July 2008: Des Moines Downtown Chamber officially starts
Sept. 2008: Downtown Chamber hosts its inaugural event, an informational meeting at the Cub Club at Principal Park
2009: Full-scale operations begin
2010: Brian Waller hired as first executive director
2011: Jennifer Chittenden hired as second executive director
2015: DIG and LEAP programs launch
2018: Downtown Chamber wins ACCE National Chamber of the Year award
2019: Downtown Chamber moves into first solo space at Gravitate
From new idea to award-winning organization
In July 2008, about 100 of the city’s most influential leaders attended the first official coming-out party. The vision for the organization? To inform and connect the downtown Des Moines community.
But despite the overwhelming enthusiasm, growth didn’t come overnight. It took hard work and dedication to turn the Downtown Chamber into what it is today.
In 2009, Brian Waller was hired as the first executive director of the organization. Waller started the first recurring program series — the Journey — in 2010. It gave local CEOs a platform to tell their stories, advice and more to Chamber members. Two years later, Jennifer Chittenden was named the second executive director, and her leadership led to perhaps the organization’s most important transition.
In 2015, the Downtown Chamber significantly increased its budget and created an outreach committee to better understand its members. What came from the initiative were the beginnings of the Chamber’s two signature programs — Downtown DIG and LEAP — in 2015. Just three years later, those programs were integral in helping the organization win the 2018 Chamber of the Year award from the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE).
It took just a decade for the Downtown Chamber to garner national recognition. The vision, and guidance from countless leaders has allowed the Downtown Chamber to better serve the community via programs, resources and advocacy.
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