By Alex Ivanisevic, Cultivation Corridor Communications Assistant, firstname.lastname@example.org
Introducing, “Why Iowa?” a series highlighting individuals in the corridor with unique journeys.
Iowa is a workplace and home for many professionals who have set up their roots here. To some, the corn fields of this Midwest state haven’t always been their backyards. Todd Ellis is the director of regional sales for the western region and Canada with Renewable Energy Group, Inc. located in Ames, Iowa. Ellis and his family made the move to Ankeny, Iowa from Seattle, Washington about a year ago.
The Cultivation Corridor talked to Ellis for the first piece in this multipart series to ask him, “Why Iowa..?”
Cultivation Corridor (CC): Before moving to Iowa, where did you live and what did you do there?
Todd Ellis (TE): I was based in Seattle, Washington. Most recently working with REG, but about three years ago REG acquired the company I formerly worked with which was Imperium Renewables, where I was a Vice President of sales and business development.
CC: What brought you to Iowa?
TE: After the acquisition, I continued to work in Seattle with REG, after a couple of years of maintaining that position there, I realized that the corporate headquarters were in Ames and thought it was best to move to engage in our business operations daily here at the corporate headquarters.
CC: What was that move like for you and your family, how did you adjust?
TE: I grew up in the Midwest, in Kansas City, so I had some point of reference and have family in Kansas City. But for my wife and kids, this is a new community and new geographic region. I think for us, a few key things [stood out], one, overall costs of living are much more affordable here. Living in a place like Seattle, it’s growing with high property and costs of living and that comes with traffic and transportation issues. We thought [coming to Iowa] was going to be an opportunity for us as a family to move away from that per se, even just to have an opportunity to experience a new culture and community. So, as parents we thought it was important to give our kids the opportunity to experience a new place.
We live in Ankeny. We moved to Ankeny because we wanted to have access to a city and access to the airport. Working in Ames I have what I would consider a short commute. The big difference is, I lived six miles from my office in Seattle and it took 45 minutes to an hour to drive and I live 20 miles from my office here and it takes 20 minutes to get here.
We are surprised a little by the education system here, what I mean by that is we knew that Iowa had a good education system, but our expectations were exceeded. My kids go to Prairie Trail school. I would say that the education system pushed them to catch up. I think they were behind a little bit academically from schools in Seattle. You see graduation rates have 96%+, that’s impressive vs. Seattle which is, I think, less than 50%. We selected a community that, one, has a great education system, two, the proximity, and three, we have a chance to live in a neighborhood with young families, kids and a kind of safety and sustainability in mind in terms of community development and that was also important for us.
CC: How would you compare Iowa’s workforce with where you worked prior to moving here?
TE: One, I’ve been in an environment where it is quick paced and fast-moving growth business wise, I think that has a lot of advantages. The down side is it can be tougher to compete on an individual career development level, but also costs of living and the ability to kind of maintain a financial position for upper mobility as a family and in a career, there is more opportunity here.
CC: Overall, why Iowa?
TE: Iowa offers new beginnings. Iowa offers great community, network and support. Iowa offers an opportunity to create and reinvent yourself in a way that might not be possible in other places.