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Thinking About What Matters

October 12, 2022 | Economic Development & Workforce

Brain drain – the departure of our college graduates to other states – isn’t anything new. We’ve read about, try to recruit against it, and promote the benefits of staying in Iowa all in hopes these graduates see a future worth sticking around for. It may not be as immediately painful as a brain freeze – but it still hurts.

Jared Jirak, a Center Point native, is an example of a college graduate who shopped around the country and decided to stay in Iowa. Jared received a BBA in Finance and Management, and a Risk Management and Insurance Certificate from the University of Iowa in 2015. Along with his studies, he was a member of Delta Sigma Pi business fraternity.

“We did a professional trip every semester. We visited Chicago, Minneapolis, Kansas City and Des Moines to shadow other fraternity members. It allowed me to see other cities and decide where I wanted to be after I graduated. I knew I didn’t want to go to a small town, but what I learned from going to those other cities is that they were just too big.”

A notable percentage of University of Iowa grads are from the Chicago area, and decide to make the move back after graduation. Being lured by familiarity, family and more job opportunities – or so they think. But not for Jared.

“I knew that Chicago was out of the mix immediately. The traffic and the cost of living metrics are brutal. While I loved Kansas City and Minneapolis, I loved the family dynamics of Iowa. Once I got to Des Moines, I just liked what it had to offer. Being in risk management, I knew there would be lots of opportunities and it had that smaller feel.”

Jared lived in Des Moines for three years before moving back to Cedar Rapids to join his fiancé, now wife, who had completed her doctoral program and found a career opportunity in the area. At the same time, Holmes Murphy had an opening in their Cedar Rapids office which allowed him to fulfill one of his career goals – transitioning to the strategy and sales side of the employee benefit insurance business. He also had goals for community involvement.

“One of the main things I like about Cedar Rapids is that it’s so easy to get involved in the community. United Way was starting their board orientation leadership development program (BOLD). I participated in that just to become familiar with the opportunities that were available.”

That led Jared to more networking and opportunities to connect with people. He is now part of Gems of Hope, Downtown Rotary and is a member of the current Leadership for Five Seasons class.

“While a job may attract you to a certain area, jobs can change. Your relationships and the impact you can have on your community lasts. Individuals want our community to be successful and other people around them to be successful. You’re never going to accomplish as much by yourself as you can as part of a team, as part of community. This understanding and support makes for a happy life in Iowa.”

The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Sometimes staying on the side you’re already on is the greenest of them all!