Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer

Local chambers, business groups should engage remote workers

For almost a year, I have been a member of my local “Young Professionals” (YP) chapter. I’ve received a few emails about paying my dues to belong, but I can’t seem to find a reason to cough up the small amount (and I mean small, very inexpensive).

For comparison, I’ve been a member at coworking space Gravitate* for just over a year and the cost each month is significantly higher than dues for the YP chapter. Yet, I have no issue paying that amount every month. This got me wondering why:

The changing workforce landscape

Local young professional groups put an emphasis on businesses that are based in their specific geography. In order to feel as if you really belong, you must be employed by a local business, as many of the events are specific to being a member of the local chamber.

Technology, though, creates endless opportunities to work remotely from anywhere. The YP chapter model often automatically excludes remote workers from many of the events purely because their employer pays taxes elsewhere.

Coworking, on the other hand, is a bond over work and projects, with people who are passionate about what they are doing. The paths that cross in a coworking setting are often unexpected, but beneficial to the community.

Engaging entrepreneurs and remote workers

Local chambers of commerce and young professional groups may be missing out on opportunities to include some of Des Moines’ movers and shakers — those in the entrepreneurial community. My specific chapter claims that they are looking for up-and-coming leaders, but they don’t appear to be engaging anyone outside of the traditional membership.

There is a true call to action here. Often, remote workers have lived outside of Iowa for a time, but came back because it is home. This means they come back with a wide-ranging network, new perspectives, and inspiration to do things better as they have seen alternate solutions to problems. Our cities must tap into the extensive knowledge base — even if their work environment doesn’t look like the “traditional” way.

Changing the culture

This piece is not to say YP groups need to go away. Rather, these groups play an important role in the community, as do spaces and groups that foster entrepreneurship.

To take advantage of those community members, YP groups and local chambers have to embrace a broadened definition of workplace culture and an evolving, more remote workforce. To change the culture of an established group, leaders must be open to broadening the definition of “local business”. Freelance and remote workers are all around. YP groups and chambers can better include these professionals in different networking events, or even change their due structure to ensure the value is there for those remote workers.

Entrepreneurs and remote workers, who often work alone, are eager to participate in community events, whether they’re at coworking spaces, startup events or held by local chambers. Those organizations, though, do have to make sure they’re reaching out to the entrepreneurial community.

There are multiple pathways for work environments. There should be multiple ways to engage with a local YP chapter, as well.

National Co-Working Day

Tuesday, March 14 is National Co-working day. Governor Branstad signed the proclamation in 2016 to bring awareness to the growth Iowa has seen in this area. This shows awareness at the state level, and it’s time to embrace change at the local level, engaging citizens in business discussions, even if they don’t work for a business physically located in the metro.

*Editor’s Note: Gravitate founder Geoff Wood is a co-founder of Clay & Milk.

Susan Gentz is the deputy executive director for the Center for Digital Education and a contributing commentary writer for Clay & Milk.

1 Comment

  • Danielle
    Posted March 16, 2017 at 1:37 pm

    I think this is a great observation. I work with several local community user groups and nonprofits and a common yet difficult to achieve goal of each is attracting and retaining young professionals/new members, and a more diverse population of YPs. This could be attributed to a variety of factors including lack of awareness /outreach and cost, but also offerings – community engagement, networking opportunities and relevant support to help entrepreneurs, remote works and those involved in the startup community (often times working remotely or in very small teams). I do believe there is opportunity to improve outreach and change the culture of these professional groups to be a little more inclusive and provide access to a strong support system and resources that your more traditional employee has available to them as well!

Comments are closed.

Local chambers, business groups should engage remote workers | Clay & Milk
A central Iowa ag-tech accelerator has secured more backers and finally has a name. The Greater Des Moines Partnership first announced the accelerator last year, naming four initial investors. On Monday, the Partnership said the program will be called the "Iowa AgriTech Accelerator" and named three new investors. The new investors include Grinnell Mutual, Kent Corp. and Sukup Manufacturing, all Iowa companies. They join investors Deere & Co., Peoples Co., Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. and DuPont Pioneer. Each investor has agreed to put up $100,000 for the first year of the accelerator. Startups entering the program will receive $40,000 in seed funding in exchange for 6 percent equity. Tej Dhawan, an angel investor and local startup mentor, is serving as interim director until the AgriTech Accelerator names a permanent leader. Dhawan held a similar role with the GIA before Brian Hemesath was named as managing director. As interim director, Dhawan said his main job includes hiring the accelerator's executive director, establishing a business structure and initial recruiting for the first cohort. The accelerator will place few filters, such as location and product, on the applicant pool, Dhawan said. "When you’re seeking innovation, innovation can come from every corner of the world so why restrict ourselves," he said. One area the the AgriTech Accelerator won't recruit from is biotech. For its first cohort, the AgriTech Accelerator will work out of the GIA's space in Des Moines' East Village, Dhawan said. A future, permanent home is still to be decided. The accelerator's program will host startups from mid-July through mid-October, ending with an event connected to the annual World Food Prize. The GIA, which the AgriTech Accelerator is based on, also ends with presentations at an industry event. The accelerator has also started lining up a mentor pool. The Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have agreed to provide mentors, as has Iowa State University. While the AgriTech Accelerator is loosely based off of the GIA, it will differ in its business structure, Dhawan said. The GIA runs through a for-profit model for both operations and its investment fund. The AgriTech Accelerator will have a nonprofit model for its operations and a for-profit setup for its fund. Dhawan said the nonprofit model is being used so the accelerator can better work with other nonprofit partners, such as trade associations. "These are all organizations that are nonprofits and can be amazing stakeholders without ever having to be investors in the accelerator," he said. "It becomes easier to work with trade associations in their nonprofit role when we are also a nonprofit." When it's up and running, the AgriTech Accelerator would be one of a handful of ag-focused startup development programs in Iowa. Others include the Ag Startup Engine out of Iowa State University and the Rural Ventures Alliance from Iowa MicroLoan. Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at
This Pop-up Is Included in the Theme
Best Choice for Creatives
Purchase Now