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IA Leaders: Economic Planning Must Be More Inclusive

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Tuesday, January 4, 2022   

When plans come together for new retail centers and office buildings, policy experts and local leaders in Iowa said municipal and real-estate developers need to adopt a more inclusive mindset.

They said child care and accessible transportation should be on a project's checklist. The Greater Des Moines Partnership recently hosted a forum on the topic.

Dawn Oliver Wiand, president and CEO of the Iowa Women's Foundation, said their outreach has reinforced the belief child care is the number one barrier to economic success for women.

As it relates to development, she emphasized making sure a community has enough child-care workers who receive fair wages and benefits is key.

"If we can't figure out a way to step out of the box and creatively address that, we're not gonna have enough child-care slots," Oliver Wiand asserted.

She suggested businesses assisting with development investments not only help their staff, but also their bottom line by keeping more women in the workforce.

Wiand was on the governor's Child Care task force, which recently recommended a tax-credit program to incentivize employers to purchase available childcare spots for their workers.

Meanwhile, a regional transportation leader said more flexibility in public transit, such as non-traditional service hours, is important.

Luis Montoya, chief planning officer for Des Moines Area Regional Transit, said in his organization's long-term planning, it has found customers from different backgrounds prefer service that goes beyond the standard workday ride.

"The way people move about the community to drop their kids off to take night classes, shifts that are on the weekends or outside of what we would normally consider normal business hours," Montoya outlined.

He argued an expansive, inclusive transit vision should prioritize service information catering to those who speak little or no English.

The panel discussion also centered around needs to include input from those advocating for people with disabilities, noting they are not just consumers, but also business owners and entrepreneurs.


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