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Experts Evaluate Cedar Rapids Economy

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (CBS 2/FOX 28) -- The city of Cedar Rapids is trying to figure out ways to give the local economy a boost. Thats why they're employing the help of a national consulting firm to set them on the right path for the future.

The speaker, Angelos Angelou, spoke to city leaders and business owners at the downtown Cedar Rapids library. He echoed the late president John F. Kennedy when he told city leaders and business owners in the room, 'Ask not what Cedar Rapids can do for you, but what you can do for Cedar Rapids.

The answer is, apparently, quite a bit.

You only have one chance at this game, said Angelou to the crowd gathered at the library.  There's not a gold or silver or bronze medal in economic development, there's only gold.

Call it the blueprint for a winning team. It's one of several sports metaphors Angelou used Monday night. Essentially saying the city is a good team - with the potential to be a great one.

Leaders paid $50,000 dollars to bring them in and 'coach up' the city of five seasons.

They've had a successful record of making recommendations that lead to positive results, says City Manager Jeff Pomeranz. We were just impressed with their background and credentials and what they've done for other communities. 

The consulting firm says we have some of the essentials down, like the high quality of life, the atmosphere of entrepreneurship, and retail.

What we found is Cedar Rapids enjoys a $550 million dollar retail surplus, Angelou says. The retail sector of your economy is actually doing quite well.

However, there are some areas where we fumble the ball - things like un-occupied downtown office space, a declining labor force, and the citys relationship with younger generations.

As we talked to every one of your employers, and the community at large, we've heard that this is a difficult place to recruit young professionals, Angelou says

It was an important area of conversation for many in the audience.

We gotta make this the coolest place to be, says Chad Simmons, director of Diversity Focus. A lot of that is by developing a nightlife downtown where people can congregate and meet each other...making sure this is an environment where they know the job opportunities exist.

Changing that image and branding the city is one of the objectives, in addition to diversifying the economy and growing the workforce, elements all needed to turn the city into a long term winner.

Angelou says it will take teamwork.

Economic development is never the job of one individual, nor solely the job of an economic development organization, he says. It's really a community wide responsibility.

Pomeranz says he doesn't want this plan to be just a document on the shelf. They are moving to add staff members who will be responsible for implementing recommended strategies from the study.
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