Category Archives: Look Local First

The Rock Valley team at Autumn Fest

Making Better Lives

It was on May 7, 2007, when I saw my very first patient at Rock Valley Physical Therapy in our then new DeWitt location.  Having been a physical therapist for exactly 10 years at that point, I had the experience and confidence needed, in addition to the support and trust from Rock Valley owners and my colleagues to be successful, but…I was scared!  I was leaving the comforts of a clinic with several coworkers and loving what I was doing every single day.  I was moving on to a clinic with only one coworker and very few patients to start with in a community that I knew very little about, despite growing up just down the road.  It was change, and a big change in my life, and as we all know, change is hard!!

I grew up in Park View, Iowa and graduated from North Scott High School.  I knew of DeWitt growing up, especially when it came to going to see a movie and getting ice cream with my family.  It was in my later high school years and early college years that I knew I wanted to do something in the area of health care.  It was after a day spent doing a job shadow with a physical therapist, that I was able to solidify my decision to choose this as my future career.  I knew I had a passion for “making better lives” even before it had become the official tag line that I now live and practice by along with all of my colleagues at Rock Valley Physical Therapy.  I attended St. Ambrose University and graduated with my Master in Physical Therapy degree in May of 1997.  Before I started working for Rock Valley in 2001, I began my career in physical therapy with Genesis and even spent a few months working for Genesis Medical Center right here in DeWitt.  Little did I know at that time what my future had in store for me in this amazing community!

Twenty years into my career as a physical therapist and 10 years into my time working here in DeWitt, I still absolutely love working as a physical therapist and I love “making better lives”.  Physical therapy is such a rewarding career.  On a daily basis I am able to help and witness people’s lives improving by decreasing their pain, helping them return to work, play in a sport again or to be helping them return to the activities they are passionate about.  Another thing to love about my career is we have fun!  Every day is different and every person is different but we make the physical therapy process as enjoyable as possible as we help make their lives better.  Finally, I enjoy the relationships I have made with all of my clients and their families.  I have the opportunity to know that I cannot always completely resolve every problem in every person, but I am certain that I can make at least something better in the life of every person that is under my care.

I couldn’t be happier with my decision to leave the comforts of my clinic in Davenport to make that difficult change and take on the professional opportunity I was given to open a clinic for Rock Valley in Dewitt.  The DeWitt community as a whole has also played a role in our ability to “make better lives”.  I have felt welcomed into this community from day one and have developed so many wonderful friendships through the lives I interact with in the clinic and from my involvement in the DeWitt Noon Lions and the DCDC.  I am happy to say we are now busting at the seams in our clinic located adjacent to the Dewitt Fitness Center with our amazing team of four full time, two part time and two per diem employees who are all extremely passionate about “making better lives” for every client who walks through our doors.   I am overjoyed to be able to “make better lives” for such wonderful people in such a fantastic community.

Kerri Hanna – Physical Therapist & Clinic Manager at Rock Valley Physical Therapy DeWitt Location

It was Meant To Be!

In January of 2014, my husband Kevin and I purchased the established business of Meant To Be in downtown DeWitt.  At that time we added fresh flowers to the store, which was the reason for the name change to Meant To Be With Flowers.  I completed Floral Design Schooling in West Palm Beach from South Florida Center for Floral studies in 2013.  It had always been a passion for me to become a floral designer and I truly enjoy decorating and searching for new, unique ideas!

I grew up in a small town in Northeastern Iowa on a dairy farm, and I have always had a passion to work hard, play hard, be kind and pray!  I feel very fortunate to own a small business in DeWitt and to be a part of this thriving community!  I realize that owning a small business takes lots of hard work, commitment, and a dedication to make every customer that comes in the door feel like they are special.  Our main focus at Meant To Be With Flowers is for people to feel welcome and regardless if they purchase anything or not, that they feel at home! I enjoy hearing our customers call this their “happy place”, or when they say they would like to “bottle our smell up and take home”!  We have a special candle always burning, butter maple syrup is our signature scent.  One of our hometown customer service details is every customer that comes in the door is greeted with a delicious chocolate mint.

DeWitt is becoming a “destination small town” and I am honored to be part of the retail businesses.  I feel we do our best to direct people to other shops in town if they are looking for something that we do not offer.  When customers realize that the retail businesses are working together it makes their shopping experience even more rewarding.  As a businesses owners I really enjoy the DCDC’s Look Local First Campaign we have lots of customers, local and visitors to the community, talking about the program and the Chamber Bucks drawings.  It is exciting to hear customers for miles away talking so highly of DeWitt!

My husband Kevin and I are blessed with four wonderful children, Jenna 25, Krista 23, Colin 20, and Kara 16.  I enjoy golfing, exercising, spending time with family and the long hours of being a small business owner.  I feel my reward for the long hours and commitment to the business is helping people find those unique gift items, decorating for hours for each holiday, which our entire store is now Christmas!  And of course I love to visit with customer and listen to their likes in home décor! Have a Happy Holiday Season and stop by to view our decorated LIVE Window during the upcoming Hometown Christmas Window Walk, on December 2nd!

Lisa Duffy – Owner of Meant to Be With Flowers

Thankful I “Was Born In a Small Town” with BIG Opportunities

I am a Central DeWitt Alumni double majoring in Marketing and Event Management at Iowa State University. I proudly tout my I <3 DeWitt koozie with me around Ames and I love having my friends visit my hometown. Although DeWitt is a small town, we have so much to offer! After working at various places in DeWitt, and as Marketing and Events Intern at First Central State Bank this summer, I have had the opportunity to experience many different roles within the community.

When I look back, growing up in DeWitt was perfect. I wouldn’t change ANYTHING. I attended St. Joes K-8th and learned so much about community, being a friend, and being a productive student. As a kid, there were so many ways to be active in DeWitt. Although sports weren’t always my thing, in a small community they were a way to learn how to be a team mate and see community members support each other. 4-H taught me how to work hard, apply myself, and give back to my community.

In high school, I found my passion for business. Mr. Petsche encouraged me to join Future Business Leaders of America and enroll in various business courses. He was an amazing mentor and opened my eyes to all the opportunities DeWitt has for young professionals. Once I reached my senior year of high school, I became the Dewitt Chamber and Development Company’s very first intern. The DCDC now hosts an intern each year and continues to give them the tools necessary to be successful.

Although I have been a Cyclone my entire life, it became real the fall of 2015 when I packed up my belongings and made the trip to Ames to embark on my college journey at Iowa State University. I realized how fortunate I was that my hometown school, Central DeWitt Community School District, provided so many amazing duel credit opportunities.   Because of this I began my college career with a plethora of credits and could jump right into my core business classes and continue on pursuing my dreams. Freshmen are typically told it is hard to get an internship, not impossible but uncommon. I wasn’t going to let that stop me. I had seen various Facebook posts about the Ohnward Leadership Program and was eager to apply.  What’s better than being able to come back to your hometown AND have an adult job?

Guess What?  I got the job! The Ohnward Leadership Program helped me find my strengths and nurture my passion for social media marketing, design, and event planning. Learning about community banks only strengthened my dedication to my hometown and my views of pursuing a career within a small community. I was able to attend many different community based committee meetings for the Central DeWitt Performing Arts Center, DeWitt Chamber & Development Company, LincolnWay Foundation of Greater Dubuque and the DeWitt Crossroads Triathlon. Sitting in on these committee meetings gave me a new perspective on community involvement and a great appreciation for everyone who continues to volunteer their time to make our community thrive.

Fast-forward to THIS year! You may have seen me out and about representing First Central State Bank!  Throughout the summer months I served as a Marketing and Events intern. Aside from managing First Central’s various social media platforms, I assist in the planning and implementation of various events that we sponsor throughout the year.  Having the opportunity to donate my time and efforts into making events like the Clinton County Fair successful and exciting, is extremely rewarding. For example, this year I designed and implemented fun Snapchat filters to use at the fair! This was something outside of the box for First Central.  Piloting this idea at First Central and seeing the results was very exciting and rewarding.  First Central State Bank has been receptive to new ideas, continues to offer opportunities to put ones passion, and interests to work.  This in turn continues to benefit our local communities in various ways.

I have determined through the years that, without exceptional teachers, parents, mentors, and employers I would not be the young professional that I am today. My education and these various local opportunities have shaped my knowledge and experience, but my mentors have encouraged my passions and interests. Ultimately, Central DeWitt Community School District, First Central State Bank, Ohnward Bancshares, Inc., Iowa State University, my friends and family and the DeWitt Community provided me with opportunities for growth.  I will be forever thankful that I was born in a SMALL town with BIG opportunities.

Thank you, DeWitt!

Madeleine Blandin –  Central DeWitt Alumni, Class of 2015                                                                 Junior Double Majoring in Marketing and Event Management at Iowa State University

A Celebration 40 Years in the Making!

The Central Community Historical Society was organized in 1977 after DeWitt celebrated its Bicentennial in 1976. There was $2,200 left from the Bicentennial funds and Marvin Doescher, who was the town historian, wanted to start a small museum and historical society in DeWitt. The interested group met at his home and by March, 1977 “The Central Community Historical Society” had its beginning. Ann Soenksen, was elected President, Vice President:  Ed Green, Secretary:  Linda Jasper, Treasurer: Eleanor Arey. Board members : Coral Hesse, Virginia Templeton, Genevieve Endries, and Marvin Doescher.

For the next ten years the Central Community Historical Society held monthly meetings at The DeWitt Community Center. Numerous programs were held during this time including Historical Tours throughout the county for a number of years. Programs on dolls, toys, quilts, aprons, a style show and local artists along with others were presented. The Society also participated in local events in the area. In addition during March the society featured a special “Old Fashioned Day” presentation at the 4-H grounds.

Marvin Doescher passed away in 1983. He had stored all the items that were donated and collected by the Historical Society at his produce business in DeWitt. A year or so after his death the business was sold and the items were taken to the Doescher home and to Floyd and Ann Soenksen’s home. Well the donations kept coming and in 1987 the Society was in dire need of a building as space was running out at the two homes.

Fortunately the Krukow family, who owned the building at 628 6th Ave knew the Historical Society was looking for a building to open as a museum. The society had built up about half the purchase price that the Krukow family was asking for their building. President Ann Soenksen then went to the DeWitt City Council for assistance and got the other half of the purchase price. This was to be received in increments over the next five years.

The Society immediately began restoration of the building which involved many hours and the help of volunteers as there was a great deal of clean-up and hard work to complete the project. The museum doors opened with a dedication on June 14, 1987. Donations kept coming in and soon the original building wasn’t large enough to display all the items. The Society applied for and received a grant from the Gaming Commission and built a metal building to the south of the original museum building

The Society has been the recipient of two estate donations which help tremendously in making it possible for the Society to purchase a third building directly east of the original building and also to allow the building of another metal building to the southeast. The society continues to receive donations and is very grateful to all the donors, members and especially to the volunteers, who have helped to make The Historical Society Museum a great asset to the community of DeWitt and its surrounding area.

I would like to say that spending the last 40 years seeing the Central Community Historical Society grown from $2,200 to the four buildings on a quarter of a city block  museum has been very rewarding. I feel it is very important to save our past for the future generations. To understand how the old phones, cameras, books, toys, clothes, dishes and furniture work and looked like.

My own personal interest in the museum is our genealogy area. I have been doing genealogy since 1963 when my paternal grandmother passed away. I feel that it is very important to know where we came from and the struggles and lives that our ancestors lived. I want to invite everyone to stop in for our open house on Aug. 20th from 1-4 and visit the museum.  We also encourage people who are looking for a volunteer opportunity to let us know.  We can always use help with the many tasks that it takes to keep the museum available for the public to enjoy. Also, think of donating to the Society if you come across things that might be a good fit for our collections and displays.

Ann Soenksen, President: Central Community Historical Society

Fresh Food & Friendly Conversations

At the core of community is the sharing of food.  A farmer’s market is a shared space wherein folks meet face to face and talk about food.  Perhaps this explains why the number of farmer’s markets nationwide have increased from 1755 in 1996 to 8,144 in 2013.  A farmer’s market connects people together.  A farmer’s market provides space for friendly conversations with folks who actually have grown, harvested and prepared food.  Folks at a farmer’s market share not only the food itself, but also information about how the food is grown and prepared.  Shoppers  at a farmer’s market can ask questions and express their preferences in face to face conversations with vendors.

‘Walkable space’ is a term used by city planners and developers to refer to a shared space within community that is accessible on foot.  There’s really nothing new about this concept—in plain English, we call this space a “park”.  Such shared spaces seem to connect people together and enhance the quality of life in a community. Here in DeWitt our farmer’s market is centrally located on the east side of Lincoln Park Thursday afternoons (between 3:30-6:30PM) from May thru October.  Although we struggle from time to time with unpleasant weather, on good days many folks seem to enjoy a walk to the market from their homes.  There is grass, shade, benches, and picnic tables, and a playground nearby.  The DeWitt Farmer’s Market is a relaxing way to get some exercise on a summer afternoon and to visit with neighbors.  It doesn’t cost as much money as some other outdoor entertainment.   It’s truly a nice walk in the park.

John Ivens, Farmers Market Manager

Community Gallery is a Labor of Love

The DeWitt Operahouse Theatre was built in 1876 and underwent a renovation/restoration in 1979-1982.  The DeWitt Theater Company bought the building next door and began the second renovation and expansion that included a larger lobby, handicapped accessibility, main floor restrooms along with gallery space for display of artist’s work.  The project had been a labor of love for the DeWitt Theater Company, many of whose members had been involved in the first renovation.  After 3 years of planning, fundraising, and finally construction, the Operahouse Theater was ready to reopen! Interest in building a gallery based on the John Bloom legacy, the Grant Wood byway corridor, and nationally known DeWitt artist, Ellen Wagner, became a reality.  With the generous contributions and the major sponsor, First Central State Bank, the new First Central Art Gallery resulted.

As former art teachers and members of the DeWitt Area Fine Arts Foundation Gallery Committee, we arrange for area artists to exhibit their work in the gallery.  The goal is to enrich the quality of life in our community by encouraging, supporting and promoting the fine arts.  Our mission is to provide and coordinate fine art exhibits for the community.  The committee acquires lists of artists by attending area art events, visiting specific artist’s exhibits or by recommendations of other artists.  We also communicate with Central DeWitt art teachers to schedule displays of student’s work.  Each exhibit has a 2 month slot in our bi-yearly schedule. Photos and information about the artist is also published in The Observer to help promote the works.

We have been fortunate to show a variety of mediums (watercolor, acrylic/oil on canvas, pastels, pencil drawings, graphics, collages, photographs) and genres (nature, abstract, wildlife, portraits, cityscapes, landscapes, whimsical, and calligraphy).  This year we are including the old American art form of quilting, running between July 3rd and August 1st in the gallery.

We are privileged to use time and talent to serve on the Gallery Committee and encourage everyone to enjoy and support this cultural and educational addition to our great community!

Carol Beck and Elaina Lomsdalen – DeWitt Area Fine Arts Foundation Gallery Committee Members

Found My Way Back to the Farm

In 2002, I graduated from Central DeWitt.  I earned an engineering degree from Iowa State and utilized that degree working at a manufacturer in Central Iowa for 6 years.  After 10 years of being away, I moved back to my hometown of DeWitt with my fiancé, Erin. Our decision to move back was rooted in the value of family and opportunity.

Family…there is no better support than family and friends!  When asked where we wanted to raise a family, the answer was fairly simple, “DeWitt“!  It took some time to get here, but it was easy to say that if we were blessed with being parents,  that DeWitt was where we wanted to raise our children.  For us, DeWitt is within a matter of minutes of parents, grandparents, siblings, and cousins.  Having two children, the proximity to this loving network of family and friends, not to mention last-minute babysitters, is great!

DeWitt is a community that has all of the core pillars we believe in: excellent schools, active churches, great local businesses, these are areas we believe to be important.  Some may have changed face in the last decade, but the solid foundation of people and places still remain.  This is home and this community always feel like family.

Opportunity… I grew up on a family farm a few miles east of DeWitt.  Learning the value of hard Mae and Callie SkySharework was easy to grasp when following in the footsteps of my grandfather, father, and older brother.  I learned a much greater appreciation for this lifestyle after moving away and experiencing another shake of life.  The opportunity for me to be able to come back and be a part of the farm operation is something I do not take for granted.  I am blessed to be able to jump on this fast moving train of row-crop agriculture.  Who am I to pass up on such an opportunity?  It has been one of the most humbling experiences of my life.  Three years of conversation and planning took place before coming back to the family farm.  My wife and I farm our own corn and soybean crops within the Niemann family farming operation.  We also own and manage SkyShare, LLC which is an aerial application business that provides custom application of crop care products via aircraft. My family and I have enjoyed the challenge of it all and I am glad to once again call DeWitt home.

Matthew Niemann, DeWitt Family Farmer & owner of SkyShare, LLC

 

With So Many Choices, Why Look Local First?

No one business can be all things to all people.  And the number of options available to shoppers is greater than ever.  Online vendors, big box stores and franchise businesses offer many advantages. Small Businesses have distinct attributes and advantages as well, and hopefully, give you reasons to Look Local First.

Small Businesses represent community, an interdependence among its residents, neighbors and city leaders.  They offer personalized service and unique finds, but more importantly – a slower pace, and an experience to be enjoyed with family and friends.  They know, enjoy and appreciate their customers, and they cannot exist without local support.

THE CROSSROADS Inspired Living & Garden Cafe opened its doors on June 20, 2011 after a nine month renovation of the former Martha’s Café.  The name recognizes in part, the historical crossroads of two transnational highways 30 & 61 at DeWitt’s downtown intersection of 6th Avenue & 10th Street. DeWitt’s many quality of life amenities along with its nice downtown and music along 6th Avenue, its proximity to the Quad City area and surrounding communities, made it seem like a good location to open a new business.

This was truly a family endeavor and partnership.  As such, it was not only an investment in DeWitt, but a time of making memories and rejuvenation following a period of ill health.  Indeed, it was the beginning of a new and adventuresome journey that still continues to this day.  Having celebrated our 5th Anniversary this past June, we can say that “It is good to be here.” For truly, the best part of this journey so far has been sharing ‘Inspiration’ and ‘Experiences’ with so many people along the way.

That’s what Small Businesses are about:  Personal Connections and integrating what we do into everyday life.  Just one of many reasons to Look Local FirstDo enjoy all that DeWitt has to offer.  Experience Your Hometown….  And Meet Us at THE CROSSROADS.  Be Inspired!

Linda Snyder – Owner of THE CROSSROADS Inspired Living & Garden Cafe 

Get Inspired & Give Locally

 

There are so many ways to give back in the DeWitt community, especially during the holidays! What will inspire you to give or volunteer this season?

Toys For Tots – Three years ago I was asked to help with the Clinton County Toys For Tots Campaign. The Marines needed our help! So, I asked my brothers at the DeWitt Fire Department if they would be willing to assist with this great program for our local kids. Since that time, we have given out almost 1000 toys and served over 90 families in Dewitt alone. This year will be no different, over 45 children will receive 6-7 toys from our 2016 drive. We can’t do this without your help. Help support this program and drop an unwrapped, unopened toy for a child ages 6 months to 12 years at any of the drop off location listed below. The drive will go until December 14th.  Box Locations: IH Mississippi Valley Credit Union & 1ST Gateway Credit Union, First Central State BankDewitt United Methodist Church, Grace Lutheran Church, Dewitt Fire Department, Scott Drug, St. Joseph School, MJ’s East, Ekstrand Elementary, Central DeWitt Intermediate School, DeWitt City Hall, Theisen’s, and Frances Banta Waggoner Library   .

Garey Chrones – Toys For Tots volunteer

The Giving Tree Program  This program is initiated by DeWitt’s Referral Center to help local children receive a gift for Christmas.  The Referral Center prepares ornaments and DeWitt Junior Women picks the ornament tags up and delivers them to be displayed on trees at DeWitt Bank & Trust and First Central State Bank.  There are several tags that have ages of the children, gender, and needed/wanted items on the tags.  You don’t have to purchase each item listed and you can spend as much or as little as you wish. This program is an excellent way to give back to the local community.  I feel this is also a educational opportunity, by involving your children in the giving, it is a great reminder to all what the true meaning of Christmas really is.  Last week, I took my two children to Theisen’s to purchase the Giving Tree gifts and they had a great time picking out gifts for another child.  Next time you are in DeWitt Bank & Trust or First Central State Bank, take a look at the Giving Tree and get  inspired to grab a tag for a local child in need!

Amber Ernst – DeWitt Junior Women

DeWitt Referral Center The Referral Center assists those in need in the Central DeWitt School District. The needs are many and varied including food, housing assistance, clothing, gas for traveling to a job, Christmas toys and more.  The Referral Center is a non-profit organization that is governed by a Board of Directors.

At this time the 2016 Referral Center Holiday Food Box & Gift Drive is underway. Last year 173 children receive gifts, and 145 Families received Holiday Food Boxes. Volunteers are still needed to assist with the drive setup at the DeWitt Community Center on Dec. 12th & 13th between 8am – 5pm and on Dec. 14th from 8am – Noon to distribute items.  Please call the Referral Center at 563-659-9612 if you would like to volunteer and help ensure that this year’s drive will be the best yet!

The Referral Center also operates a resale shop year round that is open to the public,  where individuals may donate or purchase items. Donations of clothing, furnishings, food and cash donations are always appreciated. All donations are tax deductible. 

Michelle Ehlinger – Referral Center Director & Jan Nelson – Referral Center Board Member

From Cover to Cover – We are a non-profit agency co-founded by two graduates of Central DeWitt, Christina Kitchen and Gina Ryan Schlicksup. We began our mission 3 years ago by starting a “Snuggle Up and Read” campaign, to advocate literacy through the donation of homemade fleece tie blankets with a brand new book to at-risk children in the community. To date, there has been over 1,000 blanket sets and 5,000 books donated.

The From Cover to Cover Clinton County chapter was launched in October 2016 and is in the infancy stage. Our first project is one hefty undertaking, but as the chapter chair I know it can be done when living in a community as supportive as DeWitt! The project, “Book Angel Program” is in full-swing. You will see Christmas trees lined with bookmarks at Thiel Motors, Flowers on the Side, First Central State Bank, Snap Fitness and St. Joseph Church. To participate in the program simply visit one of the locations mentioned and choose a bookmark from the tree. The bookmark indicates the reading level and gender of a book you can purchase to be given to local children (ages range from pre-K to 8th Grade). Books, with the bookmark inside, are brought back to the location the bookmark was picked up at and dropped in the donation bins marked “From Cover to Cover”. The goal of the program is to provide every child at Ekstrand Elementary and St. Joe’s Catholic School (that is over 700 students), a brand new book at Christmas time. Monetary donations are also greatly appreciated and donations can be made at First Central State Bank to: From Cover to Cover Clinton County.

Our mission may be to promote literacy, but we have quickly learned that the journey is about so much more. It is about showing kindness and compassion. It is about providing a comforting gift and encouraging the next generation to be the best they can be. There is much work to be done here but with the help of our wonderful community, we can continue to make a difference one book and blanket at a time!

Christina Kitchen, From Cover to Cover co-founder

Shop with a Cop – The DeWitt Police Department is committed to the philosophy of community policing. Our goal is to implement programs that prevent crime and increase the public’s trust in the quality and professionalism of our service, while building lasting relationships in our community. Through a partnership with a group of caring citizens, the DeWitt Police Foundation, a non-profit organization was established to promote crime prevention, public safety, and education to the community. This foundation works to promote the quality of life in DeWitt by providing a charitable organization that can fund public safety initiatives that tax dollars may not always be able to fund.

One example of how the DeWitt Police Department works to accomplish this goal is the “Shop with a Cop” program.  Created five years ago, the program’s initial intent was to address the image officers sometime leave children with after they are forced to take action during certain situations.  For example, an arrest of a parent/guardian in a domestic violence case.  Due to this, the purpose became not only to repair the image of the officer, but to be proactive and build a stronger rapport with the youth in our community before negative situations occurred.

The DeWitt Police Department believes that in order to break the cycle that leads youths to criminal behavior; it requires an active effort from all by being positive role models for our youth.  The “Shop with a Cop” program has helped accomplish this by building trust and friendship while teaching respect and instilling values.  During the event, participating children are paired with a police officer who will give the children a ride in a police car ride to Theisen’s where they will purchase gifts for themselves and their family. After shopping the children are transported by police car to the community center where they are met by Citizen Police Academy (CPA) alumni.  The CPA alumni help the child/officer wrap gifts and many times there is a visit from Santa who bring stockings full of goodies for them. The children have pizza and watch a Christmas movie to finish the day. The smiling faces and positive energy the children display when their parent/guardian picks them up greatly benefits all of the participants and volunteers.

This type of program would not be possible without the kindness and willingness of volunteers and the business community that devote time, energy and economic resources to make this event a successful. For more information about how to become involved in the DeWitt Police Foundation or the Citizen Police Academy please contact the DeWitt Police Department at (563)-659-3145.

Chief David Porter – DeWitt Police Department

Made in DeWitt

October is National Manufacturing Month and in this month dedicated to manufacturing I encourage people to learn more about manufacturing in DeWitt. I began my career in this field twenty-two years ago. My journey started with an opportunity to work part-time at a company named JRB located in DeWitt’s Industrial Park.  JRB was a manufacturer of construction attachments for John Deere and other Original Equipment Manufacturer’s.  At the time I had no idea where the Crossroads Business Park (DeWitt’s Industrial Park) was, what companies were located in it, nor the goods they produced.  What I did recognize was an opportunity to work outside of the typical part-time high school job.  Like many other high school students, I hadn’t made up my mind what I wanted to do for a career. I did know that I wasn’t looking forward to four years of college and viewed this job as a way to see what else was out there.  

So, I found myself in a completely new environment, where people were welding, operating lathes, burn tables, boring machines and painting.  We were literally taking raw steel and processing it into loader buckets, forks, booms, and couplers.  I grew to love the various processes, people and new opportunities that presented themselves.  I got a deep sense of satisfaction when I saw a bucket on a Deere wheel loader that our team in DeWitt had proudly made, as a matter of fact, the bucket on the City of DeWitt’s 544 was made at the DeWitt facility.  

Just like any industry, construction equipment has its ups and downs.  I saw plant expansion and contraction, selling and acquiring businesses, new product lines and phasing out legacy products.  Through it all, I was able to turn hard work and dedication into opportunities for growth.  I worked my way through different departments and increased roles of responsibility culminating in a leadership role as a plant supervisor.  Unfortunately, in 2009, due to the biggest recession since the great depression, JRB was shuttered and production was moved to sister sites in other states.  I was fortunate to stay on with the company that owned JRB and traveled between Davenport and Dubuque to manage a small division called CustomWorks.

Then three years later in 2012 I saw an article in The Observer that a Canadian company called Black Cat Blades was purchasing the old JRB building in the Industrial Park.  I stopped by the plant one day that October which led to a four month interview process where I was given the opportunity to get to know Black Cat and the culture that is very important to our business model.  A large part of what attracted Black Cat to DeWitt was not just the fact that the Industrial Park was less than 20 minutes north of Deere Davenport Works or 50 minutes south of Deere Dubuque Works, it was the people from the area they were meeting which started with the DCDC and DCDC members.  

The thought has always been that the community of DeWitt was a good fit for Black Cat’s culture and guiding principles, and that continued through the use of local contractors like Jansen ElectricHolst Construction and Dorhman during start up.  We believe in building relationships in the community we operate in and over the last four years I feel we have been successful in becoming part of the community.  We now employee 16 team members and in 2014 we started manufacturing wear blades in addition to our warehousing activities. DeWitt is very fortunate to have a successful Industrial Park and the jobs and opportunities that exist within it.  

So the next time you have a few minutes take a drive through the Crossroads Business Park and you will see all kinds of different manufacturing companies making anything from air fresheners, glass, testing products, wear components, pumps and valves, and ground engaging tools.  These companies come from all around the United States and other countries like Canada, Italy, and Sweden and truly demonstrate that DeWitt is part of a global economy.  

Josh Daniel, Black Cat Blades – DeWitt Plant Manager

See more about how DeWitt Delivers manufacturing and more!