Being the home of a Tier 1 Research Institution, Ames is naturally positioned to reach new heights in science and technology. That same curious nature spills into our community and it is clear to see how we work together to cultivate innovation into our workforce, small businesses, programs, and initiatives.
As our lowest unemployment rate sits at just 2.1% (December 2020), our workforce continues to thrive. One of my favorite examples of innovation in the workforce is the recent partnership between the United Way of Story County, Des Moines Area Community College and the Ames Chamber of Commerce that led to the creation of the Story County Workforce Innovation Project. After receiving an $80,000 grant, the three organizations moved swiftly to develop three tracts for three of our high demand industries: healthcare, manufacturing, and welding. The program was able to offer retraining at no-cost to participants, offered childcare assistance and gifted graduates with a new laptop. In December, 26 participants proudly graduated from this program ready and equipped for a new career opportunity. This is certainly the beginning of a new approach to training and recruitment and I am excited to see how it will evolve in the future.
Another way I am proud to see Ames and Story County take innovative initiatives is the increased awareness and programming for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). I see the programming we are developing at the Chamber, whether it is our Annual Symposium on Building Inclusive Organizations, distributing a Minority-Owned Business Directory or hosting our new Changemaker Series, and I am proud of the growth we are promoting within our community. We see more and more organizations and businesses taking steps to broaden their DEI training and policies every day. As a result, I believe we will continue to break down barriers and identify new and creative ways to address and implement change in our community.
As our businesses continue to create innovative new products and services, the Chamber will continue to diversify our programming and events to further support them. In addition to our longstanding programs like Leadership Ames and See Yourself in Ames, we will be introducing a number of new and revamped events. In addition to the Changemaker Series, we will be introducing our Townhall Experiences. These events will feature virtual panels of leaders in major industries in Story County and Boone and will create an opportunity for these industries to showcase what they are doing. The Townhalls will also welcome those who are unfamiliar with specific industries to learn more about our local economy and better understand how our businesses serve the community. We are also making changes to our Leadership Series that will include sessions on Women in Leadership, Small Business Leadership, Leadership for the Rural Business and more.
Innovation is so important to the Chamber that it is one of our core values. How do we define innovation? Thinking BIG, being unafraid, and challenging the status quo. As I often do with my team, I encourage you to live in an innovative mindset. In our case, one idea can lead to a new workforce program, event, or initiative for our community. What innovation will your next idea inspire?