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Chair's Column: Readying for the Road to Recovery

Partnership Role COVID-19 Recovery

June 25, 2020

Our Role in a Changing World

We have faced immense change as a society in the past four months — change that nobody would have predicted going into January of this year. Some of this change — the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on our country and region — seemed to happen overnight. The other part of this change — surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement and ensuring equal rights for all — has been years in the making. In both cases, our charge as a community is to accept reality, focus on being productive and be kind.

COVID-19 Recovery Update

As I write this, the recent numbers surrounding COVID-19 in Greater Des Moines (DSM) have been improving. I want to thank our hospital systems, including UnityPoint Health – Des Moines, MercyOne, Broadlawns Medical Center, The Iowa Clinic and the VA Central Iowa Health Care System for helping us through the first wave and keeping us prepared for many possible scenarios in the future.

There is still so much we do not know about this virus and how it will react as time goes on, and we are seeing different trends in different parts of the country. The best thing we can do right now is to continue to control the things we can control. Flatten the curve and social distance while supporting local businesses. Manage a high standard of personal hygiene. If you feel sick, stay home.

If your place of work is open or is considering plans to reopen, I encourage you to check out the DSM Forward playbooks with guidance to help your workplace stay safe. These continue to be updated as the latest information and guidelines become available.

Equity for All

The recent protests across the country and here in DSM show that people are hurting and are tired of the systematic racism that has been prevalent for too long. The One Economy report from The Directors Council has shown us that there is a tale of two cities. I encourage you to review the data outlined to see the numbers from the first iteration in 2017. According to a soon-to-be released 2020 One Economy Report, citing 2013-2017 data from the American Community Survey (ACS), the unemployment rate for African Americans in Iowa was 10.3%, compared with statewide unemployment of 2.8%. In Polk County, the disparity was 10.5% and 2.7%, respectively.

This is a truth we must face. As the recent protests brought to light, we must listen, understand and collaborate to make positive and real change. This includes business and community leaders, local and state elected officials and police departments all working together to change and eliminate policies that create barriers to equality. We have strong people here in DSM and Iowa, and together we can make a difference.

In addition to the policy changes, our attitudes must change. Our community has reached a pivotal moment when we must work to break the cycle of tolerating racism. The Partnership has had inclusion as a priority for many years, but we need to do better. Creating a community that embraces inclusion and diversity is not only the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do from an economic development and community development standpoint. Diversity creates innovation and makes communities, and enterprises, stronger and better. Let’s make this one economy that benefits all of us, not just some of us.

While increasing support for minority-owned businesses in DSM is already a 2020 Strategic Priority for The Partnership, the organization is also in the process of developing an 18-month strategic plan that goes even further in guiding our organization in serving the community. Inclusion is one of the key strategies, and economic inclusion will be woven into each strategy.

DSM Forward

As we look to the future, The Partnership is focused on helping employers and the community focus on recovery as the next phase of DSM Forward. The DSM Forward Task Force, made up of Partnership Board Members and leaders from the Capital Crossroads regional vision plan, recently heard from Darrell Cronk, chief investment officer for wealth and investment management for Wells Fargo & Co. Mr. Cronk shared that while we must face the reality that our economy, and some sectors in particular, will be in for a tough fight, there are reasons for optimism. The Midwest has been more insulated from the effects of the pandemic than the coasts.

This is backed up by a recent report from Moody’s Analytics that shows DSM is among the cities best positioned to bounce back from the pandemic. Another report from Business Insider named DSM the #8 Best City to Live in After the Pandemic.

While there are good signs, our job is as important as ever to cultivate an environment where businesses can do business and people can find good jobs and quality of life. Tough times don’t last, but tough people do. As a community and as The Partnership, we will accept reality, focus on being productive and be kind.

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.