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ISU College of Design to honor Iowa Economic Development Authority director with Christian Petersen Design Award

October 23, 2015


Debi Durham

AMES, Iowa — Debi Durham, director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority, is the recipient of the 2015 Christian Petersen Design Award presented by the Iowa State University College of Design.

Established in 1980, the award is given annually to alumni, staff and friends of the university for distinguished work that advances the design and art professions. It is named for the noted artist who was Iowa State’s sculptor-in-residence from 1934 to 1955.

Durham, Sioux City, will be honored during Homecoming at the ISU Alumni Association's 84th annual Honors and Awards Ceremony. The public event will begin at 1:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 30, in Benton Auditorium, Scheman Building. A dessert reception will follow.

Gov. Terry Branstad appointed Durham director of the Iowa Department of Economic Development (IDED) in January 2011. As one of her first orders of business, Durham worked with the governor and legislators to restructure the department and create a public-private partnership—the Iowa Partnership for Economic Progress—to improve Iowa's delivery of economic development services.

Durham now serves as director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA), the public arm that replaces IDED and oversees the traditional economic development programs. Additionally, Durham oversees IEDA’s efforts to expand Iowa’s entrepreneurial ecosystem in collaboration with the Iowa Innovation Corporation, the private side of the partnership.

Durham also serves as a senior adviser on the Home Base Iowa initiative to place veterans in rewarding careers with Iowa employers and as a member of the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council. Under her leadership, efforts to expand Iowa’s apprenticeship programs were successful in 2014.

Durham previously was president of the Siouxland Chamber of Commerce, Siouxland Initiative and Siouxland Chamber Foundation for 15 years. During that time she was instrumental in helping Sioux City achieve an Iowa Great Places designation from the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. Funding from a Great Places grant and the Siouxland Chamber of Commerce supported renovation of a former boiler/steam generation building in the city's Fourth Street Historic District into the ISU Design West studio, a satellite facility of the ISU College of Design.

"Durham demonstrates a clear understanding of the link between design, education and economic development. She has been a strong advocate for the importance of design innovation to advancing the state's economic progress," said Luis Rico-Gutierrez, dean of the ISU College of Design.

Durham was recognized as a Janus Fellow by the Janus Institute in 2014. She received the Key-Way Award from the Sioux City Downtown Rotary Club in 2009 and was named one of "Five Women You Should Know" by the Iowa Association of Business and Industry in 2007. Durham is a member of the Junior Achievement Hall of Fame. She was the Republican Lieutenant Gubernatorial candidate in 2002.

Durham holds a Bachelor of Science in business administration from Missouri Southern State University. She is a member of the Briar Cliff University board of directors and the ISU College of Design Advancement Council.

Tina Hoffman, Marketing and Communications Director, Iowa Economic Development Authority, (515) 725-3150,
Heather Sauer, Design Communications, (515) 294-9289,