Iowans under 30

Republican leaders in Iowa have a new way to try to keep my generation in the state.

Along new incentives for the development of new “high-end” jobs for new college graduates, Senate Republicans want to eliminate my state income taxes.

Sure, I see the advantages of that namely a few more dollars in my pocket each week.

I hate to admit it, especially since I stand to personally benefit from the decision, I’m just not sure it’s going to work.

Here’s why: Last fall, I was among a handful of representatives of the local Emerging Professionals group to attend conference in Ames. Round table discussions covered a variety of subjects, including leadership, job security, what made attendees stay in Iowa, and what could be done to encourage others this generation to stay.

It may have come up, but I don’t recall hearing one person in that crowd of almost 300 standing up to say they were in Iowa because of the money or because of the great tax rates. Nor do I recall any of them saying they considered moving to South Dakota to avoid income taxes. (By the way, if a young person really wanted to live somewhere to avoid state income taxes, options would also include Florida, Washington, Wyoming.)

Granted, these conference attendees are the young people that have stayed in Iowa and will probably be our “lifers.” Maybe those that left the state are seeking money, but generational studies show they’re probably chasing something other than dollar signs.

Rebecca Ryan, one conference speaker, cited studies and surveys of young people that rung true to many of us.

Today’s under 30 crowd is far more interested in living in a “cool place” than making a lot of cold cash.

“Quality of life trumps quality of job,” said Ryan. Young people today are looking for coffee houses, recreational opportunities, oppor- tunities with the arts, and course, some night life.

Now don’t get me wrong, we’re not all looking for that drunken frat party after college, we’re just looking for some cool places to hang out, meet people our own age and get some cultural stimulation. I believe the trick to keeping young people in Iowa is not as much in tax reduction, or even the creation of those “high end jobs,” but rather in creating things with- in communities that young people value.

Iowa has the right idea with its Vision Iowa fund, but we can’t wait for the state to do everything. Communities need to develop themselves and develop a vision for luring its next generation of leaders. Iowa’s under 19 crowd is already 137,000 less than it was 20 years ago. With many of those youngsters already dreaming of a life out of state, we’ve got to do something.