To be sure Iowa is aging. Much of its young population is migrating to the state’s urban areas and in some cases departing the state altogether. The trend is apparent; Iowa's population has fallen in 3 out of 4 counties.
But, the growth of Iowa’s urban young professionals is nearly self-perpetuating and that could be the seed stock to revitalize the state.
The young and professional seek out others of their kind and in the process are developing an environment that is friendly to their demographic and promises benefits to the state’s economy and culture.
The Fake Relays bring out fierce competition every year in Des Moines. The teams compete against each other in “hybrid” sports. The competition is friendly and teaches teamwork and cooperation -- skills that translate to corporate life. The competition helps the young professionals to adjust to the collaborative environment of the modern workplace.
Erica Orrell: "I just moved back from Chicago and I really wanted to get involved in the community and I really didn't know where to start. This is a great opportunity with professional people in the world -- and are my age, which is nice, and kind of relate to the things that are going on, so it was a great opportunity."
The Young Professionals Connection of Des Moines helped Erica Orrell adjust to life in the place where she grew up and attended college. After her first job in Chicago she decided to come back to central Iowa and found a different town than the one she left. She joined YPC to learn about her former community.
Erica Orrell: "Not only are you having the opportunity to network, but you're having the chance to see other opportunities. Or, what are you doing right now in your field and what are you struggling with and without that, you'd feel isolated in that ok, I am in Iowa all by myself."
Jim McIntire moved to Des Moines after high school and college in Iowa. He knew some people, but was looking to expand his circle of peer acquaintance.
Jim McIntire: "There's a lot of groups, YPC is a bigger group with younger professionals, that, if nothing else, jump right in, meet a lot of people, people that are new to town can jump in and make a bunch of friends, get active and you don’t feel like you're running around with a bunch of middle-aged people, not that there's nothing wrong with that, but it’s a lot easier to relate to younger folks to people our age."
here are almost 100 young professional groups across the state. While Facebook networks online, Young Professionals network face to face.
Shelly Greving: "We need to continue to develop our skills, whether as a youth, an adult or a young professional. And so days like today really allow people to network on a more serious or business level without having to be focused on a particular area, career area or industry. This allows you to connect with a lot of different people in our community and learn how we can develop our skills and become better leaders."
The Young Professionals Ames group also has pushed civic involvement for their members, encouraging more participation in city and county government. YPA wants members to not be intimidated by the process.
Ryan Lynch moved back to Iowa after time in Washington and Minnesota. His trip home also has been boosted by his membership in the YPA.
Ryan Lynch: "Education is very important to me, networking as well. And just being able to get out and meet people, and one of my goals eventually is to own my own business, so anytime I can learn about leadership, I think that would be a good thing."
Prodding his return to Iowa, Lynch valued being closer to his family and one other big thing. Ryan Lynch: "I'm an avid disc golfer, and there's very good courses all over Iowa."
It seems simple, but recreation is part of the Iowa 2010 Project. The project of dozens of Iowans asked thousands to look into the future. The challenge was to address current issues and think about what the state should look like in the next decade.
The group set eight goals back in 2000, mainly quality of life issues around higher pay and innovate jobs, recreation and education. The average Iowa wage has gone up, courtesy in part to the recent hike of the minimum wage. But what else has changed in the last decade?
Gone is Governor Tom Vilsack who commissioned the project, but left behind are the 8 goals.