Community development expert Maureen "Mo" Collins of Cedar Falls, who will kick off this year's Tomorrow Plan speaker series on Tuesday, says communities need to prepare for businesses like Uber and Airbnb that are driven by emerging technologies and new business models.

In an interview, Collins, a partner in Entrepreneurial Communities who previously worked as director of entrepreneurial outreach at the University of Northern Iowa, said the sharing economy is a good example of an emerging business model that raises policy questions for communities. Over the years, as driverless cars, printable steaks and other technologies emerge, cities will have to decide how to address questions of taxes, safety and zoning, for example, she said.

A key question, according to Collins: "How do we guide and support them rather than regulate and bar? We have 20th-century ordinances and codes that are tied to old business models."

"There is a question of unfair advantage," Collins said. "What do communities need to do to prepare for these types of innovations? We have been reactive in the past. That won't work going forward."

"We are in the midst of economic change," Collins said. "This will have the most profound effect in the next 14 years."

Collins said she wants to warn economic development officials and community planners to consider now how they can prepare for, rather than react to, businesses that rely on emerging technologies and the new sharing economy. "Airbnb and Uber are having a substantial impact on existing business that are regulated in lodging and transportation," she said. "They have taken a huge swath of revenue from these industries, and they are just getting started."

Home businesses could grow. New technologies -- like an existing one that took protein and printed a steak -- could raise new questions for local governments, she added.

"First we had Uber, then we had Airbnb. Now we will have autonomous cars, and we have drones," Collins said. "Often, government responds only when it receives complaints. If we wait until people complain, our planning communities will be doing nothing but defending themselves. We need to develop forward-thinking public policy. We need to educate ourselves."

Collins trains economic development professionals, chamber professionals and community leaders. Her speech will be a 8 a.m Tuesday at the Greater Des Moines Partnership. The event is free and registration is not required - learn more here >>>

Next up: The next Tomorrow Plan speaker series event will be the Housing Matters Symposium, hosted by the Polk County Housing Trust Fund. Speakers Carol Payne of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and Amy Slonim of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will discuss how housing and transportation relate to public health. The event will be at 8 a.m. April 14 in the Kelley Conference Room at Iowa Methodist Medical Center. Read more or register online >>>