Courtney Shaw grew up in Austin, Texas, and went to school at Oklahoma State. So Des Moines was a bit out of her universe when her husband got a job here. 

“I’ve moved progressively north,” Shaw said with with a laugh. “As I’ve gotten older, I told my husband this is where I draw the line. I can’t get any colder than Des Moines.” 

She has no plans to move from a city that has grabbed her heart. 

“We were only going to stay a few years, and then we were going to head back south,” recalled Shaw, the new vice president of communications for the Greater Des Moines Partnership. “We absolutely fell in love with this community and with this town. I mean from the moment we went to the grocery store for the first time, the friendliness that we experienced was great, and we got more involved in the community.”

She participated in the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute’s Community Leadership Program. “I got to see in depth how our community comes together,” she said.

Her status as an Iowan was cemented. 

Shaw did some consulting in Des Moines, then worked for five years at Strategic America, where she did a lot of work promoting STEM education (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) while guiding internal and external messaging for the agency. She also represented government and nonprofits including Food Bank of Iowa, Healthy Birth Day and its program Count the Kicks, and others. 

Then the Partnership came calling, amid a staff shuffle that included the promotion of Tiffany Tauscheck to chief strategy officer. We asked Shaw about the transition to her new job, which started in January. 

What attracted you to the Partnership?

When this position became available, I knew it was my dream job that I would get to help tell the nation and the world the story of all the wonderful things that are happening in our region.

Can you tell us more about what the job entails?

From a communications standpoint, our goal is to tell the DSM USA story loud, bold and broad. We do that through storytelling, which can be media relations, blogs, videos, social media, content in general that elevates our community. It’s a variety of those things. It’s telling all kinds of different stories, whether it’s about our partners, investors, people in our community, nonprofits, and what we are as a connector. We want to elevate organizations in our region to help share their news so we can attract more people and more businesses.

What do you like most about this position? 

The people I work with. So not only is it working with people at the Partnership, and all the great thoughts, great projects or initiatives that we’re working on, but also getting to work with other organizations in the community that are doing great work, too. The people are definitely part one. Part two is I’ve always found communications and public relations fascinating, and to be able to do that for our region is just part of my passion and what I like doing. When you do something that you enjoy, with people that you like working with, for a community that’s doing great things, the stars just align. I really do wake up every morning excited to come to work. I mean that from the bottom of my heart. This is definitely my dream job. 

What are your immediate goals? 

I definitely have specific measurable goals I have to reach [for earned media, media relations, blogs and the like]. Growing our DSM USA Ambassador Program. This program is basically for people who are DSM USA super fans and want to help tell our story. I think our numbers are close to 400 people now. They help tell the story, often through social media, when we have a big story or show up in rankings, things like that. We want to enhance the program to have them do things outside of social media. We’re trying to figure out what that looks like. 

How are you wired? 

I am very definitely a very positive go-getter, a high achiever type person. I thrive in team environments, and I like working with other people and collaborating. I feel like I maintain my cool. I don’t get really worked up too much. I feel like life’s too short, you know, and you can get a lot more done if you stay focused. 

What drives you? 

My family. My kiddos, and having them grow up in a world where education and kindness and those types of things are important. And not only that the three of them, but all children, have a great environment and a great community. 

Do you work all the time? 

Yes, I like to work. I do. It’s in my blood. I love getting things done. Getting work done feels good, but also spending time with family and friends is important. I try to get to work between 7 and 7:30 every day, and I try to pick up my kids every day. [She often squeezes in more work later in the day.]


With all that is going on in town, from talent attraction and retention to water trails, your job seems like a heavy lift. How do you manage your workload?

It’s all about prioritizing and working with your team and determining whose strengths are better here or there. 

What excites you the most about the next five or 10 years here?

We have more momentum here in our region than I’ve ever seen. I lived in Austin and I watched Austin develop and grow and become a hot spot. We are true to ourselves. I think there are a lot of cities that are trying to be something else. We have a lot of momentum, a lot of drive and great goals for ourselves. I think about our strategic priorities, and all those things are going to line us up for success. Our small businesses and elevating them. Talking about talent development and EDGE [Education Drives Our Greater Economy] and how we want to get more working-age adults to get postsecondary education and what that will do not only for them for but our community. 

Is part of the challenge attracting younger adults, too? 

Millennials want to truly experience a town and experience a community with relationships with people, and you can do that here. You can’t do that in a lot of larger cities. Here, you get to experience the connection with other people, to make a difference, and you still get to have the city feel. You can have it all. People are realizing that and contributing to it. That’s what’s going to help us continue to grow in the next five years. 

What do you do outside of the Partnership?

I’m an adjunct professor of public relations at Simpson College. I’m also president of Healthy Birth Day. I quilt. I like to run. I’m an avid reader. I’m an expert Lego builder and blanket fort creator. I’m active in Public Relations Society of America.