POCAHONTAS - In 2013, Pocahontas should be getting a rather unusual new plant, said Economic Development Director Eric List.
"A new helicopter repair, manufacturing and spraying company is building a facility south of the airport this spring," List said. "They repair Huey 500s.
"They were originally from the Midwest and were looking to come back."
-Messenger photo by Joe Sutter
Nick Loots cuts metal in the new, second building for Seiler Appliances. The building was necessary because of Seiler’s growing business, and allowed Seiler to add more office space to accommodate the growing staff. The building is energy-efficient and features LED lighting and a geothermal heating system.
The town itself is hoping to grow as well, with an increase in its housing incentives. List said homes completed in 2013 will receive a seven-year tax abatement, while those completed in 2014 get a five-year abatement.
Pocahontas is also taking extra steps toward beautifying the city. It's part of a five-year pilot for a new program through Keep Iowa Beautiful, which involves both long-term community coaching and the development of a "toolbox" of assistance tools to make available in all communities.
Although Kari Kinkade has never worked at a flower shop before, after tragedy struck the town she went out on a limb to help keep a shop running.
Kinkade now owns the Princess City Floral and Gifts shop on Main Street. The former owner, Deb Lundt, was killed in a car accident just north of Fort Dodge in December.
"It's awful. I knew Deb," said Kinkade. "We played Bunko together. We had built a new house, and I furnished most of my house from her store."
One day Kinkade and her husband just starting thinking of buying it, since they didn't know what would happen to it.
"It felt like the right thing to do to me. The more I thought about it, the more I was excited to take it on," Kinkade said.
They submitted a bid on Jan. 17 and got approved the same day.
"I knew it was a very big part of Pocahontas," she said. "There's nothing else in town that offers these things. There's no other flower shop in town, there's no other home decor shop in town - it would just be horrible if someone didn't step up."
Buying a business is a big risk, she said, but she thinks it will work here in Pocahontas.
"For starters, the community is like no other. They are so supportive, they're just very loyal to their community" she said. "Everyone wants to pitch in and help in any way."
Other places in town are seeing growth. This month the Pocahontas Community Hospital finished a $4 million dollar renovation that started in May 2012.
"We enhanced our dining and serving area, and conference rooms. We also added more office space, as well as medical records, and a brand-new laboratory," said hospital Chief Executive Officer James Roetman.
There's a new waiting room for the surgery and lab, which also doubles as overflow space for families waiting for a loved one in the emergency room.
Another new space is "a quiet waiting area with no TV where people can go to read a book or get some quiet time," Roetman said.
Though the construction is the most visible, Roetman said the real news at the hospital this year is its transition to an electronic health records system, which went live on Feb. 2.
That project is a million-dollar investment, he said, and complies with a government law that will bring all hospitals into the paperless system by 2015. Now instead of having eight or nine folders for some patients, all records will be accessible anywhere on a computer.
"If someone from Fort Dodge is traveling through here and has a car accident, or needs to stop in our emergency room, we can pull that patient up," he said. "That patient's history will be here in the computer for us to use, which is very important when you are treating somebody.
"These things are big positives for our facility, and that's positive for our community."
He said one of the challenges to move Pocahontas forward was to keep kids coming back after they graduate.
"The city and county economic development is working very hard to attract businesses, to try to bring kids back to community," he said.
Dick Seiler, owner of Seiler Appliances, put in a second building down the road from his Main Street business in 2012.
"We started last spring, and finished last fall," he said.
The building acts as a warehouse and heating shop, and has allowed for more office space.
The business now employs 12 people, Seiler included.
The company installed geothermal heating in the new building.
"Since that's green, I decided to make it a green building," he said.
Seiler obtained a brand new model of highly efficient LED lighting for the building.
Times can be tough in small towns because of the changing face of business, he said, and the way main street businesses have been supplanted by superstores.
"I think a community this size struggles just like any other one in the whole U.S.A.," he said. "What's left are the service industries, mostly, on these main streets."
Pocahontas, though, is doing a good job.
"I have seen the city leaders through the years have done everything imaginable to make this a great place to live in. We have great infrastructure, we have great hospitals, great schools, the businesses here are good.
"I see in this community a lot of volunteers doing things. Just tons and tons."