According to Forbes Magazine, Des Moines is the best place for business in the country:
The Great Recession ravaged almost every big city across the United States in 2009. Home prices were down in 182 of the 200 largest metro areas, while household incomes fell in 94% of these areas. The employment picture was even tougher: only four areas posted positive job growth with a paltry gain of just 4,300 positions created–combined. The other 196 metros together lost 3.5 million jobs last year.
The worst may be over, but businesses on both coasts still face outrageous costs and indebted state governments with budget shortfalls that will have to be filled from the flesh of local firms. Those problems won’t be resolved anytime soon.
What to do? Our 12th annual ranking of the Best Places for Business and Careers has an answer: Move to Middle America.
The top of this year’s list is filled with cities in so-called flyover states, areas with reasonable business costs, strong economic outlooks and a solid quality of life.
Leading the way is Des Moines, Iowa, which grabbed our top spot after ranking seventh last year. Iowa’s capital has 562,000 people in the metro area and features business costs 15% below the national average (living costs are 10% below the national average). It has an educated labor supply as 33% of adults have college degrees (ranking 46th among the 200 largest metros) and 92% possess high school diplomas (ranks 19th).
The financial industry has set up shop in Des Moines, with Wells Fargo and Principal Financial being the largest employers in the area with 19,000 employees between them. Other big employers include insurers Nationwide Insurance and Marsh & McLennan.
The economic outlook is bright in Des Moines as well. Employment is expected to increase at a 2.7% annual clip over the next three years, 10th best in the country. Meanwhile, household incomes are projected to rise 2.9%, which ranks 11th.
Des Moines city manager Richard Clark points to the area’s quality of life as a big draw for corporations. Housing is affordable with a median home price of just $149,000, one-quarter the price of a home in the San Francisco area. Commute times, according to the Census Bureau, average 19.8 minutes, one of the fastest in the U.S.
Getting outside is easy, too. Des Moines designed a system of more than 300 miles of trails in and around the city for running, walking, biking or in-line skating. A 4.4-acre public park and sculpture garden opened downtown in September. Local venture capitalist John Pappajohn and his wife Mary donated $40 million of sculptures to the project from their personal collection. The park is surrounded by the offices of Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, Nationwide and ING.