By Alex Pearlstein, Vice President
If there is an equivalent of “Economic Development Strategy Implementation 101,” it would be the activation and sustained work on Greater Des Moines and Central Iowa’s Capital Crossroads 1.0 initiative beginning in 2011. In its first five-year implementation cycle, many of the top leaders in the Central Iowa region, upwards of 700 volunteers, and dozens of public and private government, institutional, and corporate partners have come together behind a comprehensive, holistic, aggressive, and transformative vision for change in the community. Midway through implementation, Capital Crossroads brought on its first director, who helped spearhead the outreach, engagement, and coordination of strategic activities. The initiative has achieved hundreds of “victories” as detailed on the newly revamped project website at http://www.capitalcrossroadsvision.com/accomplishments/.
On February 1 of this year, an even more ambitious Capital Crossroads 2.0 was launched to great fanfare at an event in Des Moines. As with the 1.0 process, I had the privilege of working with the Greater Des Moines Partnership, the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines, and representatives from their many strategic partners to facilitate the development of the 2.0 vision plan. Media reports on the plan and its launch can be found here, here, here, and here.
What makes Capital Crossroads the gold standard of regional planning initiatives is the fact that the blueprint has truly become the overarching framework for strategic programming in Greater Des Moines. It captures under its network of organizations and volunteers the principal tent poles supporting the structural advancement of the region as a destination of choice for companies and talent. In today’s world, this includes so much more than “traditional” economic development activities like marketing, existing business services, and entrepreneurial support. Capital Crossroads’ ten strategic Capitals and underlying components impact all key criteria that affect how communities compete in today’s economy, including emphases on talent development, retention, and attraction, quality of life and place enhancement, infrastructure concerns, and topics not found in any other strategic plan Market Street has ever facilitated like civility, mental health, soil and water quality, and many others. If – as I firmly believe – economic development should focus on optimizing the “product” that EDPros are marketing (the community), then Capital Crossroads is the most expansive product development program in America.
Simply acknowledging what must be done to make a region competitive and capturing it under a strategic plan is the easy part. What differentiates Capital Crossroads is that Central Iowa comes together to do the “dirty work” of resourcing, collaborating, coordinating, and sustaining its strategic programming as effectively as any community I’ve seen. It all starts with visionary, progressive, and committed public and private leadership –what Greater Des Moines Partnership CEO Jay Byers calls the region’s “secret sauce.” If they could bottle that sauce, there would be buyers in every community in the U.S. and beyond.
While I no longer live in Des Moines, I’m happy that I’m still able to absorb the wisdom and wonder of the place through my participation in Capital Crossroads’ ongoing evolution. It’s the best course in strategic implementation I could ever hope to take.