The owners of a northwest Iowa stained glass business have decided to stay in Iowa, after a state conference designed to help them nearly sent them away. Mark and Jeanne Bogenrief attended a conference in Des Moines last year on using arts and culture for economic development in rural Iowa. After meeting people at the conference, Mark says their Merrill business, Bogenrief Studios, suddenly became very popular. He says the next thing he knows, they were getting offers from all over from people trying to lure them out of the state. Bogenrief says they were ready about a month ago to pack up and head to Paducah, Kentucky. He says they went to Paducah five times, took their crew there and came real close to moving. Instead of leaving Iowa, the Bogenriefs are now going to expand their business with a manufacturing facility in Sutherland, and a new gallery in Cherokee. He says they have the opportunity to stay in Iowa thanks to Cherokee and Sutherland, which he says have really stepped up to the plate. He says they plan to expand from 20 employees to eventually have 100. He says they just got into glass blowing, and plan to expand to pottery , then silversmithing and woodworking. He says they want a cultural district in northwest Iowa. As another incentive to stay in Iowa, the Iowa High School Athletic Association is asking the Bogenriefs to create a one-million dollar piece for the new Iowa Hall of Pride. I-H-S-A-A executive director Bernie Saggau says his organization is kicking a 100-thousand dollar donation to the project. Saggau can’t says what the piece will be.He says he really doesn’t know. He says he wants it to represent the feelings of Iowa. He says people often think of Iowa as being about agriculture, but he says he wants it to show the skill of Iowans. Saggau says the arts are just as important as athletics. He says everybody thinks the Hall of Pride is about athletics. He says the hall was a gift to Iowa to brag about Iowa and the people in it. Saggau says the hall is designed to show the good things about Iowa and the quality of our life. Bogenrief says they’ll have the first sketches of the proposal for the Hall of Pride in about 30 days.
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