A Zoom meeting discussing a strategic growth plan for Manchester brought together Manchester stakeholders and members of the Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities (IISC), Nov. 19, to discuss future growth for the community.

Manchester was one of two communities selected by the IISC for the year. That partnership brought University of Iowa students to Manchester in August to tour the community, acting as a fresh set of eyes for future growth of a community.

Manchester City Council member Connie Behnken said the city has a lot going for it. “I was born and raised here. My life experience, work experience and community involvement has helped shape me and given me a pretty well-rounded view of my hometown.”

Behnken said the community has several things towns of similar size envy. “This is a special town. We have an excellent school system, an exceptional medical community which includes a hospital and outpatient clinic. We have NICC and Upper Iowa University higher education learning center.” Behnken also noted Manchester is the county seat and also mentioned the aquatic center, whitewater park, amphitheater civic organizations and several churches before asking, “Why wouldn’t someone want to live here?”

Behnken cautioned attendees that it’s easy to take Manchester’s amenities for granted. “We need to be reminded that none of this progress would have come to fruition without forward-thinking, a vision and planning by involved citizens, economic development, as well as county and city government. This is why we continue to seek outside resources like IISC to help us to continue to be the best community we can be,” she said.

The community engagement event discussed community needs, how Manchester is perceived by those driving by on Highway 20, housing concerns, diversity and benefits of living in Manchester.

Housing and additional restaurants were two needs those in the Zoom identified as vital for city growth. Other needs identified included affordable housing, COVID-19 relief for small businesses, increased mental health services, artistic venues, additional entertainment options and a dog park.

While Highway 20 runs past Manchester, respondents mentioned that Highway 13 runs through town, presenting opportunities for the city.

For those who may be looking for a home in Manchester, Zoom participants said amenities like parks, recreation and additional bike and walking trails are important.

IICS will take the information from the engagement event, along with other information they have gathered from their visits to town to develop a strategic growth plan for the next five to 10 years for Manchester. City officials expect to hear that final IISC plan in the spring of 2021.