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Our people are our attraction

Note: Kyle Oppenhuizen is a reporter for the Des Moines Business Record

Every now and then, I run into one of those moments that make me want to stick up for DMskyline_night Des Moines.

The most recent example involved a co-worker. I made a sarcastic comment about a 40-degree rainy April day being “beautiful,” and she responded by saying, “Don’t you go anywhere nicer. We don’t want you to leave.”

She was, of course, referring to what has to be a universal sentiment among Iowans on cold, rainy days: “Why don’t I just move to California, Florida or Hawaii?”

But it made me think about the comment on a deeper level, as journalists are prone to do. I’m 26 years old, single, childless, and, for all intents and purposes, not tied down. What is stopping me from going to a land with beaches, or mountains, or warm, tropical weather? Or New York, Chicago or Washington, D.C.?

The immediate response when I ask that question in my head?

“Because Des Moines has great people.”

There are so many examples of this:

  • We’re Iowa Nice. That almost goes without saying. (Warning: linked video contains adult language).
  • We make our own fun. I can’t go skiing, but in the summer, I can step out the door of my downtown apartment complex almost every Saturday and find something fun going on within blocks of where I live. That includes the Downtown Farmers Market, the Des Moines Arts Festival, the 80/35 music festival and Cityview Brewfest, just to name a few.
  • We want to be more like Austin, Texas, or Madison, Wis. So we MAKE ourselves more like those cities. It’s easy to see it covering the business community. Our business leaders make things happen. It’s always been that way. But recently, you can feel a groundswell of others stepping up to make Des Moines a cooler place to live. There are groups like the Young Professionals Connection (full disclosure: I’m a board member and very passionate about the organization) and the Des Moines Social Club. There are regular people, such as Mike and Kate Banasiak, who, on a whim, create their own events. There are businesses like Full Court Press and Raygun that make Des Moines more fun and a little bit edgy. The list could go on and on.
  • We try things. Some fail, like Project Destiny. But that’s OK. We try more things, like Capital Crossroads.
  • We’re humble. We almost have to make a point to remind ourselves to brag every now and then. But hey, we do have a trophy case of Forbes magazine honors to do the bragging for us.
  • We’re passionate. We don’t just get involved in the community to put it on a resume. We do it because we care about what we’re doing. Our city leaders make volunteering a full-time job; just look at our United Way numbers and the work that goes into those campaigns. Those who aren’t leaders yet aren’t afraid to get involved; just look at the profiles of our Business Record Forty Under 40 honorees.

There are many other things I could have listed, and in some ways that’s the point. Des Moines is a cool place to live, work and play, and it offers many things to many people.

So it’s true. We don’t have mountains. We don’t have oceans. Sometimes the weather sucks.

But in Des Moines, we, the people, are our own attraction.

-Kyle Oppenhuizen

Business Record 

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