The Capital Crossroads regional planning project isn’t the first such process in Greater Des Moines, but it is the most comprehensive and covers a larger area than any previous effort. Here’s a road map to help you navigate the 100-page plan. Explore all 10 Capitals here.
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The Three Chairs:
What surprised you the most during the planning process?
J. Barry Griswell
CEO, Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines
"On the negative side – and we all know this, but when you hear this statistic, it makes you shake your head and almost say, “That can’t be” – 68 percent of all the kids in the Des Moines school system are on free or reduced lunch. You just say, “Are you serious?” because some of us just remain oblivious."
retired co-president of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage
"One thing that was really exciting to me was there was a young professionals survey that indicated the young professionals that are here really like it, but they don’t promote us necessarily. They like what they see, they like the experience, it’s a great thing to leverage, so how is it that we can get them advertising for Des Moines and their experience, so we attract and obtain more youth?"
Polk County supervisor
"I probably would have to say the number of people in the surveys that actually answered some of the questions. I think that was very surprising to me that people really took the time. That tells me that people are very interested in what happens in our community as a vision. The other thing that surprised was the coordination. As we’re putting this together now, everybody understands what it really means to collaborate on how the region should be. I think people really get that."
The Big Idea:
Capital Crossroads follows similar projects undertaken by area leaders in 1998 and 2003. The first one focused on bricks-and-mortar ideas, and the second one focused on quality-of-life issues. This one focuses on a little bit of everything.
“I think it’s the most expansive, the most holistic, and therefore in some ways it will be the most challenging for implementation,” said J. Barry Griswell, one of the three people chairing the project, along with retired Wells Fargo Home Mortgage Co-President Cara Heiden and Polk County Supervisor Angela Connolly. “I think from our perspective it was hard to say, ‘We’re going to build a strategic plan for Central Iowa that’s only focused on these three things’ without a context of what are all the things that you really need to be thinking about.”
The plan was led by the Greater Des Moines Partnership and put together by consultant Market Street Services Inc., which incorporated ideas from a steering committee of area leaders and public input from nearly 5,000 people through surveys, 30 focus groups and 50 one-on-one interviews. The final plan lays out 10 “Capitals,” or areas of focus, that will each incorporate its own committees and implementation plans into the mix.
“We really feel we didn’t come up with one vision plan,” said Susan Ramsey, senior vice president of communications and marketing at the Partnership. “We came up with 10 vision plans.”
Part of the reason for the larger scope of the plan stems from it covering a larger geographic area. A big element that stands out as being different in this planning process is its regional nature. Officials are hoping to incorporate 23 communities in four counties into the final implementation, including Ames – with Iowa State University being a key partner – Marshalltown, Newton and Pella, along with the five counties in the Des Moines-West Des Moines Metropolitan Statistical Area.
“We have to start thinking more regionally,” Connolly said. “Let’s face it, we can’t have a (Newton-based) Iowa Speedway in Des Moines, just like they can’t have a Wells Fargo Arena in Newton. So we’re all one. ... We have a great cultural district, we have a great pool of labor; other communities do, too. We’re going to share on a lot of things, I believe.”
A large part of that is creating more formalized cooperation between Ames, including Iowa State, and Greater Des Moines. Outgoing ISU President Gregory Geoffroy was part of the steering committee and is one of the chairpersons of the Capital Corridor committee.
Beyond that, representatives from around the four added counties were members of the steering committee.
Next Steps & Challenges:
Part of the next step is to roll out the implementation plans for each of the capitals, figure out a timeline for beginning the 25 to 30 initiatives that go along with the capitals and fill out the committees to start the work on putting the plans to work.
“What we’ve done (with the plan) is the end of the beginning,” Griswell said. “Now what we have to do over the next four or five years is really roll up our sleeves, really decide which things have to get done first, not lose sight of what we’re doing, stay tenacious about it, and really get people involved to bring this to fruition like we have the other plans.”
One of the largest challenges is the sheer size of the plan, Griswell said.
“I think there is a risk of it being so big that we don’t follow through and get it done,” he said. “I don’t think that will happen. I don’t think Des Moines operates that way.”
One good thing, he said, is that most of the projects involved will not be dependent on raising a lot of money; but if money is necessary, the tough economic times could hinder people’s willingness to give.
Business Community Involvement:
“There’s a lot to do,” Heiden said.
Each capital committee will require subcommittees, and the three chairs anticipate keeping business leaders involved, just as they have in the planning process.
“I would say, speaking for the business community, we all understand that we have to ensure that we attract and retain talent going forward. It’s important to all of us,” Heiden said. “From a business perspective, we all have to ensure that we have a region that attracts in all aspects of these capitals.”
Connolly said she senses that people are willing to be engaged in what is going on, and she already has had calls from people inquiring how they can become involved on a committee.
“I think the public is ready for something,” she said.
Capital Crossroads capital breakdown:
Click here to read about all 10 capitals that the plan aims to tackle.