Spotlight on Sustainability: Des Moines, IA

Des Moines, Iowa. Photo by Flickr user kla4067.

Named by Forbes as the Best Place for Young Professionals and the Best Place to Raise a Family, the Greater Des Moines population is growing and is expected to grow by 35% more by 2035. But, progress is never achieved without facing some challenges along the way— in this case the challenge is creating jobs and remaining economically competitive, while still fostering safe and affordable places for families to live, work, and play.

To address these burgeoning issues, and ensure the vitality and long-term economic health of the region, the Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (DMAMPO), in conjunction with a large group of local organizations and officials representing area communities, is working to coordinate future growth and development through the creation of The Tomorrow Plan, funded by a 2010 Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Regional Planning grant.

“The Tomorrow Plan is allowing us to take a step back and truly assess where our region currently is, as well as where we are headed. We have to be proactive and prepare for the future in order to continue to attract and retain the top talent and business that has made Greater Des Moines one of the top regions in the country,” says Bethany Wilcoxon, Project Manager for DMAMPO.

Since its inception in July 2011, the five-phase project is bringing together agencies, organizations, and members of the community who care about what Greater Des Moines will look like in years to come. Wilcoxon has seen thousands of people throughout the metro area become engaged, many of whom have never worked together before. Using a common scenario planning process that has shaped countless cities across the country, the project is nearing its fourth phase. “The Tomorrow Plan has helped our region begin to address some of our most challenging issues, such as stormwater management. It has provided a much needed regional forum to begin to address this topic, as well as others, that clearly cut across jurisdictional boundaries,” says Wilcoxon.

This type of regional coordination has not been historically possible with community-based federal funding, which often has population or use restrictions; designating it, not for regional efforts, but for primary cities. “In the Des Moines metropolitan area, it would be extremely difficult for all 20 local governments to develop consistent and complementary development guidelines without a region-wide approach,” says Dylan Mullenix, Principal Transportation Planner for DMAMPO. “The HUD Regional Planning grant provided $2 million to the area to foster that region-wide approach so important for determining how to develop into the future.”

Once implemented, The Tomorrow Plan will improve efficiency, equity, quality, and performance in service delivery, resulting in significant savings. “The Tomorrow Plan, in conjunction with Capital Crossroads, will position [Des Moines] to compete more effectively in a global economy and to attract top talent. These efforts will allow our region to entice even more start-ups and to sustain the businesses already located here. The Tomorrow Plan and Capital Crossroads will augment our existing asset and knowledge bases in positioning our region for success for generations to come,” said Suku Radia, CEO and President of Bankers Trust. By ensuring a continued high quality of life for the region, Greater Des Moines has positioned itself to continue to attract and retain businesses and grow a strong local economy for decades to come.