Posted May 4, 2011 by the Business Record

Optimism was in the air last week. One evening brought a public input meeting for the “Capital Crossroads: A Vision for Greater Des Moines and Central Iowa” project. At noon the following day, the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines welcomed 400 guests to its annual luncheon and report.

Moments like these remind us of the exceptional spirit that Central Iowa leaders exhibit. The goal of Capital Crossroads, said J. Barry Griswell, is to make Des Moines the best mid-sized city in the world. He makes a person think that it just might happen.

At the Community Foundation event, it was Griswell again – don’t ever let him move away – who reported that the organization managed $184 million in assets at the end of 2010 and gave out more than $30 million in grants last year.

Certainly, it’s possible to live in this region without being affected in any positive way by the many fund drives and visionary projects we have seen. The people at the top should remember that they live in a different world than those at the bottom.

But it would be false to say that the goal has been to serve only the well-off and progressive. After the money is spent and the work is complete, it’s up to the individual to experience the result.

A college athlete recently told The Des Moines Register that there’s nothing to do in Iowa City, the home of a major university and countless fascinating people and events. Nothing to do but play football and get high.

Sometimes the problem is not that the town lacks breadth, but that the individual lacks depth.

The same is true in Greater Des Moines. There’s more here than ever before to benefit and engage everyone.

What’s amazing is that relatively few people are making it happen. Imagine what could come next if those few leaders inspire a thousand imitators. When there’s this much optimism around, it can be contagious.