October 30, 2017 by Stacie Euken
Throughout the month of October, MWP staff attended several conferences that seemed to have an underlying theme – Community. Each event offered insight on the many ways we can help our communities thrive, raising questions to facilitate conversation for future growth. After all, that’s the whole point of Economic Development – building thriving communities!
The Employer-Educator Summit was a great conversation starter to address workforce issues. How can we keep young people in our towns, or get them to move back after college? Is there something local businesses should be doing? Can the schools connect students with employers to start building relationships? At what age should that relationship begin?
The Home Base Iowa Partners Summit offered a similar framework for a different demographic – Military Veterans. What are we doing to connect Veterans to careers and resources available throughout our communities? Should our communities offer incentive packages to help Veterans and their families relocate for a job or to start their own business?
The Iowa Hunger Summit was another layer to the conversation of doing more. It was an honor to hear from five former US Secretaries of Agriculture offer their perspectives on hunger in America, but even more impactful was how communities across Iowa are combating hunger at the local level. It makes me stop and wonder what hand I have in solving hunger issues at the local level. Is it even a problem? (YES!) What is already being done and who’s doing the work?
The Iowa Women Lead Change Conference encouraged individuals to embrace diversity and cultural differences among each of us. Looking at the obstacles we face – gender/sexuality, race/ethnicity, religion, education, location, past events – how can our obstacles become opportunities? The same goes for our communities – how can we, as a community, overcome the obstacles that are blocking the way for future growth? Who are the champions leading the way? How can we build up tomorrow’s leaders? Are we embracing change or are we holding ourselves back?
The Iowa Tourism Conference is a reminder that tourism as an industry is a powerful tool in telling the many stories of experiencing Iowa, and not just to visitors (prospective residents/businesses!), but also to Iowans seeking history, culture, and entertainment. Are we all doing our part to attract visitors to our towns? Are we doing what we say we’re doing – in terms of marketing the region, individual businesses, or organizations – are those tag lines and mottos true to the actual experience? Do we stand out and are we making a difference in the lives of those we interact with every day or even just once? Are we prepared for the inevitable change in each of our industries, local and global economy, changing demographics, and so on?
Each of these conferences raised individual questions on the respective topics, but common questions also arose: What is our role as a citizen, local business, or community leader? What’s Midwest Partnership’s role as a regional economic development organization? How do we continue to make our communities great places to “live, work, and play”? How does it all come together to build thriving communities?
The key take-away here is that for Economic Development, everything is connected and impacts the other factors that make up the big picture. We can’t just focus on one thing and it’s impossible to do everything. There is no one-size-fits-all, nor is there one magic-bullet approach. It takes a group effort to tackle workforce, housing, hunger, education, tourism, and overall livability and attractiveness of our communities and region as a whole. It will always be an on-going discussion and the underlying theme not only in our office, but likely at each and every conference we attend. What can YOU do and how can WE help?
Don’t forget to take advantage of workshops and other opportunities that come your way – you never know what it might inspire you to do!
Stacie Euken, Economic Development Coordinator
Midwest Partnership EDC