By AUDREY INGRAM, Times Herald Staff Writer
April 7, 2015
Next month the City of Manning will launch a study to determine what kind — if any — of hotel to build.
The feasibility study will be conducted in partnership with Iowa State University Extension. City leaders expect to start around May 1 and receive a recommendation by the end of June.
The need for hotel accommodations has been voiced several times in recent years, prompted by growth in area wedding facilities and local industry, City Administrator Dawn Rohe said.
Recently, a small group including an interested resident, a local industry representative, a Main Street Manning representative, a city employee and a banker contacted several hotel chains to determine the process to bring a hotel to Manning, she said. One of the top requirements to consider building is a feasibility study conducted by an outside entity to determine what size of hotel the area could support, including required rates, return on investment and break-even calculations.
The cost estimate to complete the study is $6,000. This cost will be paid by the Manning Economic Development Agency and two private individuals.
The study will also explore various potential hotel concepts, from chain to ma-and-pop organization and from a traditional to a destination lodge- or cabin-style layout, Rohe said. Any hotel built in Manning would require the support of local investors.
Site selection is an additional piece of the study — the most logical place seems to be near the Manning Hausbarn Heritage Park, but the city will “look to the professionals,” Rohe said.
The perceived need is greater now than ever, she said. Wedding bookings have increased at the Hausbarn and at the new Templeton Center, and local companies have pulled in trainees from an expanding area, she noted.
“These people have to drive somewhere for the night,” Rohe said. “It might as well be Manning.”
Hausbarn director Freda Dammann credits a $120,000 Google grant for online advertising and promotion and a Chicago Tribune article recognizing the Hausbarn as the top barn wedding site in Iowa for increased attention to Manning.
In 2013, the Hausbarn hosted 22 weddings, and by February last year, only 12 weddings had been booked for 2014.
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Wedding guests often travel from Des Moines, as well as neighboring states including Kansas, Minnesota and Nebraska, she said. She sends many of these guests to Carroll.
Dammann has not been directly involved in the committee organizing the hotel feasibility study, but she is cautiously optimistic.
“My take on it is, we can always use a hotel,” she said — but she doubts the Hausbarn alone could fill it. “It needs done carefully.
We don’t want to build it and have it be an albatross.”
Puck Custom Enterprises, a local manufacturing leader, also draws an increasing number of visitors to Manning through its pump training schools, which teach how to most efficiently operate agricultural pump equipment.
Five years ago, PCE hosted one school with 30 attendees who all lived within a two-hour drive of the facility.
This year, PCE is offering six schools with an average attendance of 30 people each. Vice President of Marketing Nancy Trapolino estimates that at least half of these trainees will book at least one night in a hotel, adding up to roughly 90 reservations per year.
She often recommends hotels in Carroll, Denison or Elk Horn, she said.
“I think everyone on our management team would appreciate a hotel in Manning for ease of use on our customers,” Trapolino said.
In addition to training schools, the company also frequently hosts individuals who spend multiple days shadowing PCE owners to learn more about the equipment before switching their own business, she said.
The company has considered building rooms for overnight boarding at its own facility, but changed direction due to “substantial” management costs, she said.
Comment from Connie Natzke 4/14/2015:
Build it! They will come! I'm from manilla. All my family has to travel to Carroll or Harlan for a decent hotel.