About 190 Central Iowa business and civic leaders will head to Washington, D.C., next week for the Greater Des Moines Partnership’s annual trip.

The May 7-9 trip is positioned as an opportunity for leaders to present a unified voice to congressional representatives and staffers in the nation’s capital, as well as to network with other area leaders.

An agenda of regional priorities for Partnership members and affiliates will be given to congressional representatives to keep them up to date.

Many projects over the last 15 years, including the Principal Riverwalk and Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority’s new DART Central Station, have received funding due in part to successful advocacy from the Partnership. The annual trip often moves forward long-term projects and initiatives. 

Joseph Jones, senior vice president for government and public policy at the Partnership, talked to the Business Record about this year’s priorities.


Transportation:

Transportation projects are always a priority, Jones said, and this year is no exception.

On the agenda are projects that have been in the pipeline for a number of years and are funded over multiple years, including: 

Designating the U.S. 65/Iowa Highway 5 beltway as part of the U.S. interstate system, which is better for attracting commercial development.
Securing $20 million for a bus rapid transit line for the Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority.
Maintaining federal funding for a potential passenger rail route, which is still on the Partnership’s agenda despite Iowa’s failure to approve a state match. The Federal Railroad Administration in 2010 awarded $230 million to Iowa and Illinois to fund a line from Chicago to Iowa City that could eventually go through Des Moines.

Immigration:

The Partnership supports comprehensive immigration reform that includes an expansion of H-1B visas for highly skilled immigrants. A panel workshop on May 7 will focus on immigration. It will “be very timely with conversations that we know are happening in Congress, both on the House and Senate side, on immigration reform,” Jones said. “I think that will be a very interesting and robust conversation.”

STEM:

Funding for science, technology, engineering and mathematics education will also be a topic of conversation, said Jones, and the focus of a workshop.

“We want to make sure that the federal government is supporting through policy, just as we want to make sure that the state government is supporting through policy, and funding programs that focus on STEM and STEM education, because we know those jobs are important to all of our members,” Jones said.

Farm bill:

Another workshop that Jones is particularly excited about will focus on the passage of the farm bill and what that means for Central Iowa, both for agriculture and for other industries.

There’s an app for that:

Trip participants can download an app that includes the itinerary, maps of trip destinations, bios for speakers and panelists, and the ability to set up a user profile that links to your LinkedIn profile page.

A farewell:

One unique element of this year’s trip: It will be the last year that Congressman Tom Latham and Sen. Tom Harkin are in office. Harkin will speak at a welcome luncheon on Wednesday, and Latham will be at a breakfast on Thursday morning.