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Partnership outlines 2021 priorities during annual kickoff


The innovation that occurred in 2020 as the community faced challenges from the coronavirus pandemic and racial justice movements will continue into 2021 as Central Iowa begins work on a new five-year vision plan, leaders with the Greater Des Moines Partnership said.

Leaders of the Partnership spoke about its strategic plan in advance of its 202ONE Annual Kickoff, held this morning. The Partnership unveiled its priorities for 2021 during the virtual event, which replaced the annual dinner the organization usually holds each January. Toronto Raptors head coach and Carroll, Iowa, native Nick Nurse was the keynote speaker.

Nurse compared coaching to running a business, saying “winning is a mindset.”

Nurse, who recently published a book about his coaching career titled “Rapture,” said the key is to not dwell on successes.

Following the Raptors’ 2019 NBA championship, Nurse said he and the team didn’t really talk about it much when they returned for the next season.

“We just got back to work [to] build the same pillars and the same foundation and the things we believe in, and really concentrate on the task on hand, which is that day of work and the next game,” Nurse said.

While the kickoff launched the Partnership’s strategic priorities for the upcoming year, it also provided an opportunity to look back at the successes the community had in 2020 as it adapted to the challenges of the pandemic and racial justice movements.

Tom Mahoney, the Partnership’s 2020 board chair, said the organization moved quickly to support small businesses and share resources, and to advance the conversation over social justice in the community.

“The goal was to find ways to really keep businesses in business and keep people employed and keep the region healthy,” he said. 

A COVID-19 Rapid Response Hub was created to provide real-time resources the community could use to respond to the virus. The DSM Task Force was formed to create 16 industry and business playbooks that gave businesses specific guidelines on how to best navigate their organizations through the pandemic. 

There was a Day of Thanks to support front-line workers, and there were 24 virtual briefings to keep investors and members informed and connected. 

The Partnership launched the DSM Local campaign to help small businesses. It also raised $1.7 million that was awarded to 292 companies as small business recovery grants, and it delivered 325 heaters to restaurants to help them expand their outdoor dining season.

There were small business startup virtual events, and the DSM Local Buying Guide was launched before the holidays to encourage people to buy local.

The Partnership also developed the CEO Commitment to Equity and Inclusion, which was signed by 200 Central Iowa CEOs.

Fourteen companies expanded. Six others identified Des Moines as a community they wanted to locate to. There was $1.2 billion in capital investment, and more than 1,600 jobs were created, Mahoney said.

The Partnership helped secure $49 million for the Central Iowa Water Trails project, and helped find new ways to use the downtown Firehouse Community Campus as space for arts, culture and education. There was work on a U.S. Soccer League stadium project, expansion of the Des Moines International Airport, and the Laurisden Skatepark, among others.

What was behind the successes of 2020?

“Really what highlighted the best of what we have in the community … is the spirit and the will of the people,” Mahoney said. “Not only was the community trying to figure out their own business, but they went ahead and social distanced and did the things they were supposed to, but we held onto each other.”

Fred Buie, the Partnership’s 2021 board chair, said that same level of community spirit and leadership will be needed as the community moves forward in 2021.

The top priority for 2021 is diversity, equity and inclusion, he said.

“We all know the best companies, the best talent, want to live and work in a vibrant diverse community, and the Des Moines community has proven it wants to be among that number,” Buie said.

Helping companies develop diversity, equity and inclusion plans and strategies, training and certifying DEI professionals, and increasing support for minority-owned businesses are among the goals of 2021, Buie said.

Increasing broadband in the Partnership’s 10-county region is another priority, as is enhancing the community’s talent pipeline. Another focus will be attracting and retaining businesses, he said.

“It’s great to attract businesses to the area, but one of the best ways to attract businesses is to have a vibrant business community in place,” Buie said. “While we appreciate the large companies we have in the area, it’s the small businesses that provide the lifeblood of the community, and that’s where a lot of our focus is going to be.”

Those large, transformative projects, like Central Iowa Water Trails, airport expansion and the transload facility, will also remain priorities in 2021.

Tiffany Tauschek, Partnership COO, said the priorities for the strategic plan were the result of multiple surveys with members, investors and the community, and virtual meetings with more than 200 businesses.

“This plan is very much in response to what we heard from our investors, affiliates, members and the community at large,” she said.

Jay Byers, Partnership president and CEO, said the intent behind the goals for 2021 is to look at  “what can we do to create a better normal, a more sustainable normal, a more innovative normal, a more inclusive normal, a more civil normal and a more resilient normal.”

He said 2021 is going to be a year to “dream big,“ as the Partnership works with Capital Crossroads and its public and private partners to develop a new five-year vision plan. 

“It’s going to be a very exciting time to really set that course for the future .. and we’re going to need our entire community coming together to help us outline what that future looks like,” Byers said.

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