How did Perry, Iowa, do it? The New York Times’ Keith Schneider described how the town rebuilt itself “one piece at a time.” According to Schneider, “Perry’s fortunes dived in the late 1970s, when the Milwaukee Road, the last of the rail lines that sustained the town from its founding in 1869, was shut. But rather than trying to land one big project or employer, in the 1990s Perry embraced a development strategy based on adding recreation, lodging, education and clean energy to its traditional strength in livestock agriculture, and it has been steadily picking up momentum even in the face of the severe national recession.”
The town has built a campus for a community college. It’s fixed up an old hotel. And its built an industrial park and bike paths. Perry works on itself, adding one thing and then another. “The (community college) is another piece of Perry’s revitalization,” said Delbert Niebuhr, the city administrator and a Perry native. “This piece adds to all the other pieces that have been put in place. Every time we get one thing done we try to build on that.”
And the town has patient, local investors. Roberta Ahmanson’s father was a railroad engineer who lived in Perry. She and her husband (a California philanthropist) have helped restore the Hotel Pattee (above).