First impressions matter

Image is fundamental to economic vitality.

This message was loud and clear from keynote speakers and presenters at the Iowa Downtown Conference in August. As Jefferson Matters: Main Street has been working on these image-type projects in conjunction with the city of Jefferson, we have heard many positive comments from visitors and residents applauding the efforts.  

A welcoming downtown and community with flowers, banners, arts and signage portrays our progressive nature. This leads to people considering to opening a business, shopping, visiting or encouraging friends and relatives to take a look at Jefferson.  

The 13 buildings involved in the downtown rehabilitation are making an impressive impact.

The ability to see the possibilities gave Rosie and Ray Tucker a reason to renovate a building in the downtown to bring in a unique business and upper-story living with an awesome view.

It encourages Bonnie Silbaugh to think outside the box as she starts her own business on the Square and offers classes on flower arrangements.  

It drives more traffic for an already successful home business for Jen Badger to move to a building downtown and expand to a new market of consignment.  

It impresses alumni to return to open a chiropractic office in their hometown because they see a momentum that they want for their families.

Many of our long-standing retail businesses understand that beauty in their front windows gives customers a peek of what is inside. Ten business owners just attended a presentation on signage and how important it is to convey their business image.

Image is fundamental to economic vitality.

Communities of all sizes were represented at the Iowa Downtown Conference. The city council, Main Street board and committees received some of my notes with this common theme:

You won’t stay special by accident.

Your gateway is important.  

For every $1 of public investment, the return is over $39.

Active edges make active interiors.

Each statement is food for thought. This is why the city council is looking in the right direction to update our entryways into Jefferson from all four sides. We don’t have just one entrance into the community.

Living on Old Highway 30, I can attest to the daily traffic using that corridor and know how busy the other gateways are. Let’s give each entrance a positive image we want to project.

There is a shift in transportation to walking and biking.  This has been gradual, but all ages have embraced it. I remember when Bill was raising hogs that I would suggest going for a walk or ride a bike and he looked at me as if I were crazy.  Now he rides regularly to the county border and back for exercise.  

You know people who love being more active than grandmas and grandpas of the past.  

I see other communities taking advantage of living on a bike trail drawing people into their communities with art. The high-trestle bridge is a big plus for Woodward and Madrid and they are growing.  Tourism and the amenities that go with it are important to economic vitality.

Having a new brand for Jefferson and wayfinding signage is not a new idea. There were meetings held in 2014 before I was involved with Jefferson Matters: Main Street. An opportunity presented itself for anyone interested to be a part of this project and a large group volunteered.  

The end result is impressive and classy. As with the flowers and banners, our residents will be proud of the final product.  

Woodbine and Manning have been known throughout the state as being innovative and progressive. Both are smaller than Jefferson. Jefferson is starting to be named with those communities as up-and-coming, with people working together to make things happen.  

We won’t stay special by accident.

Let’s keep the momentum going.

Peg Raney is program director of Jefferson Matters: Main Street. Contact her at or 515-386-3585.

Contact Us

Jefferson Bee & Herald
Address: 200 N. Wilson St.
Jefferson, IA 50129

Phone:(515) 386-4161