2012 in Review: Economic Development
Friday, December 28, 2012 7:00 AM
Chelsea Keenan is the Business Record’s Economic Development beat reporter.
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State tries to add more middle-skills workers
In June, Gov. Terry Branstad and Iowa Workforce Development (IWD) launched the Skilled Iowa Initiative, a program designed to help close the skills gap.
Through a standardized test and internship training program, the state hopes to elevate the skills of Iowans who have been in the work force for several years, as well as young professionals and students, said IWD Director Teresa Wahlert.
Job seekers’ skills are assessed and then certified through the National Career Readiness Certificate test in order to link them with appropriate positions at businesses. More than 2,000 employers now offer positions that require the certificate, according to Skilled Iowa’s website.
People looking for jobs and collecting unemployment compensation also can learn new skills through an unpaid internship. Job seekers are able to work 24 hours a week for eight weeks while collecting jobless benefits.
The state aims to certify 75,000 workers, or 5 percent of the state’s total work force, and to get 10 percent of its 70,000 businesses to participate in the program. Read full story
Capital Crossroads starts to take shape
A little more than a year into the Greater Des Moines Partnership’s Capital Crossroads long-term vision plan process, the 11 committees have plenty of projects, studies and initiatives under way. Here’s a look back at four of the committees:
Urban Core - RDG Planning & Design will conduct a feasibility study to determine how Central Iowa can establish a center for the Latino community. RDG will study the Latino community and the community center concept, as well as examine the current resources available to the community.
Social Capital - The Social Capital developed an intergenerational mentorship program, Community Connect: Mentors Inspiring Success, to expand regional leadership. The mentorship program is designed to connect participants to Greater Des Moines leaders in a five-month program.
Capital Corridor - After delaying plans to hire a marketing consultant to develop a plan to promote the region as a life-sciences hub, the Capital Corridor hired local marketing company Flynn Wright to give the area a name that will be Central Iowa’s version of the Research Triangle or Silicon Valley.
Cultural Capital --The Cultural Capital will work with Flynn Wright and Catchfire Media LLC to develop a marketing and public relations campaign for culture in the region. Two key parts of that will be the results of an Iowa State University economic impact study of culture and a planned survey that will reveal how people view culture in Central Iowa.
Read all stories
New center looks for long-term solutions for unemployed
The Evelyn K. Davis Center for Working Families opened this August to help Central Iowans struggling to re-enter the work force regain their footing through education and workforce training.
The center opened after 2 1/2 years of planning by organizations across the community, including the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines, United Way of Central Iowa, Des Moines Area Community College and Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino.
The center performs an assessment to see where clients are educationally and then identifies their needs and issues to guide them toward the resources they need.
Through relationships built with 16 community-based organizations, such as Goodwill Industries of Central Iowa, Iowa Legal Aid and Drake University’s Adult Literacy Center, clients can receive help for multiple aspects of their lives. The site also houses a member of the Des Moines Police Department and a parole officer from Iowa’s 5th Judicial District to help clients with criminal records get reintegrated into the community. Read full story
The Partnership gets new leaders
In January, the Greater Des Moines Partnership announced that Jay Byers and Gene Meyer would take over for retiring President and CEO Martha Willits, who led the organization for seven years.
The position, which traditionally had been held by one person, was divided, with Byers, former senior vice president of public policy, stepping into the role as CEO and Meyer, former vice president of strategic initiatives, becoming president.
A search committee, headed by Partnership board chairman Larry Zimpleman of Principal Financial Group Inc., worked with executive search consulting firm Waverly Partners LLC for six months to vet candidates from Iowa and across the country.
Since the duo took over, the Partnership has continued its efforts to implement the Capital Crossroads long-term vision plan, helped lead a trade mission with Gov. Terry Branstad to Brazil and Chile, and launched a new marketing plan to help bring in business.
Des Moines attracts more big-time athletic events
The Greater Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Des Moines Area Sports Commission have increased their efforts in recent years to bring large sporting events to the area, and it’s paying off.
In 2011 alone, Greater Des Moines hosted 420 events, and the organizations estimated an economic impact of $45 million from the events it assisted with in fiscal year 2010-2011.
Greg Edwards, president and CEO of the tourism group, said it made a conscious effort in 2000 to dedicate more time and resources to bringing in these types of events. Since then, the number of events with 10,000 or more attendees coming to town has steadily increased.
During 2012, the group hosted the regional rounds of the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship and the NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Outdoor Track and Field Championships. Next year, the city will host the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championship and the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. Read full story
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