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Greater Des Moines projects get federal funding


The World Food Prize Foundation moved $1 million closer toward its fund-raising goal for a permanent Des Moines headquarters when Congress approved an omnibus spending bill last week.

“For us to get $1 million was a lot; we were very pleased when we heard that figure,” said Kenneth Quinn, the foundation’s president. The funding puts the organization about halfway toward the $27 million needed for renovation of the current Des Moines Central Library building, exhibits and the creation of a permanent endowment to operate it.

The foundation’s project was among a number of Greater Des Moines quality-of-life initiatives that received funding in the $388 billion bill. The funding was the result of months of lobbying efforts that were capped off by the Greater Des Moines Partnership’s annual trip to Washington, D.C., in June.

“We’re extremely pleased with the results overall,” said Susan Ramsey, a Partnership spokeswoman. “We felt it was very successful for Central Iowa.”

The amount received by several of the projects, however, were millions of dollars less than the organizations had requested. And for one organization, the Salisbury House Foundation, not even a portion of its $2 million request was funded.

“When we made the trip in June, Sen. [Tom] Harkin’s staff wasn’t overly optimistic about the chances for funding, so we were prepared for that,” said Scott Brunscheen, the foundation’s executive director, who said he doesn’t know why his project didn’t receive any funding.

“Federal funding for our project is certainly appropriate,” he said. “It’s just a matter of finding the right source. It didn’t happen this year, but we’re sure it will in the future. They’re all really good projects that receive funding. We should all be proud of that.”

Though the Science Center of Iowa asked for $2.7 million to be used toward development of exhibits for its new museum in downtown Des Moines, it received $500,000, the same amount as last fiscal year, said Mary Sellers, the Science Center’s executive director.

“With capital campaigns, it’s a multi-pronged approach, and ours is no exception,” she said. The organization has raised $52 million toward its $61.9 million goal, “and we remain committed to reaching that goal.” In the three years Science Center representatives have traveled to Washington with the Partnership, the organization has received $2.4 million in federal funds.

Susan Lubowsky Talbott, director and CEO of the Des Moines Art Center, said the $825,000 grant it received was its first “major federal line-item” to come out of a federal spending bill.

“I think it signals that our legislators are beginning to look at cultural resources as an engine that can drive our economy,” she said.

The World Food Prize Foundation hopes to receive a total of $15 million in federal money for its headquarters; so far it has received $3.3 million.

“For this year, $1 million is close to the maximum we thought we would get,” Quinn said.

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