Written By: Emily Haan, Marketing & Public Relations Intern, Ames Chamber of Commerce
The Ames Chamber of Commerce and League of Women’s Voters sponsored the 2021 State of the Community this past Thursday, January 28. The virtual event consisted of discussion with our community leaders on challenges faced from this last year, upcoming projects and goals, and how to move forward with the ongoing pandemic as a community.
The community leaders on the panel featured: Rob Denson, President of Des Moines Area Community College; Jenny Risner, Superintendent of the Ames Community School District; Lisa Heddens, Story County Board of Supervisors; Brian Dieter, President and CEO of Mary Greeley, Wendy Wintersteen; President of Iowa State University; and Mayor of Ames, John Haila. Dieter began the meeting by pointing out that exactly one year ago on January 28, 2020, Mary Greeley initiated their first “Incident Command Team” in response to COVID-19, a team that has been meeting regularly ever since.
2020 was a year of navigating various challenges for the communities’ organizations. Superintendent Risner commented on how the public school system was given the opportunity to be “reimagined,” as education leaders had to be inventive and adapt accordingly to the ever-changing environment in 2020. President Denson of DMACC said his greatest challenge was helping students and young people understand the opportunities they have, even if the opportunities may have seemed bleak amidst COVID-19. Regarding Iowa State, President Wintersteen applauded the University for taking action in the diagnostic process of COVID-19, highlighting the Veterinary Diagnostic Lab and how they have provided over 30,000 COVID-19 tests to students and faculty. Within the Story County department, Supervisor Heddens described how she was able to keep her community meetings open to the public and meet their needs, all while maintaining mask and social-distancing protocols. While 2020 presented many challenges including being distanced and isolated, President Wintersteen remarked that the Ames community had come together in ways she couldn’t have imagined.
Much of the discussion revolved around how to both recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and prosper during this improvement period, as well as new community projects and plans for the upcoming year. With spring fast approaching, Heddens has exciting plans for improving the parks and roads around Story County, conservation projects, and implementing programs to increase access to camping and campgrounds for low income families. Many exciting construction projects will be taking place in 2021, including the brand new Ames High School, the Iowa State Student Performance Center, a family care center at Mary Greeley, and several different construction projects at DMACC. Mayor Haila said he is eager to see these community improvements, as well as seeing existing programs reopen and see the community reengaging once again. All members of the panel shared plans to implement new or more intense diversity and equity training programs to ensure their institutions are as diverse and inclusive as possible. Superintendent Risner stressed the importance of recruiting and retaining people of color within the Ames community. Members of the panel also voiced that they would like the Annual Symposium on Building Inclusive Organizations to continue this year, an event hosted by the Ames Chamber of Commerce, Iowa State University, and the City of Ames.
All community leaders were encouraged at the prospects of the Ames community in 2021. Mayor Haila concluded that for the community to overcome these ever-present challenges, Ames must remain in a tight-knit, committed partnership with each other in the community and in the county.
304 Main St.
Ames, Iowa 50010
Phone: (515) 232-2310
About the Ames Chamber
Centrally and conveniently located in the heart of the Midwest and Iowa, Ames is known for its healthy, stable economy, flourishing cultural environment, and the world-renowned Iowa State University.
With over 700 members, the Ames Chamber of Commerce strives to make Ames a better place to live, work, and do business by strengthening the economic vitality and the quality of life in the Ames community.