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Ecological Marvels

Muscatine Symphony

Muscatine Gift Ideas

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ISSN 2475-7128

Oct/Nov/Dec 2017

Greater Muscatine Chamber of Commerce & Industry

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In this issue Know Your Neighbor. . . . . . . 2 Ecological Marvels. . . . . . . . . 6 Muscatine Symphony . . . . . 8 Muscatine Gift ideas. . . . . . 10 New HNI Headquarters. . . 12 Art Center. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 MHS Career Paths. . . . . . . . . 16 On the covers Both back and front covers on this issue feature the stunning Muscatine sunsets of which Mark Twain was particularly fond. Both images contributed by local photographers Front cover: Peggy Schmelzer Back cover: Tammy Cook Slater


Editor’s Corner Good Things are Happening! After assigning and writing stories about local people and programs for this issue, I believe there’s no denying it: Good things are happening in Muscatine! Look through these pages to see the proof. •M  uscatine High School has produced two West Point graduates and one current cadet. The first was Lt. Col. Candace Frost. Meet this hometown hero and her family on page 2. •A  utumn colors are emerging. For a good place to see them, go west of town on County Highway G28 where you can also witness the unique landscapes, plants and animals on The Nature Conservancy’s Lower Cedar Valley Preserve. See page 6. • When I moved to Muscatine, I remember being pleased to learn we have a symphony, especially after attending a concert! Learn more about the Muscatine Symphony Orchestra on page 8. • I t’s not too early to think about Holiday Season gifts! Try local stores with goods that are made locally and/or have local character. Photos and pricing are on page 10. •M  any beautification projects are going on downtown, but one is done: HNI’s new headquarters and improvements in its downtown campus wrapped up in January. Take a peek inside the gorgeous glass and brick structure on page 12. • Enrolling in Muscatine Community College’s career academies, high school seniors jump-start their post-secondary education and careers in two fields with great local job prospects. See more about the programs and their community benefits on page 16.

— Kathy Kuhl, Editor


Greater Muscatine Chamber of Commerce & Industry 102 Walnut Street • Muscatine, Iowa 52761-4027 563-263-8895 Fax: 563-263-7662 Muscatine Magazine is published quarterly by: Greater Muscatine Chamber of Commerce & Industry 102 Walnut Street • Muscatine, Iowa 52761-4027 Email: ISSN 2475-7128 Editor: Kathy Kuhl, GMCCI Creative Director: Mike Shield, Shield Design Contributors: Andrew Buchanan, Tammy Cook Slater, Kristen Feeney, Eric Field, Jessica Hubbard and Peggy Schmelzer For advertising info: Contact Kathy Kuhl at (563) 263-8895 or Muscatine Magazine is a quarterly publication focused on Muscatine, Iowa, and the surrounding area. The publisher reserves the right to refuse and/or edit any materials submitted for publication. Published articles and advertising do not constitute endorsement. ©2017

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Know Your Neighbors!

Lt. Col. Candice Frost says the strength of military families contributes greatly to the strength of the U.S. military. Here, she shares a smile with daughter Kate, husband Todd and son Tom in front of their home in the heart of Washington, D.C.

Trailblazing for military women

MHS, West Point grad has commanded thousands in 19-year career U.S. Army Lt. Col. Candice Frost’s family moved from Memphis to Muscatine when she was 4. She was the first Muscatine High School graduate and its only female to attend the U.S. Military Academy. (The other MHS graduates that have attended the USMA are brothers: 2011 USMA graduate Kevin Dolan and current first-year cadet Garrett Dolan.) Lt. Colonel Frost has served in many parts of the world and is currently stationed in Washington D.C. Her parents, Don and Shelley Frost, still live in Muscatine, and she tries to come home with her children twice each year. Here’s a Veteran’s Day salute to a neighbor who has sacrificed many years to make our country safe and secure. Story by Kathy Kuhl She has served in the U.S. Army for almost 20 years, but Lt. Col. Candice Frost said it doesn’t seem possible. “Twenty years is a benchmark,” she said in a phone interview from her front yard in Washington D.C. “But I still feel like that 20-year-old jumping out of planes.” Now a military fellow at the Senior Service College in Washington, Frost had just spent the afternoon at the White House where she met with Andrea 2 Muscatine Magazine • Fall 2017

Thompson, national security adviser to Vice President Mike Pence. Thompson had served with her in Bosnia, when she was a major and Candice was a captain. “I consider her a mentor. She is a really phenomenal woman.” Some might say that of Frost, who has been a female trailblazer in the U.S. Army. Candice was the first female in an infantry division in 1999. She was one of the first female commanders of a combat unit in the field while serving in

Lt. Col. Frost was one of the first and few female combat field commanders during Operation Enduring Storm in Afghanistan. She didn’t consider joining the military until her high school counselor encouraged her to apply at West Point.

Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom in the 25th Infantry Division in 2004. She has served most of her military career in intelligence and has been stationed on three continents, in five states and in our nation’s capitol.

A new direction As a Muscatine High School student, Candice thought she would study journalism in college. After graduating in 1994, she went to the U.S. Military Academy, familiarly known as West Point. It all began because her school counselor, Keith Pogemiller, had the military fresh in his mind when she visited him one day. “I’d just talked to West Point recruiters and thought, ‘Candice would meet all the requirements,” Pogemiller said. “She was a good athlete, and she was a really good student.” Candice also had drive. “There were all these wickets to jump through, but once I started, I wanted to make it in,” she recalled. Pogemiller also got her father, Don Frost, in on the idea. Don said, “We weren’t a military family. No one under our roof had ever shot a gun. I saw in Candice the ability to succeed in something entirely new to her.” U.S. Military Academy candidates need one Congressional nomination. Candice got three: from then-U.S. Congressman Jim Leach, then-U.S. Senator Tom Harkin, and from U.S. Senator Charles Grassley.

Joining the ranks When the Frosts arrived at West Point, Shelley and Don had different feelings upon leaving their daughter. “They say rain on the opening parade is good luck,” Shelley said. “It not only rained, there was a rainbow they marched through together. I saw that and thought, ‘This is kismet.’ ” Don felt anxious. “We couldn’t call for 12 weeks. They shut off those new cadets from the outside world so they can learn to follow before they learn to lead.” At West Point, Candice learned leadership and teamwork. She said that — Continued on next page Muscatine Magazine • Fall 2017 3

Lt. Col. Candice Frost Continued from previous page —

teamwork is the defining characteristic of the U.S. Army. “In the military, you succeed because others help you,” she explained. “Officers don’t expect a return on their investment for years when they train new recruits, yet they give that guidance gladly.” Military school was mostly a positive experience for Frost, but a few male cadets gave the females a hard time. Her response was to focus, and she graduated as a second lieutenant.

The life of a soldier At this point in her career, Candice has a lot to reflect upon. Having lead thousands of soldiers – in about 20 locations – she has been in intelligence, human resources and instruction. “I’ve led people from all walks of life – and I mean all. There is nothing like the bonds of friendship you form when you’re stuck in a hole in Afghanistan together. Those kinds of ties can’t be replicated anywhere.” Don is awed by Candice’s ability to lead. “We visited Fort Huachuca (Arizona) for her ‘hail and farewell.’ She is probably 118 pounds, and all these people – so many huge guys – follow her orders, unblinking.” The Frost family circa 1987.



1998: Graduated from West Point as a second lieutenant in 1998. Sent to Fort Huachuca, Ariz., to attend military intelligence officer basic course. 1998-99: Served as platoon leader with the 313th military intelligence battalion in the 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C. Promoted to first lieutenant in 1999. 2000-2001: Completed military intelligence officer captain’s course at Fort Huachuca and promoted to captain. 2002-03: Deployed to Bosnia as the battle captain for the 25th Light Infantry Division’s analysis and control element.

2004-05: Commanded Charlie Company 125 Military Intelligence Battalion in both Afghanistan and Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. 2005-07: Intelligence officer at Fort Shafter, Hawaii, for the 196 Infantry Brigade. Promoted to major and took the role of deputy operations officer for the U.S. Army Pacific Region’s Intelligence Division at Fort Shafter. 2008-09: Attended the Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, Kan. 2010: Assigned to the School for Advanced Military Studies in the same location. 2010-11: Served as International Security Assistance Force Joint Command Intelligence Planner, Kabul, Afghanistan.

In a family of teachers, Shelley said her daughter is a good one. “She brings out the best in others. She expects it,” Shelley said. “She’s helped a lot of female soldiers by modeling what can be done.” She added, “We’re extremely proud of what she has done in her career. When she’s in her uniform and people salute her, it makes me so proud.”

2011-2012: Fort Huachuca Battalion Operations Officer 2012-2013: Fort Knox, Ky., Human Resources Account Manager Joint Operations and Special Forces Officer Accounts 2013-2014: Fort Knox Human Resources Command Operations and Plans Branch Chief. 2014-16: Commander of 304th Military Intelligence Battalion Officer and Warrant Officer Training in Fort Knox, Ky. 2016-17: Director of the Office of the Chief of Millitary Intelligence Now a military fellow at the Senior Service College in Washington, D.C.

Shelley and Don came to Washington in late summer to help with the kids after their most recent move. Candice’s husband, Todd Gage, is also military. He is deployed in an undisclosed, international location. Don said he and Shelley retired early to help. Candice and her first husband divorced, and the children needed them. “My parents are my bedrock,” Candice said.

Family is important

“It keeps you young,” Don laughed.

Candice credits her family for making what she does possible. She said it’s true for all soldiers.

Glad to come home

“The strength of this nation is the strength of the military, and the strength of the military is the strength of their families,” she said. Candice said 11-year-old Kate and 9-year-old Tom have sacrificed along with her, tolerating what comes with frequent relocation: making new friends, adjusting to different surroundings, and starting in new schools.

The Frosts take a lot of pride in their daughter. “She embodies the values that people in Muscatine have,” Don said, explaining he and Shelley are originally from San Francisco and Philadelphia, respectively, but they now want to stay here. “We have turned into Midwesterners.” Candice said she and her children love visiting. “There’s something about Muscatine that doesn’t change.” n

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Ecological marvel TNC efforts sustain many forms of life, our appreciation of it Story and photos by Jessica Hubbard As we slide into the seat of the Gator, the word “diversity” weaves its way into the conversation. It’s a word you’ll hear often when talking with Dale Maxson and Hannah Howard of The Nature Conservancy’s (TNC) Eastern Iowa Field Office. Twenty-one tracts of land, encompassing approximately 3,400 acres make up the TNC preserves in the Lower Cedar Valley. These areas provide ecosystems that are vital in supporting an abundance of diverse plant and animal life and landscapes unique to this area.

Getting there To enter Swamp White Oak Preserve: From From U.S. 61, turn west on Hershey Ave. It becomes G28. Go 11.5 miles. You’ll cross two bridges. Immediately before a third bridge, turn right on a gravel access road. To enter Maytag: From U.S. 61, turn west on Hershey Ave. It becomes G28. Go 13.5 miles, and turn left on Blue Heron Road. Follow to a “Y” in road and turn left on 245th Street. Drive for 1.2 miles. The preserve is on the left side of the road. 6 Muscatine Magazine • Fall 2017

The region has been dedicated as the nation’s first reptile and amphibian conservation area. Our first stop is the Swamp White Oak Preserve, located just off of Muscatine County Highway G28. Maneuvering through bouncy terrain, Maxson points out the electric fence that surrounds the preserve. He explains the Conservancy’s important partnership with a local farmer. The cattle benefit the area by grazing six months of the year on reed canary grass, a now-prolific, non-native plant originally introduced for feeding livestock. The Conservancy’s goal is to diminish the growth of this grass so native plants such as sedges and Virginia wildrye can make a comeback. Maxson cuts the motor on the Gator, and we head out to explore. As we walk and talk, Howard gently rolls over fallen logs and large branches. She’s looking for the creatures that dwell on these decaying pieces of wood. On the

third try, she finds one. She reaches down, carefully placing a tiny black amphibian in the palm of her hand. It’s a smallmouth salamander, not much bigger than her thumb. It seems amazing that an animal so small and delicate in appearance can survive in such a large and open space. Returning the salamander back to its home, we continue our tour of the preserve. Towering swamp white oaks, cottonwoods and bur oaks dot the landscape, providing shelter and sustenance for birds such as the red-shouldered hawk and cerulean warbler. Turtles, including Blanding’s, also call this savanna home. Maxson and Howard also mention they’ve detected eight species of bats on the Lower Cedar Valley properties so far, including the federally listed northern long-eared bat (threatened) and the Indiana bat (endangered), proving this area’s importance for these migratory mammals. Our other stop is at the Fred Maytag Family preserves (named for the landowners), a short drive, just past

Visiting TNC preserves in the Lower Cedar Valley

preserves are subject to rules that protect unique natural features.

Properties like Maytag and Swamp White Oak are open to the public and accessible year round, but many preserve areas have restricted access due to being landlocked by other private properties with no public access point. In the next few years, TNC’s local office plans to make more preserves open and accessible to the public.

What you shouldn’t do at the Lower Cedar Valley Preserves:

TNC welcomes visitors to hike, bird watch, photograph wildlife or snowshoe. However, visits to the

Biking • Camping • Fires • Horseback riding Hunting • Target practice • Use motorized vehicles If you want more information on the Lower Cedar Valley Project, preserves, events, and volunteer opportunities, please call the TNC office at (319) 726-3041. n

ls in our backyard the Conesville Cemetery. At Maytag II we’re heading out to walk on a fen. I ask Maxson to describe the composition of the fen, so I have a better understanding of what I’m walking on. He explains, “The fen that we’re taking you to is called a channel fen – a type of organic soil wetland that can form in abandoned river channel meanders. Subsurface flow of water inhibits decomposition of organic matter like roots and dead leaves, so the result is a thick mat of floating peat or, in this case, muck soils.” He mentions the importance of testing the ground beneath my feet before I make a solid step. “It’s best to test before you commit.” This becomes clear as we walk-slide down a grassy embankment, over plantcovered logs and shallow, running water. By the time we set foot on the fen, we are surrounded by eye-level flora.

earth move beneath our feet. He’s right. It’s like being on an earthen sponge.

As we’re talking and bouncing, suddenly Maxson asks if we hear anything. We stop and listen. “It sounds like the dinosaurs of the preserves,” he says. In that moment, we watch as three sandhill cranes squawk and flap their wings and disappear across the horizon.

“We want people to understand the biodiversity that’s not too far outside their door. We want to be seen as a community partner, and we want folks to know they can come out and explore. Not only are our preserves home to rare plants and wildlife, they also play an important role in flooding, water quality, recreation and so much more,” she said. n

A tour of the preserves reaffirms the integral role the Lower Cedar Valley Project plays in preserving the remaining natural landscapes that make up this part of Iowa and the diverse wildlife that rely on these ecosystems. This is basically what Howard said the Conservancy hopes all visitors will take away with them.

Maxson announces that after making sure our footing is solid, stepping from side to side, we will literally begin to feel the

Muscatine Magazine • Fall 2017 7

Muscatine Symphony Orchestra

Many parts played together make local symphony thrive Story by Eric Field A lone violin in the Muscatine Center for the Performing Arts plays a note, leading 30 Muscatine Symphony Orchestra (MSO) string musicians as they join in to tune their instruments. Once the strings sections sound like one instrument, 23 brass and woodwind instrumentalists chime in to reach the same pitch. A low rumbling from the timpani works to get in tune. The music stops abruptly, and there is silence for several seconds. Conductor Brian Dollinger steps briskly to the podium as the entire room fills with applause. When the applause dies, Maestro Dollinger raises his baton as every musician simultaneously assumes the ready position to play. With an upward stroke of the baton and the following downbeat, the orchestra releases a blend of harmony for its listeners. This repeated event remains fresh in the minds of audiences who are thrilled by the quality of music that the Muscatine Symphony Orchestra (MSO) delivers every time.

8 Muscatine Magazine • Fall 2017

“The Muscatine Symphony brings a service to our community that is unusual for a town our size,” Maestro Dollinger said. “The dedication of our musicians, board members, volunteer guild, and supporters have made the symphony a strong, relevant part of our cultural community.”

A brief history

The original Muscatine Symphony Orchestra performed for 29 successive years. In 1887, 13 musicians met in the lecture room of the First Congregational Church. This first incarnation of a symphonic group gave many concerts for the public under Conductor Professor Charles F. Grade, with the last concert given in the Grand Opera House on February 9, 1916. The organization of the current MSO began in 2000. Jan Phillips, music director at Muscatine Community College, hired Beverly Everett, at the time a doctoral student at University of Iowa, to conduct a group of 15 volunteer musicians representing various ages and professions.

In 2002, MSO created a board of directors, with a symphony orchestra guild created the following year to aid the musicians in their efforts. After Everett resigned in 2004, the symphony’s board of directors hired professional conductor and U.S. Marine veteran Brian Dollinger as the new conductor and music director. Shortly after Maestro Dollinger took the baton, then-Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack awarded MSO the 2005 Governor’s Volunteer Award for the 2005-2006 MasterWorks concert season.

Concert preparation

There is a lot of behind-the-scenes work as MSO prepares for each concert. Seasons run October through April, including a Christmas with the Symphony Concert (which is free with a non-perishable food donation to the Salvation Army), and the symphony also performs a concert each 4th of July. Concertmaster (violin principal – or first – chair) Heather Straley of Moline, Ill., who has been playing violin for 25 years, elaborates on what happens in a typical concert day.

• From 1-3:30 p.m., the orchestra has a final rehearsal to prepare for the concert that night. The rehearsal time allows the musicians to review any trouble spots and find balance and blend with the “giggers,” MSO’s term for the professional out-of-town musicians hired to enhance the overall sound of the regular, local musicians. The giggers usually practice the works independently and join the local ensemble the night before the concert. • The local musicians and the giggers disperse for the next three hours until their 6:30 p.m. call time, some taking a dinner break with others remaining in the auditorium to make final preparations for the concert. • Within the hour prior to the 7:30 p.m. concert, the musicians complete their final warm-ups leading up to the above-mentioned scene.

Musicians from different walks of life

Straley is entering her seventh year with MSO, but her first with it exclusively. In recent history, she was also performing with the Clinton (Iowa) Symphony Orchestra. She is one of many examples of symphony members who teach in the community. Three nights each week at Muscatine Community College, she gives private lessons for violin and viola to 20 students ranging from age 8 through adult. “I feel lucky to be able to make a living doing what I love and helping others enjoy music as well,” she said. “I genuinely feel teaching has made me a better musician. I have learned from my students as much as they have learned from me.”

musical experience for the audience and themselves, and to be part of the community. Walter Conlon of Muscatine is a retired attorney who plays French horn with MSO. He said in 2001, when the symphony was in its second year (and there were about 20 local musicians in it), he decided to see about joining. “I walked in and said ‘I can play trumpet or (French) horn.’ They told me they needed a horn, so that’s what I ended up playing for them.”

and bassist Jonathan Thoma at Muscatine High School and Colorado, Grant and Jefferson elementaries. Both also teach private lessons, and Thoma teaches school lessons as well. Maestro Dollinger emphasized how important youth outreach is to the organization. “The Symphony continues to reach more and more of our youth through a variety of initiatives. The involvement of our kids in the arts is paramount to the sustainability of our cultural identity,” he said.

Building up musicians

The symphony is making long-range plans to build the organization. Board member Carmen Bugay, who also plays violin for MSO, explains the work she has been doing to increase marketing for the orchestra.

MSO Concertmaster Heather Straley teaches a group strings lesson with middle school students.

Conlon has stayed on through the years, and he also plays with the Black Hawk College Community Symphony Orchestra (Moline, Ill.) and the Washington (Iowa) Community Band. “I like playing music. It’s one of the joys of my old age,” he laughed.

Youth programming

Still, Straley’s first passion is performing, she said. With MSO, she has especially enjoyed performing in the free community concerts such as the pops concert every 4th of July with the fireworks display and Christmas with the Symphony.

In addition to seven concerts each year, MSO gives back to the community by helping the next generation of musicians. The musicians’ support of the Muscatine Community School District Orchestra Boosters encourages schoolage musicians to hone their craft and play alongside MSO. Young musicians audition and play in the Youth Concert each spring.

Other local musicians have made a different living but come share their musical talent by night in order to enhance the

Two MSO musicians serve as orchestra directors at Muscatine schools: cellist Jessica Blanchard at both middle schools

“We want to increase base supporters for the orchestra while enhancing the experience for the musicians and audience members,” Bugay said. A 2013 transplant from Indiana, Bugay brings over 20 years of experience as a musician and board member of the Carmel Symphony Orchestra, another community orchestra rooted in the northern Indianapolis metropolitan area. In her second year with MSO, she has worked to further MSO’s presence. With the help of the Chamber of Commerce, MSO received a grant from the Community Foundation of Greater Muscatine last year to build its principal chair sponsorship, an idea developed when Bugay attended the 2015 Leadership Muscatine program. Principal chair funding pays the leaders within each section, with an emphasis on getting more local players to perform and lead. Principal chairs represent a total of 17 instrument sections within the orchestra. Bugay’s focus has been to find individual and corporate matching donors for those principal chairs that have not been sponsored. Until last season, local principal musicians were not paid for their musical contribution to — Continued on page 18 Muscatine Magazine • Fall 2017 9 Muscatine Magazine • Winter

Muscatine Muscatine History & Industry Center

The Flower Gallery

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131 E. 2nd St. • (563) 262-8264

• T-shirts, $15 • Framed button art, $15

• Muscatine’s Pearl Button Industry book, $21.99

• Pearl button necklace, $20

• Spent shells, $5

• Pearl button bracelets, $25

• Button coaster, $5

• Shell Games book, $21.95

• Button people keychains, $5

• In background: Muscatine throw blanket (proceeds go to the Muscatine Pilot Club), $50 • Muscatine scenes resin ornament (shown: City Hall), $25 • Handpainted spent clamshell art by Chris Anderson, $22

•M  uscatine melon wooden ornament, $9.50 • Honeysuckle candle, $15 •M  uskie Mocha ground coffee (5 locally named varieties), $2.99 • Wood carving encasing vial of Mississippi River water, $14.99 • Memories sign, $9.99


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2901 Termini Drive • (563) 263-1086 •

Hy-Vee custom-creates charcuterie trays for your holiday needs. Sizing, pricing and food variety all vary. Tray pictured is 2½ feet wide and costs $150.

• 8 x 10" prints of local scenery (outer edges), $25 each

•8  x 10" iris print, $25

• 11 x 17" Muscatine skyline print, $35

• 4x6 stationery 2-pack, $5

10 Muscatine Magazine • Fall 2017

• Jewelry, $37 per piece


Don’t forget your Chamber Dollars!

The Greater Muscatine Chamber of Commerce & Industry (GMCCI) issues these gift certificates for spending at Chamber-member businesses. With the certificate, the recipient also gets a list of participating businesses. Chamber Dollars can be purchased at the GMCCI office. Please call if you have questions: (563) 263-8895.

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411 W. Mississippi Drive • (563) 299-7894

519 W. 3rd St. • (563) 263-8564

• Ball cap: $16

• 32-oz. growler: $4 (beer fill is addtional $9-$13)

• Personalized knit stockings (for preorder), $150

• Hand-stitched wool and cotton throw pillow, $35

• 10-oz. tulip glass: $5

• Muscatine hand towel, $14

• Taster glass: $4

• Turkey pincushion, $24

• Hand-stitched wool ornaments with pearl buttons, $12

• 16-oz. tulip glass: $6 • 64-oz. stainless steel growler: $40 (beer fill is additional $15-$19) • T-shirt (various colors): $19

• Pearl button jewelry, $5 to $35

• Heart“penny rug”with handstitched wool and pearl buttons, $48

• Paper-machier box with handstitched wool top, $8

• Hand-stitched wool and cotton sewing caddy, $14

• Jar of Muscatine pearl buttons, $14

Fresh Vintage

Flowers on the Avenue

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• Children’s tee-pee (backdrop), $145

• Wooden Iowa rattle, $20

• Fresh Littles brand “Hello World” 3-piece set (cap matches pants), $45

• Muscatine T-shirt, $22.50 adult S-XL, $26.50 XXL and up

• Fresh Littles “Small Town Girl” shirt, $15

• Painted bird cards by Twila Harkin, $4.95

• Handmade cloth pumpkins, $22.50 each

•R  ed bromelaids in red ceramic planter, $75 as shown

• Silk gerber daisy and cabbage rose arrangement in green glass vase, $15

• Wooden seasonal plaques (jack-o-lantern and Santa shown), $14.50 each

• Muscatine heaven sign, $15.75

• Grapevine and moss owl, $26.95 Muscatine Magazine • Fall 2017 11

Photo by Andrew Buchanan

New HNI HQ serves as showcase for hearth product/office furniture maker

Building and its campus help beautify downtown corridor Story by Kathy Kuhl Industrial elements like exposed ductwork and walls of repurposed, distressed wooden floorboards are cool but not cold. Edgy design is reined in by elements of warmth and comfort like upholstered furniture, amber-hued wood and smartly modern fireplaces. This is a building by and for people who know how to furnish an office. In 2012 HNI Corporation (HNI) began a $51 Million modernization of its downtown facilities. The project involved constructing a new building for the Oak Laminate facility, modernizing and repurposing much of the company’s downtown distribution facility, and the re-engineering and repurposing of the building which is 12 Muscatine Magazine • Fall 2017 12 Muscatine Magazine • Fall 2017

now HNI’s Headquarters and Innovation Center. The new state-of-the-art office space was completed in January of 2017. Its presence is a reminder that HNI, Muscatine County’s largest employer with almost 1,800 people employed at the downtown campus and just under 4,000 county-wide, is committed to its members, its customers and Muscatine. (“Member” is what HNI calls each employee to reflect the commitment between individuals and the company.) The new three-story headquarters is designed to showcase HNI’s products while providing an efficient and effective office for HNI members to conduct their business. Worldwide, the company is the leading producer of

hearth products and the second-largest manufacturer of office furniture under several brands, including HON, Allsteel, Maxon, Gunlocke, HBF, and Paoli. “The building is a product showroom, and customers can see how the product can be used or configured in an actual office and collaborative environment,” said Gary Carlson, HNI’s vice president of community relations. With the all-glass north wall and the expansive windows on the south wall, natural light floods the spaces where work takes place. The view to the south provides a view along the Mississippi River spanning from Lock and Dam 16 to the Norbert F. Beckey Bridge and downriver to the facilities of Grain Processing Corporation.

Where once aluminum siding enclosed the walkway/freight conveyor that has bridged over 2nd Street for years, there is now a transparent enclosure revealing the movement of goods and members between the headquarters and the HNI distribution center and the HON Company Headquarters. The exterior has been professionally landscaped and additional parking is available. Inside, it’s comfortable and quickly changeable, especially on the first floor. Designers and engineers convene in small groups, writing directly on the walls that also serve as whiteboards. Carlson said the Beyond glass walls, an Allsteel product, can be reconfigured within a day to create different room sizes. The east end of the first floor is used for product testing and looks different nearly every day. The second floor mostly contains engineering workspaces. Carlson said the new building has brought more of the company’s product development engineers under one roof. This consolidation improves collaboration. The third floor is home to the HNI Corporate staff. This floor’s landing may be the most comfortable part of the building. Couches surround a two-sided fireplace Photo by Andrew Buchanan

area designed by members. A pair of Allsteel Reflect chairs sit together near the back wall, ready for a conference of two. Low-slung wooden bookshelves hold framed photos of members’ children and families. “Modern office design has taken a more residential feel,” Carlson explained. This floor also has several “touchdown” stations for members to use as their remote offices while visiting from other locations, even locally. Interns will also use these stations. Carlson said that each summer, the company attracts approximately 80 college interns – mostly from Midwestern universities. Many will become members upon graduation. There are several reminders of the old structure before the remodeling. Corrugated steel once used to reinforce factory floors is now cut, shaped and hung on the wall as a coat rack. The heavy beams that once enclosed freight elevator areas have been incorporated into the new structure, now surrounding copier and printing areas. Wooden floor boards from old manufacturing areas still bearing paint and oil stains are now used as wall paneling to celebrate the manufacturing history of the building. This mix of old and new provides an amazing space for the hundreds of

people Carlson estimates will tour the building each year, including local members, office furniture dealers, customers, architects and designers. “Downtown Muscatine businesses see us as a good neighbor,” Carlson said. “We keep our facilities well-groomed, and our members frequent downtown businesses, especially restaurants.” The building’s immediate neighbor to the west is a testament to the company’s neighborliness. It’s the former HNI headquarters, which the company donated to Muscatine to provide the Musser Public Library a new home. “This new building gives them 10,000 additional square feet, a lot of offstreet parking, and the opportunity to have a facility which will become a phenomenal community gathering place,” Carlson said. There are many great things underway in Muscatine to enhance and beautify the community’s downtown including the enhancement of streets and walkways through the Mississippi Corridor Project and the construction of the Merrill Hotel & Convention Center, including its fitness center and covered parking. HNI has led the way for local beautification with its innovative investment in its downtown campus. n

Photo by Kristen Feeney

Muscatine Magazine • Fall 2017 13

The Muscatine Art Center is open Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. Admission is FREE.

Norman Rockwell’s Home for the Holidays On view November 16, 2017 through January 28, 2018 During his forty-seven year affiliation with The Saturday Evening Post, Norman Rockwell was celebrated for his special holiday cover illustrations, which were commissioned to make a full spectrum of annual events for an enthusiastic public, from Thanksgiving, Christmas and The New Year to Valentine’s Day and April Fools’ Day. Throughout the decades, Rockwell’s holiday depictions shifted in subject and style, resulting in a broad range of imagery inspired by both the past and the present. Norman Rockwell’s Home for the Holidays features original magazine covers from The Saturday Evening Post including many of the artist’s most memorable and enduring holiday images. The exhibition has been organized by the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Media sponsorship has been provided by Curtis Licensing, a division of The Saturday Evening Post. n

This November, the Friends of the Muscatine Art Center will debut the “Heartfelt & Handmade” Ornament Competition. Artists, crafters, and craftsmen of all ages are invited to submit up to five ornaments which will 14 Muscatine Magazine • Fall 2017

Santa and Expense Book, Cover illustration for The Saturday Evening Post, December 4, 1920, Norman Rockwell Museum Collection

be exhibited and sold or auctioned. A panel of judges will award prizes in an adult category and a kids’ category with first place for both categories receiving $100, second receiving $50, and third receiving $25. Any material or combination of materials may be used so long as the participant crafted the ornament. All ornaments must be received by the Muscatine Art Center no later than 5 p.m. on November 12th.

All ornaments will go on view November 18th and remain on view through December 14th. Those contributing an ornament will receive a ticket for the special event held on the evening of November 18th. The event will feature catered hors d’oeuvres, wine and beer, musical entertainment and the opening for Norman Rockwell’s Home for the Holidays. Event attendees will have the first chance to purchase an ornament with a set price. For ornaments selected for silent auction, event attendees will be the first to place bids. n

Inspired By Muscatine’s Tradition of Innovation and Creativity The Musser Public Library and HNI Community Center OPENING SPRING 2018 Major Contributors: HNI Corporation Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust Part of the Pearls of Progress Project

Manufacturing, culinary career academies put high school seniors on career path Story and Photos by Kathy Kuhl Andrew Hostetler envisions himself as an underwater welder. Yasmin Alba sees herself as a bakery owner in downtown Muscatine. These two Muscatine High School seniors have very different career goals, but they are taking the same first step toward them by enrolling in a Muscatine Community College (MCC) career academy – Andrew in advanced manufacturing and Yasmin in culinary arts. These are programs that already existed for college students, but they have only recently opened up to high school seniors. The advanced manufacturing career academy began in the 2016-17 school year, and the culinary arts one just started in August. There are nine career academy students now: five in advanced manufacturing and four in culinary arts. The goal of these two academies is for students to earn the first 16 credits towards an associate degree – a college certification – while in high school. Upon completion of the career academy, students can either enter the workforce or attend MCC to complete an associate’s degree in the field. The programs are open to high school seniors in six districts: Columbus Community, Durant, Louisa-Muscatine, Muscatine Community, West Liberty and Wilton.

16 Muscatine Magazine • Fall 2017

“It’s more cost-effective to bus the students to their college courses than to build commercial kitchens and Raul Chavez whisks some alfredo sauce he is making as fellow industrial-quality culinary students Delilah Guido and Emilio Dillon look on. An tool shops in each MHS senior, Delilah is a career academy student. high school,” said Jeremy Pickard, There are scholarships to encourage MCC’s dean of instruction, who created “concurrent students” (high school sethe career academies. niors taking college courses) to continThere are options for how far the students want to go. “Right after high school they have a certificate in their field,” said MCC president Naomi DeWinter. “That was important to Dr. (Jerry) Riibe (Muscatine Community Schools Superintendent) that they have that qualification as they graduate from high school.” After an additional semester, the advanced manufacturing students will have a basic electronics certificate. Two semesters out of high school, students in both programs will have a diploma (engineering technology or culinary arts). It takes another two semesters for advanced manufacturing students and another four for the culinary arts students to have their associates in applied science degree. “We hope once they start they will have found a pathway towards a fulfilling career,” DeWinter said.

ue at MCC. All career academy students – and any high school seniors earning college credits at Eastern Iowa Community Colleges campuses – may apply for future tuition assistance through the EICC Connections Scholarship Program ( aspx). Funding helps, and Pickard said passion does, too. He said the ideal candidates for these academies should have great interest in the field they are pursuing. It helps if they have already taken some courses in their given subject and have a good idea they want to pursue it as a career. “They take the classes in high school or get exposure to these industries somewhere in their lives and they build a passion,” he explained. “If they know they have that passion as a high schooler, this is a good way for them to go.”

Current career academy students prove career passions can begin early in life. Yasmin said she has wanted to be a baker as far back as she remembers, but she just took it up as a hobby “a couple years ago.” “I always liked the idea of baking,” she said. Andrew has been around welding all his life. “My dad is a welder, so I’ve been doing it since I was 9 or 10,” he said. “It grew on me, but now I want to take it in a different direction. There’s a big demand for underwater welders.”

plete a post-secondary goal with double the support: their high school teachers and counselors are supporting them as well as their college faculty and student services,” she said. “For first-generation students – students who are the first in their family to attend college – this support is key.” MCC officials have worked together with local school districts, businesses and industries to create these programs. The idea is to fill jobs for which there is high demand locally. “We bring people from local industries in to help give us input on what their

Advanced manufacturing career academy students attend classes at the MITC Building on the MCC campus. Here they pose with their engineering tech instructor, Jason Cox (third from left): Derrick Lauterwasser and Andrew Hostetler, both MHS seniors, and Tyler Rock, a senior at West Liberty High School.

“With the program, I’ll get multiple skills that will be marketable,” Andrew said.

needs are and what kind of training is necessary,” DeWinter said.

Career academies are part of an effort to meet educational goals set by the State of Iowa’s Future Ready program and Aligned Impact Muscatine (AIM). These state and local efforts share a goal of getting 70 percent of young people into post-secondary education and/ or training. According to the 2017 AIM Community Dashboard (, current post-secondary education rates are 53.3 percent in Muscatine and 60.4 percent statewide. DeWinter, who is on the AIM board, said career academies should help get us closer to that goal locally.

Pickard said this kind of discussion is imperative for the success of the students and of local employers.

“Career academies help students com-

“If we’re not producing students who fulfill the needs of local employers, we’re failing as an institution,” he said. Industries are waiting for an infusion of more skilled workers, said Diane Stanley, hospitality facilitator for Eastern Iowa Community Colleges, adding that when students graduate with an associate’s in applied science degree, they also have journeyman status in the workforce. This translates to pay of about $12-13 per hour for those in culinary arts.

“This training gives them an advantage. It will help get their foot in the door,” she said. Stanley said several area casinos and the Marriot Hotel in Coralville have sign-on incentives, and some even give employees a bonus for being on time for work. In manufacturing jobs, Pickard said, there is a good market right now. Journeyman status in manufacturing means graduates will start at $18-22 per hour. The culinary arts program has received financial support from the Howe Family Foundation. It’s also gotten a big boost from the Merrill Hotel & Convention Center, which is slated to open downtown in January – there is up-front support and a commitment to hire later. (However, graduates can also land in any restaurant, hotel, casino or medical center they would like.) The hotel’s parent company, Riverview Hotel Development, bought the old Button Factory restaurant, and now it is where culinary students train under the tutelage of Chef Steve Hall and Stanley. Jason Cox, MCC engineering tech instructor, said the advanced manufacturing program has a maintenance apprenticeship with HNI Corporation. “Once the student completes the apprenticeship program, they will then have the ability to advance to a maintenance craftsperson position, which is a great career step into a higher-paying, skilled role,” he said. With the skill set and credentials they gain through the program, the advanced manufacturing graduates also may be hired by many Muscatine and area businesses. MCC is likely to offer a wider variety of career academies in the future. “Not to overpromise, because we have to collaborate with the high schools, but we could in the future offer agriculture, agribusiness and allied health as career academies,” Pickard said. n

Muscatine Magazine • Fall 2017 17


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We need writers! Muscatine Magazine needs writers, especially business writers. Please contact Kathy Kuhl at

Muscatine Symphony

Continued from page 9 —

the MSO – only “gigger” musicians had been compensated. As this article is written, MSO has sponsorship for one-third of its principal chairs through individual and matching corporate donations. Bugay said much still needs to be done in this area. “We want to show local musicians we appreciate their talent, leadership, and 18 Muscatine Magazine • Fall 2017

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Call (563) 263-5130 and Get Results! years of voluntary service to the community, by offering them a monetary incentive as a small token of thanks,” Bugay said. “Also, we want to expand the MSO’s home playing base by attracting more local talent within this area.” Like the music itself, the symphony as an entity takes many players working together to create something worthwhile. “Through programming, guest artists, education programs, and overall leadership, the symphony has grown to be the

premier performing arts organization in the greater-Muscatine area,” Maestro Dollinger said. The MSO invites you to come experience the joy of music at its concerts. MSO strives to provide an approachable, inspiring, fun, family-friendly atmosphere. It is music for everyone. See for more information about programming, volunteering or giving. n

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