Des Moines newcomers share their first impressions
In the last couple of years, Des Moines has been ranked as the nation's best city for young professionals by Forbes Magazine and the best Midwest city for young adults by the Business Journals.
With those credentials, it makes sense that the 25 to 34 age range is now the fastest-growing population segment in the Des Moines area, according to research by the Greater Des Moines Partnership.
Brain drain — the mass exodus of highly educated young people — is still a concern for Iowa. But the population growth in the 25-34 range — as well as conversations with young professionals who have recently moved to Des Moines — suggest that some people who initially left the state after college are now coming back.
Whether they're returning to Iowa after a few years away or were drawn here from other areas of the country for job opportunities, learn why these seven young professionals (whom we met at the Greater Des Moines Partnership's Welcome to Greater Des Moines meet-up June 25) are happy to now call Des Moines home.
Karim is 26 years old. He moved to Des Moines from Virginia about a month ago to be an operations engineer at MidAmerican Energy.
Why he moved here: I'm very interested in renewable energy and Iowa is No. 1 for wind power. On the East Coast, they don't have the wide-open spaces for wind farms like you do here.
Impressions of Des Moines: I really like it. When I was living in Virginia and I told my friends and family I was moving to Iowa they said, "Why would you do that? There's nothing there." When I told them Des Moines was a city with 600,000 people, they were surprised by that. I like big cities. I like Boston, but it's too expensive to live there. Des Moines has that big-city feel, but it's not as expensive. It's a city that always has festivals and fun things, and that's important to me. But it's not "rush, rush" here either. I like the slower pace. I'm glad I'm here.
One thing he wish Des Moines had: I'm a huge fan of public transportation, so I'd love to see that improved.
Will he stay? I could definitely see myself staying here. I like the job, and I like the fun things to do outside of work, too.
Thoughts on RAGBRAI: My friends are trying to convince me to go on RAGBRAI because I ride my bike a lot. I don't know about riding across the state, though!
One word to describe Des Moines: Awesome
Powers, 28, and her husband moved here recently from Kentucky when he got a job as a photographer at the Register. She was hired as an account executive at Iowa Public Radio.
Impressions of Des Moines: We're living in Windsor Heights, and it's a nice, short commute. So far, we love it. I'd never thought about living here. But then when my husband had a job opportunity I started researching and it seemed like a great city. Now being here has been an incredible experience so far. I'm excited to enjoy summer here.
Will they stay here: Definitely. It's pretty early, but I joked to my husband that if he got the notion to move again, he might be moving alone. I've really fallen in love with Des Moines.
Favorite hangout: We've spent most of our free time on the bike trails. Our townhouse is right next to one of the trail heads. You can jump on your bike and go and check out some of the breweries and different areas. It's pretty awesome.
One word to describe Des Moines: Surprising
Abby King and Antonio Guevara
King, 21, and Guevara, 25, moved to Des Moines from Sioux City about five months ago. Guevara works in Claims at Nationwide, and King works at the restaurant Twin Peaks.
Why they moved here: Guevara went to college at AIB, then moved home to Sioux City. When he got the job at Nationwide, King came with him.
Will they stay? Yes
Impressions of Des Moines: King: I like the farmers' market. The one in Sioux City was just a small parking lot. Here they close off the street. Guevara: There's a lot more to do here. I feel like you get all of the fun and culture of a big city, but without all of the traffic and crime and everything. I could never live someplace like Los Angeles or Chicago, but Des Moines is like a good smaller version of that. I went biking on the trail for 17 miles. I got kind of lost and had to look at the map. It's nice to have a trail system big enough to get lost.
One word to Describe Des Moines: Guevera: cultured; King: fun
Grenaderova, 23, grew up in Russia. When she was 17, she and her mom moved to Council Bluffs with her mom's new husband. She finished her senior year of high school and two years of college in Council Bluffs, then transferred to Iowa State University for her last two years of college. She moved to Des Moines a year ago as an AmeriCorps Vista volunteer doing communications and public outreach for Habitat for Humanity.
Favorite hangout: Krunkwich Ramen house has great food and very interesting flavors. And my favorite coffee shop is Zanzibar's.
Will she stay? AmeriCorps is for one year and my year is almost up. At first I was leaning toward moving somewhere else, but now I'd like to try to stay. There are lots of businesses that hire young professionals, and opportunities for foreigners to be part of a diverse workplace. It would also be nice for me to stay here to be near my mom.
Grenaderova is looking for an entry-level position in education, international relations, or communications, particularly for a nonprofit where she can continue to help people as she's done at Habitat for Humanity. Reach her at SabinaGrenaderova@gmail.com or find her on LinkedIn or Facebook.
One word to describe Des Moines: Innovative. There's room for everyone here with their diverse backgrounds to have new ideas and to actually try something and be successful.
Holly and Jeff Kluever
Holly, 33, and Jeff, 32, moved to Des Moines from Virginia about six months ago. Jeff is originally from Norwalk and attended college in Grinnell; Holly is originally from Chicago. She is the senior director of programming and customer care at the Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa; he works at Drake at the Robert D. and Billie Ray Center, formerly Character Counts.
One word to describe Des Moines:
•Jeff: Compared to 15 years ago, it's significantly more vibrant. Downtown was a dead city 15 years ago. Now Des Moines checks all of the boxes that we were looking for in a place to live.
•Holly: Surprising. My friends in Chicago question a little bit what we're doing in Des Moines. But there's everything that we love to do. There are lots of good restaurants and there are trails right outside our house. We're 15 minutes from downtown, and we don't have to drive more than 20 minutes to get anywhere.
O'Brien, 36, moved to Des Moines from Chicago with her two young daughters three months ago. She's the director of education services at Iowa Health Care Collaborative.
Why she moved here: I have been wanting to move to Des Moines for at least five years. I grew up in eastern Iowa and went to college at the University of Iowa. I wanted to move here because my parents live here, I have friends from college here, and I wanted the quality of life and ease of life that Des Moines has.
Impressions of Des Moines: We live in Beaverdale and my daughters go to Holy Trinity Catholic School. They can walk to school and they love it. I've never seen them skip to school like they do now. Being able to watch them settle in so well and love it so much makes me happy. I love how friendly everyone is, how willing everyone is to help you out, offer advice, connect you with others. Now I'm trying to get my sister to move here.
Will she stay? Yes, absolutely.
Favorite hangouts: I just discovered the Science Center. I discovered el Bait Shop. Olympic Flame is nice for lunch. And Grounds for Celebration in Beaverdale is my new favorite coffee shop.
One word to describe Des Moines: Passionate. I feel like everyone is passionate about the community, their work, their families, their faith communities. Everyone seems to be really invested.
Advice for others considering a move to Des Moines: I encourage anyone to come here and spend a weekend here, and I know they would fall in love with it.
See who else we saw at the whom we met at the Greater Des Moines Partnership's Welcome to Greater Des Moines meet-up on June 25.