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Quarterly Economic Development Programs Introduce Emerging Business Trends

May 25, 2021 | Business Support

The Economic Alliance’s mission is to drive economic, workforce and population growth strategies, and to help businesses succeed. We set a strategic goal in 2021 to support this mission by identifying and introducing emerging economic development and business trends from experts in these prospective areas. Programming and resources are then made available to Economic Alliance members as industry research continues. Two programs, one on Manufacturing 4.0, and one exploring the “SHEcession” were held recently with a wide representation of industries in attendance.

Manufacturing 4.0

In April, Mike O’Donnell, Associate Director of the Technical Assistance Center, CIRAS spoke about Iowa’s ability to move quickly with what is referred to as the fourth industrial revolution, or Manufacturing 4.0. The first industrial revolution was in 1765 with coal, the second in 1870 with gas, electricity and oil, the third in 1969 with electronics and nuclear technology and finally the fourth in the 2000’s with the internet and renewable energy.

Moving through the fourth industrial revolution, we’re seeing a shift to renewable energy with solar, wind and geothermal energies. The momentum comes not from the shift in energy but from the acceleration of digital technology. The internet and the digital world mean a real-time connection within more and more components of a production line bringing the physical and the virtual world to a moment where they merge and intertwine. This is important as businesses must mitigate supply chain risk, consider rising healthcare and labor costs specific to Iowa, and head off the challenges in available workforce.

Manufacturing 4.0 at it’s core, is simple. It opens new doors in solving problems. Mike emphasized that this most often looks like smaller incremental steps towards change. Examples of Iowa businesses putting technology into play are Vermeer with virtual reality (VR) technician training, Malven Fire Tool Works using 3D scanning to re-engineer a product, and various uses of 3D printing improving processes for small to mid-sized companies. For more information, support, and resources available with the CIRAS/Alliant Energy digital manufacturing lab, contact Mike O’Donnell at

or visit A recording of this Economic Alliance session can be viewed at

The Women’s Recession (“SHEcession”)

The Women’s Recession; sometimes referred to as the “SHEcession” is real. According to the National Womens Law Center (NWLC), 2.3 million women have left the labor force since the start of the pandemic, bringing the women’s labor force down to a 33 year low. Women’s employment has suffered larger losses than their male counterparts, recording over 5.3 million net job losses. Over-representation or women in some sectors like childcare provision ironically have not only caused women to lose their jobs, but compounded the pre-COVID childcare availability crisis. Many women have simply had no choice but to leave their jobs due to school and child care-related center closures.

On April 1, Tiffany O’Donnell, CEO of Women Lead Change (WLC) and Patti Seda, CEO & President of Seda Consulting, LLC shed light on what businesses can do to support their employees. One topic discussed included the importance of flex schedules as both talent attraction and retention considerations during a tight workforce market. Other areas discussed during the session were how businesses are downsizing their workforce, specifically women in senior leadership roles, and how disproportionately women of color are being affected due to juggling elevated responsibilities. Learn more about the “SHEcession” and WLC at, spoke about the “Imposter Syndrome” and how businesses can help support employees who may benefit from understanding how this is holding them back from opportunities. Learn more about the “SHEcession” and Women Lead Change at A recording of this Economic Alliance session can be viewed at: