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The following article was originally published on May 29, 2019 via LightEdge.
As any good tech startup knows, scope creep can kill a business before it ever releases its first product. This can be tough given that, laser focus on the smaller aspects of a product is key to surviving the initial stages of a tech business.
Another wise and guiding principal is the focus on customer experience. Des Moines seems to be hitting on both of these fronts as it strives to grow into a “No Coast” tech hub. Here are three key contributors to why this is happening:
Des Moines and the surrounding metropolitan area is fast approaching 700,000 residents. With many job seekers coming to Des Moines for employment in technology, DSM is quickly being branded as Silicon Prairie. As a result, the large candidate pool gives businesses a diverse population to hire from. It also allows the area to support high quality arts, cultural lifestyles, and entertainment options such as semi-professional sports teams. Quality of life is a key element in attracting and growing a workforce.
Iowa has always been known as a place that produces well-educated and hard-working people. Now, Des Moines has found ways to keep that talent local. As our traditional agriculture and finance industries rapidly embrace digital transformation, the workplace and the city have transformed to entice this tech-savvy generation.
Urban living options, short commutes, low crime-rate, affordable housing, and diverse entertainment options all contribute to keeping and growing our population. These conditions also allow businesses to attract top leadership and talent to Des Moines. At work or play, it is now common to run into people from New York, DC, Dallas, San Francisco, and Seattle who have opted for a balanced life on the modern prairie. There is simply a fun mix of quality of life, economic opportunity, and entertainment to be had in Des Moines these days.
Des Moines communities are continually ranking highest on lists for top places to live. In fact, Cedar Rapids and Des Moines were ranked #1 and #3 for most affordable housing in the country by WalletHub, and the Today Show ranked Des Moines in the top five best places to live in the U.S. With all of the success that Des Moines is experiencing, many residences that moved away are now returning to Des Moines to experience the benefits.
The past 20 years has seen significant investment in Des Moines infrastructure to support growth in population and the businesses that support it. Des Moines “International” Airport has seen continued improvements and growth in flight options, yet it is still one of the easiest airport experiences in the country.
Interstate arteries have been expanded and given the city breathing room to grow in all directions while keeping commutes reasonable and discussions of traffic limited to the occasional extra 10-minute inconvenience. Spend a week driving in DC, Chicago, or LA for some perspective on how good DSM has it.
Downtown has completely transformed in the past 20 years. What was once a ghost-town after 5pm and on weekends is now teaming up with activities from festivals, markets, shows, and neighborhoods coming alive with their own personalities and charm. Whether shopping or out for drinks in the east village, dinner and a Broadway show near Court Ave, or taking the kids for a walk in the sculpture park after brunch on weekends, there is something for everyone.
New projects to further develop both the Des Moines and Raccoon River areas are anchored by beautiful Principal Park, home of the Iowa Cubs and Wells Fargo Arena (host to the last 2 NCAA regional tournament stops). In addition, construction is underway to connect downtown with Grays Lake recreation area and the fabulous Waterworks Park with its outdoor concert venue. As for office space, Des Moines has a large array of options from converted historical spaces, modern high-rises, and plenty of room to build whatever structure can be imagined.
The Internet has opened businesses up to global markets with their only limitation being connecting their workforce to the Cloud and their customers. Des Moines’ location at the intersection of I-35 and I-80 gives it convenient access to strategic Fiber Optic networks that connect the nation both north-south and east-west.
Being conveniently located near the middle of the country gives Des Moines relatively equal performance to either coast when measured as digital information travels. Businesses also benefit from robust competition for high-speed internet lines with over 10 fiber companies vying for their dollars in a relatively compact metro area.
Dedicated fiber Gigabit access can be found for $600-$1500/mo and 10 Gigabit access can be found for $2k-$4k/mo. Home users are not left out with several reasonable options for connectivity. With LightEdge being the very first to build their data center in Des Moines, the has also quietly become home to cloud operations for Microsoft, Facebook, and Apple. Several local data centers, cloud providers, development shops, and tech incubators also support local businesses grow and innovate.
These three factors are what is fueling Des Moines’ tech growth. Here you will find innovators in ag-tech, fin-tech, genetics, bio-tech, advanced manufacturing, and many more quietly changing the world and enjoying a balanced and rewarding life. With the 2020 election season upon us, the eyes of the national may be upon Iowa, but Des Moines has found its stride and welcomes the country to take a new look.
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