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DSM USA Made Me Become a 'Boomeranger'

Marti Ryan

July 12, 2018

Boomerangers: I studied them for over ten years and always thought I’m not going to be one of those. I didn’t want to be one of those people that moves back home.

Moving Away

I grew up in Perry, Iowa and couldn’t wait to experience the world beyond. All through school I was strong in math and science and had endless curiosity. I completed degrees at The University of Iowa and Drake University. When I left Greater Des Moines (DSM) on Halloween in 1995, my partner at the time and I had decided Madison, Wis. would be a more liberal and open place to pursue career and advanced educational opportunities. And it certainly was. My time away from DSM provided plenty of learning and many firsts. I procured art for one of Madison’s first sustainable, affordable housing apartment buildings, helped launch several businesses, advised the hip-hop conference on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus for two consecutive years, participated in race study circles, drum circles, was an organic urban gardener, learned mindfulness, food appreciation and got a few tattoos.

Over the last ten years I had an itch to move and experience another city. The timing was never right and my quality of life in Madison was really good.

Researching the Best Cities

One of my longest stints of work in Madison was as Co-Owner of Next Generation Consulting. We were a great team and rocked a successful consulting business by helping clients attract and retain 20- to 40-year-olds. Several of our clients were cities, which lead to a lot of travel across North America and provided opportunities to experience cities from multiple angles. We indexed the quality of life of cities using, at the time, proprietary tools that collected over 56 public domain data points for benchmarking these cities. We also researched and learned our city clients by observing, interviewing and leading focus groups with multi-generations to compare the data on quality of life to their perceptions of quality of life. In 2009, our team spent several hours comparing and ranking 80 U.S. cities. This article highlights our work. Your zip code is the number one contributor to your happiness. So if you have a choice of where to live, it’s an important choice.

Vibrant Startup Scene

About four years ago, my path found me embarking on one of many serial entrepreneurial adventures leading to the role of CEO and Co-Founder of an insurtech startup that was accepted into the 2016 cohort of the Global Insurance Accelerator. For four months I was immersed in DSM, the Historic East Village and building my network in the financial services industry. At the same time I was reflecting on the changes over the last 20 years of my life and career. DSM impressed me and so did the startup scene and support the state provides for entrepreneurs.

Data Driven Decision

After the insurtech startup fizzled out, I decided to research other cities and pursue innovation positions in the U.S. I applied to several positions including the Bay Area, had several interviews, and then applied all I knew about city rankings to pull the top cities that would provide me the best quality of life based on data. While San Francisco was appealing it did not make the final cut. The cities that did were Boise, Idaho, Fort Collins, Colo., Grand Rapids, Mich. and DSM. I continued to dig into these cities to learn about open positions, major employers and housing options. DSM had more options and the cost of living was lower than all the rest. In addition, the housing stock Downtown was fantastic and the addition of an impressive trail system pulled me in further. And to top off the rankings, my family still lives in Perry where I grew up.

Here’s a photo of the people that I look forward to sharing breakfast with at Hotel Pattee at least once a month. My parents Shirley and Orville Folden are to my right and our dear friends Dave and Mary Theresa are on the left.

Hotel Pattee Vibrant Social Scene DSM

I now live and work in Downtown DSM. I can’t say enough about how good it is to be here. To be back — like a boomeranger.

You can find Smidge and I (pictured at the top) walking Downtown most mornings.

Are you interested in moving to Greater Des Moines (DSM)? Relocation Packets offer information on everything from neighborhoods to shopping, parks and local attractions. Or, kick start your career by checking out the DSM USA Career Center. It has over 10,000 jobs listed! 



Marti Ryan

Marti Ryan is a futurist, strategist and creative problem solver. Marti spent the last twenty years teaching and consulting in Madison, Wis. helping to launch several creative commerce companies. Now based in Downtown Des Moines (DSM), appreciative inquiry, deep listening, data analysis with context and discovering the "why" are Marti's sweet spots.