New developers kicking downtown’s tires

I ran into Glenn Lyons, president and CEO of the Downtown Community Alliance, at the Capital Crossroads meeting March 5. We chatted briefly, and I made an offhand comment that he must be busy with all the development happening in downtown Des Moines. Well sort of, he said. He was surprised at how fast things have been happening, but said that when the momentum is happening like this, his job becomes a bit easier. What is taking up a bit of his time now is helping educate the flood of new developers on how to do business downtown. He said although the usual suspects know how business works here, he’s been fielding calls both from developers outside the state - Indiana as one example - and also from developers who had been focused on Greater Des Moines’ suburban areas and who simply hadn’t been as involved in downtown over the past few years. Another interesting point he made was that some of the outside interest was coming from markets similar to Des Moines. Their interest in the Greater Des Moines market is being fueled by the city’s recent rise in media profile and the strong economic numbers here in comparison to other markets.

Put your flood pants on

Also at the Capital Crossroads meeting, I spoke with Bob Riley, founder and CEO of Riley Resource Group and one of the of the Environmental Capital co-chairs, who raised the issue of floodplain lines that are currently in the process of being remapped. Before I go on, understand that floodplains are immensely complex. I called Scott Ralston, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) floodplain mapping coordinator, in an effort to find out when maps would be available publicly. He was wonderful and helped provide a thorough background on the efforts, but I’ll spare you most of the confusing details as I summarize. Ralston did say, however, that our current regulatory maps really need to be updated because they aren’t in a digital format and were last updated in the late 1980s. What you need to know at this point is that there are a couple of efforts underway to accurately update the flood maps, and the redrawn lines could be higher than on previous maps, which could  have some significant impacts. One of the efforts by the Iowa DNR and the Iowa Flood Center, which is updating 100-year and 500-year floodplain maps for the 85 Iowa counties that were declared Presidential Disaster Areas after the 2008 floods, is currently on hold here in Polk County because the county has a levee. Another effort as part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Risk MAP program recently completed some drafts of maps for Polk County. Important to note: the maps are nonregulatory in nature and instead are meant to help better communicate risk, and potentially help communities mitigate that risk. At any rate, there are some potential impacts to consider, so I know we’ll be taking a closer look at this complex topic that we’ve tackled a bit in the past.

Gene in Big D

At the same meeting, I sat next to Carmela Heckard, executive assistant to Greater Des Moines Partnership President Gene Meyer. It happened to be her birthday. I don’t want to throw her under the bus, but she might have let slip that as a small gift to herself, she scheduled her boss to be out of the state. It was for a good cause, though. Gene was on an economic development trip to Dallas to meet with, among others, potential site selectors. Partnership CEO Jay Byers said that it was a trip just like this one a few years ago that helped bring the Microsoft Corp. data center to Greater Des Moines. So, Jay gave him a pass for missing the meeting. Curiously enough, I alerted Jay that the Iowa State men’s basketball team had a game that night against Baylor down in Waco, Texas, a mere 90-minute drive from Dallas. No word on whether the avid Cyclones booster took in a quick road game.

Raise the roof:

Brenton Skating Plaza will be adding a roof in May. It’s a new potential spot to rent for your outside events this summer, said Principal Financial Group Inc.’s Mary O’Keefe.

Stat the speaks: 15 Days

That’s the amount of time Des Moines lawyer Roxanne Conlin and her husband James knew each other before tying the knot. The two soon will  be celebrating their 50th anniversary together. Apparently there had been a pool among James’ friends on how long the marriage would last. It’s safe to guess, Conlin said, that nobody picked 50 years. Congrats on the accomplishment. I’m a mere 48 years short of your record.

I’m reading about Big ‘Bad’ Data:

The New York Times had a piece looking at how businesses might be using their newfound treasure trove of “big data” inaccurately. “With increasing frequency, (big data) may be leading to flawed, panic-induced conclusions, often by ascribing too much value to a certain data point or by rushing to make a decision because the feedback is available so quickly.” Definitely worth a read: