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Economic Development is . . . (increasing the flow) of capital through the community and reducing its leakage.

2010 EDIES Story 6 of 24: Finding a downtown home for a Guinness Book of World Records collection

Recognizing the potential a Guinness Book of World Records collection can have as a trigger for local economic activity, Traer worked over the past few years to put together the resources to make this a reality.  One of the corner pieces to this opportunity was finding real estate that can inject energy to the downtown commercial base without detracting from the authentic historical qualities that make Traer a special downtown. Ellen Young, project leader, explains.  Remind me – what are the EDIES

How we did it: We grasped the opportunity to develop a tourist attraction for our community when a local collector decided to sell her huge salt and pepper shaker collection. With a building gifted to the project from Pioneer Hi-Bred, along with a free lot in Traer’s main business district, and the faith (and money) of a lot of people, we are working at developing this into a first-class Traer and Tama County tourist attraction.

How we got the idea: At a state conference, a speaker said every community could look around and make the most of what they already had to bring people to visit, whether it was a river, a lake, etc. Traer didn’t have those natural attractions, but Traer did have a long time resident who had collected over 14,500 pairs of salt and pepper shakers. We decided to make the most of her collection to bring visitors to Traer. Volunteers have been working hard ever since to make this vision become a reality.

Our greatest challenge: When we first started, our greatest challenge was really twofold – building local faith in our vision, and then finding the money to accomplish what needed to be done – purchasing the collection, moving the building to our selected site, remodeling and adding on to the building, installing shelving, etc.

How we overcame it: Building faith in the project came mostly from just communicating what we thought we could do for the community, and much of that communication came from one-on-one personal talks with leaders of the community, asking for faith and funds, and from talks we gave to local organizations like the Traer Development Corporation, American Legion, Lions Club, etc. Raising money also included writing many grant applications.

Advice to others: If you have a dream for a business or a community, communicate that dream to others, asking for and appreciating their input in your thought process. As a result, you may take a slightly different path, but it may well be a better path with fewer obstacles.

What is next: We have been gifted salt and pepper shakers from several Iowans, and from people in several other states. We know we have over 16,000 pairs right now (not all out on the shelves yet), but we look for more to come and think we will become the country’s largest collection of shakers in the not-too-distant future. Exciting!

Photo of project leader Ellen Young by Mo Co Creative Photography Division.

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One Comment on “2010 EDIES Story 6 of 24: Finding a downtown home for a Guinness Book of World Records collection”

  1. Dona Potratz January 23, 2011 at 8:20 pm #

    I was just ‘playing on the internet’ when I came upon this website — it features Tama County very thoroughly and well. My husband and I visited the salt and pepper collection while it was still in her home and it is magnificent! She had so much to tell us about the shakers. I’m sure it will be quite an attraction for visitors from out-of-town and out-of-state. Good luck with the project.

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