Why do others say “Manning, Iowa…It’s Refreshing.”?? Mallory Rahe, MS, PHD from the University of Illinois visited Manning last summer for a research paper on volunteerism in small communities. She wrote the following “outsider’s reflection on Manning”.
“I might have met you during my visit to the community, but, suffice it to say I am studying rural development in a series of communities in Iowa as part of a dissertation project, and I was asked several months ago to reflect on my visit to Manning. I stopped agonizing about trying to say something useful and just decided to react to my experience but I thought I should tell you a little bit about my perspective.
When I think about the future of rural communities I use a lot of visuals, I picture communities with jobs, a number of locally owned businesses, houses and yards that show that people are not afraid of their neighbors and proud of their home. Because of my education and my interests, thoughts about the reality of what it takes to achieve these goals soon follow. Community development takes a lot of volunteers, it takes people’s free time, it takes the pooling of community funds, it takes risk taking, open public conversation, consideration of the timing and opinions of various efforts, it takes negotiation, it takes people supporting fundraisers, it takes heart.
I would urge people in Manning to take a moment and thank the people around them and be thankful for how many things seem to really be going well in the community right now: Main Street is on the move, a new branding campaign was successfully launched, the Betterment Foundation is an active group with over 60 years of experience in the community, and Third and Main has a great beer selection and is a very nice space to spend an evening. The church next to the Hausbarn is breathtaking at night when it is all lit up. The murals on the John Deere dealership are lovely and such a surprising place to find public art. I can’t wait to see more of Main Street transformed revealing the historical character of the buildings, and yet I am glad that First National Bank will maintain its Bavarian timbering. It’s weird that there is always music playing on Main Street, but I like it. David Kusel is a treasure for the community to have. His website has so much detail on it and as a fellow history lover, what he has done will provoke curiosity in Manning’s story for many years. I wish my community had a 24 hour workout center that had convenient parking. Manning appears to be a strong community with a wide range of people who are invested in keeping the community a safe and healthy place. That is truly something to be thankful for.
Community development is hard. There are so many things outside of your control and communities have to balance reacting to the environment around them and maintaining and improving what they already have. Things are complicated because development is voluntary. A business owner can decide to do things the right way or the cheapest way. A resident can choose to spend their free time watching TV or participating. Elected officials can do the bare minimum or be creative and innovative in their jobs. People have different opinions and different ideas about how to do them. Above all, development is difficult because it is all about personal priorities, personalities, and choices.