Local organizations and businesses gathered for a roundtable discussion on Thursday, March 6.
A total of about 25 groups and businesses were represented.
The Iola Old Car Show announced the resignation of Gene Knutson, director of operations. Recently, a new staff position was added with the hiring of Larry Fechter as operation manager.
The 2014 car show, on July 10-13, will feature four-door vehicles and the 50th anniversary of the Mustang.
David Dyb, district administrator for the Iola-Scandinavia School District, announced that the district is in the middle of a Strategic Planning Initiative. He said it involves about 25 people from the community.
“We are talking about our preferred future as a school district,” Dyb said.
Currently in his first year as district administrator, Dyb said his goal is to work on partnerships within the community.
Tom Fucik reported that the Iola Historical Society has had “an incredible growth spurt in the last five years.”
The historical society is planning to construct a Resource Center and they will soon begin restoration of the caboose.
On his business side, he reported Iola Mills had a good year in 2013. He estimates he has spent many hours restoring the historical mill and hopes it will soon become self sustaining.
“That’s one of the oldest buildings in Wisconsin,” said Greg Loescher, president of the I-S Chamber of Commerce, which hosted the Roundtable.
Mary Olson said her business, Iola Tax Place, has been operating for two years.
“I really see some of the situations of people in hard times,” she said. “It would really be nice if we could get more employment in this area.”
Iola Lions President Mike Jacquart reported the club added seven new members as a result of its recent membership drive. Upcoming Lions events include Diabetes Awareness Day on March 26 and the Iola Health Fair on April 12. The new Spot Vision Camera will be available for free eye tests during the health fair.
Mark Sether, of Premier Community Bank, has noticed signs of economic growth in the area.
“I have seen construction loans and purchases picking up a bit,” he reported.
The Iola Lioness Club is currently selling roses. Club President Maggie Jones encouraged the community to buy extra roses for the residents of Iola Living Assistance.
Upcoming Lioness events include the Easter Party on April 19, the citywide rummage sale on May 10, and they will be helping with the vision screenings at the April 12 health fair.
Greg Loeser reported that Iola Living Assistance, Inc. came out even in the last fiscal year.
“We lost half a million caring for people last year,” Loeser said.
He noted that Butternut Ridge apartments and Living Oaks assisted living helped compensate for the losses at the ILA nursing facility. These losses were due to an estimated 15 percent cut in Medicare compensations.
Loeser said the corporation is looking at a long-range plan to survive more government cuts to nursing facilities. “My life is not going to get easier,” he said.
Jones Publishing celebrated 27 years on March 1, according to Joe Jones.
Although the publishing business has “gone through some tough times,” Jones said the specialty titles are now “doing quite well.” He said their aviation division had a record year.
“I am optimistic about 2014,” Jones said.
Currently, there are 22 people working at Jones Publishing, which he expects to remain stable.
“We are here for the long term,” he said. “It’s a family business.”
Lessons From the Art was named the I-S Chamber’s 2013 business of the year. Owner Tammie Joe Berg said they are continuing to offer music lessons and art classes.
Ideas for upcoming events include a summer children’s theater, theme nights and a meet-and-greet with instructors.
Berg also organizes the Thursday Night on Main concerts for the I-S Chamber. These events will be held on five consecutive Thursdays, beginning the week after the Iola Old Car Show.
Other Chamber-sponsored events being considered are a comedy night in late summer and a Haunted Mill and Zombie Walk on Oct. 31.
Chase Przybylski, representing the I-S High School Honor Society, announced that April 30 will be a Service Day for high school students. He asked for service project ideas that will keep 250 students busy for the afternoon, from about 12:30-3 p.m.
“The more ways we can help the community the better,” Przybylski said. “It’s a really good activity day for us.”
Lake Iola Lake District President John Bertleson provided an update on the recent drawdown.
“The good news is that we have a lake back,” he said. “The bad news is that it came back a little weedy.”
The lake district is applying for a weed control permit, but individual land owners will need to pay for their own chemicals.
“We won’t know what we need to do for weed control until the ice comes off the lake,” Bertleson said.
The lake also lost a lot of fish and is being restocked by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. With only larger species currently being seeded, Bertleson said the conditions are right for pan fish to “really take off.”
The benefits of the drawdown include an increase in depth.
Although information is still being gathered, Bertleson said early tests indicate about one foot of depth was gained in the lower part of the lake. He said the lake also seems to be more open on the upper end.
Joel Edler gave an update on the River Walk project, which is still in need of donations. He said future plans call for the trail’s expansion to the west.
Sharon Rustad reported that the I-S Elementary PTO picnic is set for June 6. Also, Teacher Appreciation Week will be celebrated the first week of May.
Loescher ended the night by encouraging non-profit organizations to shop locally.
“Make sure you patronize the local businesses,” he said. “It keeps the money in your community.”