Dallas County, Iowa — encompassing West Des Moines and other communities on the west side of the state capital — ranked No. 7 among small counties nationally in EMSI’s 2018 Talent Scorecard. That was up from 27th the year before and 44th the year before that. The county has shown steadily high migration ever since 2012, EMSI reported, and ranks highly in regional competitiveness.
Further confirming the momentum, estimates released in April by the U.S. Census Bureau said Dallas County was No. 8 in the nation in percentage population growth between 2010 and 2019, expanding by 36.4% from 66,138 to 90,180.
At a time when so many Midwest counties are contracting, what gives?
Site Selection’s Conway Analytics database shows recent projects such as Apple’s $1.3 billion, 50-job data center in Waukee. Tyson Fresh Meats last year expanded its plant in Perry, and insurance firm Holmes, Murphy and Associates has invested around $28 million in a new 400-job HQ in Waukee, moving from West Des Moines. IMT Insurance just invested nearly the same amount in a new HQ in West Des Moines.
Safe and Secure, But Not Idle
That sector has historically been Greater Des Moines’ ace in the hole, and may offer a clue to Dallas County demographics: Not only is the area good for insurance, it’s good at reassurance too. Take Woodward Eco Business Park, which in August became the first Certified Green Business Park in the Iowa Department of Economic Development’s Certified Site Program. It’s one of four Certified Sites overall in the county.
Or take the FIRE sector (finance, insurance and real estate). West Des Moines is home to the Wells Fargo Home Mortgage corporate office, a $100-million project that opened in early 2015. Wells Fargo is Greater Des Moines’ largest employer, with about 14,500 on staff in central Iowa as of spring 2018.
Growth in the sector continued in December, when Sammons Financial Group announced it would bring 200 new jobs to a new $60 million corporate headquarters near Jordan Creek Town Center in West Des Moines.
Skilled immigrants could further boost population growth in Greater Des Moines, which in February was one of eight areas nationwide chosen to participate in the 2019 Global Talent Bridge program of World Education Services, which offers customized technical assistance to advance skilled immigrant integration efforts. The grant will help support the work of the Greater Des Moines Partnership’s Global DSM: International Talent Strategy.
Census Bureau statistics from the 2017 American Community Survey show foreign-born residents comprised 7.8% of the area’s population, led by nearly 18,000 from Asia and nearly 16,000 from Latin America. ESRI projects that the nine-county area served by the Partnership will grow overall by 7.7% between 2018 and 2023 to 954,723 people, with the median home value jumping from around $176,000 to more than $200,000.