Evolving Priorities And Burying “Brain Drain”

Shane Hefty and Zac Bales-Henry discuss during a YPC committee meeting. (Des Moines Register)

The Des Moines Register recently profiled the young professional community from the early beginning to today.  One group in particular was the Young Professional Connection.  Established in 2000 by the Greater Des Moines Partnership to address the growing number of Gen Xers and Millennials, the YPC as it commonly known as, has grown in membership and interest in the 23-40 age group.

With that said, there are other young professional groups throughout the (Des Moines) area and statewide, along with YPC, that are catered to young professionals as an avenue to network with others, get involved in charitable projects in the community, and improve in the areas that will help them in their careers and professional life.

Let me stress this:  not all groups will be a good match for everyone.  That’s not a bad thing.  As acquaintance Chris Knauf said to Register writer Todd Erzen, he (Knauf) wasn’t sure what the main direction/focus that YPC is heading towards when he served on the YPC board.

He’s not being a bad guy, far from it.  Nor should anyone who is a loyal YPCer be put-off by his comments.  To a point, a sizable number of young professionals would echo the same sentiments from both sides, pro and con.

In an odd way, that’s a good thing, because it helps YP groups focus not what their mission is, but what their priorities should be, how it’s executed, and address the topics and things that YPs need to know or want to see done.

Another way of saying it is this:  it’s nice to pat each other on the back, but we need to keep challenging each other to do better as a young professional.

As a YP who is on the backside of the demographic, I can understand Knauf’s frustration, but it shouldn’t be all that frustrating at all.  YPs are learning and evolving, which means ideas, focus, and priorities will evolve.  It can be difficult when you are unsure what the one main thing a group should be doing.  But, you also can’t be stuck in the mud, holding on to and seeking that one “magic pill” that everyone should be going after collectively.

Not everyone young Iowans is leaving the state. I know. Most of my friends haven’t lived in any other state but Iowa.

Which brings me to the issue that continues to drive me nuts when it comes to the YP community:  the “Brain Drain” talk.

Can we stop saying that we’re having a “Brain Drain”?  Since the 80’s, that term has been used to explain why young native Iowans are leaving to find better futures after leaving school.  I made a list of friends and classmates I have known, starting with junior high and up to college.  Then, I looked at my Facebook connections and reviewed them.

What struck me is that the majority of those between 23-40 that I know, from both lists, grew up in Iowa, went to school in Iowa, and never left the state.  Some left for a few years, only to return.  Several left for reasons not related to school or career.

The best and brightest are living right here…and the majority of them are native Iowans.  Kathryn Dickel, Amy Jennings, Pete Jones, Lia Brown, Lauren Burt, Karris Golden, and Mike Draper

I could go on.  They are all native Iowans.  And then there are those who came here from different states and made Iowa a home:  Aaron Buzza, Jarad Bernstein, Chris Juhl, and Jason Wells, to name a few.

Can we please end this scare tactic of a “Brain Drain” in this state?  That term should be buried and given a proper funeral.  Every state and community loses or gains young professionals.  The idea that Iowa is the only place where this happens is a fallacy and a useless excuse.

Peter Finch agrees with me.  I’ll let him tell you how much he’s had it with “brain drain”:

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Chris Juhl says:

    Great topic, I am not a native to Iowa but came here to go to Iowa State 20 years ago and loved it so much, I decided to stay and get my Masters. Then after leaving for six years, I turned down job offers at Vanderbilt and Arizona State, to move back to Des Moines without any job offers. I loved the direction I saw DSM heading in and wanted to be a part of it, and now I don’t know if I will ever leave. Thanks for the mention, I am very honored to be considered in this company.

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