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Revitalizing Greater Des Moines: Embracing Technology + Construction Trends for Local Recovery

Pandemic Recovery in DSM

October 18, 2023

While Greater Des Moines (DSM) is unique in so many ways, it shared many of the same struggles a lot of populations experienced due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Various prominent local industries faced unprecedented challenges due to everything from supply chain disruptions to social distancing procedures. Now that we’re on the other side of the worst of the situation, businesses and city administrators are focusing on how the area can recover.

Among the prominent components of the route forward are new priorities related to technology and construction. Businesses are recognizing the value of digital upgrades while the construction industry is adapting to fresh trends and opportunities.

We’re going to explore some of the key aspects of this phase of DSM’s recovery and what it means for businesses and citizens alike.

Navigating Technological Upgrades

One of the things the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted is the continued value of digital technology. In many cases, businesses that were best able to navigate the challenges were those that had prioritized digital transformation. Companies that were able to shift to remote operations were better equipped to navigate social distancing. Businesses that had utilized data analytics systems may have been more able to predict the signs of supply chain shortages and adapt accordingly. It’s no wonder, then, that DSM businesses are upgrading their tech.

This isn’t simply about companies starting from scratch with a technological focus. Many existing DSM companies are taking steps to adapt their legacy practices and tools with smarter options. For instance, the John Deere Des Moines Works factory has recently begun rolling out its smart industrial strategy. Part of this strategy is geared toward upgrading tools to support automation, precision and efficiency. Not only could this make the business stronger in ways that solidify its place as an economic contributor to the community, but tech upgrades also tend to make businesses more agile in the face of difficulties.

That said, there are certainly challenges involved with replacing legacy technology in traditional industries. Particularly where there are specialist tools and software involved, the upfront costs can be significant. Replacing equipment and training staff on its use can also result in productivity downtime. While there are undoubted advantages to new tech — such as more relevant security protections — it’s important for industries to make thorough plans for change, rather than simply leaping in.

Recognizing Construction Priorities

The construction industry has something of a reputation for being a resilient sector. After all, no matter what is happening in the world, people still need properties for homes and businesses. Nevertheless, the COVID-19 pandemic had an impact on the rate of development. As the recovery process continues, the construction industry is playing a role in how the area grows and the way people are choosing to enhance their lifestyles.

This has primarily been centered around how developers and city officials are collaborating in ramping up local projects that support ongoing changes to residents’ needs and the work landscape. The Des Moines Register has reported on the range of expected projects taking place in the coming years, from boutique office spaces that support companies with hybrid operations, to the creation of the Center @ Sixth mixed-use building designed to feature Black-owned businesses.

Paramount in city officials’ plans is also to make sociable city improvements to the Historic Court District. This presents opportunities for construction businesses to be involved in the revitalization of the city.

It’s not just city development projects that are prominent at the moment. There is also a rising trend for renovation in the construction industry. There are certainly economic factors influencing this. Renovating an existing property tends to be more cost-effective than a new build for families now on tighter budgets. Additionally, as people were spending more time at home during the pandemic, many began to assess their homes in relation to their needs and committed to making changes. For contractors in Des Moines and its surrounding communities, this trend can be a source of vital income as the economy recovers.

Utilizing Collaborative Initiatives + Government Support

While there are great opportunities for technical upgrades and construction projects in post-pandemic DSM, there are also hurdles to overcome. The good news is that professionals don’t necessarily have to tackle these alone. Collaborative initiatives and government support are available to ease a little of the financial or practical burdens.

For technological upgrades, there are educational and resource initiatives. For instance, the Technology Association of Iowa’s monthly TechBrew meetups can be good sources of advice and expertise for entrepreneurs in relation to digital growth. As part of the State Small Business Credit Initiative, Iowa small and veteran-owned businesses can apply for funding to make improvements. In particular, this initiative is dedicating $28 million to a manufacturing loan program so that entrepreneurs in the sector can invest in new technology.

In terms of construction businesses, the focus is largely on programs and projects funded by the Des Moines City Council. $63 million in funding has been approved from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), in part to fund a range of infrastructure, housing and other development projects. Therefore, it is wise for contractors and businesses in the local construction sector to make efforts to connect with the city council and seek involvement in these.

As Des Moines recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s clear that the key to revitalization is to embrace change. Some of these changes involve individual businesses upgrading their tech to become more agile and some require the construction industry to get involved in new building and renovation projects. As with any change, this is likely to be most effective when bolstered by avenues of community support and collaboration. It’s worth considering, though, not just how DSM can overcome the challenges of recent years, but also what steps can be taken to mitigate potential future hardships.

Looking for tools to help grow your startup or small business? Visit the Small Business Resources Hub to find the information you need, including connections through a Resource Compass and Business Counseling through the Greater Des Moines Partnership’s network.

Sam Bowman

Sam Bowman writes about people, tech, wellness and how they merge. He enjoys getting to utilize the internet for community without actually having to leave his house. In his spare time he likes running, reading and combining the two in a run to his local bookstore.