Kirk Irwin, the Deloitte CFO of the Year, has spent a decade staying out of the spotlight but being a key contributor to Greater Des Moines.
He’s the chief administrative officer for the Greater Des Moines Partnership, the region’s economic and community development organization. It has 23 affiliate chambers of commerce, more than 6,100 regional business members and operates with 43 employees and an almost $10.5 million budget for 2018.
Irwin played a vital role in the Partnership’s Maximizing Momentum 2022 Investor Campaign, which secured a record 60 new investors. His responsibilities include overseeing financial aspects at the Partnership. He also leads human resources, risk management, IT and property management
“Kirk’s leadership in ensuring our strong financial position and organizational health is integral to the success of the Partnership in serving our investors and regional members,” said Jay Byers, Partnership CEO
Irwin also played another vital role in 2014, when the Younkers building fire displaced the Partnership staff from its offices
“This recognition is well deserved and is a testament to the impact Kirk’s work has in driving the region forward,” Byers said. 
Irwin grew up in western Iowa in Manilla, then attended Iowa State University’s now-Ivy College of Business and then began his career at LCS, a for-profit company. He’s held executive roles at for-profit companies and nonprofits, including the United Way of Central Iowa
He’s married to Shannon Cofield, president of the Mercy Foundation. He has four children — his son and daughter and his two stepdaughters
Here are some insights from a conversation with Irwin:

How did you end up here at the Partnership? What’s the story there?
Careerwise, I started my career with LCS and was there for a number of years, like eight or nine years. And then I got my MBA at Drake. Then I went to a group called LGI, which is now based in Ankeny, at the time had been based in Ames for most of the time I was with them. It was an excellent business, international business. I really had great opportunities there. 
What were the great opportunities there?
When I started, I was director of finance, and as the company had grown it created opportunities. I ultimately became the CFO of one part of the business. It was kind of structured as two stand-alone businesses. In the business unit CFO role, my primary responsibility at that time was divesting of that business. When I got done with that process, I really wanted to do something different. I wanted to utilize my financial background and all of that, but do it in a different way. And that was when really I kind of moved into the nonprofit sector. ... I’ve been here 10 years, and it’s gone really, really quickly. It’s just an excellent organization. Talented, passionate, hardworking people. The board and the volunteers are just outstanding. And there’s just so much going on here.
You were a key person helping the Partnership deal with the aftermath of the Younkers building fire in 2014.
I look at my 10 years as the time before the fire, dealing with the fire and the time after the fire. The past couple years since we’ve been back in our space have just been excellent.
The fire happened in 2014. I was in the space the next day and getting a handle on how much damage was here. We knew immediately that it would be months and months, and that the space needed to be completely renovated. And so organizationally we had to pivot, which we did pretty well. Through the support of people like Suku Radia at Bankers Trust and those at the Ruan Co., we were actually looking at space in Ruan II on Sunday, so this is now basically the day after, 36 hours after the fire. We were fortunate enough that there was space available at Ruan II that had been Wellmark space. The furniture was still there, that sort of thing. ... We were able to get some of the staff up and running right away. Then we had to get all of our IT infrastructure set up in that space, and we had most of our staff back in the office, I think we met with them on Tuesday, so a couple days after the fire itself. Because we couldn’t really get into the space and get anything out, we basically had to buy everyone brand-new computers in the first week. ... By the end of the first week, we had new computers set up for everyone. By the following Monday, so basically a week after the fire, we were pretty much operational at that point.
It was very intense. There were just not enough hours in the day, days in the week, to do what has to be done. It was pretty much a day-to-day grind for several months.
What happened after the fire?
What it did was it created the opportunity for us to start fresh. We were near the end of our lease. Our lease effectively got torn up. We looked at multiple spaces including coming back to this one, but obviously we completely redesigned it. Through the help of the building owners and Slingshot Architecture, we really came up with a great plan, a great space. ... We moved back in January 2016. We were actually displaced for 21 months, not quite two years.

Tell me a little bit about your time here. What does the chief administrative officer of the Partnership do? What are some of the key things you do?
Definitely, the focus is managing the finances of the organization, and the different organizations that exist here. We are a nonprofit. We are really funded about three-quarters, or two-thirds, roughly 70 percent of our revenues come from individual businesses or governments or the public sector who directly support us. We have a huge amount of responsibility to make sure that we use those funds in the way that we intend, promised that we would. Probably the biggest responsibility is managing the financial operation and reporting. I am definitely involved in the fundraising side. We did a fundraising campaign last year. Every five years, we go out to those, what we call investors, who really contribute and keep us functioning, every five years we go out to them and we ask them to consider continuing for the next five years to support what we do. And we just did that last year, and it was extremely successful. ... That’s really a reflection of the work that the Partnership does and the work that the staff does. We had a significant increase in the amounts that investors wanted to give. Plus, we had 60-plus new investors come in that we had reached out to that wanted to be a part of this. Aside from those areas, things like IT, HR are things that my team manages.
So you’re a little bit more behind the scenes than, say, Jay Byers and Gene Meyer.
Very much more behind the scenes.
Is that where you’re most comfortable?
I’ve never been about personal recognition or credit. I’m more focused, to the extent that I can, helping that work gets done, that things get accomplished, that results take place. Whoever gets the credit, I’ve never really focused on that. ... That’s my comfort zone, I guess. ... Here at the Partnership, we have our board of directors and advisory boards around everything we do. I love working with all the boards and the committees. I love being in front of them. When we do the investor campaign, I do those calls. 
What are some of things that you’re proud of?
There’s so many. To me, I think that being part of an organization that does so much, this is an organization that is committed to making the region best in class, and helping the businesses that are here grow and be successful and then initially attracting new businesses to the region. That is the point of pride, the work that everyone does.
What was your reaction to being named CFO of the Year?
I was shocked, probably. I really had no idea. ... You know, honestly, I thought it was a mistake. I thought it was like Steve Harvey (the Miss Universe host who announced the wrong winner), who said the wrong name. I was just blown away. ... It’s humbling. It’s a huge honor. I’m grateful for the recognition and to get to do what I do.
How did you get your start in finance and accounting?
That’s an excellent question. There’s definitely no family history. I have always been really interested in numbers, money, play money. I remember as a kid loving things like Monopoly. ... My wife and kids give me a hard time. They’ll say my favorite app is the calculator on my phone, and that’s kind of true. I love accounting and finance, I truly do. In the details, there’s precision and all that. I also love the fact that from a big-picture standpoint, financial statements tell stories and things like that. Just having the discipline helps measure what organizations perform, how they perform. It’s very cool. It’s always been very cool to me. Still is.

Outside of work, do you have other interests or other pursuits?
In terms of interests and hobbies, I love to work out. In the summertime, I love to run outdoors. In fall and winter, I tend to kind of do more indoors in the gym. I’m really big into that. I love music, concerts, things like that. And then just getting all the kids down the road, down their path.