MASON CITY — The director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority says the state needs to continue working on not only growing its population organically but we also need to attract people to the state.
Debi Durham says her department has recently been tracking where people are coming from when they move to Iowa through data on surrendered drivers licenses and then targeting efforts to try to lure more people here. She says California tops that list. “California number one last year. We know exactly the counties in California. So we’re not advertising to all of California, we’re advertising very deliberately with social media and wrap-around and influencers in that marketplace within that target audience.”
Durham says people are also moving to Iowa from areas that they feel are not making good state government policy decisions. “Illinois. I’m sorry, but anyone that can leave Illinois is leaving. Policies absolutely matter. I’ll tell you one that’s going to be on this list when I do this presentation in a few years is Minnesota, because Minnesota, if you follow anything they are doing over there, anything at all in their legislature, so anti-business. I don’t know who they think they’re going to keep the lights on, right? So we’re going to do a big targeted campaign in Minnesota.”
Durham says people are also crossing the border from Omaha to live in Council Bluffs. “Nebraska, this one is great. For the first time in that Omaha-Council Bluffs MSA, we see net migration positive into Iowa from Omaha. The reason why, if you’ve not been to Council Bluffs, you should go, because it is a different place. They’ve invested in placemaking and art, much like you have right? And honestly, you can live cheaper with all our tax cuts and our housing affordability, you can live cheaper in Iowa and get to your downtown if you work downtown Omaha faster than if you live in Omaha, right? So it’s changing.”
Durham says they’ve hired people to target potential recruits to move to Iowa. “We’ve hired, if you will, a headhunter for the state of Iowa. We have all the data of the jobs we need, we know where the jobs are. So now we’re going to work with the alumni associations and we’re going to say ‘listen, we need engineers with six years of experience, mechanical engineers, and these are the marketplaces we want to target’. We want to know who is in California, we want who is in Illinois, who is in Minnesota, and we’re going to start reaching out to them.”
Durham made her comments during today’s “State of North Iowa” event sponsored by the Mason City Chamber of Commerce.