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Collaboration is successful: Community leaders join forces in Washington, DC

Community leaders stand for a photo in front of the U.S. Capitol during a trip to Washington, D.C., earlier this month. Representatives from the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance and Think Iowa City Inc. spent two days advocating for policies and projects that will benefit the region, its businesses and its residents. (Submitted)

Community leaders stand for a photo in front of the U.S. Capitol during a trip to Washington, D.C., earlier this month. Representatives from the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance and Think Iowa City Inc. spent two days advocating for policies and projects that will benefit the region, its businesses and its residents. (Submitted)

Every day, we do everything we can to support and promote the projects, products and people in our communities and across the region, supporting economic resilience and growth.

We are a region with many stories: from our aviation history that began with the settlement of the Wright brothers, to world-renowned educational institutions that have produced great authors and athletes, to the hospitality of immigrants who formed the foundation of many of our communities.

There is no shortage of stories that help us promote and support the region.

Our stories benefited us earlier this month when we brought a regional delegation of business and community leaders to Washington, DC to promote and advocate for our region and the communities that live within it.

Some ask, “Why are you doing this together?” or “Why are you supporting other people’s priorities that don’t directly impact your business or community?”

The fact is that the business world faces many common challenges and, more importantly, shares common goals. We all want our communities to thrive, our companies to grow, and our workers and future workers to succeed.

When it comes to advocacy in public policy, the power lies in the masses.

Together, we are represented by four elected federal officials who serve on eleven influential congressional committees, including the Finance Committee, the Small Business Committee, the Budget Committee, and the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Together, the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance and Greater Iowa City Inc. represent more than 4,000 corporate members, who together employ over 100,000 people.

We went to Washington with a unified, bipartisan voice and message: we support each other’s projects and priorities to move our entire region forward.

As a group, we have advocated for policies that will enable our region to attract and retain skilled workers and ensure the competitiveness of our businesses. This includes pushing for an increase in Pell Grant funding so that more students have access to the high-demand postgraduate degrees and apprenticeships, including in the skilled trades.

Community leaders pause for a photo during a trip to Washington, D.C., earlier this month. Representatives from the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance and Think Iowa City Inc. spent two days advocating for policies and projects that will benefit the region, its businesses and its residents. (Submitted)

Community leaders pause for a photo during a trip to Washington, D.C., earlier this month. Representatives from the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance and Think Iowa City Inc. spent two days advocating for policies and projects that will benefit the region, its businesses and its residents. (Submitted)

We requested support for a joint grant proposal from Eastern Iowa Airport (CID), Kirkwood Community College, and Coe College to advance their innovative efforts to build a workforce in the aviation industry.

We shared stories about how Collins Aerospace and its small local suppliers will benefit from visa reform, which will increase the number of highly skilled workers in our region.

Our region has demonstrated that strong public-private partnerships have contributed to the growth of our communities, including new investments to plan for population growth.

We call for continued support of critical infrastructure projects in Eastern Iowa that will spur economic development and strengthen our competitiveness, including the expansion of Forevergreen Road, replacement of the Burlington Street Bridge, and completion of Tower Terrace Road.

The return on this trip goes beyond financial or monetary results and is about the valuable relationships we continue to build. We spent time speaking with our hardworking and dedicated federal employees, hosted a reception to promote our region to 75 Washington DC-based professionals with ties to Eastern Iowa, and built stronger connections with each other.

When traveling as a group, time is your friend. You don’t usually have the opportunity to spend so much “free time” with the mayor of a neighboring town, a small business owner chatting with a university representative at the Congressional Baseball Game for Charity, or meeting a recently retired Marine who attended our celebratory reception and is interested in returning to Iowa.

Two short days in our capital city have brought all that and more. We welcome anyone who wants to join our efforts. By presenting our region as united and collaborative, we will continue to achieve great things and have even more stories to tell.

Nancy Bird is president and CEO of Greater Iowa City Inc. Doug Neumann is executive director of the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance.

Opinion pieces reflect the views of the writer or the editorial staff of The Gazette. You can join the discussion by submitting a letter to the editor or guest column, or by suggesting a topic for an editorial to [email protected].

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