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Business Boom celebrates

Open house social offers new congregation for bustling business community
North Liberty City Council member Annie Pollock, Iowa City Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Kim Casko and Andrew Brown Sr. socialize at North Liberty’s Business Boom on Thursday, Nov. 2. The open-house social gave community members a chance to meet and greet over appetizers and refreshments. (photo by Cale Stelken)

NORTH LIBERTY– Businesspeople, politicians and city employees alike socialized at North Liberty’s inaugural Business Boom on Thursday, Nov. 2. The open-house social, hosted from 5-6:30 p.m. at the South Slope Community Center, provided an opportunity for area businesspeople to meet and greet while celebrating the expansion of North Liberty.
Guests were treated to appetizers, beer and wine provided by Fareway and Big Grove Brewery. Multi-instrumentalist Joe Sorensen, adorned in calavera face paint, lent background music to event as he sang and played acoustic guitar and keyboard.
Once the crowd had an opportunity to mingle, Mayor Terry Donahue addressed the attendees with a reflection on the city’s recent growth, as well as a preview of what’s to come.
“We have an exciting two, three and fours years ahead of this city,” he began.
“Two years ago at this time, we were doing fine; we were getting pieces put together. And all of a sudden, things went ‘pop, pop, pop,’” Mayor Donahue said.
“And that’s when we didn’t even have a fireworks ordinance!“
Mayor Donahue also lauded the arrival of a new business.
“With Geico coming into the community, that’s going to change the west side tremendously.” Mayor Donahue exclaimed. “They’re transferring approximately 400 employees from their office in Coralville, and probably adding soon thereafter another 315 employees.”
Also of note was the newly established Liberty High, as well as the upcoming elementary school, soon to be constructed just across the road. Mayor Donahue announced the project will be taking bids in February or March. He also offered details on long-anticipated expansions to city transit.
“We’re going to get a new exit. We’ve been talking about getting one since… the 1880s!,” he quipped to crowd’s amusement.
Mayor Donahue went on to cite, to accommodate growing area, Kansas Avenue will be paved from North Bend School to Forevergreen Road.
“The next couple years, it’s going to be a big change.”
The Business Boom served as a spiritual successor to North Liberty’s annual Business Banquet. For over a decade, the Iowa City Chamber of Commerce held a formal banquet which included a social hour, dinner and a speaker. The event began as an opportunity for North Liberty businesses to put together displays to showcase their company profile.
“The Iowa City Chamber of Commerce has facilitated the Business Banquet for as long as I can remember,” recalled Assistant City Administrator Tracey Mulcahey, a 12-year employee.
“This year they didn’t feel like there was enough interest in attendees coming to the banquet to have one,” she lamented. “That was the message we got from the Chamber of Commerce.”
Indeed, this year was expected to be the final year for the banquet. However, to the disappointment of community members who had marked their calendars in anticipation, the chamber cancelled the event outright only a few weeks in advance. According to Mulcahey, that’s where city officials decided to take it upon themselves.
“We stepped in and made it happen… We did the same date and time and just did a social event for the community to come together.”
Members of the community were eager to facilitate. North Liberty businesses previously sponsoring the Business Banquet transitioned to donating to the Business Boom.
In his speech, Mayor Donahue made sure to give special thanks to a handful of people for putting the event together: Jennie Garner, Nick Bergus, Jillian Miller, Tracey Mulcahey and Angela McConville.
“It’s been our philosophy that small businesses are the heart and soul of North Liberty,” he assured the crowd. “These are the people who would put their time, money and reputations in to make these businesses go. Not many people will do that,” he pointed out. “But the folks here have, and we appreciate all that they provide.”
To summarize the occasion and the meaning behind it, Mayor Donahue emphasized the vital role of quality commerce to the North Liberty area.
“All of us are ambassadors for North Liberty,” he declared. ”Anybody that comes through to even go to the Coralville Lake, get gas, get a sandwich – how they perceive us is very important. It may just be in a minimal way, but it still leaves an impact.”
Finally, to any attendees left in the dark, Mayor Donhue offered one amusing clarification.
“As far as final door prizes are concerned, there aren’t any.”
A day following the Business Boom, Mulcahey was pleased to report the community response.“We got a ton of positive feedback,” she affirmed.
While the city hasn’t pinned down any plans yet, Mulcahey is confident the Business Boom social will continue.
“I got a lot of requests that maybe we could do it quarterly instead of just one annual banquet.”
Mulcahey insists on maintaining such an event in the city’s future.
“We really need opportunities for businesses to connect informally,” she said. “It provided a great venue for our businesses both new and older. We get to know who each other are and what each other do, which goes back to the origin of the Business Banquet.”