The Iowa Great Places Board is meeting today to pick the first three communities where local brainstorms will get a major boost toward becoming big-league tourist attractions. Bill Menner, of Grinnell, chairs the Iowa Great Places citizens advisory board and explains what’s happening today. The board will pick three pilot projects today during its meeting in Des Moines. The communities involved will be able to sit down with representatives from 18 state agencies to “put their particular project out there” and those agencies will each find ways they can help make the project a reality. Menner says they got nearly 150 responses to the request that communities, regions, or “great places” submit a letter expressing their interest. Of those, 75 made presentations to the board about their ideas. The board spent the past two weeks visiting those 75 places statewide. Menner says most of these communities already know how great they are. Menner says “Really, most of them are already great places. They don’t need us to tell them that they’re great places. But for this process, finding the three pilot sites, we saw many, many really great, innovative concepts that are going to improve communities or neighborhoods or, in some cases, regions.” Menner says some presentations particularly stood out. Menner says “In Corning, which is the hometown of Johnny Carson, their presentation was done in the form of a Tonight Show skit, which was very good! In the town of Denison, their presentation was done in the Donna Reed Theater because that’s her hometown. In Davenport, they started us out by taking us into the new Figge Art Museum, which is just spectacular. We came outside and there was a marching band waiting for us.” He says communities really went above and beyond when it came to pitching why they have a Great Place. The three locations that are chosen as the pilot projects will be announced during the public meeting of the board later today. Once chosen, these places will receive state funding to improve the communities’ marketability to new residents.
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