Workforce initiatives taking shape in Cedar Rapids, Iowa City

The need to attract and retain young professionals in the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City Corridor (and nearly every other region of the country) has become a constant refrain that is almost losing its meaning. But the need remains important nonetheless. 

That’s why we have been pleased to hear about a few new and continued workforce attraction initiatives in the region.

Most notably, the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance (CRMEA) is seeking a new full-time talent attraction director to lead its Collaborative Growth Initiative. 

The initiative acts as a partnership between the cities of Cedar Rapids, Hiawatha, and Marion, dedicated to growing the region’s workforce, as well as leveraging and coordinating public and private sector resources.

Putting the responsibility into a leadership position makes a lot of sense.

In Iowa City, a free event series sponsored by Greater Iowa City Inc. is seeking to recruit and retain young talent by fostering connections between them and the Iowa City community.

Ignite IC targets interns, college students, and early career professionals living or working in the greater Iowa City area during the summer. Citing community connection as a vital aspect to area employers in retaining talent beyond an internship or entry level position, the series highlights that retention, rather than recruitment, fortifies the local economy.

The series aims to recruit and retain talent by cultivating a love for Iowa City and showcasing what a future in the community could look like.

There are also other intern initiatives like the Marion Experience, which will include an outdoor concert and community orientation, as well as a breakfast and tour with Marion Mayor Nick AbouAssaly.

“Marion has demonstrated that we can grow our population and workforce by focusing on great services and prioritizing quality of life and quality of place,” said Mr. AbouAssaly in an email. “Our community orientation program is designed to highlight the amazing opportunities people have to lead fulfilling careers, enjoy their lives and make a great impact in this region.”

Shannon Hansen is also continuing to work on the ICR Talent Hub initiative by connecting prospective employees from out of the area with regional employers. While nobody uses the “ICR” brand anymore and that adds some confusion, her work is one of the important strategies in the aforementioned Growth Initiative.

“The Growth report suggests slightly different geographic targets, but otherwise it basically confirms that the Talent Hub is the critical strategy for any region to have in its toolbelt. So yes, we’ll definitely continue this effort,” said CRMEA Executive Director Doug Neumann in an email. “This effort will also incorporate the state of Iowa’s new ‘This Is Iowa’ campaign. With a more robust local campaign and the synergy with the state campaign, we should see efforts and results at much higher numbers than we’ve seen with the minimally funded current Talent Hub campaign,” he added.

We applaud these seemingly disparate initiatives, but can’t help but wonder what other communities in the region are doing and if there should be broader collaboration across counties to make them more effective.