Government

'This Is Iowa' entices people to visit - and stay

Reynolds hopes new campaign will 'crash the myth' about the state

Screenshot of YouTube video that is part of the 'This is Iowa' campaign
Screenshot of YouTube video that is part of the 'This is Iowa' campaign
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DES MOINES — Gov. Kim Reynolds unveiled a marketing campaign Monday designed to “crash the myth” that Iowa isn’t a great place to live, work and raise a family in hopes of persuading people not familiar with the state to give it a look.

Reynolds chose a downtown restaurant operated by an Australian who transplanted his family from New York City as the backdrop for announcing the launch of the “This Is Iowa” campaign she hopes will “surprise non-Iowans” by highlighting the affordability, natural beauty, culture, economic vitality and relaxed lifestyle that many enjoy.

“Our economy is humming and unemployment rates remain historically low, but Iowa’s population is not growing,” Reynolds told a news conference. “We just need more people.”

Reynolds said the “creative, clever” effort to encourage people from across the nation to visit, live and work in Iowa is intended to raise awareness and spur economic growth by highlighting quality-of-life benefits while “disrupting the typical thinking about our state and generating interest in checking us out.”

For example, she said, a YouTube video released as part of the campaign captures New York residents realizing how Iowa is not only affordable, but home to modern amenities, short commutes, recreation and culture.

“I hear this over and over from people — if we get them to Iowa and if we have them here for a year or two, they stay,” the governor said. “Our goal with this initiative is not only to increase tourism and increase visitors to the state, but maybe open their eyes to really crash the myth that we don’t have a lot of great things going on here.”

The state is looking to recruit new residents and train existing workers to fill a growing number of high-demand job openings. The “This is Iowa” campaign builds on in-state efforts to close the skills gap between employee training levels and business needs, such as Future Ready Iowa, registered apprenticeships, internships and other work-based learning opportunities.

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Debi Durham, director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority, said market research commissioned by her agency shows about two-thirds of travelers seriously consider moving to a new place after visiting. However, most people are unable to relocate without having a job lined up, preferably in an industry with growth potential, and most do not associate Iowa with cutting-edge careers or quality-of-life attributes like recreational or cultural activities, she said.

“Travel can be a gateway to attracting new residents,” said Durham, who noted the campaign is designed to create “ah-ha” moments for people who don’t consider a farm state to be a place with “cutting-edge careers or with things to do.”

“It’s time for us to stop being quite so humble about all we have to offer and to start changing the conventional thinking about Iowa,” she said. “The truth is, you can live big in Iowa.”

Restaurant owner Alexander Hall, who married a woman from Iowa, said he decided to relocate to Iowa after several visits to the Des Moines area and now has three eateries with a fourth under construction. He said the view of Iowa from outsiders is “so skewed from reality.” The two New Yorkers he brought with him to help with his restaurants “love it,” he said.

Through a variety of communications — including advertising, social media, digital and influencer outreach — the “This is Iowa “ campaign will reach target audiences inside and outside the state, Durham said.

She invited anyone to visit ThisIsIowa.com and use #ThisisIowa to join the conversation on Twitter and Instagram.

• Comments: (515) 243-7220; rod.boshart@thegazette.com

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