance Party hit, and then, the pandemic hit,” Lietz said. “This is what we have to do now to be available for kids and people looking for things to do.” Foss, who was in her first year as education coordinator, dove in, and tried to find ways the Music Enrichment Center could engage families and classrooms with music virtually through social media posts, videos and online classes. Earlier this year, in the absence of

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To learn more about art opportunities in North Iowa, visit Charles H. MacNider Art Museum 303 Second St. SE, Mason City 641-421-3666 Charles H. MacNider Art Museum Facebook page Clear Lake Arts Center ASHLEY STEWART GLOBE GAZETTE


Zoey Lallak, 9, plays piano at the Surf Ballroom Music Enrichment Center MacNider Art Museum offers classes on Buddy Holly Place in Clear Lake. Piano lessons are one of the programs for adults in which each attendee uses their own set of supplies. offered through the center. the Winter Dance Party Kids Show that brings more than 1,000 area students together for a day of rock ‘n’ roll and dancing, Foss worked with Dance with Me Studio in Belmond to create a “Dancing through the Decades” educational video. The video, which teaches different dances step-by-step from the 1920s to today as well as shares the significance of dance at the Surf Ballroom, was then shared with area schools to incorporate into their classroom curriculums. “It’s very popular today,” Foss said. “It’s something that relates to them and is relevant, and what a big part of the Surf, dancing has been.” Another educational video the Music Enrichment Center created and offered to area schools was about bucket drumming, which was done in partnership with Anthony Stevens, a percussion instructor and college professor. The Surf Ballroom also worked with the Holy Rocka Rollaz, the Minneapolis-based trio, to create a virtual Winter Dance Party Kids Show so classrooms could host their own socially distanced sock hops this year. The Music Enrichment Center also offered its annual master class online last spring. The master class connects local high school-aged students to area colleges to learn about music-related topics, give them ideas about what kind of career they may want to pursue upon graduation and inspire and encourage them.

Last year’s was about Broadway, and this year’s will be about the history of American rock ‘n’ roll and it will be taught by two Iowa State professors. “This year really get creative to find ways to stay connected,” Foss said. “It was nice to bridge the gap with virtual options and in some ways reach more people. It’ll be great to continue working those in with what we already have to offer.” Like the Surf Ballroom Music Enrichment Center, other North Iowa arts organizations, like the Charles H. MacNider Art Museum, Clear Lake Arts Center and North Iowa Area Community College Performing Arts and Leadership Series, adapted their offerings to fulfill their missions without their buildings and connect with the communities they serve during an unprecedented time for all. Now, nearly a year after their doors initially shuttered, arts and entertainment organizations are starting to host limited in-person classes and events with the coronavirus still in mind. “It’s been an interesting year and certainly one that’s different, and hopefully it progressed and made museum better and education programming better,” Lietz said. “We look forward to more great things.” The Performing Arts and Leadership Series, which runs from September to May, is responsible for bringing a variety of entertainment for all ages to Mason City each year. Historically, the series brings

more than 20 acts, including musicians, authors, comedians and productions, to North Iowa, but because of the pandemic, its organizers have been forced to modify the way they offer entertainment and engage the community. “We’re trying a lot of different things, trying to reach a lot of people,” said Lindsay Dalrymple, Performing Arts and Leadership executive director. It’s offered virtual author talks, performances and even an escape room, while simultaneously upgrading the auditorium. The Performing Arts and Leadership Series received a grant in December that it’s used to purchase and install a high-definition camera and broadcasting system in the North Iowa Community Auditorium to provide virtual access to the arts during the current pandemic restrictions and beyond, something Dalrymple said has been widely discussed in the industry. She said NIACC will continue to offer virtual opportunities every month, or every six weeks, to the community until the series returns. The Clear Lake Arts Center, which has been closed to the public much of the past year for the safety of its volunteers and patrons, has offered a variety of new, and modified, programs. “We kind of stopped and said, ‘OK, we have our mission of igniting the creative spirit across the nine counties that we serve, how can we do that?’ Because really that’s what

17 S. Fourth St., Clear Lake 641-357-1998 http://www.clearlakeartscenter. org/ Clear Lake Arts Center Facebook page North Iowa Area Community College Performing Arts and Leadership Series 500 College Drive, Mason City 641-422-4188 NIACC Performing Arts and Leadership Series Facebook page Surf Ballroom Music Enrichment Center 509 Buddy Holly Place, Clear Lake 641-357-6151 Surf Ballroom Music Enrichment Center Facebook page we’re here to do and the building is just one aspect of that,” said Jeffrey Ebeling, Clear Lake Arts Center executive director. At the beginning of the pandemic, the Arts Center did a “Hello Neighbor” project, where people were encouraged to share their creativity with others through whatever medium they were comfortable with and it was displayed on its windows. They also offered about 450 creativity packs, including art supplies like crayons, sketch pad, markers, Please see TECHNOLOGY, Page 6


F6 | Sunday, March 7, 2021

Business From F2

time of year here … but we’re looking forward to a good spring.” Spring has historically been The Basic Birder’s busiest time in Mason City because “everyone wants to get outside and do stuff,” and this year, it’ll have a ton of new stuff, she said. The slow time this winter has allowed The Basic Birder to work on its website, which will let individuals to purchase bird seed and bird houses online, Biery said, noting the website will be live in a couple of weeks. The Basic Birder is just north of City Park, so when large gatherings return to downtown Clear Lake, Biery said it’ll be ready. The owners of Gyro Place and Brin & Lew are also looking forward to their first spring downtown. Gyro Place welcomed its first customers at 300 Main Ave. in August, and Brin & Lew, a Clear Lake apparel boutique, opened at 414 Main Ave. in December. Jesus Juarez, who manages Gyro Place, is overwhelmed by the response the restaurant has received in its first six months. “Compared to the business in Mason I was managing we are up,” he said. “Everything has been way

better.” Gyro Place’s menu features popular items, like street tacos and gyros, as well as burgers, sandwiches and appetizers. Its pork tenderloin sandwiches and jumbo gyros have been hits recently, Juarez said. Earlier this year, a social media post raving about Gyro Place’s food resulted in the selling out of popcorn chicken and pork tenderloins the next day. “It was crazy busy,” he said. Gyro Place offers delivery, curbside pickup and dine-in services, and it implemented an online ordering system that has been well received by customers. However, with the anticipated growth in business come spring and summer, Juarez is unsure he’ll be able to keep the online ordering system. “It might be too hard to manage both,” he said. “It adds up when you have five orders on Door Dash, online and in person. It just gets crazy.” He said they’re currently cleaning the basement of the building, which is owned by Scott McCormick, for storage to better prepare Gyro Place for the influx. Juarez was drawn to the Clear Lake location because of the people and the vibe as well as its proximity — and visibility — to City Beach,

Technology From 5

water color paint and more, that were distributed to families within the nine-county area through various organizations. They corresponded with creative prompts included in the pack and shared on the art center’s website and social media pages. As the spread of COVID-19 persisted and restrictions remained in place into summer, fall and winter, the Clear Lake Arts Center began offering some of its scheduled exhibitions online in various forms. This year, it launched a series called “Creativity Talks,” on Fridays, where a variety of artists share about their creative processes. “It’s not necessarily how-to art, but how do you get there? Where do your ideas come from? What rituals do you have?” Ebeling said. Ebeling said the new offerings aren’t designed to replace the in-per-


Signs throughout MacNider Museum in Mason City remind vistors to socially distance. son offerings at the Clear Lake Arts Center but rather complement them. “It’s just kind of another way of offering what we have and I think many of the things we’re doing we will continue to do even when the building is open and the pandemic is behind us,” he said. Ebeling and the Clear Lake Arts Center Board of Directors are optimistic that the building will reopen in 2021 with “a great schedule” of exhibitions.

City Park and the lake. “I really like it a lot. We like it a lot, especially for the people,” he said. “That’s what we enjoy the most.” Dani Gansen and Amber Roske consider themselves fortunate. The women opened the Brin & Lew storefront, formerly an online-based business called The Lion Shop they operated for seven years, this winter, and have received a warm welcome. They had been waiting for a space on Main Avenue to open up for their boutique for several years, so when it did — even though it was during a pandemic — they took it. The boutique offers custom Clear Lake Lions gear for men, women and children, including T-shirts, sweatshirts, joggers, hats and more. The women plan to feature more custom Clear Lake-themed attire in the spring and summer before transitioning back to Lions’ gear for back to school and the fall and winter athletic seasons. Because it’s new, and because they’re unsure what the spring will look like due to the pandemic, Gansen and Roske have talked to other boutique owners in tourist areas and their wholesale vendors for guidance. “It’s just a lot of go with it and adjust when you need to and you just hope for the best,” Gansen said.

“Clear Lake’s a great community and we have such great support … We’re lucky.” Marissa Fichter, who works at Simply Nourished, agrees. “Genuinely we are amazed that people truly are continuing to support small business, especially with having some businesses that are new in the area,” she said. “It’s been really fun to see people stop in there too.” Simply Nourished, the locally-owned organic, specialty and local food grocery store owned by Ashley Coleman, relocated to 419 Main Ave. in March. Online marketing, Fichter said, has been huge for the business the past year. She believes the consistent business at Simply Nourished may be attributed to people wanting a more intimate experience with less interaction with strangers and people seeking healthier alternatives. The store offers curbside pickup as well as in-store shopping. Simply Nourished recently began publicizing its dining options after Gov. Kim Reynolds loosened COVID-19 restrictions across the state, but it’s not without social distancing and sanitization in mind, Fichter said, describing how the employees clean everything after it’s been used.

The MacNider Art Museum in Mason City, which is currently open to limited visitors, has made similar modifications to its programming, both existing and new, this past year. “Our mission statement really is all about engaging public in arts experience but it doesn’t define how,” said Edith Blanchard, MacNider Art Museum executive director. “We have engaged in a lot of different ways … and we’re still doing the work outlined in our mission and the staff feels really good about that.” At the beginning of the pandemic, when much of the country was shutdown, MacNider shared art opportunities each day online, including art challenges, talks, activities, quizzes and more to enrich the lives of people attending school virtually and working from home. The museum also made and distributed kits, accompanied by instructional videos, for some of its larger classes, Arts Festival and

Holiday Open House. The kits were available at libraries and city halls in the nine-county area. “We believe that art enriches life, makes life meaningful, and is a method of therapy in different ways,” Blanchard said. “We felt if nothing else we were providing a therapy sort of on a massive scale to the public.” Art activities were also provided to area care facilities through, a service usually offered in-person but unavailable due to the coronavirus. Blanchard said many of the Art Museum’s exhibitions and shows were rescheduled in 2020, but in one instance, the museum used a grant it received to hire a puppeteer and a studio to film and record a puppet show that was available online for 30 days, which garnered significantly more traffic than it would’ve had it been held in person during a pre-pandemic year. “I can tell you this has changed us forever in many ways,” she said. “We will always now probably have


Clear Lake’s Main Street

‌Clear Lake Population: 2000: 8,181 2010: 7,777 2018: 7,644 2019: 7,597 Incorporated: 1871 Named after: The city is named for the large lake on which it sits. Total workforce: 3,820 Median household income: $57,841 Average commute to work: 16.4 minutes Distance to: Des Moines: 114 miles, or about 1 hour and 50 minutes Minneapolis/St. Paul: 132 miles, or about 2 hours Mason City: 10 miles, or about 19 minutes a stronger online presence because now that people have that, they’re not going to want to go back to not having it.” The pandemic, she said, forced the museum to embrace technology, and in turn, better prepare it for engaging future generations. As the MacNider Art Museum staff plan future shows, activities, classes and fundraisers, they will have in-person and virtual components in mind, so it’s easy to pivot if it’s unsafe to move forward as planned. For example, its upcoming art show featuring pieces created by North Iowa area students, will be virtually for those who aren’t comfortable attending it in person. In early February, the art museum began offering in-person classes for the first time since the fall surge in COVID-19 cases. Blanchard said the classes are limited in size, socially distanced and everyone has their own supplies.

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New restaurant revenue ideas come in 2020 SHANE LANTZ

Globe Gazette‌

For North Iowa’s restaurants, the past year has been full of challenges and new ideas. On a national scale, the restaurant scene in the midst of COVID-19 is still somewhat grim. In a recent survey by the National Restaurant Association Research Group, it found that 87 percent of full service restaurants have reported an average drop in revenue of 36 percent, and 17 percent of all restaurants are closed permanently, or long-term. This past May, Iowa Restaurant Association President and CEO Jessica Dunker estimated that 80 percent of restaurants in the state had laid off staff members. In December, the association estimated that close to 1,000 Iowa restaurants would close by March 1, around 18 percent of the state’s total. But locally, many restaurants have done their best to persevere over the past year, and have found creative ways to stay in business. One such local restaurant proprietor is Doug Brown, who owns Papa’s American Café, and Prime N Wine in Mason City. He has shifted much of his operations to takeout and food delivery, but admits that he is still not back to where he was before the pandemic. “You might lose 40 percent of your dine-in business, but you gain 20 percent from takeout and delivery,” Brown said. “But then you are still missing 20. That is kind of what it is right now.” Brown has added an extra delivery driver, and says that sometimes, he gets so many takeout orders on Friday and Saturday nights that the kitchen gets overloaded, which can lead to some occasional customer service issues. With a limited amount of sit-down customers, much of the food being cooked in the kitchen is going out the door. “That is a hard thing to balance,” Brown said. “When you are a sitdown restaurant, and you do takeout and delivery, there will always be a couple hours on Friday and


Owner Doug Brown sits at the bar of Papa’s American Cafe in Mason City. Brown also owns and operates the cafe’s neighbor Prime ‘N’ Wine Saturday, where you get a lot of all three.” One of the biggest issues Brown says he has run into lately is the lack of available workers. While he is continually advertising that his restaurants are hiring, Brown says that he has had a hard time finding enough people to staff his restaurant. “If things went back to normal tomorrow, every restaurant would be in a world of hurt, because they don’t have any help,” Brown said. “Because of all the unemployment. I’ve been in business 30 years, and I’ve never had a help situation this bad.” A big change Brown made at Papa’s is the addition of an outdoor patio, which Brown added in response to the challenge of indoor seating restrictions this past summer. That patio seats around 80 people, and was full nearly every day when the weather was nice. <p dir=”ltr”>Now, with the cold weather, the patio is not an option, but Brown’s business is starting to bounce back nonetheless. “Things have gotten better,” Brown said. “November was probably the worst month overall, other than April, when we were closed. As soon as the numbers spiked, business fell big-time. It slowly has come back, not back to normal, but

Restaurant changes in 2020 Prime N Wine / Pappas: Increased focus on takeout/delivery, new outdoor patio. Fat Hill: Bottling project, to-go orders, virtual book-club events. for (January), we’re probably only off between seven and 10 percent.” Across the highway at Taco Tico, things haven’t changed all that much, other than the restaurant’s dining room being closed for the past several months. With a drivethrough and a recognizable brand, the Mason City Taco Tico franchise has kept right on rolling. “We still had a good year, we were down only like 1 percent for the year,” manager Cory Parsons said. “I have buddies that run businesses in the cities that were down like 80 percent. I’ll take that any day.” Parsons said that he plans to try to reopen the dining room soon, which should help close the gap. “If we can get the dining room open, it can be like it was 10 or 11 months ago,” Parson said. “That’s my hopes anyway.” A third local business, Fat Hill

Brewing, has seen a much more dramatic shift in its day to day operations. In normal times, Fat Hill would be full of patrons drinking nearly elbow to elbow on the weekends, as live music played on the stage. For close to a year now, the brewery has operated in a much different way. “It’s a whole new world, very stressful,” Fat Hill co-owner Molly Angstman said. “In the middle of March, we definitely had a lot of scary discussions over a stack of spreadsheets. What would the books look like if we operated at 50 percent or 40 percent? It was all very doom and gloom. The way our business is set up, 50 percent just didn’t work for us financially, long-term.” After those discussions, Angstman said, she and fellow owner Jake Rajewsky made the decision to switch to a to-go business model, which was designed to cut costs while still making sure the product was going out the door. Angstman has been pleased that since the new model was implemented, many of Fat Hill’s most loyal customers still come in on a near-weekly basis, and spend close to the same amount of money they would in normal times. The only difference is that they are consuming the beer at home, rather than in the tap-room. “It’s not our favorite way to do business,” Angstman said. “But it has worked for us, and it saved us.” Because of the pandemic, Fat Hill’s owners have also found the time to get started on a few longawaited projects that they otherwise wouldn’t have had time for, like getting new bar tops and a doing historic restoration of the brewery floor. The brewery has also started a bottling line of barrel-aged beer, and has tried to introduce a brandnew beer to their menu every single week, in an effort to try to break up the day to day monotony of life during COVID-19. They have also kept doing community events, such as the brewery’s book club, but over Zoom instead of in-person.

Cases lower than anticipated in schools Officials: Schools stave off COVID-19 with safety protocols GUNNAR DAVIS

Globe Gazette‌

‌When Cerro Gordo Public Health Director Brian Hanft was made aware of the COVID-19 pandemic spreading into the United States in March 2020, one of the first things he did was get on the phone with district superintendents. He urged them not to have students come back from spring break and potentially spread the virus. Even when the summer came to a close, Hanft was hesitant at the start of the school year. After all, sending kids back into the unknown was a scary thing. For the most part, what public health found instead in the school districts was inspiring. “When we look at the numbers, the rates of kids getting sick, the rates of school teachers getting sick from exposure, those numbers continue to stay low,” Hanft said.

Mason City schools persevere Since winter break the Mason City Community School District has had relatively low COVID-19 staff and student cases. Continuing to learn about how to best deliver education online has been a positive for the district as well. “COVID-19 spread doesn’t happen within the walls of the school nearly as much as we thought.” Mask mandates and social distancing rules allowed for student safety inside school buildings. Mason City Superintendent Dave Versteeg has had to balance student and staff safety, while also figuring out ways to effectively teach. That means teaching students both in the classroom and at home. Back in the fall, school districts in Iowa were required to have three return-to-learn plans available if necessary: in-person learning, hybrid schedule or continuous learning. Mason City chose to stick with


John Adams Middle School teacher Laura Demuth works with Destiny Lofton on her computer. a hybrid form of learning, which resulted in select students working at home some days while others were in-person. Educating students online has been a learning process for both the teachers and the students. “That’s something, going back a year ago, we had no idea about how to do any of that,” Versteeg said. “I think that’s come a long ways and

continues to have a lot of areas in growth to us because we’re so new to it.” In the spring, Mason City also sent out a technology survey to students and families to figure out if they had the proper network connectivity to learn from home. In the fall, the district gave out Please see EDUCATION, Page F8

Schools take on new roles during pandemic DAVE VERSTEEG

Special to the Globe Gazette‌


he theme of “perseverance” is very appropriate for this Progress 2021 column. Let me highlight a few of the ways staff and the district persevered despite the major challenges and obstacles caused by COVID-19. The pandemic hit certainty on March 13, 2020, when it became evident to me DAVE that schools in VERSTEEG Iowa were going to be closed for an extended period of time. The staff’s first response of getting students food on a daily basis was true dedication to the mission of the district. The collaboration between the Food Service Department, Transportation Department, administration and volunteers was outstanding. This response to feeding all students has carried on through school closures, summer breaks and a part-time schedule for students. The commitment of our custodial and maintenance staff to adapt and improve cleaning routines and procedures has been so critical in reducing the risks of spreading the virus at school. This significant accomplishment reduced absenteeism due to COVID positive cases well below the normal absenteeism rate for the cold and flu season. No district buildings were closed due to an outbreak in a building. The district’s nurses became front line workers in the fight against the pandemic. They are the heroes of the school district’s contribution in minimizing the spread of the virus in the community. The nurses developing procedures for screening students and employees, triaged sick students and employees each day, contract traced positive cases, and volunteered their time and talents for other community organizations. School continues to go on. While not done in the normal fashion, it is all memorable. Adjustments were made so graduation could be held and sports seasons happened. We have learned a lot about how to deliver online education and continue to reflect and improve. The district is in the process of opening a dedicated online school in the fall of 2021 to continue meeting the needs of those students and families who prefer online learning. The district broke ground on the construction of a new fieldhouse and swimming pool in February. Yes, the Mason City Community School District persevered against the pandemic and is coming out of the experience better for it. Dave Versteeg is the superintendent of Mason City Community Schools.

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over 300 hotspots to families in need and provided Chromebooks to all students. Because of the pandemic, families’ WiFi at home suddenly became something that was important to the school district. Teachers have been using Google Meet as a way to teach the students who either chose, or were required, to learn from home. In some cases, the use of new technology has made a teacher the student. Educators learning as they go has been important all year long. “Some of us have found some great successes in it,” John Adams teacher Marjory Williams said. “I would say just about every teacher has

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seen a great success, something that happened that made them go. ‘Oh wow, that worked good, that kid got it, that’s wonderful.’” For Mason City, although this year has been a challenging one, there’s many positives to take away from it, according to Versteeg. The district improved its online learning experience so much that it will start a virtual academy next fall. On top of that, the safety measures for future school years will improve. Between teachers working together to figure out the best ways to educate and administration working with public health for safety purposes,

this year was a year of building relationships. “We’ve really grown as a community,” Hanft said. “I’m guessing this is happening across the state and across the country, that those relationships are really being solidified so that moving forward, for us to deal with some of the bigger

health issues of our time.” Mason City returned to a full-time, in-person learning schedule during the week of Feb. 15. While it hasn’t been smooth sailing for the entirety of the school year, the district has done the best it can to provide for its community. Along the way, educators

learned just as much about themselves as they did about new ways to teach. “It’s just that notion that in a crisis, how people come together,” Versteeg said. “While you don’t want to bring these types of things around every once in a while, you are reminded that human beings and people that

get into education are very resilient, very persistent and very capable of solving difficult, if not impossible, problems.”


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People in the community have to feel safe to patronize stores and they have to believe that small businesses are, as Boehmler said, the “life blood” of a community. Chad Schreck, the CEO and president of the North Iowa Corridor Economic Development Corporation, said he thinks the way that the area has handled the pandemic is something that it can use down the line to recruit businesses both big and small. “Businesses look at what’s happened here and obviously we’ve had high numbers of COVID but, by and large, our community hasn’t shut down. And that’s shown really well and businesses see that,” Schreck said. In May 2020, the North Iowa Corridor Economic Development Corporation announced that it would be distributing $414,495 to 119 area businesses from the Small Business Recovery & Continuity Fund contributed to by the governments of Cerro Gordo County, Clear Lake and Mason City. The grants were anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 and intended to help cover a mix of business operating costs. Altogether, 150 businesses completed the final application for the program and requested a total of more than $680,000

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as you come out,” he said. “We’re getting back on par pretty darn fast.” As a small business owner, Follmuth said he still worries about how his peers are doing. He thinks about the revenue he’s lost from canceled events and wonders what sort of hit others have taken to their business. “It’s been really difficult for everybody,” he said. “I am happy for those businesses that have been doing well in this situation or at least treading water but I know there are going to be a lot of places that continue to suffer.” To ameliorate some of that suffering, Follmuth said he hopes that small business owners are doing their best to get ahold of whatever local, state and federal assistance they can. “No matter what political party you lean toward, paying attention to what is happening in the political realm and knowing what programs are available and if you qualify has had a huge benefit,” he said. BeLISA GROUETTE—GLOBE GAZETTE yond that, Follmuth is hoping and waiting for things to get back to normal as quickly Pappajohn Business Center, located on the NIACC campus in Mason City. as possible. in assistance. As for existing businesses, Schreck In taking stock of the past year, Schreck acknowledged that restaurants and food Jared McNett covers local government said a lot of businesses were still able to get service were seriously impacted by the for the Globe Gazette. You can reach him started. If there were any issues, he said it pandemic but noted that recovery won’t at or by phone at 641-421-0527. Follow Jared on was with work slowing down as opposed take forever. to being delayed outright. “Those jobs come back pretty quickly Twitter at @TwoHeadedBoy98.

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Real estate market still hot in pandemic Amidst COVID-19 uncertainty, 2020 remained strong in North Iowa JERRY SMITH

Globe Gazette‌

‌When the nationwide COVID-19 pandemic started hitting local businesses in their pocketbooks in March 2020, there was an uncertainty surrounding how that would affect the economy in North Iowa. While area businesses in all sectors felt the crushing blow of the pandemic, the real estate industry persevered and held steady, even in the midst of that uncertainty. Thanks in part to historically low interest rates and an increase in people looking for bigger homes and yards – because spending more time at home has become the norm during the pandemic – instead of falling off like other sectors, the real estate market remained strong.


While North Iowa businesses in all sectors felt the crushing blow of the COVID-19 pandemic, the real estate industry persevered and held steady, even in the midst of uncertainty. Diana Symonds, president of the Greater Mason City Board of Realtors and Mason City Multiple Listing Service, said that agents didn’t know what to expect going

into the pandemic as businesses were shuttering and people were sheltering in place. With real estate being a commission-based industry where

agents and brokers earn their pay from buyers and sellers rather than earning a salary, the start of the pandemic caused some agents stress as the risk-reward was uncertain. “However, housing is a basic and essential need,” Symonds said. “Our governor worked with the Iowa Association of Realtors to make sure the industry had everything necessary to continue selling and closing on homes.” Symonds said that as interest rates were low and inventory was in short supply, this created a “curious situation” as it was a great time for buyers to buy, and the right time for sellers to sell. “(The year) 2020 was a great year for real estate in our market, and our industry is predicting 2021 to be another exceptional year.” The numbers tell the story. A look at single family home sales statistics provided by the Greater Mason City Board of Realtors show just how the real estate industry in North Iowa bucked the

trend of other industries that were hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. While there were fewer homes put on the market, a higher percentage have been sold since the pandemic started compared to the same time period the year before. From March 1, 2020, to Jan. 31, 2021, there were a total of 453 homes listed, and 460 homes were sold in Mason City, meaning seven homes that were not listed also sold. The average list price was $144,647, while the average sale price was $140,347. In the same time frame the year before, there were 534 homes listed, while 447 were sold (83.71 percent), with an average listing price of $141,252 and an average selling price of $135,449. The average days on the market also decreased, going from 122 days to 109. “We’ve continued to see an increase in average sale price, and a Please see REAL ESTATE, Page G5

Community steps up for nonprofits As demands increased due to COVID-19, organizations adjusted SHANE LANTZ

Globe Gazette‌

<‌ p dir=”ltr”>In normal times, day to day life can be a struggle for nonprofit organizations. In the wake of COVID-19, that struggle has only gotten more difficult, but North Iowa’s nonprofit organizations have found ways to adjust as demand for services has gone through the roof. At places like Hawkeye Harvest Food Bank, life looks much different than it did just a year ago. No longer are people allowed to come in and browse for items. Now, a masked volunteer will meet the clients outside, and show them a list of what items the food bank has available, which the client then fills out with the items they need. Only two people are allowed into the facility at once. Because of these new restrictions, and a shortage of volunteers, there isn’t as much choice

United Way Aid Total raised: $110,000 Total given to 21 area nonprofits: $56,000 Total used for direct aid: $40,000 Remainder: Donated to local food banks as there once was, according to volunteer Ozzie Ohl, but the local community has helped the food bank purchase the most important items. “It’s much less variety than what we were able to offer before, but it’s the only way that our all volunteer staff can be safe and get this done with the shortest possible waiting time for those who are waiting,” Ohl said. “Now our clients order most of what they need and volunteers gather it together.” Over at Community Kitchen of North Iowa, food is now being served in carry-out fashion, rather than having clients come in and sit down for their meal. Masks


Hawkeye Harvest Food Bank in Mason City received benefits from United Way during the pandemic. are required. Since the pandemic struck, the kitchen has seen a sizable increase in the amount of people seeking meals. In 2019, the kitchen served 45,462 total meals, and in 2020 that number rose to 54,864. “For the most part, we’ve just seen a large increase,” Director Amanda Ragan said. “Last year, we had 1,000 unduplicated services. We try to register people, but we don’t get everybody. We

see a lot of circumstances that we didn’t before.” The kitchen also had to take special precautions, such as a mask requirement for volunteers, as many are in the older age bracket that is most severely affected by the virus. “In the past, we would open the kitchen up, and people could come in for coffee, and it was sort of a warming place for people when they didn’t have a place to

go,” Ragan said. “Right now, because of the health concerns, we don’t open until 11 o’clock and people can come in and get the carry-outs, bread, and other bakery items. So that is a little different. We’re more restrictive of the traffic in and out of the kitchen.” According to Ragan, the organization has weathered the storm, thanks in large part to donations Please see NONPROFIT, Page G3

Water recreation booms on Clear Lake Despite COVID-19, ‘every weekend felt like the Fourth of July’ ASHLEY STEWART

Globe Gazette‌

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‌There hasn’t been a busier summer on Clear Lake than 2020. At least that’s the case for Clear Lake Boats, Lake Time Boat Club and Movement Solutions. “The quote those guys gave me was every weekday felt like a normal weekend and every weekend felt like the Fourth of July,” said Scott Maulsby, general manager of Clear Lake Boats, which offers a full-service marina on the lake. “The weekdays were even crazy and usually it’s not like that, usually it’s just a few people out boating.” At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the owners of the Clear Lake boat sales and retail businesses, didn’t know what to expect. Then, came May. The interest in outdoor recreation equipment, like campers, bi-

cycles, boats and other watercraft, skyrocketed as people across the country turned to activities they could safely do while social distancing amid the pandemic. By summer, such equipment was nearly impossible to find in stock, and people unable to buy it themselves sought to rent it. In August, Clear Lake Chamber President and CEO Stacy Doughan told the Clear Lake City Council that the demand for travel information to Clear Lake in the summer exceeded last year. “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, we’re very fortunate to have this lake in our community and the lake has proven to be the perfect retreat for this atypical summer,” she said at the time. Movement Solutions, which is located at 712 U.S. Highway 18, had its best — and busiest — summer in operation. The business, owned by Jim Flick and his wife, Jennifer, opened five years ago with small recreational watercraft, like canoes and kayaks, and it has grown to more than 100 rental units, including campers and pontoons. “It jump shot us five years ahead,


Two Movement Solutions rental boats await renters at the Sea Wall in Clear Lake last summer. In 2020, the business recorded its busiest year of operation. and this year, I think we’ll be seeing some of the same things,” Flick said. Movement Solutions averaged 92 people per day among its seven rental boats, which resulted in thousands of people from near and far coming into downtown Clear Lake and patronizing its restaurants and retailers throughout the entire season. The business received between 80 and 100 phone calls each day

from people wanting to book a rental, and by mid-June, it’d already blown past its goal for the year, Flick said. “It was a crazy good year,” he said, noting a lot of their customers were repeats. Clear Lake Boats, which sells a variety of boats from its showroom on South Shore Drive and rents pontoons and other watercraft out of its marina on Raney Drive, saw an increase across all of its depart-

ments last year, Maulsby said. Boat sales, rentals, fuel and service were up in 2020 compared to previous years. “It was our best summer ever,” Maulsby said. He said the summer was so busy the business could’ve doubled the number of rental boats it had on the weekends to accommodate those on its waiting list, and its part-time Please see WATER, Page G8



| SUNDAY, MARCH 7, 2021

Food trucks new revenue sources

Just how big is the food truck industry?

North Iowa restaurants combat COVID-19 with mobile offerings

Through 2017, the food truck industry in the U.S. topped $1.7 billion. What goes into that? Biggest states for food trucks: California, Texas and Florida did the most food truck sales for 2017. However, U.S. Census data shows that Vermont actually had the highest sales per food truck employee at more than $157,000.


Globe Gazette

In the initial aftershock of closures that the COVID-19 pandemic caused in North Iowa in March 2020, restaurant owners across the region had to seriously reckon with what they needed to do just to stay open. Some pivoted into curbside pickup and carryout, which filled some of the gaps but still left restaurants down in revenue. Others, such as the Blue Heron and Las Palmas in Mason City, began emphasizing a delivery option more. Still others, the 100-year-old Northwestern Steakhouse being a prime example in the region, decided to stay closed until the moment to reopen felt right. One North Iowa food business that was able to largely keep motoring along without many tweaks to the formula was the Cedar Valley Ex-Press food truck, which operates out of Osage. According to manager Bradley Ringhofer, the food truck managed to make it down to both Des Moines and Fort Dodge in the spring of 2020. “We’re not stuck to one central location,” Ringhofer said. “Being in Mason City one day and Charles City the next has been very beneficial.” A May 2020 piece from Forbes had a similar realization to Ringhofer’s about the effectiveness and viability of food trucks at such a precarious time: “Food trucks are uniquely set up to survive COVID-19. They are a business built out of spaces with no room for diners—a particularly relevant concept given the current climate and the perceived future of restaurants.” Even with the pandemic still very much ongoing, the recent past of food trucks makes it hard to believe they won’t continue to be popular both during and after the era of COVID.

Who are the owners?: According to that same Census data, 90% of all food truck ventures are formed through individual proprietorships and partnerships. Of the 5,970 food truck establishments nationwide, 4,979 had fewer than five employees.


Bradley Ringhofer stands inside the Cedar Valley Ex-Press food truck. Based on numbers from a 2020 U.S. Census Bureau article, the number of food truck establishments in 2018 was 5,970 which was almost twice as much as the number in 2013 (3,281). The article goes on to note that “Sales from food trucks increased 79% between 2012 and 2017, rising from $660.5 million to $1.2 billion.” Ringhofer started up with Cedar Valley Ex-Press, which works with Cedar Valley Seminary to be cultural ambassadors of the area, in June 2019. He said that he’d gotten his start with food trucks in Seattle but wanted to get back to North Iowa and provide folks with something that goes “above and beyond” the food experience they may be used to. In that endeavor, Ringhofer said he uses potatoes from Kittleson Brothers out of St. Ansgar to make French fries and lettuce from Twisted River Farms out of Mitchell to top off burgers. The primary moneymaker for the food truck is servicing events. Ringhofer said those

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did obviously taper off in 2020 because of the pandemic but the food truck still found customers. “There are towns that still do some types of celebrations and we were fortunate to be a part of some of those things,” Ringhofer said. Damon Baker, who has run the Titanium Lunchbox out of Britt for 10 years, is new to the food truck game but said he recognizes the benefit of having one to lean on when plenty of people are still scared to dine out in a brickand-mortar restaurant. “It’s a luxury for us. It becomes another option for our business. Being closed down on the inside for as much time as we were, it made us really appreciate being able to offer something different,” he said. Had the pandemic not hit, Baker still would’ve gotten a food truck at some point but he said that COVID sped up the entire process for him. He got the food truck in September and has since used it for occasions such as Thanksgiving where he helped to cater more than 100 meals to workers at Michael

Foods in Britt. “We were able to take our trailer out there and as people needed it we could put food together and take it into them,” Baker said. Typically, the menu for Titanium Lunchbox revolves around items such as pizza but also no muss, no fuss type stuff such as meat and potatoes. That’s more than enough for customers in the area. Baker said he’s already got events lined up for the springtime such as the Geneva Market in early May in Geneva, Iowa. And wedding events are starting to trickle in as well. “This is all new to us so it’s kind of a pick and choose thing,” Baker said. As for Ringhofer, he said Cedar Valley Ex-Press 2021 schedule is starting to fill up fast. Fairs and various chamber of commerce events for the area are in his itinerary. “March and April we already started booking a lot and our summer is kind of booked already,” he said. After the way the past has gone, Ringhofer said he’s more than happy to still be going and still be considered for such events.



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Mason City poised for a COVID-19 comeback BILL SCHICKEL

Special to the Globe Gazette‌


ason City is poised for the big post COVID-19 comeback. Although the pandemic made things very challenging, coming together to work on common goals is one of the greatest gifts that COVID-19 has given our commuBILL SCHICKEL nity. Local leaders and ordinary citizens organized our pandemic response and at the same time kept all of our exciting economic development

projects moving forward. Our economic development team’s small business relief fund helped 119 businesses. Metalcraft Company ramped up production of face shields. MacNider Museum Director Edie Blanchard kicked off a volunteer campaign to make free face masks. The Mason City School District made 300 mobile hotspots for virtual learning available to students and families without internet access. Despite pandemic-related reductions in hotel-motel and other tax receipts, the city finished the fiscal year on a positive note. Our safety-minded workers continued to lower our worker compensation

insurance rate, providing savings for taxpayers. Keeping overtime in check produced additional savings. Despite high pandemic-related absenteeism, essential service disruptions were avoided. Concerns about curtailing trash collection and snow removal did not materialize. The new Mason City Arena was able to host camps, practices, workshops and tryouts with safety measures in place. Plans are in place to reopen the aquatic center, museum and library. Mason City became the only city in Iowa to be named by the National Civic League as a finalist

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from the community. “We were able to keep up with the demand because of the generosity,” Ragan said. “We saw an increase in the amount of people that stepped up to give. Some people gave their stimulus check to us, and we’ve always had a generous community. We had an outstanding group of individuals and businesses that came forward when the need was there.” At One Vision, an organization that provides in-home and employment assistance to people with physical or mental disabilities, 2020 was an extremely challenging year. “It has been a very hard, difficult time for anybody with a disability to be just alone during this time,” employment specialist Jeri Bell said. “They don’t have the common supports that most of us do, or have the ability to intermingle even from a distance, due to lack of transportation or lack of work.” A lot of Bell’s clients work in the restaurant industry, and with many pivoting their focus to takeout and to-go orders, much of the available work dried up. Even now, with restaurants starting to open back up, Bell says, many employers are hurting financially and do


One Vision in Clear Lake received benefits from United Way during the pandemic. not have the same level of jobs available for her clients. “They don’t have that extra dollar for folks with disabilities to maybe do a specified job,” Bell said. “Now, they are expected to do more. It has hindered that ability.” During the spring, when many business shut down, Bell and her fellow employment specialists transitioned to a role where they helped with in-home services, and called their clients every week to check in. If they couldn’t find jobs for them, Bell wanted to make sure that nobody felt alone. “It’s just keeping those lines of communications open so they

don’t feel so isolated,” Bell said. “One Vision is amazing at that, putting people first.” Many nonprofits struggled with fundraising in 2020, because of an inability hold in-person events. One Vision, for instance, couldn’t do its fundraising walk, or the annual Festival of Trees. “All those major fundraising events were just gone.” Bell said. One group that stepped up to help was United Way of North Central Iowa. In the early days of the pandemic, United Way started a COVID-19 emergency fund. According to CEO Jen Arends, the organization raised about $110,000 for the fund, which they distrib-

for the All-America City Award. The 1,000 Friends of Iowa “Best Development Award” recognized our “efficient use of resources in the development of a sustainable community that provides high quality of life” and Main Street Iowa recognized the Mason City Arena with the “Game Changer Award.” If you watch the national TV news you would think the world was coming to an end on a daily basis. In Mason City, however, MercyOne has been keeping up with demand for COVID-19 patient care and Cerro Gordo County has a higher vaccination rate than the state and nation. The inno-

vative work of the Cerro Gordo County Public Health Department was even recognized in the Wall Street Journal. Our information team partnered with the county health department to hold more than 40 news conferences. An emergency call center was established. We are thankful for our newspaper, radio, TV and other media partners for their key role in providing accurate information during the pandemic. I am grateful for so many who are demonstrating their resilience and compassion. It is a such a privilege to live in Mason City where challenges bring out the best in us.

uted in three separate ways. Around $56,000 of that fund, according to Arends, went to 21 different area nonprofits for things like increased food assistance, technology needs, and increased PPE supplies. $40,000 of the fund, in partnership with North Iowa Community Action and The Salvation Army, was used for direct individual assistance for people impacted by COVID, covering mostly things like water and utility bills. The third chunk of money went to area food banks to address food insecurity. While the aid definitely helped, Arends says that because of the lack of fundraisers this year, along with the unexpected costs associated with the pandemic, many nonprofits are still struggling. According to Arends, United Way’s own fundraising campaign saw a 20 percent decrease in 2020. “Those (events) bring in a lot of money for those organizations, and they weren’t able to do them last year. That takes a huge hit for their budget,” Arends said. “Providing services in a COVID-19 is sometimes very difficult. The increased sanitation and PPE have put a strain, because none of us planned for it.” Overall, each of the nonprofits seems to agree that monetary donations and volunteer hours are the best way for people to make a

difference. “The best way to help is to donate money, and not food items,” Ohl said of Hawkeye Harvest. “A food item donation requires much much more time by volunteers. It takes more time separating, organizing and stocking, plus there are Covid-19 concerns too. We are trying our very best to provide those basic items so that is what we are trying to purchase.” As the pandemic continues, people all across the community will continue to need assistance from places like the Community Kitchen, Hawkeye Harvest, and United Way. While they each have faced unique challenges, the organizations say that the support of the community has kept each of them going. “The needs for our community have been really exacerbated by the pandemic,” Arends said. “Some of the largest impacted have been retail service and hospitality, and those are our major employers in the region. I just want to make sure that people know they should support the great non-profit community that we have.” Shane Lantz covers sports for the Globe Gazette. You can reach him at Shane.Lantz@GlobeGazette. com, or by phone at 641-421-0526. Follow Shane on Twitter @ShaneMLantz.

A Community Response to COVID-19: Partnerships, Perseverance, Progress Vision North Iowa is a partnership of organizations with a shared mission: Improving the lives of all North Iowans. In 2020, this took the form of mitigating, managing, and recovering from the impact of COVID-19. The events of 2020 were so unlike anyone expected, it’s sometimes easy to forget that, prior to the pandemic, North Iowa was experiencing great economic progress with new projects, new jobs, and new energy in every sector from Mason City to Clear Lake. North Iowa was uniquely positioned at the beginning of the pandemic: the Vision North Iowa strategy provided an existing framework of partnerships between city, county, education, business, and other support organizations. Sharing resources and collaborating on strategies to help our community was our first and immediate priority. VNI’s partners raised funds through grassroots campaigns, created the Small Business Recovery Grant, mobilized our marketing efforts to support local businesses, and provided expert support and resources to help our community weather the storm. Our community perseveres, and we’re moving forward.





219 1 2 4 ---------------1059 IEDA SMALL BUSINESS RECOVERY GRANT 1 3 11.1 MILLION 5784 56 TO













Economic activity continued throughout 2020. Although some projects were slowed, progress continues. A sample of 2020’s project highlights:















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North Iowa’s partnerships are one of our region’s greatest strengths. By working together as a community, we can continue to grow opportunities for all North Iowans.

G4 | Sunday, March 7, 2021


Pandemic, perseverance, and other ‘P’ words were already in place among us, and we mation regarding their most urgent needs. kept our focus on the goal—to keep North ast spring, when news reports showed Iowa open for business and keep our es- POWER shoppers coming to blows over toilet sential workers safe. As the region’s designated cheerleaders, paper, I thanked my lucky stars we live we harnessed the POWER of spending loin North Iowa … a place where neighbors PEOPLE cally by rallying community support for help neighbors during tough This is our greatest strength. North Buy Local promotions and put together a times. (Yes, even sharing a Iowa benefits from PRINCIPLED leaders special Chamber Bucks promotion to boost spare roll.) who PROMOTE dialogue over division. local sales. Funds spent locally churn again Our team made telephone calls to all 650 and again in the North Iowa economy and PURPOSE member businesses twice during the early produce a multiplier effect that benefits The Chamber’s role months of the pandemic. We answered everyone. during emergencies—flood, questions, collected information, and tried pandemic, or otherwise—is our best to assist them. Perhaps most im- PUSH-POKE-PROD ROBIN We promoted the “Mask of Wellness” ANDERSON clear. We connect our mem- portantly, we let them know we care. bers to resources. Local campaign with our partners, and provided business counts on us as a PPP (and other relief programs) “starter kits” for local businesses with door source of accurate information. Many of our referrals were to economic signs, promotional materials, and a suprelief programs such as the federal Pay- ply of disposable face masks. Masks are PLAN check Protection Program, Economic In- a PAIN, but they are a key tool in keeping Soon after Iowa’s first coronavirus jury Disaster Loan, Employee Retention local businesses open and North Iowans case was confirmed on March 8, our staff Tax Credit, etc. as well as state and local employed. quickly gathered with partners to develop resources. We offered webinars and cona response plan. With so much to be done, ference calls with program experts and fed- POSITIVITY it was important to avoid duplication of ef- eral elected officials including Sen. Charles Economic recovery will be a long profort and stretch scarce resources as far as Grassley and Sen. Joni Ernst, enabling em- cess, but we can feel positive that county possible. Thankfully, strong relationships ployers to ask questions and share infor- unemployment rates are nearly back to ROBIN ANDERSON

Special to the Globe Gazette‌


pre-pandemic levels, manufacturing job increases are well above national averages, and private investment in North Iowa new facilities and expansion projects continued despite the pandemic.


We all want vaccines, we all want students back in school, and we all yearn for our “normal” lives to return. Our best shot at transitioning to the “new normal” is to exercise PATIENCE and to place the needs of our most vulnerable neighbors first. We can do this.


Day by day, we’re making progress against this worldwide threat. Certainly, we have been challenged. We have neighbors who are hurting emotionally from the loss of loved ones and financially from mandated closures and capacity limitations. But North Iowans have demonstrated their resilience and their heartfelt support for one another. We’re #NorthIowaStrong and we’ll continue to work together. Onward.

Throughout the ordered closure, the Forest City Family YMCA was able to keep our child care program open to continue to serve those in our community,

volunteered at the local food bank, did wellness checks on our senior members and distributed essential item bags to local shut-ins. The Forest City Family YMCA has been blessed with a loyal and caring membership, wonderful volunteers, dedicated donors, and a loyal community that supports the work that we do every day promoting youth development, teaching healthy living skills and encouraging social responsibility. Forest City YMCA 916 West I ST. 585-5220

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Real Estate

Changing times

From G1

fairly steady decrease in average days on the market year-overyear,” said Amber Scholl, executive officer with the Greater Mason City Board of Realtors and Mason City Multiple Listing Service. The numbers outside of Mason City in North Iowa tell a similar story. From March 1, 2020, to Jan. 31, 2021, there were 234 homes listed, with 231 of them being sold (98.72 percent) after sitting on the market for 119 days. The average listing price was $173,034, while the average selling price was $165,924. In the same time period the year before, 273 homes were listed, while 204 were sold (74.73 percent) after sitting on the market an average of 113 days. The average listing price was much higher at $192,868, compared to the average selling price of $184,007.

While many buyers aren’t waiting for a return to normal, instead anticipating a new normal in which they live, work and entertain differently than before, real estate agents have had to change, too. One Mason City real estate agent who spoke on condition of anonymity said he didn’t know what to expect when the pandemic began, but knew he had to adjust to a new norm in terms of showings, open houses and closings in order for his business to at least maintain status quo, if not survive. The local agent said he follows social distancing and always wears a mask, and even puts on gloves if JERRY SMITH GLOBE GAZETTE he has to meet face-to-face with According to the Greater Mason City a seller or a potential buyer, which is now rare. He said there is less Board of Realtors, the year 2020 contact with clients as COVID-19 was a great year for real estate numbers continue to fluctuate. in the North Iowa market, and He uses two of the homes he industry leaders are predicting 2021 sold near the Mason City Country to be another exceptional year. Club as examples of how things

a C r p d et e R

ry Care Momen o m e ts M

SUNDAY, MARCH 7, 2021 |

have changed in a short time. The agent said they were done completely online, with the showings done virtually, and the signing done online. “It is less contact with the client because of the pandemic,” he said. “We’ve used online signing before, but mostly just for out-of-state buyers. We now use it all the time.” As for showing homes, the agent said those are now done mostly with Facetime showings. To look at the home, buyers are using Google Earth to take a look at the neighborhood and virtual tours of the home on the broker’s site to see the amenities. “Technology has been a key factor in the success of many of our local agents,” Scholl said. “We’ve offered additional training, as have several of our product and technology vendors. New and improved lock box features and easy-to-use mobile apps allowed our members to keep up with consumer demand while keeping themselves and their clients safe.”

While most everyone involved in real estate has been pleasantly surprised with the success of the industry during the pandemic, they also see the coming year as a continuation of 2020. With continuing low interest rates and inventory at all-time lows – agents have never seen it at this point – 2021 has started like 2020 ended. According to Scholl, North Iowa real estate agents will continue to go with the flow and do what it takes to sell homes. “Realtors are resilient by nature due to the variety of factors they’re faced with in the real estate industry,” she said. “From slow market conditions to housing booms, they’ve shown great strength to adapt to the ever-changing industry.” Jerry Smith is sports editor and special projects editor for the Globe Gazette. You can reach him at jerry. or by phone at 641-421-0556.

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G6 | Sunday, March 7, 2021


TruStile grows despite pandemic, launches new product line By MARY PIEPER Special to the Globe Gazette TruStile in Northwood has not only produced its high-end doors without interruption during the COVID-19 pandemic, but also helped launch a new line of exterior entry systems that can withstand all kinds of weather extremes. The company still continued to grow in 2020 even with the challenges posed by the pandemic, according to Kris Pierce, Plant Manager of the Northwood plant. He said a big driver of TruStile’s growth was people who put money into home improvements rather than vacation travel. The exterior entry systems that debuted in November were a big hit. Sales have been really great so far.TruStile expects the new product line will drive the growth of the company over the next eight years, according to Pierce. Revenue from production in Northwood is projected to double during that time, which will eventually mean hiring more workers, he said.

TruStile also began taking temperature checks of employees early on during the pandemic. Workers on the production floor have been spread out as much as possible. Everyone is required to wear face masks. Those whose job duties allowed them to work from home have done so.

Mary Pieper/Special to the Globe Gazette

Darcy Andrews does wet sealing.

Todd Piper, Director of Engineering, said the new exterior entry systems line was the first product development venture done by a team of individuals from the Northwood and Denver facilities as well as Marvin. TruStile has been producing and selling single exterior doors in addition to its interior doors for many years, but the exterior entry systems include a sidelight, a transom, and a transom sidelight. The goal was to develop a robust product that will perform well despite heat, cold or moisture, according to Piper.

Engineering Team: Kyle Bry Engineer Manager, Chad Tiedemann Custom Engineering Manager, Todd Piper Director, Engineering and Manufacturing Services and Ella Young Continuous Improvement Engineer Manager

TruStile was founded in Denver in 1995 with the goal of producing high-quality doors by blending modern technology with old-world craftsmanship. The company acquired the door manufacturing division of Woodharbor Custom Cabinetry in Northwood in 2011. In 2015,TruStile was acquired by The Marvin Companies, but retained its status as an independent entity. TruStile currently has more than 500 employees overall, with 183 of them working at the Northwood plant. Marvin employs more than 5,000 employees at 14 locations. Over the past two years the Northwood location has seen 10 percent growth in sales revenue and has hired 35 to 40 new employees.

TruStile Managers:Front Row: Andy Grunhovd EHS Manager, Hayley Maher Purchasing & Inventory Manager, Pam Lampman Human Resources Manager Back Row: Mike Scheer Production Manager, Mark Holstad Production Manager, Doug Dominy Quality Manager. Missing: Plant Manager Kris Pierce & Maintenance Manager Paul Quintero

TruStile doors are not only used in luxury resorts and the homes of the wealthy, but also in buildings at the University of Notre Dame and the University of Michigan. “We have built some beautiful doors together,” Pierce said. Employees work 10-hour shifts Monday through Thursday and have the entire day off on Friday. If extra time is needed due to heavy order volume, employees work on Friday and receive overtime. “TruStile as a whole is very focused on the employee,” said Kyle Bry, engineering manger for the Northwood location. He said this is why he chose to work for the company. The Northwood location didn’t have any shutdowns or layoffs due to COVID-19, according to Pierce. He said thorough sanitation throughout the plant helped. “Our goal was to make it safer than your home,” he said.

In the future the TruStile engineering department will continue to grow the exterior entry system line, Bry said, noting more employees may be needed to meet the demands of the product. Bry said TruStile customers expect high quality and attention to detail, and in some cases customization. If someone orders a door that’s not a standard option, the custom engineering team will do the drawings as well as custom machining for different door handles and other things they want, according to Bry. He said TruStile provides the fastest price quotes on the market. Pierce said many people in the area don’t know that customized, elegant doors are being made in Northwood. TruStile’s strong internal culture is one of the reasons the company has managed to grow, even during the pandemic, according to Pierce. “We are all in this together,” he said.

Mary Pieper/Special to the Globe Gazette

Pictured from left to right: Engineer Manager Kyle Bry, Special Projects team members Darcy Andrews, Chris Fuller, Tina Collins, Custom Engineering Manager Chad Tiedemann and Director, Engineering & Manufacturing Services Todd Piper

TruStile’s Mission,Vision and Values Mary Pieper/Special to the Globe Gazette

Chris Fuller does custom frame assembly.

“Wood comes from outside, but wood products don’t always perform the best in the elements,” he said. Each of the exterior entry systems “has the beauty of wood on the outside, but it has this engineered construction on the inside that makes it perform,” Piper said. The doors are made from laminated veneer lumber, which Piper described as strips of veneer covered with a treatment called Tricoya that changes the molecular structure of the wood so it repels moisture. TruStile also puts a finish on the exterior entry systems to protect them from the heat and the sun. Piper said customers need to maintain the finish to prevent damage from exposure to direct sunlight. Product testing began two years ago at several different sites, including ones in Hilo, Hawaii, “where they get just an astronomical amount of rainfall every year,” and Ripley,Tennessee, which experiences hot, dry summers and cold winters, Piper said.

The TruStile Values We believe that revenue and profit growth results from striving to achieve our mission and living by our values. We are all in this together. • We believe in teamwork and the engagement of all employees. • We are all invested in the success of the company. We are obsessive about customer service and exceeding customer expectations. We are passionate about quality. We have a healthy dissatisfaction with the status quo. • We strive to innovate and continuously improve in all areas. We have a performance culture. • We believe in individual and team accountability. • Financial rewards flow from performance. We speak openly, honestly, and non-defensively about business challenges. • We can only get better by being candid. • All interactions are respectful. We have the desire and an obligation to reduce our environmental impact.

The TruStile Mission Mary Pieper/Special to the Globe Gazette

Tina Collins and Chad Tiedemann put a door on a hoist.

Some customers buy unfinished doors because they want to finish them on their own. “We still put a clear stain base on there that has UV inhibitors in it to slow down the effects of the sun causing the wood to change colors,” Piper said. The door frame system components go through a treatment process to prevent rot. Piper said the treatment includes an insecticide, an antifungal, and a product that repels water. Sponsored Content

What we do today: We make spaces more distinctive, authentic and special.

Our aspiration: We seek to inspire and empower a transformation in interior design.

The TruStile Vision We will redefine the door category by making doors “an indispensable design element” and by building a powerful customer brand. 00 1


Sunday, March 7, 2021 | G7

Build Something Exceptional TruStiles dedication to craftsmanship has made us a leading manufacturer of made-to-order doors. Our products are found in high-end residential and commercial applications across the United States and Canada.

We’re All in this Together.

Join the TruStile Team.

With over 500 employees across two locations, TruStile is focused on providing a safe, rewarding work environment. We offer competitive wages, great benefits and a clear path for advancement. Take pride in the work you do and join our talented team in Northwood, Iowa.

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TruStile is an equal opportunity employer. Minorities, women, disabled and veterans are encouraged to apply. Copyright © 2021, TruStile Doors, LLC. All rights reserved. 00 1

• 4-day work weeks, with 6:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. shifts, Monday through Thursday • Attendance bonus • Health insurance • Profit sharing


G8 | Sunday, March 7, 2021

North Iowa churches continue to make connections Virtual services have increased attendance at many churches MARY PIEPER

Special to the Globe Gazette‌

‌North Iowa places of worship are still spreading the word of God despite the challenges of COVID-19. Some pastors even say offering virtual services has allowed them to reach more people than ever before. “We have been surprised and excited about where and how many people are joining us for worship,” said the Rev. Kevin Jones, pastor to youth, family and education at Trinity Lutheran Church in Mason City. The average total attendance at weekend services at Trinity before the pandemic was around 500 to 600 people, but now that services are offered online, that number has shot up to 2,000, according to Jones. The new worshippers are from 28 states and six countries. Trinity resumed in-person services on Feb. 6 with limited attendance, social distancing and face masks, but is still offering virtual worship as an option. At. St. John’s Episcopal Church in Mason City, Sunday services are still online only. The rector, the Rev. Stephen Benitz, has also been livestreaming a brief Compline service on Monday through Friday evenings from his home, which means worship opportunities are being offered six days a week rather than one. “What we have found is it (online worship) is actually expanding our reach to new people,” Benitz said. Those individuals are not just local residents, but also those living far away from North Iowa. “Those people are finding something here. They are being fed and


Trinity Lutheran Church in Mason City has been offering Communion To Go during the pandemic. Ashes To Go were added on Ash Wednesday. The Rev. Stephen Benitz, rector at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Mason City, uses a cotton swab to place ashes on the forehead of Linda Dufresne on Ash Wednesday. This year the distribution of ashes took place outdoors, with individuals driving up to the church and either getting out of the car or staying in the car and just rolling down their window. that’s why they continue to come on a regular basis,” Benitz said. Although attending services virtually still requires a commitment, for many it is more convenient than in-person worship, according to Benitz. Even if people have to work or have other commitments and can’t tune in live, they can watch the recorded version later, he said. The Rev. Neil Manternach, pastor at Epiphany Parish in Mason City, said through the pandemic has been a tremendous challenge, but there’s been a silver lining. “We have had to think outside of the box,” he said. In the past, parish officials have said it would be nice to be able to livestream Mass and funerals, according to Manternach. However, COVID-19 forced them to make the leap. Manternach wasn’t a big fan of technology before the pandemic,

but after livestreaming services for nearly a year he has become comfortable with it. “I’m an old dog who has been taught a few new tricks,” he said. All kinds of people have been tuning into Epiphany’s online services, including someone from Slovakia. The online chat function gives virtual worshippers a sense of community even if they can’t see one another, according to Manternach. He said it allows people to greet each other. But some church events are difficult to replicate online, requiring creativity on the part of worship leaders. Benitz said St. John’s had several confirmation candidates last year, and the church found a way to have a ceremony that included the traditional hands-on blessing by a bishop. Instruction was done partially

online, which turned out to be a blessing because it allowed a candidate who was away at college to participate, Benitz said. The Right Rev. Alan Scarfe, the Episcopal Bishop of Iowa, visited St. John’s on a cold, windy Sunday in November for the ceremony. Most of the confirmation service was held inside the church, with just Scarfe and Benitz and their spouses present. The confirmation candidates and their families, plus anyone else who wanted to come, stayed in their vehicles in the parking lot across the street and watched the service online on their phones. “They were out there honking their horns during the service at various moments, which was fantastic,” Benitz said. Following the main service, the candidates and their families were invited to cross the street, socially distanced and wearing masks, so the young people could kneel before the bishop one by one so he could lay hands on them and pray over them. Clear Lake UMC resumed in-person services for a time last year, but returned to online only


Please see CHURCHES, Page G9

Is the water calling? If you must go:

From G1

employees at the marina worked nearly twice as many hours. Clear Lake Boats welcomed more new customers than ever before, many of whom were traveling from more populous cities and states to enjoy a weekend or week on the water. “We had some great weekends,” Maulsby said. “Pretty much every one of them was a great one weather-wise.” Lake Time Boat Club, a membership-based business, operated its first year at Lakeside Inn and The Landing — and it’s fifth year in Clear Lake — in 2020. Jake Kopriva, who owns the boat club, said it was an exceptional year for his business and other outdoor recreation. “As we know it, it was an odd summer, and boating was a great safe way to socially distance,” he said. “We saw a lot of families take to the lake and why not? We have a beautiful asset in Clear Lake.” The boat club increased its memberships to 30, he said, adding it saw great membership numbers and utilization throughout the season. Lake Time Boat Club offers a variety of membership levels so individuals have “a really convenient way to enjoy access on the water without all the other headaches of ownership.” Pontoons were popular last year among its members, who Kopriva said are business owners, families with young children, retired couples and previous boat owners who enjoy the freedom and no hassle of the club. The club offers access to a variety of clean and fueled, ready-to-go boats, unlimited usage, advanced reservations and free use of water toys, like paddleboards, lily pads, tubes and more. “It’s a great readily available way to jump on the water,” he said.

after COVID-19 cases surged in the fall. The first in-person service this year, which included a Baptism, was on Sunday, Feb. 7. The Rev. Dave Peterson, the pastor at Clear Lake UMC, said he would normally hold the baby being baptized, dip his hand in the font, and pour water over the little one’s head. Instead, the father of the baby held him and poured the water himself, “which turned out to be a very powerful experience for everyone,” Peterson said. Before the pandemic hit, Epiphany Parish had begun an evangelization program called Arise. A key component of this program is small-group meetings. Once the COVID-19 shutdown came, “That one really had us scratching our heads,” Manternach said. Church leaders decided to try Zoom sessions. Some groups took advantage of that, while others met in the church while wearing masks. Manternach said a few people who have large enough rooms in

Clear Lake Boats 1604 S. Shore Drive, Clear Lake 641-357-0127 Movement Solutions 712 U.S. Highway 18, Clear Lake 641-357-3535 Lake Time Boat Club 4859 S. Shore Drive, Clear Lake 641-231-1414 FILE PHOTO‌

Jake Kopriva, owner of Lake Time Boat Club, said 2020 was an exceptional year for his membership-based business. It saw increased membership and usage on Clear Lake. Lake recreation in 2020 seems like it’d be hard to beat, but Maulsby, Flick and Kopriva are already seeing signs that’ll it be another busy one. Clear Lake Boats anticipates it’ll sell out of boats before the start of lake season, which begins Memorial Day weekend, this year in large part because it can’t get anymore, Maulsby said. “We have zero boats coming in right now that aren’t sold,” he said. “We pre-sold a lot, but they manufacturers are so out right now, they pretty much told us, ‘Don’t order anything because we’re not going to get it.’” The showroom was full in February, but Maulsby said what people see is what they get. Clear Lake Boats usually has 30 additional boats that aren’t sold sitting in storage, but this year, that’s not the case, and the used boats it acquired this fall have already been sold. “Usually May, June and July are our busiest sales months and right

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now it’s busy, and we feel like we are going to be almost done by May just because we can’t get nothing,” Maulsby said. Boats are going fast, he said, and because he can’t get the boats he needs to sell, it’s a problem and he believes the business’s sales will suffer because of it. But the rentals on the other hand, he thinks Clear Lake Boats is in for another good year. “We feel it’s going to be busy again, so make plans now and get on the schedule,” Maulsby said. Lake Time Boat Club, which will operate at Lakeside Inn and The Landing again, is expanding its fleet and looking to add 20 new members in 2021. The business is currently offering 50% off its one-time initiation fee for all pre-season memberships, and Kopriva is optimistic that the club will reach capacity before Memorial Day because of the high demand for boating in Clear Lake. Lake Time Boat Club is running

into the same problem others are having, and that is there are no available slips on the lake, so Kopriva said it won’t be able to increase its membership after this year. It’s for that reason, this summer he will be focused on transforming the boat club into “the ultimate social club on the water,” or “a country club on water” to ensure all their members have an enjoyable summer on Clear Lake. Movement Solutions has already booked more rentals in January this year than in January, February, March and April of 2020 altogether, Flick said. One of the business’s biggest customers has been bachelorette parties. Prior to 2020, Movement Solutions had done four of five bachelorette parties, but last year, it had 26. This year, it already has three boating reservations on the books for bachelorette parties. “It’s just grown, grown, grown,”

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he said. Movement Solutions has added 30 rental units, including boats and bicycles, for this year. Bicycles, he said, were among the most requested items last year, so he bought 20 of them. Because of the addition of the bicycles, the business is looking to hire three additional employees this season. Movement Solutions will also be opening more time slots to boat and launching an online booking system to better accommodate its new and returning customers. “I think it’s going to be another crazy good year, and hopefully our restaurants will be back in action and that’ll be even better for them. Maybe in Clear Lake this year, everybody can have a wonderful year this year instead of just parts of it,” Flick said. Ashley Stewart covers Clear Lake and arts and entertainment in North Iowa for the Globe Gazette. You can reach her at or by phone at 641-4210533. Follow Ashley on Twitter at GGastewart.

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Celebrating over 100 days in school during the pandemic MEGAN STUDER

Special to the Globe Gazette‌


he summer before the 20202021 school year began was full of planning, and an important question emerged: how do we continue to form disciples to lead, love, and serve in a pandemic? The previous year was going so well, then everything came to an abrupt halt in March. We quickly had to pivot MEGAN our strategies by STUDER moving online. It was an understandable option to end the year, but we felt conflicted over what would be in the best interest of our students. They needed that time in class. We decided to take on the challenge of making face-to-face learning a reality as we moved into the new year.

Nora Springs Population: 2000: 1,532 2010: 1,431 2018: 1,359 2019: 1,535 Incorporated: Founded in 1857 and incorporated in 1875

Hampton ‌ opulation: P 2000: 4,218 2010: 4,461 2018: 4,236 2019: 4,231 Established: 1851

From moving classrooms to seating charts, spacing out desks, adding automated dispensers, special door handles, and more, we worked to reduce touch points. We formed new policies and added new processes like the ionized sprayer that is now used on lockers, doorways, bathroom stalls, etc. We took the time to educate and communicate new guidelines, we sought guidance, we required masks, we continued to plan and worked hard to think of everything we could before the year began. We completely changed our schedule, moving to a block format in order to limit time in the halls where students move freely and to reduce the number of courses students would need to concentrate on. And our teachers stepped up. They created plans based on a new block schedule that they had never done before. They planned

Named for: Edward P. Greeley of Woodbridge, now Nashua, was persuaded by Edson Gaylord in 1857 to come to Woodstock, now Nora Springs. Greeley promised to buy and improve the mill, build a big store, and buy twenty acres of land from Gaylord, if the name of the town was changed from Woodstock to Elnora,

the name of his friend in Vermont. Gaylord suggested the name Springs. As a compromise, Edward Greeley agreed to name the town Nora Springs.

was originally named Benjamin. Once it became the county seat, the name was changed to avoid confusion with another town of the same name in Iowa.

work: 15 minutes

Total workforce: 2,044 Median household income: $52,961

Named after: The town

Average commute to


C. C. Gilman, owner of the Eldora Railroad and Coal Company.

‌ opulation: P 2000: 930 2010: 1,172 2018: 1,113 2019: 1,190

Median household income: $50,625

Des Moines: 130 miles, 2 hours Minneapolis/St. Paul: 150 miles, 2 hours and 51 minutes Mason City: 10.2 miles, 17 minutes

Median household income: $58,571


Average commute to work: 21.8 minutes

Highway 122 West in Nora Springs.

Distance to: Des Moines: 95 miles, 1.5 hours Minneapolis/St. Paul: 166 miles, about 2 hours and 38 minutes LISA GROUETTE, GLOBE GAZETTE‌

Franklin County Courthouse in downtown Hampton.

Mason City: 19 miles, or 27 minutes

Named after: Founded by


thews came to Rockford in 1855 and purchased most of the current-day town site, which he then sold in 1856 to a group of six men who called themselves “the Rockford Company.”


Downtown Sheffield work: 23.2 minutes Distance to: Des Moines: 127 miles, 2 to 2.5 hours

Total workforce: 432

Minneapolis/St. Paul: 137 miles, 2 hours and 14 minutes

Median household income: $54,792

Mason City: 22 miles, about 30 minutes

Named after: Robert Mat-

Average commute to


Incorporated: 1898

Median household income: $54,167

Distance to:

Minneapolis/St. Paul: 156 miles, or 2 hours and 28 minutes

Total workforce: 581

Distance to:

‌ opulation: P 2000: 1,342 2010: 1,323 2017: 1,393 2018: 1,288

who we are as a school. Parents and students have stepped up as well, making sure they follow our masking policies, taking time to use hand sanitizer before and after class, helping to disinfect the desks and areas that they touch. Most importantly, they have remained flexible. With safety being the number one priority, we at Newman Catholic have adapted in almost every fashion this year. Teachers, staff, parents, students, you should all be proud of what you have accomplished during these 100 days of school. It is time to celebrate a huge accomplishment of over 100 days in school. Over 100 days further than we were when we started. Over 100 days smarter during a pandemic. Let us keep the momentum, let us keep safety a priority, as we head into the second half of our year. A year like no other.

Des Moines: 103 miles, or 1 hour and 36 minutes

Established: 1875

Population: 2000: 907 2010: 860 2018: 830 2019: 818 Established: 1856

Total workforce: 767

Mason City: 29 miles, 39 minutes

Average commute to work: 16.3 minutes

for online students, for hybrid, for in-person. They had to plan for every scenario. Everything remained fluid. Students could choose to be in-person or online and might move from one to another at any time. Lesson plans were designed to accommodate students whose schedules were in flux. What a thing to celebrate, rising to the occasion so that our students could continue to learn in every scenario, doing what is best for them. Dozens of cherished traditions have had to be completely rethought in these 100 days. Masses moved online, fundraisers, virtual pep assemblies, concerts, spectator restrictions for games – as they too moved online – community volunteering, and so much more changed. But we changed with it. We made sure these precious traditions continued because they mattered and will continue to be a huge part of


West side of Rockford.

Named after: The Burlington/Cedar Rapids & Northern Railroad joined the Central of Iowa track with its own track from Plymouth Junction in 1877 and named Manly Junction after Central of Iowa’s freight agent, J.C. Manly. It was named the Town of Manly in 1898 and

officially became the City of Manly in 1973.

miles, 2 hours and 6 minutes

Total workforce: 759

Mason City: 10 miles, 16 minutes

Average commute to work: 19 minutes Distance to: Des Moines: 131 miles, 2 hours Minneapolis/St. Paul: 128


Manly, Iowa, in Worth County.

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Sunday, March 7, 2021 | G9

Churches From G8

their homes to allow for adequate social distancing have hosted small-group meetings. Clergy are no longer allowed to visit members of their congregations who are in local hospitals unless they are near death, so the Epiphany pastors have been calling them every day instead. If there is a critical need for anointing, one of the priests – usually the Rev. Josh Link, the associate pastor – goes to the hospital and is put in full protective gear, Manternach said. Jones said people at Trinity do miss the in-person fellowship they had before the pandemic. The church used to have an open-door diner on Wednesday nights where anyone from the community could come and eat supper, but that had to be curtailed due to COVID. Some parishioners are getting a membership list and calling folks to see how they are doing. They are also sending e-mails and texts. “We have really stressed reaching out and touching base with everyone,” Jones said. During the summer Jones would park his vehicle in congregation members’ driveways and send a text to let them know he was there so they could step outside for a socially distanced chat. Pastors said they plan to continue offering virtual services as an option even after the pandemic. Peterson said the Clear Lake UMC parsonage is right across the street from the church, which means even during a blizzard he can livestream Sunday worship as long as the power stays on, and people can watch while staying safe in their homes. Jones said he’s aware a lot of members of other congregations are watching the services, and Trinity is happy to serve them until they return to their home churches coming out of the pandemic. However, some people from other states have expressed interest in becoming Trinity members and supporting the church not only through their online attendance and prayers, but also financially. Jones said the Trinity pastors are trying to figure out what it means to be a congregation spreading beyond Mason City and North Iowa “How do we keep them engaged?” he said. Benitz said St. John’s will continue to livestream even after in-person services resume because “In many ways it is a really easy, low-barrier entry into the church.” He said fewer people attend church when they are growing up, which means coming into the building physically “can be really scary and really intimidating.” However, checking out an online service feels less risky than walking through the door, according to Benitz. He said St. John’s has discovered new ways to bring worship and faith into people’s lives during the pandemic. “Church is not a building,” he said.

G10 | Sunday, March 7, 2021


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Clear Lake Bank & Trust supports community, customers, and employees during pandemic By MARY PIEPER Special to the Globe Gazette The COVID-19 pandemic presented many challenges to North Iowa. Clear Lake Bank and Trust Company never wavered in supporting their employees, customers, and the North Iowa area. When the pandemic stunted the local economy and small businesses were challenged to find answers, the employees of Clear Lake Bank and Trust worked tirelessly to process more than 700 Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan applications totaling approximately $54 million. The PPP is a federal loan program created to help small and mediumsized businesses impacted by the pandemic cover costs related to payroll and other related expenses. These PPP loans supported businesses with an estimated 8,100 jobs in North Iowa. Paul Stevenson, president of Clear Lake Bank and Trust, said their employees thrived on knowing they were able to help business owners maintain their employee base and ensure people were able to continue providing for their families and lessen the financial burden brought on by the pandemic. Many of the businesses that applied for loans were existing Clear Lake Bank and Trust customers in the Clear Lake, Mason City, and Garner area. However, Clear Lake Bank and Trust also had the opportunity to help other small businesses with the PPP loan process. “We felt it was imperative to do all we could to provide this funding source for any business that requested it,” Stevenson said. “Our communities and the success of our customers are among our top priorities. Working with them to secure their financial success today and for the future, is what motivates us to do the work we do each day.”

Clear Lake Bank and Trust also continued with its commitment to North Iowa through donating financial resources. Clear Lake Bank and Trust gave more than $200,000 in donations and sponsorships during the pandemic, supporting more than 250 organizations, events, and causes in North Iowa. Despite being unable to hold their traditional fundraising events, many organizations saw the need for their services increase significantly. “We knew it was going to be a tough year for many organizations due to a potential reduction in giving and donations. We felt it was our responsibility to continue with our commitments, and make certain these organizations could provide their services during a time when they were needed more than ever,” Stevenson said. “I could not be more proud of our employees for their generosity and giving spirit during this uncertain time.” In addition to honoring their annual commitments to organizations they have supported for years, Clear Lake Bank and Trust increased the number of groups they donated to in 2020, making the impact in North Iowa communities even greater. Clear Lake Bank and Trust’s commitment to supporting North Iowa during the pandemic went beyond monetary donations, according to Stevenson. The employees remained dedicated to their volunteer commitments, which typically total over 2,000 hours per year. “Our employees volunteered countless hours to organizations over the past year to provide any assistance possible,” Stevenson said. “Many of our employees are involved in organizations providing essential services to our citizens in need. Their support and leadership to these organizations continued without hesitation.”

In order to continue serving customers while keeping employee health and well-being a top priority, Clear Lake Bank and Trust made quick, innovative adjustments to the method in which they conduct business. When access to bank lobbies was limited, employees made phone calls to customers to see how they were doing and if there was anything the bank could do to help them. They also developed a Concierge Banking program, where customers could pull up, park, and Clear Lake Bank and Trust employees could bring the customer’s banking business to their vehicle, where they felt most safe. This program allowed customers the opportunity to complete their banking needs without being required to physically come into the bank building. One thing CLB&T leadership is particularly proud of is the ability to keep all of their staff fully employed throughout the pandemic. For a time, employees were on rotating schedules staffing the physical bank locations and working from home. During this time, all employees continued to receive full pay and benefits. Leadership also implemented on-thejob safety measures for employees to protect their health and well-being, according to Stevenson. “With the great cooperation and dedication of our employees to maintain a safe and healthy environment, we have been able to continue to provide all of our services to our customers without missing a beat,” said Stevenson. “We have great appreciation for our employees who have remained flexible, patient, and positive during this fluid time”. The Clear Lake Bank and Trust tellers, personal bankers, and other frontline and behind the scenes employees, were critical to the operation of the Bank during this past year. Business

was conducted primarily through the drive-thru lanes; therefore, the tellers became experts on many products and services very quickly. “The dedication our employees showed this year is remarkable. It really shows the value they place on serving our customers,” says Stevenson. Stevenson noted the company has been recognized as a Top Workplace by the Des Moines Register for 10 years in a row. “We care about our employees, our employees care about each other, and we all care about our customers,” he said. This became very evident over to past 12 months. “While this pandemic may have been a very tough time for all of us, we have to look at the positives,” said Stevenson. “If we take a moment to reflect on the past year, there is so much in which we are to be thankful.” During this historical time, North Iowa has proven to be resilient and strong. “We have seen how North Iowans responded by supporting the business community and buying local,” Stevenson said. “At Clear Lake Bank and Trust we believe we need to continue to focus our efforts on supporting local businesses and making sure they are able to succeed far beyond this pandemic.” As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, one thing is for certain, Clear Lake Bank and Trust will remain a pillar of strength and leadership for the communities they serve. They plan to continue to be a steadfast supporter of our organizations and events, and continue to serve their customers with top notch customer service and innovative methods.

Building relationships since 1934.

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How small business survived a pandemic

Coryne Meek and Al Schmidt of Randy’s Neighborhood Market help customer Kathy Welch.

From toilet paper to mandates, 2020 set high hurdles for Osage JASON W. SELBY

Press News‌

‌Osage survived 2020, but it took individuals, civic organizations, public servants and local businesses banding together. One former public servant, Barb Francis, has seen many different sides of local industry. She spent eight years as executive director of the Osage Chamber of Commerce and was involved with the Mitchell County Economic Development Commission, for which

Tony Stonecypher is currently director. Francis was also a Mitchell County supervisor – her last full year on the board was 2020. It was like seeing everything she had helped build come under attack, she said. Though COVID-19 hit Osage broadside, Francis believes the town was built to survive. One aspect of Mitchell County that gave it an edge was its number of small businesses. According to a study by SmartAsset, utilizing IRS data, the analysis ranked the county seventh in Iowa for small business population. “I see Mitchell County as a survivor,” Francis said. “Our main

streets look vibrant compared to other communities our size.” However, the epidemic did not strike all businesses the same. Some had built-in advantages when it came COVID-19. Others were not as lucky. “I still shudder to think of the stresses they faced and continue to face,” Stonecypher said of stores such as bars and restaurants so dependent on foot traffic. “Again, it’s changed our culture. Time will tell how much it bounces back.” Stonecypher believes smaller producers have an advantage over larger producers during the pandemic. They are not subject to a large bureaucracy and can more quickly adapt, and when nec-


Nicole Weaver and Trisha Smith of Kountry Kupboard in Osage help a customer, Norma Brunner. essary serve the public in other store director of Randy’s Neighways. borhood Market in Osage. “I guess people panicked,” PerToilet paper‌ rin said of the unusual phenomSome of the luckier establish- enon common across the United ments were grocery stores, be- States. “People started buying cause they were considered an toilet paper and sanitizers and all essential service. that stuff. They wiped our shelves Toilet paper became a No.1 seller, according to Steve Perrin, Please see SMALL BUSINESS, Page HH6

Mitchell County libraries forge ahead Staffs improvised, overcame challenges during pandemic STEVEN THOMPSON

Special to the Globe Gazette‌

‌County library directors and staffs have improvised and worked diligently to provide safety and services for their patrons during the ongoing pandemic. Here is a look at some of the Mitchell County libraries that have worked to continue services:

Riceville Public Library‌

“We set books out for people, and people emailed documents which we copied or faxed even when our doors were closed,” said Betsy Morse, director of the Riceville’s Public Library. “We were only closed from April 7 to April 30, but people had curb-side pickups. Anything that needed to be done we found a way to do it. We reopened on May 1.” To provide safety, a portion of the library’s summer children reading program was held outside in a nearby park. One of Morse’s major challenges was getting supplies to sanitize the building and reading material. “We clean every book when it’s returned, and it’s tough getting wipes and sanitizers. We had a good supply of paper products on hand when this started, and we had almost run out when the State Library sent us a Care Package of gloves, masks, and sanitizers, which tided us over,” said Morse, who stated that a patron had also donated money to help cover these costs.

“Our digital use has went up some, but onsite circulation has went down 15 percent, even though we have been open,” said Morse.

Nissen Public Library (St. Ansgar)‌ “Behind the scenes during our shutdown we took online classes, sorted out old books that weren’t being checked out and took them off the computer, and cleaned surfaces,” said Marsha Kuntz, director of the Nissen Public Library in St Ansgar. “When we were closed we got a memorial of money, and we replaced the upstairs carpet.” While book circulation numbers has gone down during the pandemic, the library’s online numbers have risen. “E-books, audio books, magazines, and videos are all up. We have Ebsco Host Home Improvements online which provides household repairs and remodeling ideas. Last month we had a usage of 460 on the site, and this number remains quite steady. This week we collaborated with Prairie Ridge of Mason City in providing a Zoom educational class on Safe Medication Practices for Better Health,” said Kuntz. The library’s online patrons can find sites for job hunting, improvement of physical and mental health, information on Covid-19, and the local paper is digitally formatted. Children’s Librarian Leilani Baker also provides story time online. Kuntz emphasizes the library is open by appointment and individuals or families can come in and browse. The staff will also take requests by phone for books, videos, and audio books. Patrons

INSIDE THIS PROJECT ‌Section H Small businesses ... H1 Public libraries ... H1 00 1

Meat vending business ... H2

View of the outside of the Osage Public Library. can have these items delivered to their car, pick them up in the library’s entrance or next door at City Hall.

Stacyville Public Library‌

Barb Klapperich, director of the Stacyville Public Library, stated the town’s library is ranked No. 2 in Iowa in circulation for cities with a population of 500 or less. With a slowdown in foot traffic she wants patrons to know the library is accessible through appointments. “We are marketers for literacy,” said Klapperich, who stated her staff has worked hard during the pandemic to promote interest and provide services for area children and adults. “We have been open the whole time for curbside services, and have a chair in our entryway where people can pick up books and material. We have computers open, but not a lot of people come in to use them. We started with appointments on May 15. Only two family units can be in the library at one time. We


A large Ferris wheel in Riceville Library was constructed by local youth. are also back to loaning out our chairs and tables for events,” said Klapperich. The staff used YouTube for last year’s Summer Literacy Program, which focused on reading fairytales. To promote the project, Klapperich dressed in the various character customs and pho-

Barb Schwamman column ... H3

Riceville demographics ... H7

Cedar River Complex ... H4

Timothy Fox column ... H8

Faith and COVID-19 ... H5

Charles City demographics... H8

St. Ansgar demographics ... H6

Perseverance in sports ... H9

tos were taken of her at different community sites. Children were challenged to identify her character and where the photo was taken. “Actually a lot of adults joined in too, because they thought it was fun,” said Klapperich. “We also Please see LIBRARIES, Page H8

North Iowa Progress 2021 is a special publication of the Globe Gazette, Press News and Summit-Tribune. Reach us at Box 271, Mason City, IA 504020271 or by email at


H2 | Sunday, March 7, 2021

Innovation leads to vending gratification S and S Meats and Spirits in Osage comes back strong in 2021 JASON W. SELBY

Press News‌

‌When the COVID-19 epidemic struck in March of 2020, the stress on the local economy forced small businesses to adapt. For S & S Meats and Spirits in Osage, the necessity to innovate included a meat vending machine. The idea was certainly not conventional. Those unfamiliar with the concept, such as a herd of followers on the S & S Facebook page, were intrigued. They had never heard of such a thing. But in the few months it has been open, it’s been the real deal as far as business is concerned. “When I posted it on Facebook, within two days we had around 65,000 hits and people were sharing it all over,” said co-owner Nathan Owen. “It’s as viral as anything I’ve every posted. “People were thinking, ‘oh man, I can go get bacon any time of day.’ They were excited about it.” While Owen and co-owner Tom Smith researched the idea from other businesses – some out-ofstate processors, such as one in Rochester, N.Y., were trendsetters – it was a leap of faith for S & S to stuff steaks where one usually find M&Ms. Smith did not mind if the idea seemed strange to those on Facebook, because there was admiration mixed with this wonder. He sees where S & S’s innovation could catch on, and that their business could expand by placing more vending machines in other towns, or at rest stops along the road. “They said it was a great idea,” Smith said of Facebook’s input. “It got us more business. People are always looking for a new way to buy something. It also helped with the pandemic.” “I had been looking for more ways to be creative and offer services to the public and different hours, such as when we’re not open,” Owen said. “COVID was a big part in going forward with the


From left: Heather Owen, Nathan Owen and Tom Smith by the new meat vending machine at S&S Meats and Spirits in Osage.


Angie Wyatt uses the S and S Meats and Spirits meat vending machine.


The more traditional meat and cheese counter at S and S Meats and Spirits. vending machine. If things were going to stay the way they were with social distancing, then we had to look for other ways to service our customers.” Smith added that it would get patrons simply because it was a 24-hour service. “It’s awesome,” said local customer Barb Schwamman. “You slide your card, you push the button and you get meat and cheese. I don’t have to worry if S & S is open or not. The biggest thing for me is the convenience factor. “It has good products. It’s just like getting it from the meat counter.” According to Owen, what is

unique about their machine is its design, which was created for outdoor use in collaboration with a Clive company, Its layout is currently being used as a mold for other lockers. “They said we were the first ones with that had actually designed one for meat,” Owen said. “Well, now they’re going to start marketing this type of machine to other processors, like delis and stores like that around the United States. “Even though it’s such a specialty thing, the vending company sees there’s definitely a market for it.” The meat vending machine’s

conception began last March, as S & S made the decision, for the benefit of public safety, to close the store to foot traffic. This was not something the business had to do – food services were considered essential and therefore exempt from the mandate of the time – but S & S put safety first. They still found a way, with curbside phone orders and drive-up, to feed the public. “Out of safety and not knowing what was going to happen, we did lock down,” Owen said. “We were able to use Facebook to communicate with our customers. “We’ve been very fortunate to not have COVID-19 hit us directly here, as far as having an employee sick or hospitalized. We’ve been happy to be able to keep operating during the whole ordeal.” While safety is paramount, according to Owen they also had to consider how COVID-19 affected their business economically – they could not serve the public if they were closed. Smith indicated the epidemic put a strain on business. “We were able to function, but it was definitely a stressful time,” Owen said. “A lot of people were not able to stay in business. So it was a

good time to pull the trigger and see if we could make the vending machine work. “We also picked up a few new costumers looking for a different option. There was literally point when the grocery store didn’t have any meat on the shelves. We had some supply issues also. It was nothing we’d ever seen before. I’m just hoping, going forward, that things head in the right direction, and that everybody can get back to a normal life.” S & S launched the meat vending machine on Main Street last fall. Owen and Smith are looking forward to seeing how summertime and fewer COVID-19 restrictions affect sales. “So far, so good,” Owen said. “It’s been busy. It doesn’t have every product we sell, but it does have our main, popular stuff in it. We’ll continue to put different items in there. It’s still taking off. It’s been very consistent, and I think the more word spreads, it’ll keep growing.” Jason W. Selby is the community editor for the Mitchell Country Press News. He can be reached at 515-9716217, or by email at jason.selby@


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Sunday, March 7, 2021 | H3

Osage schools ‘improvise, adapt, overcome’ BARB SCHWAMMAN

Special to the Globe Gazette‌

‌The Osage Community Schools were able to IMPROVISE, ADAPT and OVERCOME the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. Schools shut down in March 2020 and the school year ended with teachers doing weekly zoom lessons and student checkins. Thousands of meals were packaged by kitchen staff and volunteers, which were available by pickup or delivery. We IMPROVISED and celebrated our seniors by hosting a drive through parade at the school, with a graduation in our new gym and off site prom in June. To prepare for the 20202021 school year, a Return to Learn Committee composed of community members, parents, and staff, proposed an innovative 2-1-2 schedule. We were able to ADAPT and students attended face-to-face on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, with all students learning virtually at home on Wednesdays. This model was a success for many reasons. All buildings helped mitigate and contain COVID through adjusting schedules, placing students in pods, and most importantly, wearing masks and sanitizing. Our goal was to keep students and staff safe, while providing high quality learning opportunities. School remained open every day and we are proud of our students, staff, and community for the amazing job they have all done! We were able to OVERCOME and do what we needed to do because our school

board, staff, students and community partnered to think outside the box. Even throughout COVID, we celebrated Homecoming, won state titles, gave phenomenal performances, and made growth in the classrooms. Students learned life lessons and new ways to think and problem solve as we have persevered through this challenging, but GREAT school year. We are proud of the work of our staff and as we plan for the 2021-2022 school

year we will take time to thank the entire student body, staff, families, and community for the support. Barb Schwamman is the superintendent of Osage and Riceville community schools. MARY PIEPER SPECIAL TO THE PRESS NEWS‌

Shawn Eichmeier and Mary Miller were crowned the 2020 Osage Homecoming King and Queen on Sept. 27 in an outdoors ceremony.

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H4 | Sunday, March 7, 2021

Cedar River Complex redesigns programming during pandemic Patrons come for companionship, camaraderie and the workouts STEVEN THOMPSON

Special to the Globe Gazette‌

‌The Cedar River Complex continues to play a role in the physical, emotional, and mental health of its members during the ongoing pandemic. After the state’s mandate to close facilities from March 16 to May 6, the CRC reopened with strict guidelines for sanitizing, social distancing and mask wearing. Staff continues to modify many of their old programs, and instituted new programming so members have access to onsite and offsite physical fitness. “I didn’t know what I had until this shutdown,” said fifth-year member Susan Ellison of Osage, who rides the stationary bike and works out on machines. “After the shutdown, I didn’t feel as fit as when I had been working out. “I wasn’t as worried about the virus as I was losing my physical fitness. Coming here provides camaraderie, companionship, and it gets me out of the house. Our kids also love the scooters and their swim lessons, so the whole family finds something to do here.” Second-year member Patty Kisley of Osage, who is a registered nurse instructor at NIACC, believes the facility is vital for seniors. “Health and fitness is extremely


Named after: A man named Orrin Sage who was a banker from Ware, Massachusetts. Sage invested $2,000 and 600 acres of land to the Library Building Fund. Due to his generosity, the town’s name was changed to Osage in his honor.

‌ Population: 2000: 3,451 2010: 3,619 2018: 3,547 2019: 3,568 Incorporated: 1871


important for the elderly, and I am elderly,” said Kisley. “Depression is prevalent in the elderly population. Isolation was tough when the shutdown came, and we missed out on having coffee and socializing after our exercising. Physical activity helps to prevent diseases and the elderly who exercise are less prone to fall and fracture bones. I see the elderly population, and I worry about the people who aren’t here. Often the elderly give up because they have nobody to socialize with.” Kisley social distances, wears a mask, and admits she not only cleans her machines, but occasionally wipes down other’s machines. “The shutdown hit our group pretty hard, but we decided to come back,” said four-year member Deb Jensen of Riceville, who has had both knee and hip replacement. “If you don’t keep moving you will lose it.” “We have plenty of social distancing in the pool, and it’s pretty safe because chlorine kills the virus. I also think the socializing is really important, because when they were shutdown it caused people to be depressed. We are like family around here,” said Jensen, who spends her time in the pool. CRC Director Gayle Nelson, said staff had worked diligently to physically update the facility during the close-down. After reopening state guidelines were closely followed. “This is the most we have been open since the pandemic,” said Nelson. “We are now at full capacity, and are allowed to have fitness classes with six-foot distancing. We encourage members to wear

Deb Jensen of Riceville swims in the Cedar River Complex pool, which helps to strengthen knees and hip.

Patty Kisley works out on fitness machine at the Cedar River Complex.

Susan Ellison works out with weighted ball in the Cedar River Complex fitness room.

masks throughout the facility, but they can remove them while in the pool, and while exercising.” Besides sanitizing, staff have also come up with creative ideas to run programs and raise money. “Our management team has done a nice job talking to members to come up with programs to fill in the gap during these times. We tried to come up with things for families who were looking for something to do.” said Marketing Manager Kimberlee Haskins. “We create a CRC puzzle for families to buy, and our Sweater Dash was very popular. Participants felt safe with the one-mile run outside in early December.

“In August we held our annual marathon event and held runs of 5K, 10K, half marathon and a full marathon. We had 260 participants from 28 states, and Mexico. We started runners in waves to create distancing on the course. We also held a junior track meet last summer.” Program Manager Nicole Dodd has been busy developing fitness programing. “Our staff has become excellent at problem solving. One of the best things is we used the outdoors for kids events. Middle Schoolers have had several athletic events cancelled, so we developed the CRC Strong Program for seventh and

Total workforce: 1,843 Median household income: $54,274 Average commute to work: 17.2 minutes


eighth graders. With six students each session, they are taught the proper form for weight lifting from experienced weight lifters. We have over 15 kids in the program. “Mark Miller Aquatics Director came up with a virtual triathlon, which will be held from Feb. 15 to March 15. This is a challenge for people who need an extra punch,” said Nelson. “Those who want to participate can call us for forms, and they have the full month to complete the full schedule of events.” The CRC is also renting spaces for parties, family gatherings, and organizational events. These groups can also use the pool area.

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SUNDAY, MARCH 7, 2021 |


Faith community meets COVID-19 head on Churches faced challenges, persevered during pandemic

More churches Other Mitchell County churches to check out: „ Our Savior’s Lutheran Church

in Osage ... 641-732-5523


Special to the Globe Gazette

With faith and resilience being essential spiritual components during the current crisis, several area pastors and lay leaders have improvised to keep their congregations safe and connected with God and with each other. The Rev. Raymond Burkle and Pastoral Minister Annette Uker minister to both the Osage Sacred Heart Church and Stacyville’s Visitation Church. They’ve worked to keep both congregations safe, while meeting the spiritual needs of their parishioners. “We closed the churches in late March and reopened near the end of May. We did live streaming of services during that time,” said Burkle. “When we reopened we encouraged everyone to wear masks and social distanced during Mass. We took away all the missalettes, and other paper products from the pews and used the overhead screens. At first, we had no singing and I did all the service. In Sacred Heart we used an overhead projector to put up songs, when we went back to singing.” Uker said the church has found new ways to serve members. “We had a group of volunteers who called other members to check up on them, and ask for prayer requests. Many of the volunteers said those who had been called appreciated the opportunity to visit with someone. Father sent out a weekly e-mail of prayer requests, and weekly schedule of events.” Burkle continues to emphasis that parishioners should stream if they feel sick, or if out of town family is visiting. Some Sundays during warm weather, Rev. Burkle offered drive up communion after his on-line services. The church also live streams both morning and evening prayer services.

„ Trinity Lutheran in Osage ...


„ First Baptist Church in Osage

... 641-732-5585

„ Life Church south of Osage

... 641-732-3187

The Rev. Sue Thomas, who pastors both the First United Methodist Church in Osage, and the St Ansgar Methodist Church said the pandemic has been a challenge for her and her congregations. “We as pastors weren’t trained for this, and we had to learn things we weren’t trained to do. I feel lucky that I had people in my churches to fill in some of those gaps,” said Thomas. “During our shutdown we started taping our services on Thursday and playing them online on Sunday.” “The St Ansgar Congregation went back to full services in the fall for a few weeks, with no singing or physical responses. Then the Bishop gave a directive for no in-person worship from November up to Jan. 10. We just had our first live service in Osage on Jan. 31. We are now learning how to film the service live and stream it live.” Thomas said conformation celebration, baptism, and funerals have been conducted with families onsite, then streamed online. “We have tried to help people connect, with one another. This summer we went to the park so we could social distance for women’s meetings and other events. We have an older congregation and we have had to teach them how to connect online. In St Ansgar we hired a part time person to help us with online services,” said Thomas, who said some meetings were held over Zoom. Pastors of smaller congregations had different challenges as they lacked technology to live stream. Gary Gilbert, who is

Worshipers at Sacred Heart Church in Osage wear masks and social distance during morning prayer service.


With the mask mandate lifted by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, some parishioners wear masks while others don’t while visiting after service at Prairie Lakes Church in Osage. the lay-pastor for both the David Community Church and the Riceville Congregational Church, said he ministered to his parishioners using phone calls through the shutdown. He now strongly encourages the use of masks in church, and because of smaller numbers it’s easier for his congregations to social distance. He personally takes up the offerings to provide protections for attendees. “Our numbers are not up to where they were,” said Gilbert. “We’ve made a lot of adjustments, because we didn’t see this

complete shutdown coming,” said the Rev. Pastor Andy Schumacher, of Prairie Lakes Church in Osage. “We shut down in March and reopened the end of June. We shut down again in November and reopened two weeks before Christmas.” Schumacher said staff and chaplains have kept in contact with parishioners, and several small groups continued meeting over Zoom. “We felt a burden to keep the Mobile Food Pantry going, because of the needs. We adjusted from having the Food Pantry inside to outside when this started.

The National Guard helped with food distribution to begin with, but now our own volunteers do it,” said Schumacher. Local youth now help box staples for the Food Pantry, which is held on the Fourth Tuesday of every month. “We also had our Christmas Store which helped family’s provide quality gifts at a discounted price. I wondered if we would be able do it this year, but we got creative and held it over a one week period. We had 58 families who came this year,” said Schumacher. Children’s ministry at the church has been curtailed for most of the shutdown, but now it’s starting up again. “We have adjusted ministry when key volunteers have gotten sick. It takes a lot of effort and energy to get enough volunteers for our children and youth ministries,” said Schumacher, who stated the church has reopened safely, and he hopes all things will return to normal later this year. The Rev. Pastor Jim Stern of the Christian Missionary Alliance Church of Osage said one of his congregation’s challenges with keeping their Awana Kids Program intact during the current crisis. The program, which normally ministers to between 70 to 100 youth each Wednesday is now running with about 40 youth attending. “We started up Awana in early September like we regularly do, and we haven’t missed a week yet. We have smaller classes for the youth, but everything else is pretty much the same. At first we didn’t require kids to wear masks, until in November when the Governor mandated it,” said Stern. He said ministering to adults in his congregation has also be a challenge at times. “A lot of people are at home so I did a lot of my visitation and counselling on the phone. I also do a lot more visiting in the country, because people aren’t getting out. I think our people miss being together and worshipping together, but we have a good response from on line services.”


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Sept. 17, 18 & 19, 2021 Kid/School Day on Friday, September 17th Open to the Public Sat., Sept. 18th & Sun., Sept. 19th Come discover the past with family activities like: • Shooting Sports (.22, black powder, archery) • Period Music • 1800’s Fur Trading Camp • Tomahawk and Trap Throw • Swap Meet • Archaeological Displays • Hunting/Trapping Presentations and Displays • Rendezvous Raffle & Much More!!

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H6 | Sunday, March 7, 2021

Small business From HH1

out. Then it was hard to get those items for a long time. “We were kind of confused about what the big deal was about toilet paper, but we tried to do the best to help everybody and get items for them.” Perrin believes every grocery store had the same problems with supply. “Companies couldn’t keep up,” he said of those industries necessary to stocking the shelves. “There were a lot of outs throughout the whole store. We’d try to find other items to substitute in.” At times, the meat section also grew bare. “They just didn’t have the workers in these plants to do the processing,” Perrin said. Items in metal or aluminum cans such as corn, beans and tomatoes were also in short supply. It was nothing like Perrin had seen before. The demand for food items and sanitary products led to a relative financial boom, and Perrin knows Randy’s was lucky compared to fellow businesses. “We’ll never see another year like 2020,” he said. In turn, Randy’s tried to support the community and those struggling, including donating to the local food bank. “We worked together and did the best we could,” Perrin said. “We’re here to do what we can for the community. And our employees were great.” Kati Henry, executive director of the Osage Chamber of Commerce, saw COVID-19 placing employees in danger. They keep stores open, so attention had to be directed at them. “The biggest thing we identified was making sure businesses had

St. Ansgar Population: 2000: 1,026 2010: 1,107 2018: 1,119 2019: 1,159 Established: 1853 Named after: St. Ansgar is named


Pool tables at Osage Motel and Lounge. access to resources to help them,” Henry said, “With [Paycheck Protection Program] information, Iowa Small Business Grant information, etc. “We also made sure to provide what businesses were open or closed – how their hours or operations may have changed at the beginning of the pandemic – by putting all of that info on a web page on our site that was also shared across social media channels.”

Foot traffic‌

Stonecypher will soon leave as director of the Economic Development Commission. Like Francis, he exits as COVID-19 vaccinations give the community hope to defeat the pandemic. “You do what you can, and lean on whatever resources you can,” Stonecypher said. “I think the community did a remarkable job of coming through the pandemic as they have. Just the dogged determination to not give up. And the initiative people took to change their business models. for the patron saint of Scandinavia, a French Benedictine monk. The First Lutheran Church of St. Ansgar in town was founded in 1853 by Rev. Claus Lauritz Clausen who also named the town. Total workforce: 573 Median household income: $63,750 Average commute to work: 18.4

“We had a few businesses experience supply chain disruptions, and that hurt.” Some businesses were hit harder because disruptions in the supply chain involved the human element. Osage Motel & Lounge is one example. Hotels and bars lost customers with the decline in travelers; as well, mandates from above closed lounges. Donna Hinderks has owned her establishment since 1976. She was not prepared for the biggest shutdown since the Great Influenza of 1918-19. “I never thought anyone would walk in the door and say you have to close,” Hinderks said. “That’s just something you never dream is going to happen. But we have always planned ahead. We’ve been here 45 years.” As the shutdown continued, Hinderks and her crew remodeled and painted while they had the time. “We just kept on working,” Hinderks said. During COVID-19, while less

Americans travelling equaled a decrease in profits, Hinderks now sees a desire for the public to break out of not only the snow and cold but from pandemic restrictions. “People are ready to get out and talk to others,” she said. “That’s basically what a bar allows you to do. So the bar is back, but not the travelers.” By mandate, Hinderks had to close the lounge for 10 weeks. Then they could only be 50 percent occupancy. Then they made the bar close at 10 p.m. “That was not nice,” she said. “But we’ve been very pleased with the local support. I still have my pool leagues going. I have open pool on Saturday, with 25 people last week. They’ve always done their best to support me.” Hinderks believes work ethic is key to overcoming any obstacle. “We were always here,” she said about not giving up while the rest of the world closed. Despite this fortitude, it is difficult to deal with the loss of projects, county fairs and other events that normally would bring in customers from afar. “There wasn’t anything going on,” Hinderks said. “Everyone was scared of COVID. There weren’t a lot of town celebrations anywhere this past year.” Hinderks believes the extent of the pandemic was exaggerated, and local businesses as a side effect became victims. “The media managed to scare people so they took it seriously and stayed home,” she said, “but you do what they tell you to do.” However, she understands why some of the elderly do not go out in public as much. “We’ll never get that back,” Hinderks said of the financial hit. “The income that we’ve lost is just gone.”


Other food services, such as Kountry Kupboard in Osage, were fortunate to stay open. According to owner Lynn Peaster, curbside dining helped get them through the most difficult time. As well, part of their business sells bulk food, part is a coffee shop. That duality helped. “For just a little while, we did experience a financial pinch,” Peaster said. “But it didn’t take long before people started coming back in to carry food out.” Kounty Kupboard did its part to help control the spread of COVID-19 with regular, thorough sanitations. For a while, they had a mask policy. “The large percentage were good about wearing masks,” Peaster said of his customers. Peaster indicated that visits with other business owners boosted morale. However, mandates limiting the size of gatherings were an obstacle. “When COVID-19 came out, you wondered what was going to happen here,” Peaster said. “Businesses that did have to close, I felt really sorry for them. But it was just one day at a time. We fought our way through it, and just trusted that everything would turn out okay.” Civic leaders such as Francis, Stonecypher and Henry share this trust, and understand the need for the collaboration that Peaster references. If there is one thing they have learned about 2020, it is to prepare for the worst, because 2021 is just a number. The Great Influenza lasted two years. “We’re not out of the woods yet,” said Stonecypher. Jason W. Selby is the community editor for the Mitchell Country Press News. He can be reached at 515-9716217, or by email at jason.selby@

minutes Distance to: Des Moines: 150 miles, 2 hours and 20 minutes Minneapolis/St. Paul: 122 miles, 2 hours and 11 minutes Mason City: 30 miles LISA GROUETTE—GLOBE GAZETTE‌

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Des Moines: 166 miles, 2.5 to 3 hours


Named after: Platted by three brothers — Leonard, Dennis and Gilbert Rice.

2000: 840

Total workforce: 455

Minneapolis/St. Paul: 140 miles, 2 hours and 20 minutes

2010: 785

Median household income: $44,402

Mason City: 47 miles, about an hour

2018: 761 2019: 889

Average commute to work: 23 minutes

Established: Platted 1855, incorporated 1892

Distance to:

Sunday, March 7, 2021 | H7


Riceville, Iowa in Mitchell County.

Get to Know Us

Located Near Fareway in Mason City

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We Offer Medical, Dental & Mental Health Our services include


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1332 State Street, OSage Nice space for the whole family! Spacious living room with fireplace and new carpet. Kitchen and dining room combination with patio doors leading to a wood deck and back yard. The lower level offers additional bedrooms, bathroom, and family room. Attached 2 stall garage, breezeway with nice extra storage space and 2 yard sheds.

Drive-in rapid testing is available at our COVID test site located at 1425 S Federal Ave. Schedule an appointment online at

1620 Main Street, OSage Great location! 50x80 building with parking space in the front and back of building. Many renovations are done such as spray foam insulation, lined walls, new 200 AMP electric service, Reznor heat, new windows and doors. Located on the East side of Osage along Hwy 9 & 218. Additional lot behind the building.

Open to all , regardless of insurance status. We accept most insurance and have a sliding fee scale for those who qualify.

404 North Federal Ave, Mason City, IA • • 641-450-0601


713 Main street Osage, IA • Website:

THANk yOu…. To our essential Workers who during this uncertain time kept our plant open enabling our timely cement shipments to support our local and regional projects. The Mason City plant employs 130 people and manufactures and distributes cement to several states including Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota. Cement is a critical component in just about every type of construction project, including houses, office buildings, parking lots, roads and bridges. Our plant was committed and stay open to help keep all these project running. At Lehigh Hanson, we know that our employees are the key to success and continued growth. We offer employees a dynamic and fast-paced work environment with opportunities to really make a difference. Our employees are among the best and brightest in the industry and our facilities utilize optimized processing to produce best-in-class products. We are proud of our employees as they advance into the many opportunities within. We rely on their talents and skills to help us grow and move forward into the future.


700 25th St. NW, Mason City, IA

641-421-3400 Providing Solid Foundations To The Successes In North Iowa. 00 1

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Equal Opportunity Employer – Minority / Female / Veteran / Disability / Gender Identity / Sexual Orientation



| SUNDAY, MARCH 7, 2021

Sound business management helped Floyd County TIMOTHY S. FOX

Special to the Globe Gazette


loyd County businesses largely persisted through the pandemic, owing to sound management techniques. We were most fearful that our retail businesses would suffer. However, six new businesses are TIMOTHY S. occupying storefronts on Charles FOX City’s Main Street and FY 2020 retail sales in the county were 8.1% higher than in 2019 – even though

the state as a whole showed a $114 million loss in retail sales in 2020. In 2020 the Avenue of the Saints Development Park was officially accredited within the Iowa Certified Sites Program. This 75.34acre parcel is situated at the intersection of Charles City’s South Grand Avenue and the four-lane Avenue of the Saints. The entrance is 600 feet from the Avenue. The community deems it one of the most marketable industrial sites in the Midwest. As it has superior companies paying competitive wages, Floyd County has the highest average weekly manufacturing wages in

North Iowa. Its average weekly wage was fully 45 percent higher than the mean of the remainder of counties for the first three quarters of 2020! This extrapolates to over $20,000 more personal income per year for Floyd County manufacturing employees, a foundational reason for considering a move to Floyd County. Cambrex Charles City Inc., a leading manufacturer of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients [APIs] and pharmaceutical intermediates, embarked on a $49.29 million expansion in 2020. 32 jobs with exceedingly competitive wages will be created. This

follows Charles City’s Zoetis operation wrapping up a $55 million expansion project in 2020. Zoetis is a leading global animal health company which discovers, develops, and manufactures a diverse portfolio of animal health medicines and vaccines. We are very proud that these first-rate companies opted to invest so heavily in Floyd County/Charles City. In 2021 Charles City looks forward to provision of 80 market-rate apartments, a new senior living complex [Birkwood Village] and relocation of TLC: The Learning Center to accommodate more children in meeting child-

care demand. Also encouraging is the ongoing constructing of new homes in the Villas at Parkside subdivision. There exist employment opportunities complemented by the labor fluidity conferred by the Avenue of the Saints. We encourage you to explore the attributes Floyd County has to offer. The community is competitive in retail, manufacturing, quality of life [recreation, social infrastructure], public and private schools, childcare and health care. Floyd County is working diligently to meet housing demand. Check us out.

Libraries From HH1

did a contest called Flat Barb and Flat Beth and hung photos in various businesses windows and kids would tell us where they saw our photos. I actually got to know kids and their families better through these contests.” Previously children programing had drawn about 80 kids onsite, but now substituting pickup grab and go packets the staff has to make up a greater number of the packets each week. The library has begun an adult book club hoping to develop a group of 20 readers. “Our in-person library has 16,000 items, but we have 60,000 E-books, 27,000 audio books, and 75 magazines online. All you have to do to use them, is have a library card,” said Klapperich. She stated the pandemic hasn’t been all bad, because when it’s over the sneeze guard at the checkout desk will stay in place, and the three-day isolation and

Charles City


Inside the Stacyville Public Library.

Riceville Library director Betsy Morse visits with a library patron. cleaning of books could become a permanent policy. “I think books stay much cleaner now,” said assistant Librarian Beth Lavan.

Osage Public Library

Staff members at the Osage Public Library have brightened the facility, and implement new services since their initial shutdown. During the shutdown,

Incorporated: 1869

nities including live tutoring for students, online writing assistance, and live help for languages learners. Also available on the website is access to the Mitchell County Press issue as far back as 1870, and access to state and federal tax forms. “This pandemic broke my heart,” adds Heimer. “We worked so hard over the years to get people to come and see the library as a community hub, but after this is over, we will have to start all over again.”

Total workforce: 3,683

Minneapolis/St. Paul: 172 miles, 2 hours and 46 minMedian household income: utes $41,060 Mason City: 30 miles, 40 Average commute to work: minutes 14.1 minutes

Named after: Originally named “Charlestown” for the son of the first-known settler to the area, Joseph Kelly. The name changed to “St. Charles” and finally to “Charles City” in order to avoid duplicating other town names in Iowa.

Population: 2000: 7,812 2010: 7,652 2018: 7,369 2019: 7,396

painting and other renovations were done while there was no foot traffic. The staff has processed patron’s requests for books, videos and magazines through the side window. After reopening individuals and family units could call for half hour appointments to browse, or use computers. “I have been doing a lot of printing, faxing and copying for

people who have emailed me their documents.” said Heimer. “We also handed out grab and go kits to children through our window and currently our Youth Services Librarian Tracy Scharper has been going to the Osage Day Care and Growing Tree PreSchool for story time. We also take a crate of books each month to all three assisted living centers in town.” Recently the library launched their new website, and added an online data base called Help Now, which provides many opportu-

Distance to: Des Moines: 146 miles, 2 hours and 11 minutes

Shopping • Dining • Nature • Events • Recreation


Cedar River near downtown Charles City.



Come on out and Join the Fun!

Friday Night Out in Osage, Iowa Free Admission

5 p.m. – 9 p.m.

Food starts at 5:00 p.m. • Music 5-9 p.m.

JUNE 25 Featuring music by Spenser Rahm JULY 16 Featuring music by Jesse Allen AUGUST 13 Featuring music by Island Fever

Please consider being a sponsor for Osage Friday Night Out Contact the Chamber for details.

Osage Chamber Summer Calendar of Events APRIL 30-MAY 1 THURSDAYS 3-6 PM City Wide Rummage Sales

Downtown Farmers Market, 114 S 7th St



Summer Treasures Fest, Downtown

BRAM (Bike Ride Across Mitchell County)

JULY 3, 10 AM


Independence Day Parade

Autumn Artistry

Plan your weekend in Osage! See our full calender of events at

704 Main Street • Osage, lowa 50461 641-732-3163

To apply go to, click on jobs, then click on View Jobs in the US, and type Osage into the search bar. RR Donnelley is an equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate in any aspect of employment on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, sex, gender identity or expression, age, disability, perceived disability, sexual orientation, veteran status, or genetic information, or on the basis of any other status protected by applicable federal, state or local laws.

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SUNDAY, MARCH 7, 2021 |


Despite COVID-19, high school athletes persevered Mitchell County programs showed prowess on sports fields, courts PRESS NEWS STAFF

It has been a year with the highest of highs, and the lowest of lows in Mitchell County sports. It saw championships won and lost, with plenty of home runs, crucial fourth-quarter touchdowns, buzzer-beating 3-pointers, and big-time kills. In the spring, Iowa’s high school CHRIS ZOELLER GLOBE GAZETTE athletes were dealt a crushing blow as the COVID-19 pandemic forced Osage vs. Mount Vernon Thursday during the Class 3A championship the cancellation of spring sports round of the state volleyball tournament at the Alliant Energy season. But after Iowa sports re- PowerHouse in Cedar Rapids. turned in the summer, the state and sports community (mostly) did its best to adapt to this strange new world. The year 2020 has been one to forget, but on the fields and courts of North Iowa, it gave us plenty of moments to remember as student-athletes persevered.

Osage wins the Class 3A state title With a 3-0 sweep of Mount Vernon on Nov. 5, the Osage volleyball team made school history, as the Green Devils won the program’s first ever state title. The Green Devils beat the Mustangs by set scores of 25-6, 25-17, and 25-20, and ended their season with a celebratory dog-pile on the floor of the Alliant Energy Powerhouse in Cedar Rapids. After four straight seasons of losing in the state semifinals, Osage went on a tear in 2020, with a 34-2 overall record while placing second in Class 3A in assists and kills, and leading in serve aces. “You know that cliché where they say ‘Pinch me I’m dreaming?’ That’s what it feels like,” head coach Bryan Tabbert told the Globe Gazette after the final victory. “I know why people say that now, because we just did it.”


Spencer Mooberry (182) took the state wrestling title after beating Adam Ahrendsen of Union in Des Moines on Saturday. school athletes were given the worst possible news on April 17. After a spring that saw the rapid spread of COVID-19 throughout Iowa, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced that schools would remain closed through the remainder of the school year. Following that news, the IHSAA and IGHSAU pulled the plug on spring sports for 2020. It was a day unlike any in Iowa athletics history, and one that ensured the 2020 Iowa spring sports record books will forever be blank.

St. Ansgar football falls short of state title

The St. Ansgar football team powered through an undefeated Iowa cancels spring sports season and three playoff oppoOn the other end of the emo- nents en route to its second contional spectrum, the state’s high secutive trip to the UNI-Dome in

2020. But the dream of winning the program’s first state championship since 2011 just wasn’t meant to be. St. Ansgar couldn’t keep up with explosive Iowa City Regina and fell, 49-28, in the Class A semifinal game last Friday. Although the Saints came up a game short of the state final, to say that the season wasn’t successful shouldn’t be the case. St. Ansgar earned a district championship, a state football qualifying spot and broke many individual and team records along the way. To make things even better, the Saints made it through the season relatively untouched by COVID-19. St. Ansgar played in every scheduled game this year. Not every area team could say the same, but the Saints made it a point to take precautions seriously.

Partners in Progress We wish to recognize and thank Iowa’s essential workers for their many invaluable contributions during the past year. These essential workers include each and every employee at our Osage manufacturing facility. Their contributions have been paramount in keeping our business functioning smoothly throughout the pandemic. Without them, we would not be able to produce and deliver the highest-quality biorational products for agriculture and public health— day after day. Thank you to our employees, who remain our essential partners in progress.

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St. Ansgar walks onto the field to face Regina Catholic Friday during the semifinal round of the state football tournament at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls.

Osage’s Spencer Mooberry finishes career with state title Four years. Four state tournament trips. Two state finals appearances. One state title. On the mats of Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Osage senior Spencer Mooberry went out on top, ending his highly successful high school wrestling career in the most appropriate way. As a state champion. Mooberry won the title with a 6-4 sudden victory over previously undefeated Union senior Adam Ahrendsen in the Class 2A 182-pound finals. When the referee blew the whistle, Mooberry spread his arms wide, hugged both his coaches, tossed his green ankle bands, and swung an imaginary baseball bat through the air to celebrate his home run of a win. With the victory, Mooberry redeemed his loss in the state finals last year, when he finished second overall at 170 pounds. When Mooberry raised his arms toward the ceiling on Saturday, he had just one thought in his mind. “Holy s***, I did it,” Mooberry said. “I’ve been dreaming of this since I was a little kid and I finally accomplished it. It’s a great feeling.” Mooberry took an early 2-0 lead over Ahrendsen with a takedown at 0:38 in the first. After Ahrend-

sen tied it in the second with a reversal, Mooberry went out in front again with an escape. The pair ended regulation tied at 4-4, but Mooberry ended it with a takedown at 0:43 in overtime. “It means a lot,” Mooberry said. “You hear all those Green Devil fans up there, it’s crazy. Osage loves their wrestling, right? It’s been too long since we’ve had a state champion.”

Osage wrestling makes state duals for third straight year For the Osage wrestling team, Wells Fargo Arena has almost become a home away from home. Over the past several years, the Green Devils have become a frequent sight under the bright lights of Des Moines. Last year, Osage earned a team championship at the traditional state meet, as its six competing wrestlers scored 88 team points to push the Green Devils past second-place Union, La Porte City. The 2020 Green Devils also made their second straight appearance at the state duals tournament, where they finished fifth. In February, the Green Devils clinched a spot at the state duals for the third consecutive year, with a 46-22 win over Emmetsburg in the Class 2A Regional duals.

H10 | Sunday, March 7, 2021


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2021 SPRING 2021 // SECTION I

Family vet team expands despite pandemic Father and daughter veterinarians realizing their dreams ROB HILLESLAND


‌Forest City veterinarians Gene Fjeld and Ceara Mullins are a father and daughter team with passion to treat animals. Daughter Ceara returning home from vet school to the family practice in the Forest City Veterinary Clinic would, on its own, be news. But now the big move to a much larger and better-equipped new vet clinic building at 524 Nerem Drive West in Nerem Industrial Park on the south side of Forest City is fast-approaching. The veterinarians, spanning two generations, are seeing their big plans to relocate and expand the clinic come to fruition quickly. What started as seeking to do a second expansion of the existing clinic at 35058 180th Ave. in Forest City morphed into relocation to the new building nearly double the size.


Above: Dr. Ceara Mullins with a canine patient and Dr. Gene Fjeld (right) Please see FAMILY VET, Page I5 with a canine patient.

Water system upgrades equip Britt for future Multi-million dollar projects can serve residents for decades ROB HILLESLAND


‌The City of Britt is addressing city water service with multiple unprecedented large-scale projects to accommodate growing regulatory, community and fire protection needs well into the 21st century. Britt’s 82-year-old, 100,000-gallon capacity water tower and 1955 water treatment facility long exceeded their anticipated useful life. If the 150,000-gallon new water tower and new water treatment facility last anywhere near as long, and they could, Britt will be able to provide premium municipal water service for decades. The new water treatment plant will have gravity filtration with reverse osmosis processing, soften city water enough to allow Britt residents to discontinue use of home softening and filtration units, enable the city to treat for future regulated contaminants, and allow for chloride discharge reduction to the city’s wastewater treatment facility, reducing burdens there. “There is the potential for DNR changes to water quality levels,” said Mayor Ryan Arndorfer. “Doing a reverse osmosis system allows us to be adaptable to those kinds of changes.” The project cost of the elevated tank is estimated between $1.4 million—$1.8 million with the cost of the new water treatment facility between $5.7 million and $6.9 mil-


The blue Britt water tower should be good to go for many years to come with some painting and proper maintenance. It holds 200,000 gallons of water.


lion. Annual operating and maintenance costs for the new treatment facility could be about $54,000 higher due to more specialized equipment, more processes, and higher chemical costs. In a December Town Hall Meeting, Bolton & Menk Facility Project Manager Katie Sterk noted that while the new treatment facility has a 20-year design life, it could easily last up to 65 years or more once built with proper care and maintenance. Sterk explained that the 1955 plant and equipment is old, obsolete, and in such poor condition that it is not economically feasi-

ble to rehabilitate. It has served the community for more than 65 years, but it has corrosion and delamination, valves that are not always opening and closing properly, and it is not effective at removing manganese, for which the Iowa Department of Natural Resources is proposing higher removal standards in the future. The new treatment plant will be able to handle higher removal of other contaminants that may be cited in future environmental requirements. The new facility requires more space due to modern equipment, so adding reverse osmosis treatment from day one of

new facility operation is the most cost effective. The new treatment facility will be constructed on the site east of the existing water treatment facility location. Rehabilitation of the existing treatment facility was not considered viable due to the age and condition of the existing treatment facility as well as the building requirements for the new equipment. Wes Brown, Bolton & Menk Tower Project Manager explained that the 82-year-old tower has serious delamination and corrosion issues on the inside and outside of it. The tower could have undergone a costly rehabilitation to

add another 10-20 years, which would not have provided an additional 50,000-gallon capacity recommended for fire protection. However, both Brown and Sterk noted that the city’s 200,000-gallon tower built in 1979 should last another 30-40 years with proper cleaning and painting. The new 150,000-gallon, single-pedestal tower will be built on the same block and just north of the existing tower, which is anticipated to be decommissioned and torn down once a review process from the State Historical Society, Please see WATER, Page I7

Section I

COVID-19 and faith ... I2

Amber Andersen column ... I8

Forest City vet clinic ... I1

Recreation boom ... I3

Britt water project ... I1

Food truck success ... I8

North Iowa Progress 2021 is a special publication of the Globe Gazette, Press News and Summit-Tribune.

Reach us at Box 271, Mason City, IA 504020271 or by email at news@globegazette. com.

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I2 | Sunday, March 7, 2021


Churches find silver linings in COVID-19 era Virtual services reaching people churches weren’t before MARY PIEPER

Special to the Globe Gazette‌

‌Churches in Winnebago and Hancock counties have found creative ways to continue to connect with their congregations and the public during the pandemic. In some cases, they are reaching people they weren’t before. The Rev. Rod Hopp, pastor at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Forest City, said one of the silver linings of COVID-19 is churches have been forced to do things differently, such as virtual services “that allow people to connect around the word and the faith and share life in a new way.” Hopp said members told him they had been inviting their parents to worship for years, but they wouldn’t come. However, now that services are being live streamed due to the pandemic, their parents are not only watching online, but talking about it afterwards. “There are times when I’m discouraged by everything but then there’s stories like that which make me feel hopeful,” Hopp said. The Rev. Brian Hoffman, pastor at the Kanawha Christian Reformed Church, said one of the biggest challenges during the pandemic has been how to conduct youth ministry. For many years, the Kanawha CRC had been hosting a club called Games and Good News on Wednesday evenings for kids from age 4 up to eighth grade. Last spring the club was put on hold due to COVID-19. When fall arrived, “We weren’t sure how to pull it off,” Hoffman said. After much discussion, the church tried something new. Games and Good News leaders began putting together bags with activities, a snack and a Bible lesson to deliver to kids at their


Kathy McEnelley (center) and Dawn Craig provide a take-out meal from Immanuel Lutheran Church in Forest City to Dave Melby, who is in his car with his dog, Maggie. The church even provides dog treats for furry companions whose families are picking up a meal on Wednesdays. homes. When delivering the bags, the leaders were able to stand outside and visit briefly with the families from a distance. “That has been really wonderful for us, to be able to continue this program in a different way,” Hoffman said. Some new kids have even been added to the program during the pandemic. Hoffman said everyone is still looking forward to being able to host the youth at the church like they used to, but “God has been at work yet, and using our church and our ministry, and we are very excited and very blessed to see God’s work in this way.” As far as worship services during the pandemic, “We have kind of gone on a journey,” Hoffman said. At the beginning of the pandemic when services couldn’t be held in person, the Kanawha CRC started recording them and putting them online. Once in-person worship resumed, the recordings continued.

However, after getting feedback from the public, the church began recording and uploading just the sermon. Hoffman said the recordings allow the church to stay connected to those who can’t make it to worship or simply don’t feel comfortable with attending yet due to concerns about the virus. In-person worship at the Archangels Catholic Cluster of North Iowa, composed of parishes in Forest City, Lake Mills, Buffalo Center, Britt, Duncan and Garner, had already resumed when the Rev. Andrew Marr and the Rev, Joseph Sevcik, the new pastor and associate pastor, came on board in July. For each Mass, half the pews are roped off so parishioners sit in every other pew, with each household group sitting at least six feet apart. Face mask signs are posted at all the entrances. However, if people aren’t wearing masks, they aren’t forced to leave, Marr said. For those who aren’t comfortable with attending in-person


Dawn Craig, left, Immanuel Lutheran Church’s cook, and volunteer Kathy McEnelley, prepare food for take-out meals. services, yet, the 10:30 a.m. Sunday Mass from St. James Catholic Church in Forest City is livestreamed. As far as religious education, the Archangels parishes follow what their local school district does, according to Marr. For example, if the school district is doing in-person instruction but requires face masks be worn at all times, that’s how religious ed will be conducted. However, if the school district has gone back to a hybrid learning model, as happened in Garner-Hayfield/Ventura, religious ed instruction is done virtually. Marr said hopefully a couple of weeks to a month after the general population is vaccinated for COVID-19, “we should pretty

much be on our way back to as normal as we can.” “We are meant to live in community. We are creatures that are communal by nature,” he said. However, Marr acknowledged “there’s going to be a lot of people who don’t want to get the vaccine for whatever reason,” which could raise complications. He said if more than 50 percent of parishioners aren’t vaccinated after a certain point, it will become a question of whether COVID-19 restrictions at church should remain “or are we going to say ‘they made that choice and now we are going to go forward.’” Immanuel Lutheran has resumed in-person services, but is Please see CHURCHES, Page I3

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Sunday, March 7, 2021 | I3

COVID-19 escape drives North Iowans outdoors Outdoor venues have thrived, setting new usage records SHANE LANTZ

Globe Gazette‌

As the COVID-19 pandemic drove people out of public spaces and into their homes last year, many found an escape in the great outdoors. While the pandemic caused near-universal economic strife as businesses did their best to survive, North Iowa’s outdoor institutions have thrived. In Winnebago County, the numbers were dramatic. Camping, hunting, fishing, etc. Whatever activity people could do in the outdoors, they did a lot more of it in 2020 than any year in recent memory. According to Winnebago County naturalist Lisa Ralls in her December 2020 column “Welcome to your Outdoors,” Thorpe Park saw campers spend 355 nights in 2020, compared to 195 nights in 2019, an 82 percent bump. At Dahle Park, it was even more dramatic, as total camping nights went from 77 to 279, an increase of 262 percent. “For most of the camping season, we had every other campsite blocked off, so we could promote social distancing,” Ralls said. “Even with half of our campsites not available, we still had those numbers.” Along with campers, Ralls said there were also a noticeable uptick in people doing simple activities like fishing or walking their dogs. “It was a lot more use than what we’ve ever had in the past,” Ralls said. “It was quite amazing to see.” At the Hogsback Target Shooting Range

Churches From I2

limiting attendance to 75 people. Livestreaming of services is also continuing. “People are cautious right now, which is actually a good thing,” Hopp said. Sone people from other congregations that haven’t returned to in-person service and whose pastors aren’t livestreaming worship have been tuning in to Immanuel’s virtual services, he said. Before the pandemic began, Immanuel was hosting a free meal every Wednesday evening. Now those who want a meal sign up ahead of time and drive by to pick it up. The number of meals served has de-

near Lake Mills, according to Ralls, donations increased nearly 240 percent from 2019. <p dir=”ltr”>Hunting and license numbers also skyrocketed in 2020. In Ralls’ column, she stated that the sale of state fishing licenses increased 33 percent from 2019, while hunting license numbers went up 66 percent. While the number of visitors to the county parks was way up in 2020, the county program numbers have taken a big hit. Ralls works in environmental programming, which involves going to schools for educational exhibits. That has not been possible lately, so the county has been doing more virtual programming events. “That has worked out pretty well, but it’s just not quite the same,” Ralls said. “One nice thing though is that a lot of the programs I do are outdoor programs, and we’ve done a lot of those. We did a monarch-tagging program, we did a star-gazing program, and different things like that.” In Hancock County, parks and campsites were also booked solid every weekend, ac- Thorpe Park on Lake Catherine in rural Winnebago County. cording to Conservation Board director Cale Edwards. For the fiscal year, which ended on June 30, the park’s numbers were up 33 percent, and Edward said that the county has seen revenue increase by a third. He described 2020 as a “record-breaking year.” The only thing that saw a downturn was shelter house rentals, typically used in the summer for family picnics and reunions. “Between a good summer as far weather goes, and a lot of other opportunities for people getting shut down recreation-wise, that was a huge thing,” Edwards said. “We Please see VENUES, Page I4

creased since the change, but “we can connect with people in a safe and way and help them out, whether it’s for mom to have a night off or if grocery money is tight,” Hopp said. Immanuel has received grant money to install individual computers at the church so those who don’t have one at home can have telehealth appointments or just Zoom with family members living in another household. A lot of people have begun contributing financially to Immanuel online, according to Hopp. “People are staying connected. They want their church to come out the other side … That’s a sign of hope for me, that we are in it together,” he said.

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Venues From I3

talked to a lot of people who had never even been camping, or went out to Wal-Mart or Cabela’s or Fleet Farm and bought a tent, because they were looking for something to do. There was a lot of those people.” In Cerro Gordo County, camping numbers were up around 15 percent, according to Conservation Board Executive Director Mike Webb. The organization runs three campgrounds in the county, at Wilkinson County Park in Rock Falls, Linn Grove Park in Rockwell, and Ingebretson Park in Thornton, and also operates Lime Creek Nature Center. “Campground use was up, fishing, hunting, and other water sports like canoeing, kayaking and river use,” Webb said. “Everything was definitely increased this year.” <p dir=”ltr”>Like in Winnebago and Hancock counties, the pandemic changed the way the organization operated its education and outdoor programs. With the COVID-19 restrictions in place, they made the shift to smaller, family focused lessons instead of large group outings, and also implemented a few scavenger-hunt style classes so participants could get out and explore the parks. Additionally, the Lime Creek Nature Center was closed for several months due to the pandemic, but has since reopened. The biggest long-term changes COVID has brought to Cerro Gordo’s parks

Winnebago County Recreation Increases Camping Thorpe Park- 82 percent increase from 2019 in total camping nights Dahle Park- 262 percent increase from 2019 in total camping nights Hogsback Target Shooting Range- Donations increase of 240 percent from 2019 and campgrounds is an increased focus on health and social distancing measures. <p dir=”ltr”>“Hopefully, we can get back to doing programs,” Webb said. “But obviously, we might just have to consider that long-term, too.” <p dir=”ltr”>Life will be different after the pandemic, even out in the great outdoors. But with the lessons learned, those involved sound confident that there could be some positive lessons that come out of it. <p dir=”ltr”>“Things have definitely changed,” Ralls said. “In some ways for the better, and a lot of ways for the worse. But like anything else, we’ve had to adapt.”


Above: Eagle Lake State Park in rural Hancock County. Left: Limestone Prairie Preserve in rural Cerro Gordo County.

Shane Lantz covers sports for the Globe Gazette. You can reach him at, or by phone at 641-421-0526. Follow Shane on Twitter @ShaneMLantz.


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Sunday, March 7, 2021 | I5

Family Vet From I1

“It’s been thought about for at least three years,” said Ceara. “We went through so many blueprints and plans. First, we were going to expand at the existing location, but then the layout just didn’t feel right.” They even started looking at existing buildings, which also did not happen. Then the City of Forest City heard about the clinic’s plans to expand and offered a two-acre plot of land for $1, plus a three-year tax abatement. That was a game-changing offer. Ceara said that with construction costs rising quickly due to COVID-19, they had to make a decision and working closely with Holland Contracting, which is completing the building construction and is owned by her grandfather, Chuck Holland, they seized the moment to build the new state-of-the-art vet clinic. About $900,000 is the projected cost for the new structure itself. It will have 6,300 square feet compared to 3,500 where the clinic is now. There will be five spacious exam rooms ranging in size from 8 feet by 10 feet to 10 feet by 14 feet. There will also be a large “comfort room” for terminal animals with a large window and separate exit on the east side of the building to respect the privacy of their families. A large front lobby and waiting area, with spacious windows for south-side natural daylight, will feature a large front reception desk that measures 17 feet across. Quite a positive change from one small spot for pretty much every customer need now, according to Ceara. “More space should help as far as people not having to wait,” she said. “Right now, there is one area to pay bills, one credit card machine, and two computers. Everyone is competing for use of the phone and computers.” The new building will have nine computers to start with 3-4 people being able to work behind the large front desk and still social distance during COVID-19. There will also be a large 13 by 14-foot office with four workstations and an adjacent employee restroom. “The flow is going to be so much better getting to and from the exam room and the front,” said Ceara. “Right now, everything is too congested and there is really no waiting area. It is so small that we are still providing curbside service due to COVID. There is just no way people can spread out at all.” Gene Fjeld is originally from rural Joice and is a graduate of Lake Mills High School. He graduated


From left, Garrett Fjeld, Gene Fjeld, Jodi Fjeld, Ceara Mullins, and Ryan Mullins outside the new building that will soon house the Forest City Veterinary Clinic.

Father and daughter veterinarians, Ceara Mullins and Gene Fjeld, will have a much larger surgery room with more tables and equipment at the new clinic location. from Waldorf College, studied animal science at Iowa State University and completed four years of veterinary school at ISU, earning his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree. Ceara followed a similar path at ISU, receiving her undergraduate degree in four years and DVM degree in 2018 after four

more years in veterinary school there. She promptly returned home and joined her father in the practice. “We get along so well,” said Gene. “It is a joy to have her here. She could go anywhere she wants to with her degree, but she decided to come back here. She’s smart

and so good with the animals and the families.” Gene joined Gustafson at the Forest City vet clinic in 1987, partnering with the longtime former area vet for nearly 20 years. Near the turn of the century, they undertook an expansion that doubled the space in the existing location that was built in 1981. Gene and Ceara extensively studied nearly every option to expand at the same location before deciding to build and relocate. “We plan to hire another fulltime veterinarian simultaneously with the move to the new building because we really need it,” said Gene. “There is the potential for four doctors to function well here, but we won’t do that right away.” Ceara said the clinic offers a full-service pharmacy on-site with animal supplements and prescriptions as well as a full line of shampoos, other medicines, grooming products, and Hill’s Science Diet pet and prescription foods. The new clinic will have stateof-the-art technology and care, including a new ultrasound machine that was purchased in the past year. The additional diagnostic care tool came with two sessions of continuing education that the local vets are still in the process of completing due to the COVID chaos. They are also effectively utilizing laser therapy for inflammatory conditions and most surgeries. This therapy can reduce healing time by up to 50 percent, according to Gene and Ceara.

The father and daughter vet team split 24/7 nights and oncall duties equally with one taking every other night and every other weekend. Gene explained that there is such an increased need for veterinary services in the area. The clinic has been so overwhelmed with customer demand that they have had to turn down some who are not current clients because of a huge overcapacity at the existing location. The current client rolls are beyond maximum capacity after a longtime Buffalo Center vet retired last summer, they explained. The Forest City clinic has taken on many of those clients after handling referrals from the Buffalo Center area vet previously. “Probably 80-85 percent of what we do here is companion business,” said Gene, noting it is mostly cats and dogs. “It is getting harder to find anyone to do large animals and cattle work, but we do it. There has been a gradual decline in farm animals over the years with the decline in family operations. At the same time, the small animal business has grown and we’ve really changed to accommodate that.” Ceara noted that there is still a need for cattle and equine (horse) vet services. She said they help with cows and calves, goats, sheep, chickens, and less often more exotic animals such as peacocks monkeys, birds, turtles, and snakes. Also, guinea pigs and hamsters. “As far as wild animals, we aren’t supposed to and don’t do a lot,” said Ceara. “We will help with conservation efforts if we are asked to do it.” The clinic offers animal vaccinations, diagnostics, blood drawing and testing in-house, X-rays, and orthopedics in addition to the ultrasound and laser therapy. They also provide a variety of specialty orthopedic and soft tissue surgeries. “We try to do as much as possible at low-cost, but we will send our animal patients to specialists, often to ISU in Ames, when it is in their best interests long-term,” said Gene. There is also a “cat room” for felines only. Also, there will be an animal isolation room, which will be beneficial for infectious disease and Parvovirus cases. Additionally, a large storage and delivery area, with a boot-washer just inside a side door, will be located in the southwest corner of the new building. Rob Hillesland is community editor for the Summit-Tribune. He can be reached at 641-421-0534, or by email at

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We Invite you to visit our Chamber Members and our Chamber Events • Omelet Breakfast • Britt Car, Truck, Bike & Tractor Nights • Outdoor Movie • Grillin’ & Chillin’ • Chili Cookoff • Treats on the Streets • Harvest Hoedown • Frozen Frolic

2021 Chamber Members Alliant Energy Allied ENS, LLC Allies for Substance Abuse Prevention Beauty Bar Salon & Boutique BIDCO Big Brad’s BBQ Britt Area Food Bank Britt Bar & Grill Britt Car, Truck, Bike, Tractor Night Ride Britt Draft Horse Assn Britt Fire Association Britt Food Center Britt Girl Scouts Britt Golf Course BRITT Group Britt Hobo Days Association Britt Public Library Britt Seed Company Britt Vet Clinic Britt -Woden Insurance Captain’s Quarters Hob Nob Casey’s Cataldo Funeral Home Central Financial Group / Josh Eisenman CFO Systems City of Britt Cobbler Shoppe Comm1 Critter’s Closet Curt & Kristi Gast Dental Center of North Iowa Diemer Realty

Earl Hill Law Office Elizabeth’s Pharmacy Ewing Funeral Home Family Eye Care Center Farmers Trust & Savings Fenchel, Doster, Buck & Ennen Law Office First Citizen’s Bank First State Bank Flower Cart Friends of Public Library Gary Gelner Gene Guenther Gifts Sew Sweet Hancock County Economic Development Hancock County Extension Office Hancock County Farm Bureau Hancock County Health Systems Haugland Repair Heath’s Computer Repair Hobo Art Gallery Insurance & Financial Solutions JAKS Puppies Jay Hiscocks-State Farm John B Johnson Kelly Real Estate KIOW The Leader Liberty School Museum Lynn’s Farm Mary Jo’s Hobo House Maxyield Cooperative Michael Foods

Midwest Duct Works Mike Muth Welding Mike Stevens Barber Shop Miller & Sons Golf Cars MOJO Productions National Purity New Horizon NIACC North Iowa Lumber & Design Original Saw Pritchard Auto Renner & Birchem Roger Jacobson Ron Eisenman BBQ Sanger Legacy Foundation Scott Johnson Drainage Sents Seeds Siegrist, Jones & Bakke Stevens Realty Summit House Summit Tribune Swenson’s Hardware Titanium Lunchbox Trulson Auto Parts Unicover United Way of North Central Iowa Victory Chiropractic West Hancock Schools Westview Care Center Whammy Bar WHAS Wilson’s Woody’s Hot Dogs

Visit our Facebook page for more information about Britt Chamber Events

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SUNDAY, MARCH 7, 2021 |


Water From I1

related to a low-interest state revolving fund loan for the water projects, is completed. The new tower will immediately improve water flow and fire protection throughout the city’s approximately 18.6 miles of water main once completed. “It is a balancing act, spending money and determining what can wait,” said Arndorfer. “In the last 30 to 40 years, not everything has been done, so now it needs to be fixed or replaced and that’s where we are,” said Arndorfer. The water project timeline includes reverse osmosis water testing being completed this spring. The IDNR environmental review should be completed by the end of this winter as well with construction of the new tower spanning from spring through fall of next year. Brown said the delay in demolition of the old tower will not impact the new tower construction. Water plant construction is scheduled for fall 2021 through spring 2023. Brown said that existing mineral/hard water buildup in city pipes won’t cause long-term issues after the new plant goes into service sometime in 2023, but there could be some temporary implications. “There could be a period of transition for the pipes that have scale buildup,” said Brown. “This will be temporary as there are means that will be used to avoid any long-term degradation.” Brown also noted that persistent iron staining issues should relent once the new plant is in operation. Mayor Arndorfer noted that the city’s water irrigation rate program for watering lawns will continue through the coming water projects and rate changes. Customers can receive a special water rate for water used in conjunction with an irrigation meter. Mayor Arndorfer stressed that the city took decisive actions to first address water tower and facility needs before future wastewater facility needs. The reduction in chloride discharge to the city’s wastewater treatment facility as a result of the new water treatment plant provides a good starting point.


Britt’s 1930s water tower is scheduled to be replaced with a new 150,000-gallon tower. The old tower offers severe corrosion and delamination concerns. Last November, the Britt City Council held a public hearing regarding the use of State Revolving Funds Environmental Clearance for its Iowa Department of Natural Resources project for a water treatment plant improvement and water tower. City Administrator Debra Sawyer reported that no written objections had been filed by any resident or property owner of Britt regarding the authorization of the use of State Revolving Funds Environmental Clearance for the Iowa DNR project. In addition, no oral objections were noted at the hearing regarding the use of State Revolving Funds. The scope of the work for the new water treatment facility includes: „ Construction of a new masonry brick water treatment facility on the lot adjacent to and just east of the existing water treatment facility. „ Installation of a package grav-

ity filter system and reverse osmosis processing system, including chemicals, pumps, and tanks. „ Construction of a new raw water main from both wells to the new water treatment facility. „ Replacement of three blocks of water main on Center Street West. „ Provision for better water quality and ability to remove arsenic, iron, manganese, and water hardness from treated water. It has been noted by the project managers that previous unfiltered iron buildup caused staining that was a big issue, leading to corrosion and delamination of the old tower and other equipment that is being replaced. On Feb. 12, the Iowa DNR issued its finding of no significant impact environmentally for the Britt water projects related to the state revolving loan funding. “It has been determined that the proposed action will result in no significant impacts to the sur-

Britt new water tower front-side design.

Britt new water tower back-side design.

rounding environment. This determination is based on a careful review of the engineering report, the environmental assessment and other supporting data which are on file at the Department of Natural Resources’ office in Des Moines,” said Iowa DNR Environmental Specialist Karrie Darnell in a letter explaining the findings. Britt has two wells that supply raw water to its treatment facility. In the past, the City had a third well, which was abandoned and sealed in the 1990s. The Iowa DNR reported that raw water from Britt’s two wells contains arsenic at levels just about the Maximum Contaminant Level, which must be reduced through treatment prior to distribution. Britt’s water treatment facility was constructed in 1955 and has not been significantly updated since that time. The facility was designed to remove arsenic from the City’s raw water supply by use of a pressure filtration system. While the facility still produces

good quality water, the filtration system, as well as piping, valves, and other appurtenances are beyond their useful lives. The anticipated life of a pressure filtration system in 1955 was approximately 20ž40 years. Britt’s existing filtration system has been in active use for 65 years with minimal significant improvements. Filter media was last replaced in 1971. Since 1971, the only modifications to the system have been the addition of a fluoride feed system for dental health. In its report, the Iowa DNR stated that due to the age of the existing pressure filtration system, it is likely that the existing Britt treatment facility could experience a catastrophic failure which would preclude the city from providing filtered water to its customers. Rob Hillesland is community editor for the Summit-Tribune. He can be reached at 641-421-0534, or by email at

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I8 | Sunday, March 7, 2021

Titanium Lunch Box thrives in pandemic Food truck enables restaurant to serve in other ways ROB HILLESLAND


‌Owners of the Titanium Lunch Box restaurant in Britt have always had plans to open a food truck in due time. With COVID-19 gripping North Iowa, those plans were realized with the food truck last November. Damon and Karin Baker, along with their son Josh, have had the still new “top-of-the-line” food truck is open for business to bring hot fresh pizza, pasta and virtually all other food items on the restaurant’s menu to its customers. The owners feel the truck is just what their restaurant needs. The truck and their good food has been popular in Britt and the larger northern Iowa area during

the COVID-19 outbreak. “We’ve always had plans to do a food truck, but COVID kind of sped it up,” said Damon Baker. “People are wanting their food provided in a safe manner for whatever activities and events. We can bring it fresh and hot.” The restaurant celebrated its 10th year in business on Dec. 10. It is located at 62 Main Ave. N in Britt. Baker thanked the Britt community for its support and for making the business venture so successful. “We can cater pretty much anything for any event,” said Baker. “With pizza, we always did a lot of carryout, which is a booming business now,” said Baker. The food truck was built new in Tennessee and the Bakers designed the specifications themselves. The truck has a food preparation table, four-deck oven, dough mixer and sheeter, fryers, refrigerators, a three-compartment sink, and a

amidst the shutdowns. The regular menu includes pizza, calzones, sandwiches, burgers, tenderloins, pasta, wraps, subs, and appetizers. They have 54 specialty pizzas with the five-meat and combination pizzas selling well and chicken broccoli Alfredo and a “wild hog” pizza with Jalapenos being popular along with calzones. “We’re running a restaurant on wheels,” said Baker. He noted that food preparation is about the same in the truck and so are food safety inspections. The truck is required to have a home base, which is the restaurant, but the Bakers maximizing its use to take food to their widening base ROB HILLESLAND, SUMMIT-TRIBUNE‌ of customers. From left, Josh, Karin, and Damon Baker pose with the new food truck Rob Hillesland is community editor parked behind their Titanium Lunchbox restaurant. for the Summit-Tribune. He can be large serving window. All equip- run on propane gas. reached at 641-421-0534, or by ment is restaurant grade, Baker He noted how grateful they are email at rob.hillesland@globegasaid. The oven decks and fryers about having a new food truck

NIACOG has resources for local business recovery AMBER ANDERSEN

Special to the Globe Gazette‌


he North Iowa Area Council of Governments (NIACOG) is a regional planning organization serving Cerro Gordo, Floyd, Franklin, Hancock, Kossuth, Mitchell, Winnebago, and Worth Counties. Last year, our organization was the AMBER ANDERSEN lucky recipient of a $500,000 grant

from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to create a revolving loan fund to help businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. We have funds available for loans up to $125,000, that come with terms of 3-15 years for fixed capital, working capital, or real estate business expenses. These come with 0% interest for the life of the loan, up to 24 months of deferred payments, and no application or origination fees. For example, a business approved for a 5-year loan

would have zero payments for two years before the 5-year loan repayment starts, all at 0% interest. You pay back only what you borrowed. The purpose of these funds is to help stabilize businesses who have been negatively impacted by COVID-19 and preserve or create jobs, as well as help new businesses who are addressing a need created by the pandemic. Projects currently under consideration include inventory and equipment purchases, real estate acquisitions, and workforce hiring

and training. The federal grant also allowed NIACOG to hire two new staff members to administer the COVID-19 revolving loan fund and our legacy revolving loan fund, in addition to working on planning and economic development projects to help the region recover from the pandemic. NIACOG is currently working with the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center and Small Business Development Center at NIACC to develop low-to-no cost educational and micro-grant programs

to help small businesses respond to and recover from the pandemic. If you are interested in learning more about our Revolving Loan Fund programs, visit our website at and follow the links to the Revolving Loan Fund page. The brochure has the most up-to-date information about our programs. You can also contact Amber Andersen at 641-423-0491 ext. 28 or Amber Andersen is writing for North Iowa Area Council of Governments.


to FFA FF Members and Their Families!

Jenna Sheriff A ReAl estAte expeRt You CAn tRust.

641-420-1955 • 641-424-4663 • 1002 E STATE ST STE B. Mason City, IA

www.MasonCityMotorCo.CoM 4510 & 4600 4th St. SW., Mason City, IA |

Call 641-424-4033


2019 BOMAN FINE ARTS CENTER PARTNERS Waldorf University Hanson Family Foundation City of Forest City Forest City Community School District Iowa Great Places Iowa Economic Development Authority

New in 2020 COBBLESTONE HOTEL & SUITES PARTNERS Forest City Hospitality City of Forest City Forest City Economic Development

2017 WESTOWN PLACE APARTMENTS PARTNERS Forest City Economic Development City of Forest City Iowa Finance Authority MBT & TSB



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A Time To Build up Surgical Services, Surgical Services, Major Operating Room Same Day Surgical Room


Emergency Department, Nurses’ Station

Main Entrance Lobby

Emergency Department, Trauma Room

Senior Life Solutions Entry and Reception Area

Surgical Services, Nurses’ Station

Hancock County Health System is excited to share its newly remodeled departments with our patients. HCHS HaS: • Opened its newly remodeled and expanded Surgical Department • Revealed the remodeled Emergency Department • Presented its new Laboratory • Unveiled its new Main Entrance and Atrium Lobby • Opened its new Senior Life Solutions Space

Thank you to all who have contributed to HCHS Foundation Building for Your Future Capital Campaign. If you are interested in making a donation, please contact HCHS Foundation: 641-843-5150

HCHS CliniCS: 641-843-5050 HCHS HoSpital: 641-843-5000 Your Health - Our Care... A Lasting Partnership

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