It’s been more than six years since I wrote this blog post about keeping young Iowans in Iowa. When I look back on it, it’s still an issue and I still feel the same way. So, I thought I’d republish it here to get your opinion.
One of the most meaningful books I’ve ever read is Now Discover Your Strengths, by Marcus Buckingham (He’s the guy who wrote First, Break All The Rules). The easy-to-read book encourages individuals to enhance their strengths instead of focusing hours and hours on weaknesses and then finding you’ve made no progress.
I think the state of Iowa needs to read the book. I’m constantly reading newspaper accounts and hearing TV news stories about the Hawkeye State’s efforts to keep young people here instead of letting them go off to the big city – Chicago or Kansas City or Minneapolis, in most cases. We keep trying to build entertainment districts of bars and restaurants and bring in big-time sports teams and more bars in attempt to keep 20-somethings between the Mississippi and the Missouri.
I think we should give every high school grad a state road map and tell them to go seek adventure, sow their oats, party ’till the cows come home. And then come home. If we raise them right, they’ll come back to Iowa with some life experience, some work experience, a new expensive car that we can tax and a few kids that we can’t. They’ll come to appreciate what we offer: clean air, safe streets and good schools. And low insurance rates. You can’t say that about Chicago, Kansas City or Minneapolis.
I think our state’s strength is its family-friendly cities, towns and villages. You can walk the sidewalks at night. You can leave your keys in the car in the driveway. You know your neighbor’s name. Our governor is not afraid to wear a Winnie the Pooh costume.
Yes, we have problems. We have more than our fair share of meth labs (what rural state doesn’t have meth labs). People drive way too fast on the freeway (at least they can). And the family farmers don’t get along with the big farmers (but you don’t see drive by shootings to settle the issue).
But it’s also true that this is a great place to raise kids and we need to quit being ashamed of it. We need to plaster it on the welcome to Iowa signs. Iowa needs to play to its strengths. It’s a different, inviting, relevant and truthful brand.