2022 was full of news. As many organizations shifted strategic priorities after dealing with two years of pausing many major initiatives because of the pandemic, they were met with lingering economic turmoil caused by COVID and the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February.
While markets have been uncertain, many projects were still proposed and completed in the Des Moines area. This year has been marked by continued efforts in placemaking, technology changes, policy change, leadership transitions, nonprofits serving those most affected by the economic downturn and more.
Here’s a look back at some of the biggest business stories in Des Moines and the state from this year as reported at the time of publication. While comprehensive, there were far more events than we could include in one list.
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— Emily Barske, editor
Jan. 5 Governor’s office announces $210M in broadband grants
More than $210 million has been awarded to grant applicants to further expand high-speed internet across Iowa, the governor’s office announced. According to a news release, the funding was awarded to more than 160 applicants as part of the investment to expand broadband across the state. “Our commitment to high-speed, reliable broadband for all Iowans continues to make great progress,” Gov. Kim Reynolds said in the release. “We’ve received an overwhelming number of applications and funding requests, which highlights the considerable need to expand broadband to all corners of the state. Our investments will help bridge the gap and provide thousands more Iowans the necessary connectivity needed in their homes and communities.” According to the release, the projects that received funding represent more than $526 million in broadband investment, serving more than 39,000 homes, schools and businesses.
Jan. 11 Cooper’s Hawk, an upscale restaurant with wine tasting rooms, planned in Clive
Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurant, an upscale dining restaurant featuring wine tasting rooms and clubs, plans to open an establishment at 12801 University Ave. in Clive, a spokesperson for the national restaurant chain confirmed. Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurant, headquartered in Orland Park, Ill., is planned on the site once occupied by Granite City Food & Brewery. Granite City, based in Bloomington, Minn., closed its doors in March 2020 after its parent company filed for bankruptcy.
Jan. 17 Seven-story building planned in Des Moines’ East Village
A seven-story building with street-level retail and 110 apartment units is planned on the southwest corner of East Sixth and Walnut streets in Des Moines’ East Village neighborhood. The project is being developed by Heart of America Group, a hospitality and real estate development company. The project would be one of four apartment developments under construction or planned in the downtown area in 2022. The construction is expected to be finished by 2023. The building will be built with durable steel and insulated concrete forms, making the structure very energy efficient. The Des Moines City Council in December 2021 approved preliminary terms of a 20-year development agreement with Heart of America Group.
Jan. 19 Local music promoter buys Val Air Ballroom in West Des Moines
The Val Air Ballroom, which has hosted scores of events featuring nearly every genre of music over the past 82 years, has been purchased by a local music promoter who plans a historical renovation of the structure that will include updates to the sound system and interior. VAB LLC paid $1.9 million for the 8.5-acre parcel at 301 Ashworth Road in West Des Moines. VAB LLC is managed by Samuel Summers, owner of Wooly’s, a live music venue in Des Moines’ East Village, and First Fleet Concerts, a local promotion company.
Jan. 28 Agreement signed to bring pro soccer team to Des Moines
Efforts to bring professional soccer to the Greater Des Moines area cleared a major hurdle with the signing of a franchise agreement between Kyle Krause and representatives of the United Soccer League. The agreement capped a more than two-year push to gain public and private backing not only for a professional Des Moines-based soccer team, but also a new outdoor stadium and plaza. The professional soccer club and Pro Iowa Stadium and Global Plaza, planned on a site near the southwest entryway into downtown, not only will bring new entertainment to the Des Moines area, but will also provide an economic boost, Krause said.
Feb. 3 WDM conduit project will move forward following lawsuit settlement
The city of West Des Moines will pay Mediacom $595,000 and allow the internet service to license parts of its conduit network, resolving a lawsuit filed more than a year ago, according to the settlement agreement reached by the two parties. Under the terms of the agreement, Mediacom agreed to dismiss the lawsuit and its related petition with the Federal Communications Commission, which was never ruled on by the commission. As part of the agreement the city does not admit to any wrongdoing. The citywide conduit network is set to move forward with several changes outlined in the agreement. Mediacom will be able to license portions of “unused and unlicensed city-owned conduit” to install its own fiber-optic cables in both Phase 1 and 2 of the conduit.
Feb. 3 Littlefield to lead Principal’s retirement savings business; Schaaff to retire
Principal Financial Group announced that Chris Littlefield has been named president of its Retirement and Income Solutions business, effective April 1. This follows the decision of Renee Schaaf, current president of RIS, to retire after more than 41 years with the company. Littlefield joined Principal in January 2020 as executive vice president and general counsel, and also serves as corporate secretary to the board of directors. He previously was president and CEO of two life insurance and annuity companies, Fidelity & Guaranty Life Insurance Holdings and Aviva USA Corp.
Feb. 10 TAI marks 25 years supporting Iowa technology companies
When the Technology Association of Iowa was founded in 1997, the U.S. was nearing the peak of the dot-com bubble and a burgeoning industry of software development and information technology was emerging in Iowa. Now known as TAI, President Brian Waller said the organization has grown with its members, adapting its strategy and programming to what they need. Iowa’s technology companies have also redefined their label over the last 25 years as their technology operations have become integral to overall business strategy and advancement.
Feb. 23 Workiva names Iskow president and COO
Workiva Inc. announced Tuesday the promotion of Julie Iskow to president and chief operating officer, effective March 1. Iskow will be responsible for Workiva’s global growth strategy and commercial operations, including enterprise-wide product development, platform innovation, sales, marketing, service delivery and customer success. She has extensive experience in product development, optimizing operations, and scaling enterprise software-as-a-service companies with strong, profitable growth. Before joining Workiva, she held a variety of executive technology and engineering leadership positions.
Feb. 23 $80 million golf, entertainment venue proposed in Johnston
A local development and investment group is partnering with the city of Johnston on an $80 million project that would include a golf entertainment venue and connecting hotel located along a rapidly redeveloping portion of Merle Hay Road. The development is proposed to include a 100-room hotel that will be attached to a 50,000-square-foot golf entertainment venue with 60 bays from which golf balls can be hit onto a driving range. The venue, called Bombers, is also proposed to include a video arcade, a rooftop bar and a full-service restaurant.
March 10 WDM raises budget for conduit network, citing construction disruptions
After agreeing to settle a lawsuit against the city in December 2020, the future of West Des Moines’ initiative to construct a citywide conduit network capable of delivering broadband faced other challenges. The network will be distinct as it provides space for more than one provider to access West Des Moines’ rights of way, but the city is first navigating hiccups in the supply chain and with contractors that are, in turn, demanding a higher budget. Following the announcement of the $595,000 settlement agreement with Mediacom, the West Des Moines City Council held a special meeting on Jan. 24 proposing an amendment to its Economic Development Digital Enterprise Urban Renewal Plan to raise the not-to-exceed cost of constructing the conduit network to $60 million because of “increases in construction costs due to supply chain demands,” according to the amendment. This was an increase from the $50 million not-to-exceed amount originally outlined in the urban renewal plan approved by the council in July 2020.
March 23 Apple project in Waukee moving forward
Apple Inc. has begun infrastructure improvements at the site in Waukee where it announced in 2017 that it planned on constructing a massive data center. The city has approved construction drawings for public improvements and the Waukee City Council is expected to approve the site plan in April or May. Apple, the Cupertino, Calif.-based company behind products like iPhones, iPads and Apple Watches, announced in 2017 that it would construct a state-of-the-art data center in Waukee on about 2,000 acres in the northwest section of the city near the intersection of Hickman Road and S Avenue.
March 25 DMARC looks to increase ability to fight food insecurity with move to new building
The Des Moines Area Religious Council moved to a new building, allowing the agency to expand space for offices, conference, and training rooms as well as leased space for some of its partner organizations. The move will provide a warehouse that is four times larger than its previous space. DMARC is an interfaith organization made up of more than 125 congregations from five faith traditions. It manages a food pantry network consisting of 14 sites, a mobile food pantry, food warehouses and various community supporters.
April 4 Stoddard Cancer Center launches public phase of $18M fundraising campaign
John Stoddard Cancer Center, a service of UnityPoint Health-Des Moines, launched the public phase of “It Takes You,” a comprehensive fundraising campaign. The campaign will invest $18 million into the cancer center over the next three years, with a community fundraising goal of $6 million to support critical elements of treatment beyond medical expenses. “For more than 30 years, the team at the John Stoddard Cancer Center has been committed to bringing the latest technology, advanced expert care and comprehensive individualized treatment plans to each patient,” said David Stark, president and CEO of UnityPoint Health-Des Moines. “We were the first cancer center in Central Iowa to house all radiation oncology and ancillary services in one location and we continue to lead the way with the highest quality cancer care.” Of the total $18 million goal, the cancer center plans to use $9 million for capital and equipment upgrades, and $9 million will be invested in programs and services.
April 6 Hardman tapped as DEI inclusion officer, VP of human resources for Broadlawns
Broadlawns Medical Center announced that Renee Hardman will join the organization as its first chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer and as vice president of human resources. Hardman was the CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Iowa. (Bridget Cravens-Neely was announced as the new CEO of BBBSCI in June.)
April 14 Grimes council accepts land donation, $12 million for GrimesPlex
The city of Grimes now owns land on which a 50-acre multiuse sports complex is planned after the City Council this week approved accepting the land donation as well as $12 million from the project’s original developer. Hope Development & Realty LLC announced in fall 2020 that it would develop the Midwest’s largest turf sports tourism venue as part of its Hope District, 200 acres north of Iowa Highway 141 and East First Street. When fully developed, the area is expected to include housing, hotels, restaurants and retail development.
April 15 Polk County supervisors replace nonprofit with new department to manage mental health and disability services
At a special public meeting, the Polk County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 in favor of creating a new department focusing on behavioral health and disability services in the community. The resolution creates a new nine-person department, which will be led by an interim CEO to replace the Polk County Health Services CEO, Liz Cox. Supervisor Matt McCoy voted against the resolution. The move follows a vote approved by the supervisors in their March 29 meeting to not renew the board’s contract with Polk County Health Services. The nonprofit entity was created by Polk County in 1976 to develop and oversee a local network of services and support for people who have disabilities. The private, nonprofit organization was governed by a separate community board.
April 19 MercyOne to become wholly owned by Michigan-based Trinity Health
Trinity Health and CommonSpirit Health, which have jointly owned and operated MercyOne for the past 24 years, announced they signed an agreement for Trinity Health to acquire all of the facilities and assets of MercyOne. Based in West Des Moines, MercyOne is a regional health system that serves more than 3.3 million patients annually. Since 1998, MercyOne has operated under a joint operating agreement between the two not-for-profit Catholic health care organizations. CommonSpirit, formerly known as Catholic Health Initiatives, and Trinity each hold a 50% ownership stake in MercyOne.
April 26 Aureon launches new 616 Data Center, serving local businesses, telecommunications providers
Business services provider Aureon’s new 616 Data Center located in downtown Des Moines looks like a standard office building on the outside, but it’s built to withstand up to an EF3 tornado and workers inside were undisturbed when the 2020 derecho tore through Iowa. This data center joins Aureon’s West Des Moines location and another data center downtown, which will now gradually move into the 616 building. Construction on the multimillion-dollar project began in 2019, and it opened to customers on March 1. Aureon also has data centers in Minneapolis, Chicago, Kansas City and Omaha. Scott Behn, who has been CEO of Aureon since 2019, said Aureon started investing in data centers about five years ago as part of its strategic plan, and that the Iowa expansion was driven by a need for more space.
May 15 UI a leader in women’s representation in leadership, national study says
The University of Iowa was recognized as a national leader in gender representation in leadership in a 2022 study by the Eos Foundation. The study ranked universities by awarding points in three categories: having a woman as president or chancellor, having a woman as provost, and the percentages of women who are academic deans, serve on the president’s cabinet and are tenured professors. Universities that received 72 or more points were given the “leader” distinction. The University of Iowa ranked No. 4, scoring 84.8 points. Once the institutions were ranked, the study placed them into categories indicating how well they’re doing in working toward women’s representation in university leadership.
May 19 Community Foundation celebrates start of construction on new campus, C3 Center
The Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines’ new campus and C3 Center will serve as a central hub to the region’s nonprofit and charitable giving communities when it opens in early 2023. The foundation hosted a ceremony where the board chair Franklin Codel discussed the project and what it means for the community. The project is being paid for entirely through donations.
May 27 New innovation fund to offer Iowa nonprofits $20M in grants
Gov. Kim Reynolds announced a $20 million investment from the new Nonprofit Innovation Fund to help nonprofits fund infrastructure projects that expand resources and services to more Iowans. This includes construction cost, acquisition, site development, engineering and architectural services. The program provides awards up to $3 million for infrastructure projects. The funds are made available through the federal American Rescue Plan Act.
May 27 Business leaders cite tax reform as top accomplishment during 2022 legislative session
As the 2022 legislative session gaveled out, business leaders were touting the accomplishments they say will make Iowa a more attractive place to live, work, play and do business. Many were pleased with the tax reform bill, which lowered the personal income tax and made it a flat rate, and also lowered the state’s corporate tax rate. Business leaders said a bill that reformed the state’s unemployment system will help get people back to work faster at a time when the state is facing a labor shortage; it reduced the number of weeks someone can collect unemployment benefits from 26 to 16. There were two child care bills that passed that, while not everyone agreed on their benefits, business leaders said will help make child care more accessible.
June 9 Israel to head Global Insurance Accelerator
The Global Insurance Accelerator announced Dan Israel will be its next managing director. Israel started at the GIA on May 31, working with current managing director Nicole Gunderson through the summer to transition into the role and prepare for the fall selection of the 2023 cohort. Israel’s most recent role was as director – enterprise strategy and innovation at Principal Financial Group, which is an investor in the GIA. He has also held financial roles at Rolls Royce North America, Target Corp. and Principal Global Investors.
June 10 Historic north Des Moines building to undergo $4.3 million restoration
During the past three years or so, a renaissance has occurred along Sixth Avenue in Des Moines’ Highland Park/Oak Park neighborhoods with the renovation and repurposing of decades-old buildings. That resurgence has turned the corner, literally, expanding eastward along Euclid Avenue. Work is expected to begin in July on a $4.3 million restoration of a distinctive-looking two-story brick building at 413 Euclid Ave. that for decades was home to French Way Cleaners & Dyers.
June 23 With Topgolf’s WDM location, three golf entertainment venue developments in the works
Topgolf Entertainment Group announced its plans to bring a location to West Des Moines, making it the state’s first Topgolf venue and the third indoor golfing venue under development in the Des Moines metro area. The multilevel venue would feature 72 climate-controlled outdoor hitting bays, food and beverages, TVs, music, and year-round programming, according to a Topgolf release. Hurd Real Estate is planning to develop the Topgolf facility on 12 acres of land it owns on the northwest corner of Jordan Creek Parkway and Mills Civic Parkway, south of Hy-Vee Fast & Fresh. Elsewhere, Dr. Allen Stoye, a principal in Stoye & Kann Development, is developing the proposed $80 million golf, entertainment and hotel complex called Bombers on Merle Hay Road. The second local project is the $26 million Suite Shots golf entertainment venue located south of Grand Avenue in West Des Moines being developed by developer Paul Cownie and North Dakota developer Kevin Christianson. The Suite Shots project is facing lawsuits from a group of residents who live in the nearby gated community of Glen Oaks and oppose the development.
June 13 Chevron acquires REG
Chevron has completed its acquisition of Ames-based Renewable Energy Group, the gas and oil producer announced. The acquisition combines REG’s growing renewable fuels production and feedstock capabilities with Chevron’s large manufacturing, distribution and marketing position. The acquisition will help Chevron, the second-largest oil and gas producer in the U.S., reach its goal to increase its renewable fuels production to 100,000 barrels a day by 2030. REG, which employs about 1,000 people globally, moved to Ames in 2007. The company recently opened a new 15,000-square-foot building on its Ames campus to accommodate current and future growth, and to help facilitate high levels of collaboration among employees.
June 14 Iowa Women’s Foundation, IEDA announce new position to address child care needs
The Iowa Women’s Foundation in partnership with the Iowa Economic Development Authority announced a new full-time position dedicated to helping Iowa businesses develop child care policies for their employees. Sheri Penney will work as the Iowa Women’s Foundation’s employer engagement director. She will help businesses across the state understand the economic impact of child care, assess employee needs and understand solutions to the issue.
June 16 New YSS youth recovery campus embeds trauma-informed design in its walls
Homes are a central component of the residential addiction treatment YSS provides to Iowa youths. Two adapted houses in Ames have served as treatment facilities to help youths feel welcomed and comfortable while they recover. The new $13 million, 70-bed youth recovery campus, which is set to open in fall 2023, will provide residential addiction treatment for youths ages 12-17 and for young adults ages 18-24. A crisis stabilization and emergency shelter program will be offered as well.
June 16 GuideOne leadership transition comes while discrimination complaint ongoing
GuideOne Insurance Co. announced that it has named its new CEO. The change comes as the company faces a former senior vice president’s discrimination complaint in which he alleges the former CEO was ousted for challenging the handling of an investigation that led to the SVP’s termination. The new CEO, Bernard Hengesbaugh, an 11-year member of GuideOne’s board of directors, fills the chief executive role that was being held on an interim basis since February by the company’s chief counsel, Andy Noga, following the departure of Jessica Snyder. Snyder, who joined the company in June 2017 as CEO, abruptly left the company in mid-February. The leadership change comes amid GuideOne’s defense of a complaint filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on March 29 by Mark Groenheide, who led a specialty division of the company, according to documents reviewed by the Business Record that are not public. He alleges in the EEOC complaint that GuideOne launched a compliance investigation into him and later fired him after company officials learned in the fall that he is bisexual. Groenheide also alleges that Snyder’s support of him during the company’s investigation of his alleged wrongdoing led to her termination.
July 1 Iowa companies weigh in on impact of Roe v. Wade decision on state’s workforce
The U.S. Supreme Court in June overturned Roe v. Wade, ending a nearly 50-year precedent of a federal right to abortion. To see how business leaders were reacting, the Business Record reached out to more than 45 companies across the state, including Iowa Business Council members, companies listed as the largest nongovernment employers in the Business Record’s Book of Lists, and the state’s publicly held companies. Twelve responded with comments for publication. The following companies announced expansions to benefits to include travel reimbursement for health services: Principal Financial Group, Wells Fargo, Dotdash Meredith, Bridgestone and Businessolver. Other companies said they were reviewing benefits and monitoring the ruling’s reach, including Hy-Vee, MidAmerican, Wellmark, Kum & Go, the Weitz Co., NCMIC and Sammons Financial Group.
July 7 McClure Engineering announces CEO transition
McClure Engineering CEO Terry Lutz transitioned to chairman of McClure as of July 1, and succeeding him is McClure’s Executive Vice President Dustin Leo. Lutz became president and CEO of the company in 1985 and led its growth to more than 200 employees across the Midwest, according to a news release. “We’ve challenged [Leo] with a lot of different tasks and he’s been willing to take on whatever we give him,” Lutz said. “I think he’s done a great job of getting people to follow him. I feel really good about stepping aside and letting him take over and move the company forward. I think he possesses the skill set, the vision, and the energy to continue to move McClure in a growth pattern as we meet the future.”
July 15 Economists describe uncertain times as risk of recession looms
Economists on a panel hosted by the Business Record said rising inflation and increased costs will make planning difficult for companies, increasing the risk of a recession. The panel was hosted a day after a new report showed inflation at 9.1% compared with a year ago. Participants included Peter Orazem, a professor of economics at Iowa State University, and Anne Villamil, an economics professor at the University of Iowa. Due to labor shortages, Iowa’s economic growth is struggling, they said. While there are other factors Orazem said, “I don’t think you’re going to solve a supply chain problem unless you fix international trade and the domestic labor supply problem.”
July 21 Landus brings the farm to the city with DM Innovation Connector
Landus Cooperative has established a touch of rural Iowa and farms with its Innovation Connector. Its goal is to foster agricultural innovation in a way that is accessible to local, national and global companies and serves as a new resource to one of Iowa’s key industries. The space is located on the third floor of the building at 220 S.W. Ninth Street in downtown Des Moines. With the announcement of the connector’s launch, Landus also announced the innovation partners, including local names like Sukup Manufacturing and ChopLocal as well as international companies Yara and AGI.
July 28 Aaron Wiese tapped to become Hy-Vee’s CEO, Jeremy Gosch later named co-CEO
Hy-Vee Inc. executive Aaron Wiese was named CEO of the West Des Moines-based retailer, effective Oct. 1, Hy-Vee CEO and Board Chairman Randy Edeker announced in a press release. Wiese had been the vice chairman of Hy-Vee Inc. Less than a month later, the West Des Moines-based grocery chain said it was also elevating Jeremy Gosch to co-CEO and president of retail operations. (In December, the company announced that Gosch is the only CEO and also vice chairman of the board. Hy-Vee executives Wiese and Donna Tweeten are presidents, supervising different areas of Hy-Vee’s business.)
July 19 Newland named president and CEO of UnityPoint Clinic
UnityPoint Health has named Dr. Patricia Newland as president and CEO of UnityPoint Clinic, effective Aug. 14. Newland, who joined UnityPoint Clinic in 2000 as a board-certified, practicing family physician, was most recently medical director of primary care for UnityPoint Health. She succeeds Dr. Sanjeeb Khatua, who had held that position since January 2021. In a release, the health systems said that Newland was “selected by a committee of leaders and physicians based on her expertise in advancing quality and safety outcomes, as well as her trusted leadership and dedication to elevating the clinician experience.”
Aug. 4 NewBoCo extends resources into new communities with partnership program
Cedar Rapids nonprofit NewBoCo launched a Community Partners Pilot Program to work with communities that want to bring existing NewBoCo programs to their community. This will help strengthen the innovation ecosystem and close gaps in resources for entrepreneurship, tech education and innovation. NewBoCo’s slate of programs covers entrepreneurship, tech education and innovation. In the planning stages of the pilot program, about 20 economic developers from different regions indicated in a survey that communities across the state needed more support in the three areas NewBoCo focuses on, but they were ranked differently by each region in terms of priority. NewBoCo Executive Director Aaron Horn said tailoring to the needs of different regions is what makes the pilot more than expanding its programs.
Aug. 8 WesleyLife Meals on Wheels launches $8.25M fundraising campaign
The need for addressing food insecurity among older Central Iowans has grown exponentially in the past couple of years. Greater Des Moines leaders are responding with a plan that will multiply the impact of Meals on Wheels, a program that has provided hot meals and vital social contact for older residents for the past 16 years. Meals on Wheels, which is operated by nonprofit senior services provider WesleyLife Inc., has launched an $8.25 million capital campaign that will fund a new headquarters for the initiative. The centerpiece of the renovated facility, located at 3206 University Ave. on the Drake University campus, will be a state-of-the-art commercial kitchen that will enable volunteers to prepare and deliver 3,000 nutritious, hot meals a day for delivery to seniors and veterans across Greater Des Moines.
Aug. 17 Via Health Services to open 32-bed all-women memory care unit in Des Moines
Via Health Services, a family-owned skilled nursing company, announced it was opening a 32-bed memory care unit at its existing south Des Moines facility. It will be the first women-only Alzheimer’s and dementia care unit in Central Iowa, according to Via Health’s president, Jennifer Conner. The unit will be licensed as a CCDI (chronic confusion and dementing illness) facility. The 32 rooms will have a private restroom for patients that come to get help. The unit’s three wings are designed as low-stimulation areas with features such as frosted glass on the lower portion of room windows but clear at top to allow views of the sky. Each wing has a nurses’ station with windows for observation as well as cameras monitoring the hallways.
Sept. 5 Iowa Women’s Foundation announces $3M Legacy Grant Fund campaign
The Iowa Women’s foundation announced a $3 million legacy grant fund campaign. The organization was originally launched in 1994 by a group of 27 women who felt Iowa women’s needs were not being met. The new fund, which has a goal of raising $3 million by the end of 2023, will be the foundation’s first-ever source of ongoing revenue. Money raised through the fund will specifically go toward grantmaking and programs, rather than its operational budget.
Sept. 13 Des Moines council approves purchase of former Nationwide building
The city of Des Moines is moving forward with a proposal to buy a downtown office building and parking garage after the City Council on Monday approved a purchase agreement with the properties’ seller, Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. Last week, city officials announced the proposed purchase of the office building at 1200 Locust St. that previously had been occupied by Nationwide. The purchase also includes acquisition of a parking garage at 1200 Mulberry St. The purchase price of the two properties totals $40.6 million. The city plans on selecting an architectural firm to conduct a workspace utilization study to determine city departments’ space needs, develop a master use plan, and estimate costs of office designs and renovations. Nationwide has consolidated its office space into a 732,000-square-foot building it owns at 1100 Locust St.
Sept. 13 Gov. Reynolds awards $26.6M in child care business incentive grants, announces second round of funding
Gov. Kim Reynolds announced $26.6 million in grant funding to 23 projects across the state that will help businesses create more child care options for their employees. The funding will involve 67 employers and is expected to create more than 1,700 child care slots, according to a news release. The grant was born from an effort to incentivize business engagement in child care. Grants will support projects that increase child care slots, add slots for workers who work nontraditional hours or fill currently licensed slots for the benefit of employees.
Sept. 14 Food insecurity continues to increase as need rises
Food insecurity in Central Iowa continues to reach record levels, according to reports from the Des Moines Area Religious Council and Food Bank of Iowa. The rising levels of food insecurity comes two years after it skyrocketed with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. The number of people needing assistance to put food on the table has risen again in recent months as inflation surged to its highest levels in 40 years. As the prices are rising in the economy many people are struggling to meet the new cost of food, housing, child care, transportation and health care. Many food pantries saw an increase of visitors, many a record number.
Sept. 15 Maple Ventures hires first director, plans next phase
Entrepreneur support center Maple Ventures is moving into its next phase with the announcement of its first full-time director and plans to triple the amount of space available to industrial technology companies at Ramco Innovations. Megan Brandt has started as director of Maple Ventures. She was previously at the Global Insurance Accelerator, where she served as program manager since 2016. Renovations are underway to convert one of three buildings at Ramco’s West Des Moines location to house Maple Ventures. The new space is expected to open in 2023.
Sept. 18 United Way of Central Iowa’s Women United chapter celebrates 20-year anniversary
Since its start in 2002, the United Way of Central Iowa’s Women United program has raised more than $26 million toward early childhood education. “We had no idea this thing would take off like it did. We thought we’d maybe get 20, 25 people [on board]. We were so excited when we got to 40 people,” Dr. Andy McGuire said. “It was pretty amazing that a bunch of women got together at a time when women weren’t quite what women are now, and thought we could do this, and did.” The group, which was then called United Way of Central Iowa’s Women’s Leadership Connection, began when former United Way CEO Martha Willits and former education director Maureen Tiffany gathered a group of women to discuss starting a philanthropic effort, where they chose to make early childhood education their primary focus. They recognized that having early access to quality, educational child care supported their brain development, which then in turn positively affected the rest of their life’s trajectory.
Sept. 20 Community raises $3,000 for new joint bakery during fourth annual Flourish Fund event
Kristen Daily and Chelsea Smith’s joint bakery took home $3,000 at the fourth annual Flourish Fund event. Daily is the baker and owner of Pie Bird Pies, a home-based bakery in the Drake neighborhood. Smith is a self-taught sourdough bread maker and runs an artisan sourdough bakery called Bread by Chelsea B. The money will be used in opening their new joint business within the next year, they said.
Oct. 3 Nelson named president of Kemin Nutrisurance
Kemin Industries, a global ingredient manufacturer based in Des Moines, has named Kimberly Nelson, a third-generation member of Kemin’s founding family, as president of Kemin Nutrisurance, the company’s pet food and rendering technologies business unit. Nelson has worked for the company for seven years, most recently as general manager – North America for Kemin Nutrisurance. During her tenure, the global business unit saw double-digit sales growth despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and its stress on the supply chain. Before joining Kemin Nutrisurance, Nelson was president of Kemin Textile Auxiliaries, operating under the brand Garmon Chemicals, which provides chemical solutions for the denim and apparel industry. She will begin her new role in October. Alberto Muñoz, currently marketing director for Kemin Nutrisurance, will fill her previous position as general manager – North America for the business unit.
Oct. 4 76-room GrandStay Hotel planned in Johnston Town Center
A Minnesota-based development group plans to build a four-story, 76-room hotel in the Johnston Town Center, a $100 million development underway at Merle Hay Road and Northwest 62nd Avenue. The GrandStay Hotel will be the third commercial project in the Town Center. The Johnston hotel, with a footprint of 12,800 square feet, will include some extended-stay rooms, an indoor swimming pool, a breakfast bar, a conference room and an outdoor patio. The Johnston City Council approved selling city-owned property at 6215 Merle Hay Road to Douglas A. Carlson Development Inc. and Johnston Hospitality LLC for $183,400. When completed, the hotel is expected to have an assessed value of between $6 million and $7 million.
Oct. 13 Iowa receives $96M federal investment for entrepreneurship, small business
The Iowa Economic Development Authority announced a $96 million investment to support small businesses and entrepreneurs in Iowa. The U.S. Treasury Department approved the funding to Iowa through its State Small Business Credit Initiative. The Treasury Department approved Iowa’s amount based on a plan submitted by IEDA. Iowa’s SSBCI dollars will focus on encouraging venture capital and investment in scalable innovation companies through programs such as the Loan Participation Program for Manufacturing 4.0 Investments, Small Business Collateral Support Program, Venture Capital Innovation Fund Program, and Venture Capital Co-Investment Fund Program.
Oct. 21 MercyOne restoring information systems following CommonSpirit ransomware attack
MercyOne Central Iowa said today that CommonSpirit is in the process of restoring systems that were taken offline and MercyOne Central Iowa is beginning to restore access to the electronic health record system, electronic prescribing tools and other platforms, such as the payroll system. MercyOne Central Iowa’s information systems were affected Oct. 3 as part of a ransomware attack against former parent company CommonSpirit Health. Online appointment scheduling remains unavailable for MercyOne Central Iowa patients, the release said.
Oct. 24 Google plans $600M data center expansion
The Iowa Economic Development Authority Board approved assistance for two projects Friday, including a $600 million expansion of Google’s data center in Council Bluffs, the tech company’s largest. The city of Council Bluffs requested that the board authorize a local property tax exemption. Later, the board approved a $16.6 million local property tax break over 20 years. The project will give more money to new capital investment and will create 31 jobs.
Oct. 25 Iowa launches first publicly funded venture capital fund
Iowa launched its first publicly funded venture capital fund. The InnoVenture Iowa Fund’s mission is to help close the gap in funding for early-stage Iowa startups and spur future innovation in industries where Iowa is naturally competitive. The fund was first announced on Oct. 12. It was a part of the $96 million for small businesses and entrepreneurs that the U.S Treasury Department awarded to Iowa through its State Small Business Credit initiative. The InnoVenture Iowa Fund will function under a co-investment model, meaning the InnoVenture Iowa Fund will never be the lead investor on a startup’s fundraising round, but it will co-invest with other VC firms.
Oct. 25 New Jethro’s BBQ location planned in downtown Des Moines
Entrepreneur and restaurant owner Bruce Gerleman purchased a 6,800-square-foot, two-story office building in June that long had been the headquarters for Master Builders of Iowa. Gerleman is now in the process of converting the 54-year-old office building at 221 Park St. to a restaurant that will become home to Jethro’s BBQ. Last winter, Gerleman was in the process of remodeling the kitchen of his first Jethro’s BBQ restaurant near Drake University when he learned Master Builders of Iowa was selling its property on Park Street. Gerleman, who owns and operates seven other Jethro’s restaurants in Central Iowa, said he made the difficult decision to permanently shutter the establishment at 3100 Forest Ave. The property is listed for sale, he said. “This location [on Park Street] is just such a better location than Drake,” Gerleman said. “Drake is less than three miles away, so that’s really just too close together for two [Jethro’s].” The restaurant is expected to open in 2023.
Nov. 2 Details unveiled for $600 million development in West Des Moines
A $600 million development that would include one of the Midwest’s largest indoor water parks is planned on undeveloped land surrounding West Des Moines’ recently completed athletic and recreation center. The development, called the Grand Experience, is proposed on 226 acres along Grand Avenue between 60th and 88th streets west of Interstate Highway 35. The Grand Avenue development will generate even more visitors and vehicle traffic to Jordan Creek and surrounding retail, restaurant, and hotel businesses, its backers say. The water park, hotel and entertainment and conference centers are expected to attract 2 million visitors annually.
Nov. 9 MPO board approves contract for first phase of ICON project at Scott Avenue
The Des Moines Metropolitan Planning Organization voted to approve the contract for the first phase of the Scott Avenue portion of the ICON Water Trails project along the downtown Des Moines riverfront. The MPO board voted 16-3 to award a contract to United Contractors and Reilly Construction for $40.9 million. Board members Len Murray of Pleasant Hill, Tom Hockensmith of Des Moines and Mark Hanson of Dallas County all voted no. The first phase includes the in-water elements of the project, including the mitigation of the low-head dam and introduction of whitewater features. Work on that phase is expected to begin in spring 2023.
Nov. 9 Presutti to leave DART
Elizabeth Presutti, CEO of the Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority, will step down from the organization at the end of the year. After serving as DART CEO for 11 years, she is leaving to join her husband, who accepted a position at Collins Aerospace at its new manufacturing facility in Monroe, N.C., near Charlotte. Presutti joined DART In 2008, becoming CEO in 2011. As CEO she oversaw 300 employees and an agency that typically provides nearly 5 million rides a year. She also managed a $40 million operating budget.
Nov. 15 Construction of new terminal could begin in 2024
The Des Moines International Airport has experienced 67% growth in passenger traffic over the past 10 years and has recovered from the severe dips that were seen during the pandemic. Facilities are severely constrained during peak times with the line to get through screening backing up to the escalator at times and keeping people from stepping off the escalator, creating a safety hazard, said Executive Director Kevin Foley. He said projections are that the airport will surpass 5 million passengers by 2042. A new terminal and related improvements are an integral component to continuing the economic development momentum the region has seen in recent years, Foley said. The airport has opted to use a phased approach to the project to keep costs down as inflation rises and prioritize the most important functions in the first phase while considering options for using the existing terminal. The first phase will include building a new terminal to the north of the existing one, and connecting to the current C Concourse. Construction could begin as early as 2023, but more likely in 2024, Foley said.
Nov. 29 Varsity Cinema set to reopen on Dec. 15
Des Moines’ only remaining historic theater will once again be showing new and classic movies. The Varsity Cinema, located at 1207 25th St., is set to reopen on Dec. 15, nearly four years after its previous owner closed its doors. The nonprofit Des Moines Film Society bought the property in fall 2020, and in early 2021 it launched a fundraising campaign to renovate the 106-year-old building.
Dec. 6 MidAmerican to buy Dotdash Meredith’s north building
Dotdash Meredith will sell its north building at 1615 Locust St. in Des Moines to MidAmerican Energy Co., the companies announced to employees in an email Dec. 6. According to an email from Dotdash Meredith CEO Neil Vogel that was provided to the Business Record, the publishing company will retain its historic, brick south building with the tower. The building will undergo a multimillion-dollar renovation to “modernize the workplace and amenities to best support our current employees with room to accommodate more people as we grow.” Employees in the more modern north building will move to the south building by April 1, 2023, when the sale of the building closes. In a statement, officials with MidAmerican said it will vacate space it has leased in the Ruan Center since 1975 when it moves to the former Dotdash building.
Dec. 7 Blue Bunny ice cream maker to be sold to an Italian company
Wells Enterprises, the maker of Blue Bunny ice cream, will be sold to Italy-based Ferrero Group, the companies announced. The acquisition is part of Ferrero’s growth strategy, and fits in with Wells’ vision for accelerated growth, according to a news release. The sale is expected to close in early 2023. Wells, based in the northwestern Iowa city of Le Mars, is a family-owned company that may be best known for its Blue Bunny brand but also has produced brands such as Bomb Pop and Halo Top. It was founded in 1913 and began as a dairy delivery wagon business. Wells will remain a stand-alone business with offices in Le Mars and production facilities in Le Mars, Henderson, Nev., and Dunkirk, N.Y. Wells employs 2,700 people in Iowa and over 4,000 nationwide.
Dec. 8 Hawkeye Surgical Lighting wins first InnoVenture Challenge pitch competition
Hawkeye Surgical Lighting was selected as the winner of the first InnoVenture Challenge pitch competition, hosted by Iowa’s new co-investment fund InnoVenture Iowa. Co-founders Dr. David Christianson and Anthony Piscopo and Chief Operating Officer Manny Ray accepted the $100,000 cash prize. The company has developed the world’s first voice- and motion-controlled surgical headlight that integrates with an iOS app through Bluetooth. It is currently being used by five surgeons at the University of Iowa. The other finalists for the InnoVenture Challenge were the Hummingbirds and Clayton Farms. The InnoVenture Iowa Fund, Iowa’s first publicly funded venture capital fund, launched in October as part of the $96 million for small businesses and entrepreneurs that the U.S. Treasury Department awarded to Iowa through its State Small Business Credit Initiative. The American Rescue Plan Act reauthorized and expanded the credit initiative, providing the department with nearly $10 billion to award to states.
Dec. 12 Details released about fine dining restaurant planned on Ingersoll
A fine dining restaurant called Oak Park will be the anchor tenant of a redevelopment project in the 3900 block of Ingersoll Avenue in Des Moines, the project’s developer announced. The 98-seat restaurant, which will offer modern American cuisine inspired by seasonal ingredients, will be led by hospitality veterans Damon Murphy, who previously was with 801 Chophouse, and Ian Robertson, a chef whose culinary journey began in Iowa and took him to Chicago and New York where he worked in several critically acclaimed restaurants. The redevelopment project, called Block 39, was announced in August by Des Moines businesswoman Kathy Fehrman, a managing partner in Fehrman Investments LLC. Over a year ago, Fehrman purchased property at 3901 and 3913 Ingersoll Ave. that included a building that had housed a medical office and a residence that had been converted to retail space.
Dec. 15 Pratum to be acquired by Heartland Business Systems
Heartland Business Systems, a Wisconsin-based provider of technology services including integration, consulting and business automation, announced its plans to acquire information security company Pratum, headquartered in Ankeny. “We are thrilled to enter into this agreement with Pratum and bring their unique services, talent, and expertise in cybersecurity to HBS,” said Peter Helander, HBS CEO, in a news release. “Now, more than ever, strong cyber defense is vital in protecting organizations of all sizes across all industries. The Pratum team will add additional superior cybersecurity solutions so we will be even better equipped to safeguard clients against cyberattacks.” Pratum provides cybersecurity consulting services, security assessments and SOC/XDR services for clients in the U.S. and internationally, ranging from small businesses to multinational corporations, the release said. “Organizations need help solving cybersecurity and technology challenges, and they want that help to come from one provider. The joining of Pratum with HBS enables us to bring to market an end-to-end cybersecurity and technology service that strengthens security, improves operations, and simplifies the lives of our clients,” said Jordan Engbers, president of Pratum. The acquisition of Pratum announced in February by Infinite Group was not completed, a Pratum spokesperson said in an email.
2022 Year in Review – Business Record
2022 was full of news. As many organizations shifted strategic priorities after dealing with two years of pausing many major initiatives because of the pandemic, they were met with lingering economic turmoil caused by COVID and the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February.