Last week, the Small Nation team traveled to West Des Moines, Iowa, to tour their historic district, meet with local leaders and business owners, and lead a neighborhood workshop as the city works to update the Historic West Des Moines Master Plan, focusing on the City’s Valley Junction district and surrounding residential neighborhoods. West Des Moines is a nearly 130-year-old city in central Iowa with a rich history as a railroad town and a hub of commerce. While the city as a whole has over 65,000 residents, Valley Junction is made up of just under 4,000 residents and is home to the City’s most historic buildings, the heart of the community, and is a destination for the Des Moines metropolitan area.

Originally developed in 2016, the Historic West Des Moines Master Plan created an action plan to address many issues that plague all small towns across America – underutilized upper-story spaces, homes and buildings with deferred maintenance, and in this particular case, a competitive business environment with not enough commercial spaces. The City of West Des Moines partnered with Teska Associates, Inc. out of Illinois to develop the first master plan, much of which has been adapted, and brought in Small Nation in support of updating the master plan.

Small Nation served as a consultant for the project to share best practices and implementation, think creatively and strategically about partnerships, and make recommendations to enhance the health and strength of the business mix in Valley Junction. On Wednesday, November 17, Small Nation Founder and CEO Jason Duff and Business Development Associate Nick Davis spent the day meeting with stakeholders, touring Valley Junction, and visiting businesses to understand the community’s issues and bring forward new innovative ideas.

“As a small business owner, we found Small Nation’s visit to our community so rewarding. Their proven results in communities like ours proved to be very inspiring,” said Meredith Wells, Board President of Historic Valley Junction Foundation and Co-Owner of the popular retail store MoMere. “The way that they have mixed preservation with innovation plays on the senses of nostalgia and modern conveniences. It was great to see the lightbulbs go off at our stakeholder meeting with the sharing of ideas to spark conversations of what could be in Historic Valley Junction.”

In the evening, Duff lead a neighborhood workshop to present on what is working well in comparable communities and bring new ideas to the Historic West Des Moines area. The presentation was attended by around 100 community leaders, business owners, and residents and focused on projects Small Nation has completed in Bellefontaine, Ohio, and how people in any small town can find the same success at home.

Clyde Evans, Community and Economic Development Director for the City, noted the need to update the master plan due to the recent development activity within the historic district. “We felt that Small Nation and Jason would bring a different prospect to the discussion given their experiences with doing actual redevelopment and not just talking about it. It was a great experience to see our historic downtown through different eyes and realize what we had and the potential promise of what it could become. Jason and Small Nation did not disappoint and made a real impression upon those in attendance.”

“I’m loving Iowa,” Duff had to say. “Historic Valley Junction is a great model and example in so many ways and we’re thankful for the opportunity to explore and help see this town continue to thrive for another 100+ years.”

About Small Nation:
SMALL NATION develops places, spaces and dreams for small towns and small-town entrepreneurs across the country. They create revitalization concepts and plans for towns, create business concepts, brands, and workforce solutions, then market it all in the name of small-town success.

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