During the coronavirus outbreak, when foot traffic in downtown Des Moines dropped, city officials used the time to plan.
In 2022, the Greater Des Moines Partnership plans to disclose the findings of its 10-year vision and action plan for downtown Des Moines, which will outline strategies for the city center to recover and thrive.
It’s one of the Partnership’s key goals for the coming year. At the Iowa Events Center’s annual kickoff event Thursday evening, Iowa’s largest economic and community development agency presented its 2022 agenda.
The keynote speaker was Mia Hamm, a two-time FIFA Women’s World Cup winner and two-time Olympic gold medalist in soccer. Her presence at the event served to draw attention to the revelation that Des Moines had earned a second-tier men’s professional soccer franchise, which will begin play in a new downtown stadium in 2024.
Attracting talented employees from outside the United States, enhancing the diversity of the metro’s workforce, and winning funds for a new terminal at Des Moines International Airport, as well as other “placemaking” projects, are among the Partnership’s priorities.
Leaders of the partnership said they intend to build on the accomplishments of 2021, which included the launch of the nation’s largest skatepark on the Des Moines riverfront and the cleanup of the city’s most notorious Superfund site. The new soccer stadium and surrounding development will be built on the former Dico industrial site on downtown’s southwestern edge.
According to Fred Buie, head of the 2021 Partnership, the group is also finishing a research on broadband requirements in central Iowa and celebrating 18 firm expansions.
According to the Partnership, more than 62 projects were announced, under construction, or completed in central Iowa in 2021, totaling $3.41 billion in capital investment, 11 million square feet of space, and over 3,600 new or retained jobs.
“That’s fairly substantial during a COVID year,” Buie added. “As a result, we’re rather delighted.”
Take a deeper look at the Partnership’s 2022 priorities.
Assist Des Moines’ downtown revitalization
Many offices in downtown Des Moines were mainly unoccupied during the pandemic due to people working remotely. During the rise of the delta and omicron COVID-19 variants, major employers have postponed their return-to-work plans.
According to Tiffany Tauscheck, the Partnership’s chief operations officer, the Partnership intends to assist downtown Des Moines weather the storm by gathering data on why people like to visit the city’s center. She said a concentrated research will uncover “motivators to draw visitors downtown,” expanding on what is currently working, such as the Des Moines Downtown Farmers’ Market.
Before the pandemic, there were moments in summer 2021 when there were more people gathering downtown for festivities, according to Tauscheck.
She stated, “We want to keep contributing to that.”
In the spring, the Partnership intends to complete its Downtown DSM: Future Forward strategy plan. According to Tauscheck, the plan “will be critical in assisting us in identifying specific steps we can take to contribute to short-term economic vibrancy and long-term growth” downtown.
The Partnership will also continue to lobby for what it refers to as “placemaking amenities” that improve downtown, such as:
The ICON Water Trails project would transform 150 miles of central Iowa rivers into recreational opportunities. The first downtown project, a whitewater passage at the Scott Avenue dam, is expected to break ground this year, according to organizers.
The former Dico property will be home to a 6,300-seat soccer stadium and an adjacent Global Plaza for year-round events. This year is scheduled to be the commencement of construction.
Beyond downtown, the Partnership intends to collaborate on its third regional visioning plan with Capital Crossroads, a regional planning organization. The new Central Iowa strategy, Capital Crossroads 3.0, will replace the 2.0 plan that was launched five years ago.
Continue to collaborate with employers on efforts to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion.
The Partnership plans to begin assisting in the recruitment of a more diverse workforce as a result of its CEO Commitment to Racial Equity in DSM and following roundtable conversations with Des Moines business leaders.
220 CEOs of Des Moines area businesses signed the pledge, according to Buie. The seven-point commitment, which was first announced in 2020, focuses on strengthening workplace and community equality. Signers pledge to hire more diverse employees and executives, to engage in inclusive workplace training, and to use their influence to fight for political change.
Rowena Crosbie, the Partnership’s new chair, said the Partnership’s efforts should now be focused on assisting executives in implementing change by assisting companies with strategic priorities and providing diversity, equity, and inclusion training to members and investors.
She stated, “The intention is there.” “The Partnership will work with employers to help them transform their visions into reality.”
Increase the number of minority and immigrant-owned businesses in Des Moines is another Partnership goal. It intends to share further details in the near future.
Crosbie, a Canadian immigrant and head of Tero International, a corporate training company she founded in 1993, stated, “We know they generate growth, create jobs, and make Des Moines a more welcome city.”
Launch a national program to attract talent and train future workers.
According to Courtney Shaw, senior vice president of communications, the Partnership wants to increase its efforts to attract outstanding employees to Des Moines in order to assist employers with labor shortages. The Partnership will begin by exploring how to best interact with diverse job prospects.
The Partnership intends to give its current campaign a “global flair,” attracting international talent that is “critical to our success,” according to CEO Jay Byers.
“The concentration thus far has been digital,” Shaw explained, “so it will be broader and larger than what we’ve done.” “Because a lot of towns are looking for talent, our goal is to stand out.”
The Partnership is also trying to achieve its Future Ready DSM 75 by 25 objective, which aims to ensure that by 2025, 75 percent of working-age adults in central Iowa have earned degrees, certificates, or other post-secondary credentials. When the initiative began in 2008, 51% of adults met that criterion. It was 67 percent in 2019.
The Partnership intends to create an online dashboard in 2022 that will follow the 75 by 25 target and provide information on apprenticeships, internships, and other work-based opportunities. It also intends to develop an egalitarian credentialing scheme.
Ensure the airport’s funding
The Partnership expects to play a key role in getting the remaining money required to complete the construction of a new terminal at Des Moines International Airport.
Construction on the new terminal, which is scheduled to begin in 2026, could be pushed back two years if the airport can close a $300 million funding gap with grants from central Iowa cities and counties, as well as the state, and secure funding from the federal infrastructure bill passed in November.
The airport has nearly half of the $575 million required to construct the terminal and related projects. It has also requested $34 million from local governments.
Crosbie stated that the Partnership will continue to “identify and secure” public funds.
“It’s going to take all of us to make that one happen,” she said.