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A Letter of Thanks to the Region for the Equity Innovation Award

Katherine Harrington

By Katherine Harrington, President & CEO, West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce

It was an honor for the West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce and Athene to be awarded the inaugural Equity Innovation Award through the Greater Des Moines Partnership’s Inclusion Committee for our work producing the Athene Black & Brown Business Summit presented by Wells Fargo. We are grateful for everyone involved. A sincere congratulations to all the winners. Thank you to all who helped to make this recognition happen at the Partnership including Marvin DeJear, Sailu Timbo, Lia Brown, and countless others on the Inclusion Committee. We want to extend a special thanks and are grateful for tireless team members who are key to organizing the Athene Black & Brown Business Summit including WDM Chamber board chair Angela Jackson, executive board member Terrence Thames, board members Jennifer Smith, and Jeff Neuman, partner Bobbi Segura, the WDM Chamber team and entire WDM Chamber Diversity, Equity, Inclusion Committee, sponsors, partners, speakers, countless volunteers, attendees, and pitch competition participants. We could not produce this meaningful event without them.

Because of sponsor and community support, the Athene Black & Brown Business Summit has been able to positively impact minority business owners by giving a total of $52,000 to 20 pitch competition winners, has fundraised $7,600 going to nonprofits including Jewels Academy, NAACP Iowa Chapter, Willke House, and Conmigo Early Education Center, has promoted 45 Black & Brown businesses though diversity week, and has honored Pernell Cezar and Lu Spaine as Mel Essex Award winners. Each year, this two-day event includes the coordination of 60 expert speakers who participate in 10 education workshops, 2 keynote speakers, pitch competition, vendor and partner fair, and celebration. We are grateful to be in a position where we can uplift others and help minority led businesses on the path to succeed. A special thank you to supporters including Athene, presenting sponsor Wells Fargo, pitch competition sponsor Bank of America, partner sponsors Chase, Principal, advocate sponsors, American Equity, F&G, Hy-Vee, US Bank, spotlight sponsors EY, EquiTrust, Iowa Economic Development Authority, NCMIC, and many more. To learn more, click here.  

Including the 20 pitch competition winners, over the last two years, we are proud to say that the WDM Chamber of Commerce has donated a total of near $100,000 to other nonprofit organizations, minority business owners, and placemaking projects. We are proud to share our time, talent, and treasure to helping others in our region. Additional organizations that we have donated to include the WDM Community Foundation, the Athene Pedestrian Bridge, WDM Safety Cadets, scholarships to high school students on behalf of the WDM Dr. MLK Jr. Celebration, and more.

In addition to the Athene Black & Brown Business Summit, the WDM Chamber is proud to present in 2023, the third annual Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Workplace Excellence Awards. This event is directed by WDM Chamber leaders Kara Matheson and Meredith Murphy and has been recognized nationally by ACCE (Association of Community Chamber Executives) as a case study to excite other chambers around the nation do similar work that positively impacts our cities and communities. Over two years, this event has seen 74 applications, has recognized 22 honorees, spotlighted 26 nonprofit partners, donated $9,320 to nonprofits including Latina Leadership Institute, CulturALL, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Iowa. Over 600 attendees have learned about how companies are moving the needle for DEI and due to the support of American Equity, has been able to donate $6,500 in educational & leadership scholarships. A special thank you to supporters including American Equity, video partner Known Labs, award partners NCMIC, Cocoa Creative, advocate sponsor Care Initiatives, champion sponsors, American Enterprise, Sammons Financial Group, IMT Insurance, Simpson College, Merchants Bonding Company, Turner, and the City of West Des Moines. To learn more, click here.

The small (but mighty) team of five at the WDM Chamber of Commerce produces 150 events & community gatherings, and over 50 ribbon cuttings & ground breakings each year. Additional programming where we uplift minority populations includes the Latino Trade Network where 40+ Latino business owners meet monthly to spotlight how they can help each other and grow, plus this group hosts four quarterly events for the broader community to help connect with others and celebrate Latino culture. In 2022 we produced a new event called Tina Talks where six women inspired attendees with their stories of perseverance, hope, and helping others. For many years, the WDM Chamber has been producing Mentoring for Womenwhere hundreds gather to learn from the successes – and failures – of others and how they can apply that in their lives. We are proud to partner and be on the steering committee for important events with the City of West Des Moines including the WDM Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration, and the Juneteenth Jubilee. We love giving our members a voice and each year including in 2022 we hosted the inaugural Nonprofit Spotlight luncheon where each organization has time on stage to share their mission and story, and our Voices of West Des Moines luncheon gives members an opportunity to highlight what is important to them in our community and region. And the list goes on.

We are avid listeners to what our community – and regional – needs are. Chamber of Commerce’s are in a unique position to help fill those needs with all the passion, innovation, and hard work we can muster. I want to spotlight our incredible team members who do this groundbreaking work including Kara Matheson – Vice President of Workforce Development and Culture, Tom Florian – Sr. Director of Membership and Strategic Marketing, Anna Doud – Sr. Director of Membership and Strategic Partnerships, and Meredith Murphy – Talent Attraction Coordinator. I am grateful for you. Watch for news in 2023 regarding new programs (we are always inventing) including our national talent attraction advertising campaign where we will highlight why WDM and our entire State of Iowa, is the best place on the planet to live, work, and play. Thank you ALL for your support! Contact me if we can help you.

Katherine Harrington, President & CEO

West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce

katherine@wdmchamber.org | 515-689-4447 (mobile)