In This Town, You Apply For A Job And You Get It

May 24, 2019

Excerpt from "In This Town, You Apply For A Job And You Get It" by Jim Zarolli for NPR.

Welcome to Ames, Iowa, where the unemployment rate is just 1.5% — less than half the national rate. Good employees here pretty much have their pick of jobs. Wages in Ames grew by 14.4% between 2013 and 2017, compared with 10.7% for the U.S.

So why are jobs so plentiful in this small city of more than 65,000 residents tucked amid farm fields 45 minutes north of Des Moines?

One reason is that Ames is home to Iowa State University. College towns emerged from the Great Recession in stronger shape than other places, says Iowa State economist Peter Orazem.

"Where the U.S. economy is growing tends to be in the sorts of things that universities are typically good at producing — educated employees and research," he says.

Because of Iowa State, the Department of Energy operates a lab in Ames that employs more than 600 people. Ames is also home to a healthy sprinkling of technology companies. One of them is Workiva, a business software firm begun by two Iowa State Ph.D.s.

"We refer to this part of Iowa as the Silicon Prairie," quips Emily Forrester, vice president of human resources for Workiva.

Companies such as Workiva provide the kind of high-wage jobs that cities like because they can help create other jobs.

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