Conrad Chamber-Main Street History

In 2007, Conrad's Chamber of Commerce and Main Street programs merged to form Conrad Chamber-Main Street. Conrad’s Chamber of Commerce was formed in the 1960's, but had been in existence for many years before as the Conrad Commercial Club. Conrad was accepted into the National and State Main Street programs in 1991, but acted as a Main Street program since 1989 while awaiting official Main Street status.

The Conrad Chamber-Main Street program is part of the National Main Street Program, which was initiated in 1977 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Washington, D.C. The National Main Street Program was developed to revitalize the country's deteriorating downtowns.

Main Street Iowa, under the auspices of the Iowa Department of Economic Development, joined the National Program in 1986, offering membership to large cities. In 1989, Iowa's Rural Main Street Program for communities with populations under 5,000 was born.

During the 1980's, Conrad was experiencing many problems: empty storefronts, rumors of more business closings, no new housing starts for several years, deteriorating buildings and a general feeling of despair. A community meeting was held with nearly all business owners attending. They discussed problems and shared ideas on how to address them. The group was introduced to the Main Street Iowa Program and told of the criteria for acceptance.

In October 1988, a task force was formed to pursue the application process. A community survey was done to gauge support for the program.

On June 26, 1989, a town meeting was held with the help of ISU Extension Rural Development specialists. The task force and approximately 120 people came to find out how they could help shape the future of Conrad. By the end of the evening, nearly 70 people had made a commitment to serve on one of the four planning committees of the Main Street Program.

The Main Street program is based on the following eight guiding principles:

  • Incremental Process
  • Comprehensive Four-Point Approach
  • Quality
  • Public/Private Partnership
  • Changing Attitudes
  • Focus on Existing Assets
  • Self-Help Program
  • Implementation Oriented

The patented Four-Point Approach promoted by the National, State and local Main Street programs emphasizes:

  • Business Improvement
  • Design
  • Organization
  • Promotion

Today, Conrad is a thriving community with increased business presence, almost 100% downtown business occupancy, two new housing developments with a third in the planning stages, good schools and a variety of recreational opportunities.