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Ben Curtis started as the new Kalona Area Chamber of Commerce director on Monday, and he was hard at work from the start.
The first order of business – cleaning and reorganizing the Chamber office on B Avenue to make it “a functional, updated space.”
Branding and image are important to Curtis, and he is looking to improve both for the Kalona Chamber, starting with the look of the office.
He wants to produce new promotional materials for the city as well as updating procedures and the strategic plan for the organization.
He said the Chamber’s focus has been on tourism and bringing people to the city, but an equally important role is supporting businesses in town.
“The service sector can be engaged more,” he said.
One idea he has is professional development seminars for Chamber members and their employees.
Curtis excitedly talked with his wife when he heard the Chamber was looking for a new director.
“Early on, I thought this would be a good role for me,” he said.
Kalona is a long way from the suburbs north of Chicago where Curtis grew up.
He came to Drake University in Des Moines in 2009 and moved to Iowa City for graduate school in city planning.
An internship in with the city of Kalona brought him here in 2014, and he fell in love with the city and the people who work here.
“People here are really special,” Curtis said, noting the “super strong” work ethic of people in the community.
“People get up early and work late,” he said.
His first projects were flood mitigation and the English River watershed project.
He worked on a number of projects with the city, some of them as a volunteer: renovating the city’s booth for the state fair, designing brochures, the new community center, the veterans memorial project and RAGBRAI.
All were considered great successes by city officials.
The new state fair booth, which debuted this year, may get some tweaks. The massive structure, designed and built by Ramsey Creek Woodworks, proved hard to transport to and from the fair.
Curtis has been talking with the folks about Ramsey Creek to make it the booth more portable.