Luke Gray Has the Floor

The Power of Lists

Luke Gray Has the Floor

This is the time of year for giving, receiving and…
making lists. 

Lists for gift buying, grocery shopping, holiday cards, project work plans and the all-important daily task list. Lists are important and even powerful. The exercise of writing a list can help us formulate thoughts, give clarity, assess what is important and move forward with focused intent on what we want to accomplish in our own lives and as a community.

Recently a Plan including significant and numerous lists within its 200 pages was approved for managing the Des Moines metro-area’s growth. Called The Tomorrow Plan, it includes a list of four goals - economic growth, environmental health, quality of life and regional cooperation.  In a November 30, 2013 Des Moines Register article, "Tomorrow Plan calls for affordable housing", local leaders identified a list of first steps for implementing the plan, including “developing a regional plan for affordable housing.”

The need for housing that fits all levels of income in our community is evident. The cost of homeownership and tight rental market makes it difficult for a variety of workers – customer service representatives, teachers, nurses, bank tellers, retail workers and others – to live in neighborhoods near their jobs. More often than not they are left to choose between living farther away and having higher transportation costs or spending more than half of their monthly income on housing.  (A summary of affordability, incomes, job centers in area communities was provided in a handout during the last PCHTF Bus Tour of the western suburbs.) Imagine the stress of being a paycheck away from foreclosure or eviction, without enough income for food, health and education expenses. 

Housing is also one of the key variables in a company’s ability to attract and retain employees in an ever-challenging recruiting market. Last month testimony at an education hearing in Washington, D.C. shared that 60 percent of U.S. employers are having difficulties finding qualified workers to fill vacancies at their companies.  The company I work for, Kemin Industries, is part of the STEM Education Coalition which is an alliance of educators and business leaders united in promoting education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. It is one way we are developing the next generation of qualified employees.  Other industries also have special programs working hard to do the same.  Not only is it important to have educational and developmental programs in the community, but also stable, affordable housing.  There is a clear link between stable housing and educational achievement that is required to develop our future, increasingly technical workforce. 

As companies and our communities develop and work through their lists of what it takes to be competitive and successful, it will be imperative Affordable Housing is on the list of “must haves” for economic development and providing the quality of life our region is capable giving and so many are in need of receiving.

Luke Gray is a PCHTF Board Member and Human Resources Manager at Kemin Industries.