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Let’s talk about Iowa’s “brain gain”

The East Village in Des Moines, Iowa, a neighb...The East Village in Des Moines, Iowa, a neighborhood west of the Iowa State Capitol. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Everyone’s heard about Iowa’s “brain drain.”

Educators, policy makers and business people have woefully cried for years that all of the state’s “best and brightest” are leaving Iowa for higher paying jobs on the coasts. They exclaim, “what have we done wrong?” and “we must do something about this!”

But what about those of us who’ve chosen to stay in Iowa?

I attended a YPC Civic Cafe luncheon a few weeks ago, and the topic was the history of YPC. Mary Bontrager of the Greater Des Moines Partnership was one of the panelists. Mary has an especially relevant perspective because she played a major part in the creation of YPC in 2000, when leaders in the Partnership realized that YPs were a growing segment of Des Moines’ population and deserved a voice in the community.

During the luncheon, Mary mentioned that YPC’s original founders had a big issue with this idea of the “brain drain.” And I agree!

Yes, it’s true that some students are leaving the state... but a lot of smart, talented and driven young professionals also choose to stay.

YPs throughout the state are bringing new ideas to the table, making a difference and doing big things. Need proof? Just check out the Register’s YP Spotlights or read about the Business Record’s 40 Under 40 class. Look around... I’m sure there are young people making a difference in your workplace or community.

What we realize is that Iowa is special. It’s a place where your big hairy audacious goals can become a reality, because there are people who will listen to and support the big ideas you have. Des Moines is a large metro area with the supportive community of a small town, and that’s just not something you can find on the coasts.

We recognize that. We’ve stayed here. We’re the “brain gain.”

-Emilee Richardson

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