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Editor’s picks: 6 of the best Business Record reads from 2020

This year has undoubtedly been historic – around the world, country, state and Central Iowa. (Insiders can take a look back with our 2020: Year in Review.

Needless to say, we’ve had plenty of news to keep our team busy. I’m especially proud of our newsroom’s efforts in 2020 to continue fulfilling our mission of helping businesses do business better. This has required us to stretch our resources to cover not only the pandemic, but issues of equity and other community initiatives that have been in the works long before this year. Additionally, we have hosted more events (albeit virtually) this year – offering opportunities to learn from and connect with others – than in any previous year. 

As the associate editor, I have the privilege of seeing all of our reporting and news initiatives from start to finish. I get to see the countless hours of work and thoughtful decision-making by team members that leads to the end result we provide all of you. I want to share six of the best stories we’ve published this year and share some of the work that happened behind the scenes to make them happen. 

‘Adapt and survive:’ Iowa’s 6,200-plus restaurants and bars dealing with adversity amid coronavirus-related closures
Senior staff writer Kathy Bolten and special projects reporter Emily Blobaum (who is now our Fearless contributing editor) teamed up to show readers how Des Moines restaurants were being affected by the pandemic. Published in April, the story shows the challenges of the industry very early on in the pandemic. The two took time to show not only the tough circumstances owners were facing as they made business decisions accounting for public health guidelines and consumer preferences, but they also talked with a restaurant worker who had been laid off. 
Read the story and watch the video

Airline industry slowly moving toward recovery from record losses inflicted by COVID-19
In late spring, senior staff writer Michael Crumb told the story of how the pandemic was affecting the airline industry, which experts say could take years to recover as it is heavily dependent on how quickly the rest of the economy recovers. Crumb, who, by the way, joined the Business Record newsroom as the pandemic was starting, talked with leaders at Des Moines International Airport to see what was happening locally. 
Read the story

After rebuilding historic Des Moines from the data, Undesign: DSM jumps to virtual tours for the public
In her innovationIOWA newsletter this summer, staff writer Kate Hayden covered the Polk County Housing Trust Fund’s Undesign the Red Line: DSM exhibit. Redlining was a practice of the 1930s denying a creditworthy applicant a loan for housing in a certain neighborhood, even though the applicant may otherwise be eligible for a loan. The team identified neighborhoods such as the historic Chautauqua Park neighborhood in Des Moines, which was one of several developments that placed racially restrictive covenants on homeowners to prioritize white families and showed the effects that such decisions still have today. Hayden’s reporting led us to host a virtual tour of the exhibit for our audience. 
Read the story

The ADA Generation
July marked 30 years since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which was authored by former Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin. The landmark civil rights legislation has influenced nearly every aspect of life for people with disabilities, but changes in the employment sector have remained stagnant. Ahead of the anniversary, I wrote a series about employers needing workforce, but professionals with disabilities remain largely untapped. The first piece was published before the pandemic, which has only seen this disparity amplified, but showed that the nature of the problem is largely rooted in misperceptions and barriers that many employers don’t know they’re creating.   
Read the story

Beyond bootstrapping: Can Iowa’s Black entrepreneurs gain more access to lending programs?
In October, Joe Gardyasz talked to some of Des Moines’ Black entrepreneurs about barriers they’ve faced with access to lending programs. “I don’t come from a background of entrepreneurs, at least not where those experiences could be passed down,” said Terrence Thames, founder of the Cocoa Creative Agency. “I didn’t have a lot of access to wealth in starting my business. There wasn’t a $10,000 or a $20,000 loan that my family could give me. That was not a part of my story or a part of my community. All that I got came essentially through bootstrapping.” 
Read the story (Insider)

Representation of women in leadership positions in Iowa is far from equal. Here’s why and what we can do about it.
In November, we launched Fearless – a multiplatform initiative with women-centered content, events and media designed to help women and the companies and allies who both value and support them. After traveling 1,400+ miles across the state, Fearless contributing editor Emily Blobaum told stories of fearlessness from 12 women across the state, and she took over an entire print edition of the Business Record to do it. In the first Fearless newsletter, she displayed in-depth and solutions-oriented reporting in a story about the disparity of Iowa women in business leadership positions. 
Read the story

These are just a few of the stories we told this year. It’s our sincerest hope that our efforts to cover the biggest issues affecting Central Iowa business have helped you. We are so thankful for the engagement we receive from our audience. If you like the work we do and aren’t already a member, consider becoming one

In 2021, you can expect high-quality reporting and analysis to continue. We have many new things in store and want you to be a part of them.  

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