The word “momentum” was mentioned multiple times at this morning’s Capital Crossroads first quarter meeting at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Gardens.

Jay Byers, CEO of the Greater Des Moines Partnership and a Capital Crossroads leader, said he is encouraged by what the plan has accomplished so far, and applauded the room full of committee chairs on their willingness to take action. He also noted that Market Street Services, the firm that helped in the early stages of Capital Crossroads planning, is doing a mid-plan evaluation led by Alex Pearlstein. 

Each of the 11 committees presented updates. Here are some of the highlights:

The Capital Corridor committee, which is aimed at branding Central Iowa as a life-sciences hub, is set to unveil a regional marketing plan on April 21 (more details on the event will be announced in coming weeks). The plan was developed by Flynn/Wright Inc. over the past year, which researched the region’s brand for economic development purposes. Officials also hope to announce an executive director for a program to implement the plan at that event, and a board of directors featuring leaders agriculture and biosciences. They are seeking funding from private industry and the Iowa Economic Development Authority to fund the program. 

-During the Physical Capital committee presentation, Bob Riley asked co-chair Angela Connolly about the possibility of passenger rail coming through Des Moines. Connolly, a Polk County Supervisor who has been involved in a number of transportation issues, said rail is pretty much a dead issue. Not so fast, said Jay Byers. It’s not dead yet. Although the Iowa Legislature has declined to provide a match to federal funding at this point, an Iowa Department of Transportation study is pending. The study will look at the feasibility of a line from Chicago to Omaha that would potentially pass through Des Moines. Byers said passenger rail is a competitive advantage issue - and noted that surrounding Midwest cities of Omaha, Minneapolis, St. Louis, Kansas City and Chicago all have passenger rail stations downtown. “You are either on the grid, or you’re not,” he said. For a past story on the issue, click here.

-Speaking of the Physical Capital committee, Connolly laid out a few regional initiatives the committee is taking on. The Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization is developing a regional on-street bikeways study, working with all Central Iowa communities to develop a macro-level bike network. The MPO and DART are also conducting a study on public transportation service between Ames and Des Moines, whether it be an express bus route, a Bus Rapid Transit Route or a van pool. Connolly also talked about a plan to identify areas in the community that would be good spots for electric car plug-in outlets. She also touched on the potential U.S. Airways and American Airlines merger and said that it shouldn’t affect flights from Des Moines to Washington, D.C.

-Social Capital co-chair Kristi Knous mentioned a pair of collaborative programs in the works, one focused on collaboration between chamber of commerce leadership institutes and one, called the Emerging Leaders Collaborative, to help young professional organizations work together.

- Of note: Chris Littlefield, the former CEO at Aviva USA prior to its transition to Athene USA, has taken over as a co-chair on the Human Capital committee. He replaces Scott Johnson, who retired as president of Wells Fargo & Co.’s Iowa-Illinois region in August.