Ryan Moon’s first four months working at the Greater Des Moines Partnership have been busy. First, the Partnership hosted out-of-town media descending on the city for the 2020 Iowa caucuses, when state Democrats ran into technical challenges and delayed reporting results. After that, barely a month went by before metro businesses were faced with vital changes to operations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In less than a year, Moon’s job duties as public policy manager shifted from connecting lawmakers and small businesses in person to translating the rapidly shifting policy introduced at a state and federal level for small businesses operating in survival mode. 

“My passion [after] working with chambers -- a lot of times you deal with those less than 25 [employees], less than 50 employees who really can’t afford lobbyists, or a policy expert or lawyer to [say], ‘Hey, I have a question, can you just deal with this?’ ” Moon said. “I’m here to help every size of business, but the businesses that need us the most are the ones that are looking to survive the next couple of weeks, the next couple of days.” 

What was your background before the Greater Des Moines Partnership?
After I graduated from Northern Iowa I got a job working as a clerk at the Iowa state Capitol building and did that for a couple sessions. Then I got a job to go work at a private strategy firm in Washington, D.C., so I moved out there for a couple of years to do that. Afterwards I got a job at the Urbandale Chamber of Commerce, worked there a little over two years, and this position at the Greater Des Moines Partnership opened. 

[At] the chamber, I worked with the Partnership a lot. The incredible staffing that they have, the resources they can provide back to the community as a whole really collected my interest. I’m someone who absolutely loves Des Moines, and as someone who moved away … to live on the East Coast for a little bit made me appreciate what we have here even more. Once that opportunity came up to really advocate at a regional base … this honestly formed as the perfect job for me.  

What does your role look like?
I work with our senior vice president of government relations and public policy, Andrea Woodard, and my job is to really help support the policies that the Partnership is advocating for and supporting. I do that by researching policies and setting up events, whether that’s our annual fly into D.C. or day on the [Capitol] Hill. I have also developed some of our federal policy with our government policy committee. 

Obviously with a lot of my job dealing with legislative events, we’ve been trying to adapt [to COVID-19 social distancing]. Right now we’ve postponed our May D.C. fly-in, so we’re looking at a later date. But also trying to think of maybe doing a virtual fly-in -- being creative and turning our events virtual. The big thing I’m doing right now is really trying to help businesses and the Des Moines community wherever we can. The small businesses right now, they’re not really focused on truly understanding every piece of the CARES Act, the phases that it is going through. So Andrea and I are thinking of people to come and explain it better -- we had a webinar with an incredible person from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce come on and explain to members all the phases … and what does that mean for your small businesses.

We are updating a COVID-19 resource page, where, honestly, I’m updating that daily with everything that’s going on in the state of Iowa, and in the country and on a local level. 

The biggest need has been the CARES Act, what’s all in it, what it looks like. … That’s been a lot to understand. I think phase three of CARES Act had like 890 pages. … We do whatever we can to make sure we understand everything, but also some of the things that the governor has put out there -- what does that mean, what are essential businesses. … We have the resources to reach out to the governor and her staff, or our U.S. senators or representatives, and better ask those questions. 

What’s the best piece of advice or feedback you’ve received in your career?
Opening up, listening to everyone around you. … If you’re in a room with a meeting, just trying to go around and get everyone’s feedback at the table, because people provide experiences from all different backgrounds, ideas, and being able to capture some of those can really help exceed organizations and businesses. 

What’s a goal you have for this next year?
My goal is to be that resource for people in the community to look for. Hopefully at the end of this we’ve done everything in our power to keep as many businesses open, as much cash in people’s pockets as possible so we can be that recession-proof city -- DSM Strong is what we’re trying to remain. I hope at the end, people look at the Partnership and the policy team, Andrea and I, and say, “You know, if it wasn’t for you guys, I don’t know where I would be.” I want to make sure we exhaust everything we can to succeed in doing that. 

I always try to remain positive in all of this. … Your mental health is extremely important to focus on in a time like this. Mental health is still a stigma, in a way, and I wish a lot more businesses would focus on that. I’ve been blessed to be in an organization that is focused on that, and [have] a supervisor who’s checking in, asking, “Where are you at, how are you feeling today?” I think focusing on the positives and mental health of your employees is very important right now. In the end, we’re going to get through this, we’re going to learn a lot and be better prepared for the next disaster, whether it’s more local or national.