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Chair's Column: Small Business, Inclusion Efforts Will Make DSM Stronger

Small Business and Inclusion in DSM

October 30, 2020

Two of the Greater Des Moines Partnership’s key areas of focus in 2020 have revolved around supporting small businesses and working to ensure Greater Des Moines (DSM) is a welcoming and inclusive community. The pandemic created a challenging and unexpected situation for small businesses, without easy answers. At the same time, communities across the nation have been demanding systematic change, social justice and racial equity. I am thankful for so many public, private and nonprofit leaders who have stepped up to address these challenges and opportunities head on.

Small Business Support

Our annual Small Business Success Summit is Thursday, Nov. 5 and Friday, Nov. 6. After so much of 2020 has been about reacting, the Small Business Success Summit provides an opportunity for businesses to look forward. The Summit will help attendees learn actional steps to prepare for 2021 and beyond. This is a must-attend event for small business owners who will hear on topics ranging from marketing, legal, COVID-19 lessons learned, human resources, growing sales and more.

This event represents a continuation of The Partnership’s ramped-up efforts to support small businesses since the pandemic began. Through the Small Business Recovery Grant, which was launched in partnership with a number of cities, counties and private-sector partners, a total of 292 recipients received a total of $1.7 million. In October, The Partnership unveiled an Extend the Season grant made possible by funding through the Small Business Recovery Grant program. This grant is supporting DSM restaurants, who are Partnership Members, by providing outdoor heating equipment for their existing outdoor seating. It has been enormously popular and filled a need in our community.

As we head into winter, my challenge to you is to embrace winter and continue to support local. Dine on a patio, order takeout or catering from a local restaurant. Do your holiday shopping at a local retailer. Buy gift cards from local establishments. Support local events in a safe, socially distant manner. Make sure to use the social media hashtag #DSMlocal to encourage others to support local.

Inclusion Efforts

Efforts around Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) have been a focus for many years at The Partnership. The need to step up and do more is evident, and the interest, willingness and commitment from our community leaders shows there is momentum.

That is evidenced by the fact that more than 200 leaders have signed the CEO Commitment to Racial Equity in DSM. This was developed by The Partnership and its Inclusion Council with input from The Directors Council, as well as Capital Crossroads leadership. CEOs and top-level leaders of companies, organizations and public entities in DSM are encouraged to consider signing onto this commitment to racial equity. Organizations are able to choose a number of different actions and activities to advance equity and inclusion and take concrete steps to support the One Economy Blueprint for Action. Thank you to everyone who has signed it, and I encourage your organization’s top-level leader to sign it now if they have not already done so.

Another sign of sure momentum is that more than 25,000 people signed up for the United Way of Central Iowa’s 21-Day Equity Challenge. This challenge will end with the 8th Annual Inclusion Summit hosted by The Partnership in collaboration with United Way on Nov 10. The event’s theme will be “Rising to the Equity Challenge," which aims to cultivate a community conversation about going above and beyond the work of diversity and inclusion and starting the journey to equity. Interest for this event has been off the charts as more than 500 people are already registered, and there is still time to join them.

As I have said before, as we continue to go through this period of uncertainty, we must accept reality, focus on a new normal and work toward a bright future. I believe our collective efforts in supporting small businesses and ensuring an inclusive region will help our community create an even brighter future.

The Greater Des Moines Partnership is the economic and community development organization that serves Greater Des Moines (DSM), Iowa. Together with 24 Affiliate Chambers of Commerce, more than 6,500 Regional Business Members and more than 365 Investors, The Partnership drives economic growth with one voice, one mission and as one region. Through innovation, strategic planning and global collaboration, The Partnership grows opportunity, helps create jobs and promotes DSM as the best place to build a business, a career and a future. Learn more at DSMpartnership.com.

Tom Mahoney

Tom Mahoney served as the Greater Des Moines Partnership's 2020 board chair and is chairman of the board at ITA Group Holdings.