The Ottumwa Courier

May 10, 2013

Erasing a 'deficit of hope'

John Deere awards second grant to Market on Main

CHELSEA DAVIS
Ottumwa Courier

OTTUMWA — Another grant rolled into Market on Main's bank account thanks to John Deere's confidence in the marketplace having the potential to revive downtown and tackle food insecurity.

Friday morning, John Deere Ottumwa Works donated to the marketplace for the second time, granting Ware with $100,000 from the corporate foundation on top of the Ottumwa factory's original grant of $75,000.

To recognize John Deere for its donations and support of the project, the vendor area of the market — the focal point as visitors walk in the building — will be dubbed "John Deere Hall."

Plant manager Andy Hansen said the market's focus on battling food insecurity and redeveloping Main Street were major factors in why John Deere has donated so much to the project.

"Food security is a big part of our focus at the factory and the foundation," he said. "And redeveloping Main Street is so important for us. It makes it more inviting as we're recruiting employees, and current employees deserve to live in a community with a great downtown. The market is really the cornerstone of redevelopment in downtown Ottumwa."

Hansen said there has been a "deficit of hope" in Ottumwa for too long.

"For so many years, people worried that John Deere would close its doors or another major business would be closing down," he said. "But that's not happening. We have people working together to erase that deficit."

Bidding documents are out and bids are already flying in, said Market on Main Director Heather Ware. She'll return to the city council on June 4 with the lowest qualifying bid and construction will be able to begin the next day if approved.

"It's exciting to see how many people are interested in all the different facets at this point," Ware said. "That many local people are working together to develop the best package."

Hansen agreed, saying the collaboration between different local entities will push the project toward success.

Contractors must complete their work on the 12,000-square-foot building and outdoor green space by Dec. 1, and the marketplace will open around two weeks later. Everything Ware and her volunteers can do in terms of demolition without a contractor has been done, gutting the former "Plum Crazy" building.

"We will be open by Christmas," Ware emphasized.

Ware is also looking for those with landscaping experience to develop the green space directly west of the building, for which the marketplace recently received a $30,000 grant from the Ottumwa Regional Legacy Foundation.

Though more than $1 million has been funneled into the project already, that doesn't mean fundraising is over, Ware said.

"We still have to pay the architects, advertising, vendor booths, kitchen supplies and more," she said.

Ware noted that if people are not sure what to expect at Market on Main, a similar effort was completed in Cedar Rapids in October, the NewBo City Market, and has seen tremendous success.

For more information on Ottumwa's Market on Main, go to www.marketonmainottumwa.com. To take a look at Cedar Rapids' NewBo City Market, go to www.newbocitymarket.com. To follow reporter Chelsea Davis on Twitter, head to @ChelseaLeeDavis.