Top Areas of Focus for ICR IOWA in 2020

Dec 17, 2019

As many Economic Alliance members are aware, ICR IOWA is a nonprofit organization launched in 2017 by the Economic Alliance and our partners at the Iowa City Area Development Group. This joint venture was developed to ensure Iowa City-Cedar Rapids (ICR) prospers through community-aligned business attraction and workforce development and includes the seven counties of Benton, Cedar, Iowa, Johnson, Jones, Linn, and Washington.

As the joint venture enters their third year of operation, the team continues to develop and improve on strategies designed to attract new interstate commerce companies and skilled professionals to our region, while also working to develop our future workforce. Here are a few strategies they are planning to implement in 2020:

The ICR Talent Hub has attracted over 470 candidates to date and 22 have been placed in new positions. While that’s a great start, the team is seeking a higher candidate conversion rate. Several strategies will be added in 2020 to help make more matches including a new texting platform and a skills-based hiring pilot.

2. Get Personal. While business attraction projects continue to develop and advance in our region, the ICR Iowa team would like to generate a larger funnel of leads that are identified based on targeted industry and company growth. That work began in 2018 with an email and digital marketing campaign. In 2020 the team intends to do even more targeted marketing that is directed and personalized to individual companies with the hope they consider an Iowa City-Cedar Rapids location.

Our companies continue to voice concerns about the development of “soft skills” in our regional labor force. While many of our schools have social emotional learning curriculum, most don’t currently have a way to measure those essential skills. In 2020, ICR Iowa will be working with ACT and our school districts to pilot ACT’s Tessera, a social and emotional learning platform and curriculum that could help our schools to better develop a future workforce with grit, teamwork, curiosity, resilience, and leadership.

Most students are exposed to very few careers prior to making choices on post high-school plans. We hope to change that through continued efforts with our ICR Future Coalition partners. In 2020, a region-wide career exploration event will be held at the US Cellular Center for all 9th grade students. The event, hosted by Junior Achievement, with support from Workplace Learning Connection and the ICR Future Coalition, will help an estimated 5,000 students explore in-demand career pathways through hands-on activities led by local employers.

To attract new investment, Iowa City-Cedar Rapids must become recognized as a growing mid-size region with almost half a million people at a national level. To raise that awareness, the team will be looking for partners in 2020 who are willing to leverage their own marketing in alignment with the ICR Iowa brand. The “Here, It’s Real” campaign will continue to grow with the support of employers and organizations who can help us pump up the volume and showcase ICR is one region with a growing population and assets that may be unexpected by the traditional perception of Iowa.

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