Kevin Costner once stood out in an Iowa cornfield when he heard the words, “If you build it, he will come.” Today in Iowa, they are giving away free land to anyone willing to build. Both residential and even for businesses. Especially for businesses. Many small towns in Iowa are willing to give away free land in order to keep their town from withering and blowing away. Marne, Iowa is a perfect example. They have torn down dilapidated buildings and houses and in some cases restored older houses to sell. Marne Mayor Randy Baxter himself has refurbished older homes and plans to begin building spec homes at his own risk.
“I care about the town. It gets to a point where it takes so many households to keep the lights on.”
The mayor is the biggest landowner in town and he estimates at one time or another he has owned about a quarter of the properties in town. For years he has bought and sold properties in an attempt to revive the town and slowly but surely, it’s working.
Baxter, a native of Cass County, wanted to open a motorcycle shop in Atlantic, but he ran into road blocks with local planning and zoning officials.
He didn’t have that problem in Marne, where the only business around was a lone insurance office.
“It was kind of surreal,” said Baxter, who moved to the town in 1977. “Marne was in kind of a low spot.”
He traded in his 1951 Packard for a commercial building and over the years has expanded his shop into a sprawling complex of showrooms and work shops. Along the way, other locals opened a machine shop, an auto body shop and a bar and restaurant in Marne.
Baxter’s motorcycle shop is now one of the largest suppliers of parts for British motorcycle parts in America and his shop restores vintage bikes for sale, mostly Triumph and Royal Enfield. Here’s a bit of Bible trivia. What motorcycle is mentioned in the Bible? After David killed Goliath, the Bible says “And the roar of David’s Triumph was heard throughout the land.”
In the town of Marne, there is no longer any abandoned houses or homes in need of major repair. Slowly but surely, baxter is bringing his town back to life.