Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Great Iowa Migration

This article is a must read for all Iowans.

“Iowa’s young people are going to leave. We just have to embrace it as part of what Iowa is. We export our young people around the world.” Fortunately that’s not the Board of Regents’ official strategy! But it is commonly held, and something I hear more often than I’d like. Think of it like an old-fashioned geometry proof:

Postulate 1: Our young people want to leave the state.
Therefore: You can’t keep them down on the farm (or in Iowa).
Q.E.D.

That is the attitude of many people. And whether it is said explicitly, or left unspoken, it has unfortunately been our working strategy during the last 50 years. Where does that get us? The Board of Regents report was clear: Without a change to our strategy, Iowa’s working age population will shrink.[...]

Why is this a problem? Young educated minds are a basic “raw ingredient” of the New Economy.

We simply must have the power of the ideas and energy of our educated next generation to reverse the trends shown in the Census Bureau graph, and get our state into the New Economy. Saying that we, as a state, are going to use our limited capital to educate them, then ship them out-of-state as they graduate is akin to – let me pick some online adjectives for impact – replacing our state logo with one of those barfing face emoticons. Purposefully paying to train, then not retaining, our young people is a profoundly idiotic, losing strategy. It’s the modern equivalent of planting crops with no regard for replenishing the soil’s nutrients, or caring about the topsoil’s stability. (The Midwest tried that strategy too, with the same outcome. See more on the economic impact of the Dust Bowl). Where does it get us?

Iowa is growing less educated at the 4th fast pace in the nation!
Iowa's Brain Drain is at a catastrophic level and if nothing changes to attract and retain the young people we invest so much in, the state's economic future will be non-existent. Education is something like 60% of the state budget and when the cream of the crop graduates they leave the state. We are not getting a very good return on investment.

The first change I would like to see is more student loan forgiveness programs. Make it so if a young person decides to stay in Iowa that they can be making payments on a house and not on paying back student loans.

The second change I would like to see is more attractions around the state. Those could range for more cultural districts to more outdoors activities. Iowa doesn't have any oceans or mountains, but we do have our share of lakes and rivers and those lakes and rivers are incredibly polluted. Clean up our waterways and attract more young people to our great state.

1 comment:

Ben said...

Jobs.

The reason people leave the state is becaus they can earn more money doing a more exciting job somewhere else. The wage disparity between Iowa and its neighbors is bad. There aren't enough "professional" jobs in Iowa to absorb its college graduates, let alone allow the multiple careers that are the employment reality for 20 and 30 year olds.

Local amenities are nice, but Des Moines has made great strides is being every bit as hip as Kansas City or Minneapolis. Ultimately no amount of resturants, bike trails, watersking, or live music can compensate for low wages and limit employment options.