Iowa is a Better Pace of Life

The capital of Iowa, Des Moines is a sprawling city noted for kicking off the U.S. Presidential campaigns every four years. If you are looking for a more traditional place to raise a family, this may be the place.

Des Moines also serves as the seat of Polk County, and is the center of a growing metropolitan area. With an estimated 196,857 residents in 2006, Des Moines has experienced marginal growth since 1990. The core population peaked at 208,982 in 1960. Since then, outlying suburbs have boosted the overall metro population to over 534,230. While Des Moines has successfully annexed bordering areas, a plan to merge governments with Polk County was soundly rejected by voters. The median age of city residents was 35.6 years in 2006 with 76% of the population being White non-Hispanic. Another 8% were African American, 10% Hispanic and 4% Asian. The African American and Hispanic populations are significantly higher than the Iowa average. About 10% of residents were foreign born, significantly higher than the state average. Over 25% of residents claimed German ancestry. Families made up 62% of Des Moines households. The 2006 median income for households in Des Moines was $41,651, slightly under the state average. It was somewhat below the national average of $46,242. Unemployment in 2006, at 6.8% among the civilian workforce, was greater than the national trend. About 15% of the population lived in poverty, equal in percentage to the number of dropouts in Des Moines.

Iowa is a Better Pace of Life

In 2007, Forbes magazine ranked the Des Moines metropolitan area 4th on its list of “Best Places For Business And Careers.” They based it on factors such as the cost of doing business, cost of living, educational attainment and crime rate. The city has been nicknamed “The Hartford of the West”, as the economy relies heavily on financial service and insurance industries. Des Moines’ largest employer with 7,900 jobs is Principal Financial Group, the only Fortune 500 Company to have its headquarters in Iowa. The insurance industry brings over 150 company headquarters and regional offices to the metro area. Anchored by a strong health care sector, about one fourth of all jobs in Des Moines are attributed to the service industry. Some of the area’s best-known manufacturers are Pella Windows, Maytag, Amana, and Rockwell Collins Avionics. Fiber optics is also an emerging industry. If you are moving to Des Moines, it boasts a well-educated workforce. However, wages are somewhat lower than average. The most popular jobs for men was in construction at 12% of the workforce, followed by finance and insurance at 7%. For women, finance and insurance accounted for 16% of their jobs, followed by health care at 14%.

Des Moines and surrounding areas are attractive for housing values and a favorable cost of living. The median monthly housing costs for mortgaged owners in 2006 was $1,114, while renters were paying $631 monthly. About 54% of renters reported spending 30% of their income on housing, only 32% for mortgaged homeowners. Estimated median home value in 2005 was $106,300, on par with the state average. The housing market in Des Moines is incredibly affordable when compared with a national figure of $167,500. Even state and local taxes are lower than the U.S. average. In the third quarter of 2004, the ACCRA Cost of Living Index was just 94.9, about five points under average. While experiencing suburban growth, Des Moines has eye-catching upscale buildings and a rising skyline. Some of the tallest buildings are 30-45 stories high. Skyscrapers took over downtown during the 1970s and 1980s. Life in Des Moines was brought to a halt in 1993 when the city was declared a national disaster area. Flooding of the Des Moines and Raccoon rivers caused over $250 million in damages. The resulting construction projects helped renovate and update the city, bringing it into the 21st century by changing the downtown appearance. Several existing downtown buildings are being converted to loft apartments and condominiums. By retaining its small-town atmosphere with big-city amenities that lend to its quality of life, Des Moines was renamed an All-America City in 2003. Hoping to increase tourism and conventions, the area has undergone $1.5 billion in development projects. Among these is a shopping complex, IMAX theater, state science center, riverfront amphitheater, and central library.

If you are moving to Des Moines, there many colleges in its midst. The most significant is Iowa State University, about 33 miles away, with its full-time enrollment of over 24,000 students. Crime in Des Moines took a sharp turn upward in 2005, rising 200 points above the national crime index of 325.2. However, serious offenses like murder have steadily declined in recent years to 2.6 murders per 100,000 residents in 2005, making it one of the safest big cities. On the banks of the Des Moines River, farmers in the Des Moines area enjoy fertile farmland. During the heart of the growing season (early May to early October), about 60% of the 33 inches of annual rainfall is recorded. Harvest time is met with conditions favorable for drying and harvesting crops. However, the weather can become harsh and drastically change. Summer heat peaks at highs averaging 86 degrees in July and plummet to about 12 for the low in January. During winter, subzero temperatures and drifting snow can impede transportation with over 30 inches of snowfall annually. The area is a tornado zone with a 118% higher risk of a twister than the rest of the country. The city has notable natives like actress Cloris Leachman, members of the rock group Slipknot, famed fashion designer Halston, a female NASCAR driver, an NFL quarterback, a PGA Masters Champion and a former U.S. President, who was a local radio personality, Ronald Reagan.

About the Author

Lou Ross writes articles about moving issues and moving companies for

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