When state officials learned there was already a private group with land at exit 214 and an interest in running a welcome center, a partnership was proposed. “It seemed like a good fit,” says McMenamin.
This unique public-private alliance remains a good fit well over a decade later. The center’s staff of 19 is employed by I-35/105 Inc., which is overseen by a 10-member board.
A contract with IDED (now called the Iowa Economic Development Authority, IEDA) allows Top of Iowa to serve as an official Iowa Welcome Center.
Iowa DOT owns the building and contributes significantly to operational expenses for the entire facility.
Visitors seem to appreciate the investment. Their agendas vary throughout the year. “In October and then later in the winter it’s basically the business traveler, point A to point B,” explains Jean.
Onsite mail drop-off is a convenient amenity offered for business professionals, and Jean makes her office copy and fax machines available for the occasional urgent need. “We’ve handled some real estate transactions and trucking permits,” she notes.
Through the summer travel season and again during the winter holidays, Top of Iowa often bustles with those journeying for pleasure.
Many have specific plans; others are searching for things to see and do. Encouraging travelers to make Iowa their destination by showcasing the best the state has to offer is a core mission at Top of Iowa — and the aspect of the job Jean enjoys most.
“It’s a true labor of love, not only to learn about Iowa but to teach others about Iowa.”
Nothing says “Welcome” like a friendly smile and a slice of pie! Judy Burrows serves homemade strawberry-rhubarb pie to central Iowans Grace and Warren Johnson (top).
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