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Affiliate Chamber Spotlight: Des Moines Downtown Chamber of Commerce

Downtown Chamber DSM USA

October 31, 2019

Des Moines Downtown Chamber of Commerce

Elected Leader for 2019

Scott Seeliger, Corporate Affairs Lead and Des Moines, IA Site Leader, Cognizant

Professional Staff Leader of the Chamber  

Jennifer Chittenden, Executive Director, IOM

Number of Members  

375

What Inspired You to First Get Involved with Your Chamber?

Giving back and being an active part of the community is important and aligned with the values of Cognizant. As our company was looking to expand, joining the Downtown Chamber was a natural fit because it is an inclusive organization with innovative programming. Those are characteristics that we also look for as we’re growing and developing our people. We immediately became involved with the Downtown Chamber’s Advocacy Committee and were excited to help foster more direct impact and support the success of Downtown Des Moines (DSM) businesses. We are proud to be part of the Downtown Chamber, which was recognized as the 2018 Chamber of the Year by the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE). The strength of the Greater Des Moines Partnership and its Affiliate Chambers working together as one voice helped to drive this national recognition.

What’s a Signature Offering of Your Chamber?

The largest and most popular program the Downtown Chamber offers is the Leadership Education and Advancement Pipeline (LEAP)® series. It was started in 2015 in response to Iowa’s low national ranking with regards to women-owned businesses and economic impact. The series offers nine monthly workshops and a half-day Summit.

This year’s event takes place from 11:30 – 1 p.m. Friday, November 8 at the Renaissance Des Moines Savery Hotel in Downtown DSM. It is open to the public, both men and women, and the curriculum is focused on professional development, inspiration and connections to local resources to advance women in business.

What is Your Chamber’s Biggest Accomplishment in the Past 12 Months?  

We were proud to grow to two full-time staff for the first time, and our other primary focus has been identifying, budgeting and moving into the Downtown Chamber’s first solo office space. When Gravitate Coworking was working on their expansion, we were introduced to the offices they had available facing Locust Street. The prime location and the benefit of being onsite with dozens of other businesses on a daily basis made sense and we pursued the opportunity. We organized the Downtown Chamber’s first golf tournament to help support the move financially, and proudly held a ribbon cutting for our new space and Gravitate on July 25, 2019. The move has been even better than imagined — the accessibility, visibility and convenience of the space is allowing us to serve the business community in new ways. We invite you to stop by anytime for a tour (and a beer from the 24/7 tap)!

What Initiative/Project Are You Looking Forward to in 2019?

The Downtown Chamber has a Student-to-Employer (s2e) Initiative which connects s2e student program partners with the Downtown Chamber’s employer-members who can provide students with occupational experiences via job shadows, internships, apprenticeships and/or other occupational activities like company tours, reverse job fairs and career nights. The long-term goal is to boost Downtown DSM’s sustainable and inclusive workforce by increasing the number of student/employer connections. This last year, we partnered with Gear Up Iowa to connect employers to the Big Dream Conference, provided training for our businesses on the legal considerations of youth in the workplace and promoted connections between our business members and the Summer Youth Experience Program through the Evelyn K. Davis Center, with the Downtown Chamber serving as one of the employers for a student in this program. We are excited to grow this initiative, which helps our businesses as they are dealing with some current workforce challenges.

What Are Your Upcoming Events?

We’re actually slimming the number of event offerings in 2020 and will instead focus on expanding and building our award-winning and impactful programs. Among those, we offered a First Responders Breakfast this year, and it was a powerful morning that meant a lot to our local heroes. We also launched a new series called City Connect, where we provide access and open conversation with City Staff and City Council on a regular basis. The Downtown Chamber embraces the values of knowledge sharing, civility and economic understanding. As we grow and create programming, these are always the driving factors.

The Greater Des Moines Partnership is the fourth largest regional Chamber of Commerce in the nation. Learn more about Partnership Affiliate Chambers, browse the Membership Directory and read additional Affiliate Chamber spotlights.

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