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Swisher downtown businesses start an Economic Alliance group



Swisher, Iowa – A municipality in Eastern Iowa is looking to other cities for inspiration on how to attract more businesses to its downtown area.

A group of Swisher business owners got together to create an Economic Alliance five months ago. The goal is to preserve Swisher’s small-town charm while providing business owners with a resource they can use as soon as they open.

Sara Hatman and her companions strolled into the downtown Swisher Vault Boutique. It’s a great halfway point for me to meet up with pals from Cedar Rapids because I’m from North Liberty.

“It’s just a little different than other stores in Iowa City and Cedar Rapids,” she said.

When companies in the downtown area banded together and established the Swisher Economic Alliance in October, it was just the kind of vibe that Sonya LaGrange claimed they were seeking. Their goal is to ensure that Swisher’s businesses prosper and that failing ones are replaced by new ones. In this manner, the 1000-person city maintains its small-town character.

“We want to grow what was originally here,” said LaGrange, owner of Vault Boutique and Vice President of the Swisher Economic Alliance. “So that people come down and they see the beauty of the buildings and know that stuff stays small.”

According to LaGrange, the new organization serves as a resource for new businesses that they would like to see occupy some empty storefronts downtown, as well as a means for existing businesses to organize events and draw more people into the city for dining and shopping.

“Everything has kind of sat as it is for the last five to eight years,” she said. “There’s been some new businesses coming into town, but we are seeing some movement on those.”

According to Hartman, it’s this that draws guests like herself back.

“There’s some nice old buildings that bring a lot of character,” she said.