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Reflecting on 29 Years of Growth in DSM USA

DSM USA Growth

December 6, 2019

As I embark upon “retiring” from the Executive Committee and Board of the Greater Des Moines Partnership after serving for 29 years, including serving as its Chair, I cannot help but reflect upon all that has been accomplished by the leadership of this exceptional organization.

The precursor to The Partnership, formed in 1999, was the Greater Des Moines Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber was the ostensible economic development arm of the community but there was also some overlap in that there were three other organizations that touched upon economic development.

There was no focused company attraction/retention effort and there was no meaningful budget allocation for workforce development or talent attraction. The commitment to regionalism was simply lacking as there was a downtown vs. the suburbs mindset. As a community, we had not matured enough to have a real sense of self-confidence.

The Major Projects Task Force was convened in 1998 to really define the projects envisioned in the Des Moines Vision Plan. Arguably, our community was embracing a sense of togetherness i.e. regionalism. The late 80s and early 90s work of renowned Yale professor of architecture, Mario Gandelsonas, was going to start becoming a reality. He had helped us develop a real vision of what the core of the city could become.

This was about the time when the leaders of the city were seriously committed to “waking up” the sleepy old downtown we had become. The Partnership was up and running. A campaign to make a 5-year investor commitment to The Partnership was launched. The corporate community responded with enthusiasm.

Becoming a Vibrant Region

One could arguably say “the rest is history!” Not quite. Some twenty years later, all of the “A” projects as identified by the Major Projects Task Force having been completed by 2010, we embarked upon a visioning exercise called Capital Crossroads. The leaders of The Partnership had positioned it to become the catalyst for helping our community think big, not settle for “good enough” and to think long-term while working together.

I have seen The Partnership evolve into a world class organization. We are no longer apologetic for being from Greater Des Moines (DSM). The so-called “brain drain” (losing the best and the brightest to other states) is a thing of the past. We are innovating and accelerating! We are proud, we are growing, we are getting ready for a population of 1 million, and we are bold in our thinking.

We have become one of the most vibrant regions in the country — we are on the go! The millennials love it here and we are hardly done. I could spell out 20 great projects but I would have to do equal justice to the arts/cultural and social/human services organizations we embrace so well.

The message will not change. The leaders of The Partnership are to be complimented for the cohesiveness of the region. Simply put, we are proud, we care and we are hardly done. Throughout its history, The Partnership has found a way to make things happen behind the scenes giving credence to Ronald Reagan’s statement, “There is no limit to the amount of good you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit.” 

My tenure at The Partnership has come to an end. I hope I have played some role in helping shape our community. More importantly, to borrow a corporate phrase, we have done a great job of “succession planning” and I leave The Partnership knowing that the future looks bright. I am particularly indebted to Jay Byers, Gene Meyer, Tiffany Tauscheck and the rest of The Partnership’s staff for their continued excellent leadership and for their humility.

The Greater Des Moines Partnership is the economic and community development organization for more than 6,600 Regional Business Members and 360+ Investors. The Partnership is a champion of the DSM USA message of Greater Des Moines (DSM) as a welcoming, diverse and vibrant community. Learn more about The Partnership’s vision of one voice, one mission as one region.