Midtown Development

Donna Nelson, center, laughs with her husband Vern Nelson Sr., left, and Midtown Development employees as they celebrate three August birthdays on a recent afternoon.

WATERLOO — Nearly two decades ago, Michele “Mickey” Heronimus needed a second part-time job.

A Courier “help wanted” ad for Midtown Development LLC caught her eye.

“I called on Friday night, and she called me to come interview on Tuesday,” Heronimus recalled. “By Thursday, I was working here.”

She quickly became a full-time employee. Among the perks of the job is its location in the Black’s Building.

“We’re right in the middle of downtown, with all sorts of things to do and places to eat within walking distance,” she said. “It’s interesting and exciting.”

The location puts Midtown Development employees in the center of everything, said Donna Nelson, co-owner and co-founder.

“We can see everything from here,” she said of their seventh-floor offices. “When there’s a parade or Irish Fest or some other event, we all stop and watch from the windows.”

Heronimus retired from Midtown Development in 2009, and then she immediately returned part time — every day for 30-plus hours each week.

“It’s a fun place to work,” she said. “They make me feel like family.”

Dave O’Malley agrees.

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“It’s one big family — great people,” he said. “We work hard, and it’s still fun to come to work after 12-plus years.”

Donna and her husband, Vern Nelson Sr., cultivate that feeling, say Courier Employers of Choice nominators. Half of the employees are family — two of their children, their spouses, and one grandson.

The remainder of the staff have worked there long enough to be embraced as part of the brood, said Jeff Shubert.

“The support I get is the best,” he said.

For more than 60 years, the Nelsons have developed and restored properties. From their shared office in the Midtown Development suite, they help preserve the city’s historic buildings and shape what’s next for downtown Waterloo.

“I would hate to go to a place where it wasn’t fun to work,” Donna Nelson explained. “I assume that employees feel the same way.”

Most employees have been with the company for 10 or more years and have come to appreciate the Nelsons’ passion for developing downtown Waterloo.

“The guys are always finding little things when we’re working on a restoration project — old ads and other things,” she said. “They’re always really careful with everything, and whenever they find something, they bring it to me right away. They know I’ll save it; I save everything.”

The Nelsons believe helping employees balance work and life is a given, said Donna Nelson. The company offers health insurance, paid time off and other benefits. In addition, the company strives to ensure employees know they have a support system.

“Emergencies come up; that’s life,” said Donna Nelson. “We help where we can, with the medical and other things, but we also want (employees) to know they can take time off for those emergencies.”

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