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

The Bill Kerfoot Idea

I first read this true story a back in grade school. I believe it applies perfectly to our current circumstances here in Tama County.

Patrick and his wife and Kathy were completely exhausted from a very long day of work. Around 8:00 pm on the night of October 8 they went to bed. The couple had good reason to be tired, with five children and the stress of several recent financial hardships. Patrick worked as a laborer, and Kathy had been milking cows and selling the milk to the neighbors to make ends meet.

Danny Sullivan, a neighbor came by to visit and saw that they were already in bed. He started to walk home, but from the corner of his eye, he saw a yellow flame dancing out of their barn “Fire! Fire!” Sullivan ran into the barn to try and save the cows. He was able to save one calf.

Firefighters tried to stop the fire, and neighbors flew out of their homes with buckets of water but all their efforts were unsuccessful. By Monday night the fire once again jumped over the river and headed to the North side of town. People rushed out of their homes carrying only a few possessions, looking for safety as they ran through the streets. People found shelter along the lake and in the large cemetery that was being converted to a green space called Lincoln Park. They also found shelter in the prairie that surrounded the city. On the third day of the fire, there were a few raindrops. The very tired people looked up to the sky thinking this rain might possibly save them. Finally, the flames died down. After three long days, the city was safe. As a result of the fire, three hundred people had died, two hundred million dollars in property had been destroyed, and one hundred thousand people were left without homes.

What does this amazing story of the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, (Mrs. Kathy O’Leary’s cow kicking over a lantern) have to do with our economy in Tama County? A lot! We need to wake up and realize that some of Tama County’s downtowns, while not burned to the ground, are in critical condition. THE TIME TO ACT IS NOW!

On October 11, the day after the fire ended, Bill Kerfoot set up an office to continue his Chicago real estate business, the first building to appear in the business district after the fire. He hung this sign in front of a tent: “All gone but wife children and energy.” It only took the people of Chicago four days after the fire started in the O’Leary barn, to show their spirit and begin working to rebuild their beloved city.

How long will it take us to start rebuilding our downtowns? What can you do? Where do we start? You can start by calling our office 641-484-3108 and we will share our “Bill Kerfoot Idea” to re-building Tama County’s downtowns.



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