By Greg Forbes
The Franklin County Convention Center improvement project last week received a major funding boost.
Last Wednesday, September 11, the Enhance Iowa Board awarded the Convention Center project a $200,000 Community Attraction and Tourism (CAT) grant. The Franklin County Fair Board in March of 2018 unveiled plans for the project, which includes exterior and interior improvements and adjustments that would accommodate three sizes of groups for events. The total price tag on the project is $1.2 million.
Carol Lowery, fundraising committee co-chair, said the grant is a major boost towards the committee’s final goal.
“This really filled a huge gap,” she said. “We have had a lot of people behind the project but to have that source of funding from the state is unbelievable.”
In order to achieve the grant, Lowery said the fundraising committee and fair board had to fill a number of requirements. The committee had to have 65 percent - or $780,000 - of the total fundraising goal in hand or pledged, financial support from county and local government, a donor list, budget, floor plans and a timeline.
Now with the $200,000 added to the effort, Lowery said the committee is ready for its final push. With just $160,000 of the $1.2 million goal left, Lowery said that the committee is still accepting individual and business donations.
“Whatever people can do, from $5 to $5,000, everything helps,” she said. “No amount is too small.”
Lowery said that while the building is a focal point for the Franklin County Fair, its purpose extends far beyond just one week of service in July. She said the convention center is booked almost every weekend throughout the year for weddings, parties and special events. Therefore, this isn’t just a fair concern, but a benefit to the community as a whole.
“It’s not just going to be a facelift for the cosmetics but the functionality needs to be improved and meet today’s standards for accessibility and technology,” she said, “and it needs to fill the needs of the community.”
Tentatively, Lowery said that the board hopes to see exterior work and an addition to begin as soon as the plans are finalized and begin interior renovations in late fall of 2020 or early winter of 2021. She said the goal is to have the project completed by spring of 2021.
Lowery said donations and contributions can be made at the Franklin County Fair Office inside the convention center or via the button below.