The undertaking is part of the Genesis Project, an entrepreneurial undertaking backed by Ed Mareth, of Purdy. Midwest Components, of Exeter, has been the contractor on the hotel.
"This is really much more of a community effort than just the rebuilding of our downtown," said Mareth. "Take a look at what is really happening in the total community of Purdy and its school system. Over the last couple of years they have remodeled their school facilities and become a nationally recognized student recycling leader, not just for a feel-good effect but built on an economic model for students: doing good does pay.
"Expand that to the community of churches and you will find one of the rural region's largest Youth Alive programs, not to mention a new volunteer-built First Baptist Church, almost completed," Mareth said. "It appears to me that Purdy is in the process of reinventing itself to become the premier rural American community where focus on faith, education and economy will lead to opportunities in a safe, secure and well-grounded community."
For a number of years Mareth has wanted to stimulate development of new business in Purdy. As someone whose job is helping to start new businesses, Mareth developed the Genesis Project to seek out young people interested in creating a business venture and bringing them to Purdy.
|"The Genesis Project is designed to start companies," Mareth explained. "It allows these young people an opportunity to start a business with housing and start-up money provided for them. They sign on to keep their company inside the Purdy School District for three years. They're required to build an infrastructure that will make their business successful.||"What we hope for is that after three years, they will stay here, or will have outgrown the space available and will put up a business locally," Mareth explained. "They can elect to go outside of the community if they need other resources. A portion of the ownership stays with the program."|
The kind of businesses Mareth has sought are very diverse. Matt Brinkman and Matt Mays have developed security software that includes groundbreaking visual recognition technology for companies dealing with the public. Purdy native Coby Utter has launched a video game business. Sean Priest has started Agri Economics with plans to create an animal feed product with his feed mill.
Each business is close to putting a product into the marketplace.
The project has not attempted to take the easy road. Mareth admits the hotel is the biggest and most expensive building he could have chosen to renovate.
"It's the building with the most history, one of the first big permanent buildings in Purdy," Mareth said. "It has eight units, four upstairs, where the hotel was originally located, and four downstairs. The office space had been a drug store and a casket factory. Our goal is not to remove the history of the town but to give it a new future."
Mareth hopes to have renovations completed in the first five years of the project. The upper floor of the hotel is being turned into apartments. The middle section, with its grand staircase leading upstairs, will have conference room space for meetings. Space for more offices will be added on the west side.
"We never wanted to do more than five businesses at a time," Mareth said.
Mareth's progress has been watched with great interest by Purdy residents, particularly as the property south of the hotel at Commercial Street and Washington Avenue has been cleared. Mareth has talked from the beginning about creating an inviting green space at the center of town where people can gather for social events.
At present the hotel faces a block of buildings that includes the Purdy Post Office. Mareth's original plan included removing these structures, providing a clear view of the hotel across the green space from Highway C. Mareth said he has not yet decided on a final vision to pursue. The post office may yet end up moving.
The Genesis Project is being done without any federal or private grant money.
"I won't take any government money for this project," Mareth said, "nor will I allow a group to do any tax abatement. I know that's contrary to the prevailing way of thinking. My obligation is to give back to the community, not to take from them."
Editor's Note: In the coming days, look for a series of articles on the three businesses currently operating under the Genesis Project.