With the Greater Des Moines Partnership trip to Washington, D.C., all wrapped up, I wanted to make sure I shared some of my thoughts, observations and things I learned on the trip from participants, congressional leaders and speakers. 

I started dumping items from my notebook, and I had too much for one article. I’m going to have to break it into a small series... so, here we go: 

Sleepaway camp for adults
Perhaps the best description for the Partnership trip came from Iowa Rep. Bruce Braley, who compared the trip to a sleepaway camp for adults. He referenced his own experience going to church camp as a child, and how it forced him to build a new community of friends outside of the ones he had at home. That couldn’t be more true in my observation. The model for this trip, taking 190 members of diverse political backgrounds and having them travel to Washington, D.C., as a unified group, is symbolic, and several times those in Washington said that leaders in the nation’s capital could learn a thing or two from Iowa and the trip. I left the trip feeling as though this trip - which trust me, is different from the efforts of other cities - was one of the keys to giving Greater Des Moines a distinct competitive advantage over other regions. Other regions don’t do it quite like this, and the community that is formed among the people on this trip helps the region get things done that other regions just don’t.

Potlucks for politics
Braley - a good speaker by the way - also talked about one occasion in which he had Principal Financial Group Inc. CEO Larry Zimpleman join a bipartisan group of congressional leaders for dinner to talk about fiscal policy. After coming together over a meal, in a situation where a business leader could talk with people from both sides of the aisle, Braley said everyone was refreshingly surprised at how positive the experience was. Braley’s conclusion: “I’ve always contended that Congress would get a lot more done over potluck.” Partnership, I think you have your next big idea to enhance the trip next year.

The fester of the sequester
Much has been made of the impacts of the sequester - a group of mandated federal spending cuts that went into effect in early March - on our nation’s economy. But what I found interesting was the number of times it bubbled to the surface of conversations and speeches, as something that had the potential to affect areas of business in the future. What struck me is that there are many impacts this could have or is already having that we aren’t directly seeing. In a conversation with Des Moines City Councilwoman Chris Hensley after a panel discussion on housing credits, I brought this up and mentioned that although cuts to air traffic controllers are a very visible thing, I wondered how many impacts this could or would be having soon. Sure enough, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, validated my hypothesis the next day when speaking about efforts to get a deal done that addressed both short-term and long-term federal budget issues. In response to a question from Des Moines City Councilman Chris Coleman about the possibility of impacts to Section 8 housing funding for low-income people, he said that unlike the air traffic control situation, much of the damage isn’t visible to the public and is in a variety of other areas, particularly those impacting the underserved populations - those who have less ability to be heard. He also said cuts to K-12 education will begin to be felt this fall. In an effort to learn a bit more about the sequester, I read this Washington Post article, which breaks it down and looks at some of the programs that will be affected.

The Nadas are good... and so is Jay Byers
I’ve heard of The Nadas but have never seen the Des Moines band play. (You neither? Click here to watch). They have at least one new fan after they performed on the trip at a special concert for trip participants. And, apparently so does Partnership CEO Jay Byers. Byers, a guitar player if you didn’t know, joined The Nadas on stage (see photo) and played and sang right along and then performed a Johnny Cash cover. My effort at a video didn’t turn out in the poor lighting, but about a year ago, I persuaded him to give us a private performance as part of our Photo Issue photo shoot. Click here to watch

I want food trucks
I didn’t get to eat at these (see photo), but seeing the row of 15-plus food trucks in the heart of the city made me envious. I know other people have talked about this as an idea for Des Moines, and I hope we can have something like it some day. 

Tweets from the D.C streets
Search hashtag #DMDC2013 on Twitter or click here, if you want to see a record of what trip participants were tweeting about while in Washington.