by Rebecca McKinsey, Staff Writer
When Ron Reischl faced his impending retirement from IBM in Austin, Texas, almost a decade ago, in a city he loved and thought he’d never leave, his mind nevertheless kept returning to his hometown.
And in 2008, after more than 30 years away, Reischl moved back to the small Iowa town where he grew up.
Reischl, 65, also can’t pinpoint exactly how it happened that he became involved in Main Street Manning, but by January of 2011, he was working as the economic development organization’s board president.
Now, in line with the organization’s bylaws, he is finished with the position after serving as board president for six years. Jeff Blum, formerly the chairman of Main Street Manning’s Business Improvement Committee, is the organization’s new board president, while Reischl will take Blum’s former role as the committee chairman. Reischl’s first role with Main Street Manning was serving on that committee.
Main Street Manning has accomplished quite a bit during the past six years, most notably an $800,000, three-year revitalization of 17 downtown building facades, Reischl said.
“That really changed the face of our downtown district, and it has had a profound impact,” he said.
Manning has been recognized with a variety of awards for the joint project between the city and Main Street Manning.
Also notable, Reischl said, was Main Street Manning’s assistance with an expansion at the Manning Child Care Center and its involvement in the creation of the Refresh Manning Trust Fund, a perpetual fund designed to financially support nonprofit entities in Manning.
For Reischl, Manning has always been special, since its residents enveloped his family when his brother died and again when his father was injured in a farming accident — local farmers converged and completed the family’s harvest in just a day or two.
“Moving away from Manning, I admired it from afar,” Reischl said. “Being here, I came to sincerely appreciate the number of volunteers and the passion of the volunteers in Manning. That’s probably the biggest reason Manning has been successful, and it goes back generations — the passion and willingness for volunteers to get involved.”
In addition to working with the Business Improvement Committee, Reischl plans to continue to tackle the need for additional housing in Manning, which has been identified as one of the city’s major roadblocks to drawing in new employees and businesses.
“I’m extremely optimistic about the Main Street organization going forward,” Reischl said. “And I’m proud and optimistic of the makeup of the board.”
Main Street Manning’s new board has 10 adult members — five men and five women — and the majority are less than 40 years old, Reischl said. It also has four student members: two IKM-Manning seniors, who are voting members, and two juniors.
And Reischl, who has worked with Blum extensively during the latter’s last few years with the board, is confident about Main Street Manning’s future under Blum.
“I’m 100 percent certain he’ll do a great job,” he said.
Blum, 33, graduated from Manning High School in 2001 before attending Iowa State University to study industrial engineering. He married his high-school sweetheart Jamie, a 2000 Manning graduate, and they moved to Omaha for five years before deciding several years ago they wanted to raise their family in a town more like Manning.
They first looked at cities similar to their hometown closer to Omaha before deciding they preferred the real thing.
“We’d always planned on ending up in (Manning) someday,” Blum said. “So we made the jump back.”
Now, Jeff Blum works as an operations manager at Manning manure-application company Puck Customs Enterprises, and Jamie owns Blum Physical Therapy in Manning. They have three daughters: Annabelle, 6, Evelyn, 4, and Josephine, 2.
And for the past few years, Blum has been actively involved in Main Street Manning, mostly with the Business Improvement Committee that works with local employers. He’s also served on the Main Street Manning board for three years.
Main Street Manning provided Blum with the perfect opportunity to become involved in the city that raised him, he said.
“(Main Street Manning lets you) be involved in something that’s not only doing good for the community but is advancing the future,” he said.
And for a young couple moving back home, helping to ensure the city’s future was important, he said.
Blum complimented the work completed in recent years by Main Street Manning and city officials, including Reischl, Manning Mayor Harvey Dales and City Administrator Dawn Rohe. Main Street Manning also has had two executive directors in the past few years, Colleen Nelson and Cindy Ranniger.
“It’s amazing the things they’d say ‘yes’ to and the things they’d go after,” Blum said. “Seeing people that have that determination and drive, who will make almost anything their mission if it’ll benefit the future of the community, is rewarding.”
With new leadership for Main Street Manning’s board this year, the organization will inevitably look different in the coming years, Blum said — and he’s looking forward to the challenge.
One of Main Street Manning’s upcoming goals will be additional analysis of the city’s merchants and stores in an effort to better keep spending within the city’s bounds.
“We want to hone in on what niche markets we have here and see what we can take advantage of, not only keeping Main Street vibrant but supplementing existing businesses with ideas and continuing to grow and expand,” he said.
“I think it’ll be a fun challenge for everyone.”
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