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Transportation, Child Care + Serving People with Disabilities to Generate Inclusive Economic Development

Inclusive Economic Development

January 12, 2022

I had the opportunity to moderate the Greater Des Moines Partnership’s most recent Public Policy Issue Forum on Inclusive Economic Development, where a panel discussed how Greater Des Moines (DSM) could thrive and grow as a result of more thoughtful and inclusive economic development measures. This discussion provided insight into how inclusive investment in Iowa’s economy can assist in improving the quality of life and provide access to services for all residents. This discussion brought a call to action, articulating the importance of implementing legislation that would help demonstrate the state is open and welcoming of all people. The panel for the event included Luis Montoya, chief planning operator for Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority (DART), Dawn Oliver Wiand , executive director of the Iowa Women’s Foundation (IWF) and Daniel Van Sant, director of disability for The Harkin Institute at Drake University.

Inclusive Economic Development

Montoya said that DART’s routes, schedules and service are always top of mind. Public transportation is inclusive in its opportunity to serve the community through services such as the inclusion of vehicles that meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements, fare payment structures, language inclusivity (including pictographs and translation services) and more. Oliver Wiand said at IWF they work to improve the lives of Iowa’s women and girls through economic self-sufficiency so their families experience long-term stabilization and success within their community. Through IWF’s community conversations, childcare remains the recurring barrier to growth in our community. Millions of dollars are lost every year in revenue, tax revenue and job retention as a result of insufficient childcare. Oliver Wiand said combatting this issue in light of the pandemic is essential. Their organization is working with community partners all across the state to replicate and implement efforts that are already working in other communities. Van Sant discussed The Harkin Institute’s mission to connect people with policy. Disability, retirement security, wellness, nutrition, labor and employment are all policy issues that The Harkin Institute focuses on, while working with community businesses to provide accommodating workspaces.

Transportation’s Role in Economic Growth

In order for industries to grow, transit must be available to the community. The number one reason riders use DART transportation system is to get to work. DART is providing access for a wider population and consistently looks at how transportation can grow along with the community. Montoya’s comments aligned with Olive Wiand in that access to childcare and services are essential for those looking to be part of the workforce.

Recommendations from the Governor’s Child Care Task Force

Oliver Wiand explained how the Governor’s Child Care Task Force recently met for 100 days to discuss its priorities, which will include:

  • Finding a way to increase wages/benefits of childcare providers and workforce
  • Involving businesses in investments in childcare

Ways to Develop Communities to Serve Individuals with Disabilities

Van Sant stated their role at Harkin Institute is to be the liaison between people and policy. This can be an overwhelming task, but assistance is available through the Harkin Institute. Van Sant advised people not to be afraid of this process, but instead contact the Harkin Institute for education and assistance. Accessibility needs to be more organic and should be thought of at the start of all endeavors. Much opportunity for growth in businesses are missed by not including individuals with disabilities, they should be engaged at all levels within a business. Van Sant went on to say that companies including people with disabilities are twice as likely to have higher total shareholder return than those companies that are not inclusive.

In summary all those contributing to Iowa’s economy should be inclusive with those efforts. However, it is imperative that inclusivity be implemented into your plans early in your process. When asked how best to do that, Montoya said that in regards to DART, you should think about where your people are coming from to get to you, not just where they are going. Oliver Wiand stated that her organization is looking to partner with IEDA to provide a toolbox of resources for business owners. Van Sant's message was to engage his organization to connect people to policy and navigate through the process of including individuals with disabilities in your growth plans.

Watch the entire webinar below:


Stay tuned for 2022 Public Policy Issue Forums. Check out more Partnership events here.

The Partnership's Public Policy team engages with local, state and federal officials to create public policy that generates economic growth, business prosperity and talent development in Greater Des Moines (DSM). The Partnership is a nonpartisan organization.

Abbey Gilroy

Abbey Gilroy is director of real estate development for the Neighborhood Development Corporation. She is also involved with the Des Moines East + South Chamber, a 55-year-old organization that connects businesses throughout Greater Des Moines (DSM).