BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – A $5.5 million expansion at The Madison is the latest in encouraging economic news in Fort Madison.
Former Fort Madison resident Mark Holtkamp, a 1994 graduate of Fort Madison Aquinas, purchased The Madison about a year ago, and is now planning to almost double the size of the facility.
“We’re just kinda getting started when you look at where we’re at and where we can from,” Holtkamp said. “I don’t even know if it’s a one- or two-story addition yet.”
But Holtkamp said there will be about 12 full time equivalent jobs in the new 34,000 square foot addition. The project will provide 24 new assisted living units and 12 Memory Care living units.
Holtkamp said city officials have made the decision to expand and easy one.
“The city has been really good as far as coming up with different ways to incentivize the project,” Holtkamp said.
Fort Madison Mayor dangled a 10-year tax abatement in front of the Fort Madison City Council informally at Tuesday night’s meeting. Mohrfeld said the typical 20-year TIF structure is too long.
“If you’re gonna invest $6 million and throw jobs at the town, that’s worth a little abatement. Twenty’s too much. Somebody’s gotta pay for police and fire, but this would allow them to get into profit mode and do some payback and then get on the tax roles.” Mohrfeld said.
“It’s good thing.”
But it’s just part of what Mohrfeld describes as book-end economics – the presence of small and large expansion simultaneously.
“When you see the quaint stores downtown, and I can point to six of them right now, and then you look at Mark, and ConAgra, you tend to get the middle. But I think if you don’t have both of those ends, I’m not sure you have the healthy growth you want.”
Holtkamp said he had a vision for the expansion when he purchased the facility in 2020. However he said he didn’t have a market study in hand to gauge the demand for more assisted living beds in the area.
“I kinda thought about it, but didn’t have that market study. But in my mind I thought it would be there,” he said.
Holtkamp said he’s happy to be part of the growth spurt taking place in the city.
“Every time I come home for anything, it’s so good to see all the new businesses popping up everywhere. And I’m really excited to be a part of that.”
Mohrfeld also pointed to the ease of the discussions with Holtkamp as a blueprint for future developments.
“The first thing I’ll say is Mark was a delight for myself and (City Finance Director Peggy Steffensmeier) and the city to work with. He’s a smart, good businessman who’s family is from here. We met early on in the project and he laid it out on the table.”
Mohrfeld said he’s not a big fan of the “forever abatement”, but said 10 years seemed reasonable. He said Fort Madison is starting to find formulas like that that work.
“It’s interesting when we talk economic development. If there was a formula for it, everyone would do it right. But when you see development of little things and big things – the book ends – everything in the middle seems to take care of itself,” Mohrfeld said.
The city has seen a recent uptick in store front occupancy downtown with Swed & Co. Coffee, Treasure Troves, Brickhouse Salon, Jus’ Try It and today Odd Marvels. The city has also seen openings of Scooters Coffee, and the progression of Farm & Home in the former Shopko building. Several other small businesses are planned for downtown this year.
Mohrfeld also expanded the footprint of his commercial greenhouse business Matt’s Greenhouse across from Rodeo Park in Fort Madison
The mayor said more brings more, and Fort Madison is just starting to get a renewed sense of a lifestyle that people want. He also got in a plug for the marina project he’s been championing for more than a year.
“And this can’t go without saying – ya know we need a really good place on the river,” he chuckled.
That project carries an initial estimated cost of about $6 million, with possible as much as $1.5 million coming from city funds to trigger the remaining investment. Mohrfeld said to get everything done to make the marina a 50-year sustainable 5-star marina, will eventually carry a $10 million price tag.