Austin brings passion for small towns to McGregor-Marquette Chamber

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Kristie Austin took over as executive director of the McGregor-Marquette Chamber of Commerce on June 12. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor

Kristie Austin has always had a passion for small towns. An avid traveler, she enjoys strolling their streets in search of unique shops and businesses. They’re where she gets most of her wardrobe.

“Small towns thriving is my thing,” she said, “and it’s nice to see them coming back.”

Austin will spread that passion for small towns and shopping local as executive director of the McGregor-Marquette Chamber of Commerce, a post she took over June 12.

McGregor and Marquette, she said, are uniquely positioned to thrive.

“We’re lucky here, with a built-in tourist element. The opportunities are endless,” Austin explained. “It’s also nice to have a great group of people who want to see [the communities] grow, but yet remain who we are.”

Austin, who’s from Hawkeye, said northeast Iowa has always had a special place in her heart. Her family often visited the area when she was growing up, and she now lives near McGregor.

“I’ve traveled all over, but I really love the bluff areas by the Mississippi,” she shared. “I love the history of these towns. I just love living here.”

A human resources director for over 20 years, Austin has experience with recruiting, marketing and even direct sales.

As chamber director, she’ll put those skills, as well as a love for dealing with people, to use—all in a locale she loves.

Some of her goals as chamber director, Austin said, are to simply enhance what McGregor and Marquette already have to offer.

She envisions the communities as a hub for travelers—a destination where they can, of course, stay, eat and enjoy the sites and shops, but also a place they can come back to after visiting other area communities and attractions.

Austin said McGregor and Marquette could offer more for recreational enthusiasts, particularly bicyclists. 

“I’m an avid cyclist, and I think that’s an untapped thing,” she said. “We have the Great River Road, which has a bike lane.”

Cyclists need to know, she added, that McGregor and Marquette would be a great place to stop.

Austin said she’d also like to see the area tap into recreational pursuits like cross country skiing and snow shoeing.

“We need to get things going year-round,” she said. “It’s not just the river. There are a lot of other things to do.”

Presently, Austin said, businesses could draw in the towns’ steady food traffic by enhancing their window displays and making their hours of operation more visible.

“Those are simple things we could implement right away,” she said.

Now a week into the job, Austin said she’s learning the ins and outs of the position and preparing for upcoming events. She’s also begun to meet with chamber members.

She encourages businesses that aren’t presently chamber members to consider joining. Members will benefit not only from promotion, she noted, but resources, training, classes on social media and more.

“There’s value added to the membership,” Austin said.

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