AABP Award 728x90

Partnership takes large delegation to D.C. to lobby for millions


The Greater Des Moines Partnership is hoping for strength in numbers as it leads its delegation to Washington, D.C., this week for its annual lobbying trip.

About 180 Central Iowans, including representatives of chamber of commerce affiliates and other business, civic, community and economic development leaders will travel to the nation’s capital Wednesday for the Partnership’s D.C. Destiny 2005. This is the largest group in the trip’s 26-year-history and an increase of about 25 participants over last year, according to Jay Byers, the Partnership’s senior vice president of government relations and public policy.

“There’s strength in numbers and strength in collaboration, and that’s what this trip is all about,” Byers said. “This is our biggest group so far, and we’ll work together to promote a regional agenda of economic development.”

On Wednesday and Thursday, the group will meet with congressional leaders to discuss funding for quality-of-life and transportation/infrastructure projects and advocate for other issues important to businesses and economic development. The trip will wrap up Thursday night with an outing to a Washington Nationals baseball game, where Iowa baseball legend Bob Feller will join them for tailgating and Steve Berry of Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino will perform the national anthem and sing during the seventh-inning stretch.

Quality-of-life issues will once again take center stage during the trip, consistent with the Partnership’s Project Destiny long-term vision for Greater Des Moines. The delegation will request funding for several projects in four areas: trails and recreation, arts and culture, lifelong learning and human capital.

The Partnership will lobby for more funding for quality-of-life projects than last year, when seven organizations sought about $27 million. Similar to last year, Byers expects tight budgets to be a recurring theme at these meetings, making lobbying efforts and support from congressional leaders more important than ever.

“As a general rule, the budgets are in fact getting tighter with the deficits, but I think that we have a very strong congressional delegation that has done an excellent job of delivering for Central Iowa, and we anticipate that we will continue to be successful,” he said.

This year, the largest request under the quality-of-life priorities is for $14 million to restore the 100-year-old Des Moines Public Library building and converting it into the headquarters for the World Food Prize Foundation. The Partnership asked for $15 million for this project last year, securing about $1 million.

In conjunction with the World Food Prize, the Partnership’s delegation will attend a special ceremony during the trip, hosted by the U.S. State Department, where the 2005 World Food Prize laureate will be announced. This will be the first time that this announcement will coincide with the Partnership’s lobbying trip.

“The Partnership has lobbied strongly for the World Food Prize project the past couple of years, so we thought it was a great tie-in for both of our organizations,” Byers said.

The Principal Riverwalk is also seeking another round of funding, with a $9.1 million request. Byers said the Riverwalk has secured funding during the past two trips, and “the prospects for additional funding look really good at this point,” with about $5 million for the project already identified in the Transportation Reauthorization Bill and additional funding through the Des Moines River Greenbelt Initiative.

Some projects seeking funding for the first time this year include $865,000 for reconstructing the Saylorville Lake Marina public boat ramp, $2.4 million for the Blank Park Zoo for two new exhibits – visiting celebrity animals and a hands-on agricultural exhibition area – and $5 million for the Electronic Crime Institute investigation and training center at Des Moines Area Community College. Also, the Partnership is backing six recreational trail projects proposed by the Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Byers said obtaining transportation funding is another important goal of the D.C. trip. Legislation reauthorizing the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century was passed this spring by the U.S. House and Senate, and will soon be discussed in conference committee. The transportation bill, which comes up for renewal every six years, currently has a significant amount set aside for Greater Des Moines projects – $45 million in Polk County alone, he said.

“Those are all projects that the Partnership has lobbied for and will continue to lobby for this year, and hopefully, we will see fruits of our efforts by the end of the year,” Byers said. “The amount of project money that is coming to Central Iowa through the transportation bill is very significant. When we are able to secure it, it will be a huge boost to moving some projects forward and creating jobs for our members and residents in Polk, Warren and Dallas County.”

americanequity web 040123 300x250