The goal of the Ames Economic Development Commission, The Ames Chamber of Commerce and any of our affiliate organizations is to work to make Ames a better place. When you start the process of picturing a future, “better” Ames, it’s easy to let the imagination run wild. What’s tougher is setting out the realistic benchmarks you will use to measure progress on the work to be done in the Ames community within the next five to ten years.
The underlying ambition of everything we do is to convince people to say “Yes” to Ames and Story County – Yes to living here, taking a job, starting a business, attending ISU or DMACC, retiring here—regardless of background or situation we want to help people say Yes to our community.
The Ames Economic Development Commission’s (AEDC) last strategic plan for 2012-2016 was incredibly successful. We had five objectives, all of which were met and exceeded. The first was to develop opportunities resulting in $200 million in taxable investment. In those five years, capital investment totaled $215 million. The second objective was to grow Ames area employment by 1,000 jobs. Through AEDC-related projects, 1,350 jobs were created. The third objective stated we would drive an increase in retail business sales year-over-year. Fiscal Year 2012 ended around $773 million, 2016 ended at $903 million. We increased investment in the AEDC and finally we enhanced partnership amongst our stakeholders, the community and the region with our work alongside Huxley, Story County, the Greater Des Moines Partnership and the Cultivation Corridor.
Going forward, the AEDC will be working to achieve a similar level of success in our goals outlined in Vision 2022, a joint plan of the AEDC and the Ames Chamber of Commerce. The strategic planning process began with a survey of members, investors and allied partners. Six input sessions were also held to seek feedback from Chamber and AEDC board members, affiliate organizations board members, elected officials, partner organizations and community leaders. The results of the survey and sessions defined the priority areas of activity for the organizations. This plan focuses on four areas: Economic Development, Community Development, Advocacy and Organizational Development.
The economic development heading is very straight forward. We’re striving to help businesses create meaningful jobs and work in concert with our employers to develop a strong workforce that supports growth and innovation in our community. Adding 1,500 new jobs is the goal. We also hope to make finding talent for our area employers easier by growing the workforce by 2.5 percent annually, adding 8,000 workers to the talent pool over the life of the plan. This is an ambitious endeavor but one we must conquer as it is pivotal to the long-term viability of the Ames and Story County economy.
Creating an environment that attracts, engages and supports residents of all ages and backgrounds is the focus of the community development tenet. Housing is an apparent and pressing issue here. We hope to address this issue by working with the City of Ames and other communities in Story County on the development process for housing. We are also looking at housing options in the Downtown district of Ames. If you look at amenity-rich areas there is typically housing readily available. More opportunities for people to live in Downtown Ames, we believe, will attract more retail and entertainment options that will enhance the central business district and make it an even greater destination. The community development portion of our plan is not limited to Downtown however as we firmly believe that expanded retail, dining, bike trails and other recreational amenities along with deliberate beautification of our corridors will benefit the greater good.
In the advocacy area, we will continue to strive to advocate for infrastructure and transportation enhancements in Ames and Story County. We will also continue the effort to promote our community image and brand.
Organization development goals are those that we set out to ensure that our entities are able to continue the important work at the end of this plan. We also constantly work to provide more meaningful programming and educational opportunities to our members.
Ambitious goals? Absolutely, but if you are in the business of getting people to say, Yes, you have to keep moving forward and reaching higher. I think Ames and Story County are up to the challenge and I’m excited to see what we can achieve over the next five years.
-Dan Culhane, President & CEO