Story City Update – or He Who Hesitates…

A couple of days ago (July 1) I wrote about the great risk takers in Story City, Iowa, who leaped into the breach and acquired the Charlson Building in their downtown.

As part of that post I mentioned a wonderful business located in the Charlson Building, RVP1875, a custom reproduction furniture company and its chief craftsman, Robbie Pedersen. Making sure the historic building wasn’t lost to demolition by neglect or by bulldozer was the primary motivation for the Greater Chamber Connection (GCC) getting directly involved. However the timing and sense of urgency was driven by the desire to keep Robbie in Story City.Well, I no sooner got the story posted then I get an email from Carolyn Honeycutt, the executive director of the GCC. “Unfortunately”, she wrote, “in the process of this whole thing we lost RVP.”

Why? Well, while the city was diddling around saying, “We need more information. We need a study. The engineering report is a couple of years old, we need an update” Robbie Pedersen decided he needed to look for options. He went to his hometown of Jefferson, Iowa, a place that obviously does understand economic development. The City of Jefferson provided a historic building for an affordable price (about $6/square foot — and that is PURCHASE price, not annual rent) provided some low interest financing, and committed to $10,000 of renovations. So Robbie took them up on it.

And who could blame him? Well, his strong supporters in Story City can a bit. They put up their own money when the City wouldn’t help so that the building could be acquired so that Robbie could stay. So it’s not surprising that there are lots of folks in Story City who are more than a little disappointed.

Having said that, had the city government of Story City acted promptly (as did the City of Jefferson) there’s a good chance Robbie would have stayed.

But even without RPV1785, the decision by GCC was the right one. They’ll ultimately find another good tenant to take the space.

But the lesson shouldn’t be lost. Cities need to step up to the table when there’s a good idea even when there’s a bit of risk involved. The risk of not acting is often much greater.