When the Iowa City Area Development Group (ICAD) and the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance finally came together in 2016 to create a joint venture to increase regional economic awareness and cooperation, we were its biggest champion.
It wasn’t up and running until it hired its president and CEO, Jennifer Daly, in 2017.
After two years of being fully operational, we are now wondering what the joint venture named ICR IOWA has measurably accomplished. Do you know?
Our initial hope was that the joint venture would have a couple quick wins, perhaps land a new company to shutter any misgivings from skeptics and create some momentum. Instead, it started out by launching an new, ill-advised regional brand called ICR Iowa that generated confusion and consternation.
Our long-term hope was, and continues to be that the joint venture will be so successful that investors and others ask, “Why do we continue to have other duplicative economic development organizations, and not just consolidate our efforts into one regional organization?”
Aside from external branding, the joint venture is tasked with two primary objectives: to attract new interstate commerce companies and high-quality jobs, and combat the workforce and talent challenges in our region.
Have we attracted any sizeable interstate commerce companies to our region during this two-year period? We struggle to think of one. Meanwhile, our existing employers scrape to find enough employees.
Are these still the right objectives and priorities for a regional joint venture? Or is it too early to ask these questions with the joint venture’s objectives being so large and challenging?
Our entrepreneurship and existing business expansion efforts in the region seem to be making great strides, while many of these joint venture efforts seem more lackluster.
The regional economy is going strong despite several major issues, including the impending closure of the Duane Arnold Energy Center, which will wipe out 500 good-paying jobs in Linn County; the transfer of Procter & Gamble hair care and body wash production from Iowa City to West Virginia, potentially impacting 500 jobs; and the sale of several major employers once headquartered here, among them Rockwell Collins (now Collins Aerospace), the area’s largest private employer.
Does the joint venture have adequate resources to be successful?
Does the joint venture have the right leadership to warrant more time to obtain measurable progress?
Is the joint venture effectively communicating all its efforts? It recently announced that it will no longer have its own monthly newsletter, but instead rely on newsletters from the ICAD Group and the Economic Alliance, which is published and inserted into the CBJ.
These are all tough questions, and important ones that the region, investors and interested parties will need to answer over the next 12 months as the future of the joint venture is considered.