The Ottumwa Courier

June 24, 2013

Eat pizza, then work out

Courier staff writer

---- — OTTUMWA — It takes time for outside business interests to decide to build a new store, but economic development officials say the latest two additions have been worth the wait.

Megan Framke, initiative manager for Ottumwa Economic Development Corperation, said it can easily take a year and a half from the time Ottumwans sit down with the company until they can announce a decision.

She described MC Sports as a large sporting goods store, perhaps a little smaller than a Scheel's.

"The stores are clean, and they have very high standards," she said. "They've announced they are also building a new store at the Merle Hay Mall [in Des Moines]."

Papa John's is also coming to Ottumwa. According to the information provided on Papa John's web page, their chain aims to deliver an upper-end pizza right to a customer's door. Their newest Papa John's pizza shop will be on Richmond Avenue in the old Kentucky Fried Chicken location.

MC Sports at the Quincy Place Mall is already hiring employees.

"It's great news," said Tim Kurtz, executive director of the Ottumwa Area Chamber of Commerce.

It's especially exciting, Kurtz said, for consumers who value having a choice.

"All sorts of developments are good for the community," said David Barajas, executive director of OEDC.

Which is one reason he, Framke and Kurtz say they're glad groups in Ottumwa — Main Street, OEDC, Chamber, Ottumwa Economic Development and others — have strengthened their working relationship with each other.

Barajas agreed that consumer choice is an advantage for a town, adding that when potential visitors know a community has multiple options, they are more likely to plan their shopping trip there. For example, MC Sports would not be the first or only sporting goods store in Ottumwa. But having a choice makes Ottumwa more attractive to potential shoppers.

It's kind of like the concept of a crowded food court, Barajas agreed. The whole family knows that with a trip to the food court, everyone in the group can get something they want — even if they're not exactly certain what they want until they get there. And when the choices increase, the kiosks and restaurants don't see a new food stand as competition — they see a new place that will draw even more customers to the area.

As important, or maybe even more important, Barajas said, is supporting local businesses. While it may not seem as exciting, development officials say, it's the expansion of already-existing companies that creates jobs. Orscheln Farm and Home expanded recently, building a larger facility, he said.

Officials wouldn't comment on rumors that another restaurant might open in Ottumwa. The OEDC employees said they sign confidentiality agreements with businesses and believe it's extremely important to show those businesses and others that people here are trustworthy and reliable. It also avoids getting the public's hope up when a decision hasn't been made.

"In a way, that makes it more exciting when we do make an announcement," Barajas said.

He said ED officials will continue taking business people on site visits and showing them what Ottumwa has to offer.

"Industrial manufacturing opportunities are really our main focus," Barajas said. "Those jobs tell retailers there's more disposable income in the area."

— To see reporter Mark Newman's Twitter feed, go to @couriermark.