Over the past 10 yrs. or so the Des Moines area have been listed in every “great place to live and work” survey that has been done in the country.
I thought it might be useful to drill down and really look at reasons why this is true. Here are my 5 reasons in no particular order.
Insurance and Banking Town. We are and always have been an insurance and banking town. Some folks would say that makes us bit conservative and they would be correct. It also is a cultural stabilizing force and that tends to flatten out the tremendous ups and downs that many other local economies experience. In addition large stable companies spawn smaller entrepreneurial companies.
- Immigration. The other day I attended lunch at the Meredith Headquarters where the Iowa International Center hosted a presentation on ethnic food that has dramatically changed the restaurant culture in Des Moines. We continue to celebrate Bob Ray’s years as Governor because he brought in many Southeast Asian refugees in the 1970s. That group of folk changed central Iowa for the better and with other refugees coming in from all parts of the world that change is continuing. This new population has changed not just the restaurant scene but in many other entrepreneurial ways and has improved our community.
- Sewer -Water –Roads It is impossible to have sustained growth and development without the growth in the local sewer, water and road infrastructure. In the 1970’s two suburban mayors and two Des Moines councilmen got together and hammered out a regional agreement on sewers. Congressman Neil Smith got a federal grant for over 200 million and a state of the art sewer system was built. In the 1980’s and 1990’s work on road expansion was done in a comprehensive way and our local interstate 235, was expanded-on time and below budget! Show me another place in the country that has happened. Finally, in my view we have the best-managed local water treatment system in the country. You do not and will not hear the Flint Michigan terrible stories here.
- Clean Government There is almost no public corruption in our culture. We are not perfect; we are after all, human. However, after living in many parts of this country I can honestly say that we are the least corrupt place I have ever lived. When I lived in New Jersey 5 mayors were under indictment at the same time. In Tennessee, my uncle’s gardener always voted "early and often". I do not need to even mention Illinois where I lived as a child. My favorite story about Iowa is getting stopped on the interstate speeding some 10 years ago and mentioning to the officer that I knew the state trooper pilot operating the “bear in the air”, because his wife worked for me. We had a very nice cordial chat and at the end he gave me my ticket-as it should be. Corruption erodes public confidence and separates people and not a good way.
- Leadership-Deep and Wide I am constantly amazed at both the public and private leadership exhibited in this town. Our Mayor is known internationally for his work on climate change. No matter the issue, business and community leaders will step up and fix local problems. Fundraisers and walkabouts to fix major health and other problems occur on a weekly basis. The Partnership’s program to expand and grow young leaders has produced hundreds of bright enthusiastic folks in there 30s who eventually will be running our companies and non-profits.
All of these things put together give us a wonderful community that far outweighs our occasional nasty weather.