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Approximately 15% of the population in DSM is foreign-born. Many of them are highly educated in their home countries but experience brain-waste when they come to the U.S. because of unfamiliarity with systems and lack of licensing and credentialing services. A large number of highly-educated foreign-born individuals are underemployed.

  • Approximately 5% of Iowa population is foreign-born and approximately 15% in Polk County.
  • In Iowa, 70% of the foreign-born population is working-aged, compared to less than 50% of the native-born population.

Industries with largest share of foreign-born in 2014.

  • Packaging and filling: 52%
  • Animal slaughtering and processing: 38%
  • Software developers: 32%
  • Physicians and Surgeons: 22%
  • Post-secondary teachers: 18%
  • Housekeeping: 16%

Despite making up 5% of Iowa’s population, immigrants represented 10.1% of all STEM workers in 2014.

Source: New American Economy

Benefits of Hiring Foreign-Born

  • Foreign-born are responsible for approximately one quarter of all high-tech startups, and nearly half of the high-tech startups in Silicon Valley. Immigrants or their children founded more then 40% of the 2010 Fortune 500 companies and seven of the 10 most valuable brands in the world came from American companies founded by immigrant or their children.  (Source: Guide to Immigrant Economic Development)
  • Immigrants’ contribution extends beyond the high-tech, new economy and Fortune 500 firms. Immigrants start businesses at more than twice the rate of native-born Americans — a critical fact for many struggling cities with significant retail needs in disinvested, low-income communities.
  • Foreign-born residents contributed $3.2 billion to the region’s GDP in 2014 and $100 million in state and local taxes. (Source: Global DSM: International Talent Strategy)
  • 50% of Fortune 500 companies based in Iowa were founded by immigrants or their children.
  • In Iowa, households led by immigrants earned $4.1 billion, $348.9 million went to state and local taxes and $820.0 million went to federal taxes leaving them with $3.0 billion in spending power. (Source: New American Economy)
  • Cities that lead in the 21st centuries will be those that intentionally attract and incorporate diverse people and ideas and create the means for talented people from around the world to not only come, but to put down roots. Communities across the world are in competition to attract the human capital that will allow them to thrive in a global economy. Becoming a more welcoming place for immigrants will give them a leg up in that competition and help retain talented people of all backgrounds. As many Midwestern cities are dealing with declining populations, a strategy to attract and retain new taxpayers and families is a matter of survival.
  • American prosperity in the 21st century depends, in part, on its ability to continue to lead as a destination for the world’s talent seeking economic opportunity.

Attraction & Retention Strategies


Providing a mentor allows a great learning opportunity for foreign-born individuals to adapt and grow in a new job environment.

Employee Resource Groups (ERG’s)

As with other minorities and special groups connecting foreign-born individuals with appropriate ERG’s allows the foreign-born employee to feel comfortable, adapt and grow within your organizations.

Toastmasters Club or Other English Language Learning Opportunities

If the foreign-born employee can benefit from improving English language and communication skills, allowing them to join a Toastmasters Club or other conversational English class opportunities allows them to sharpen their language and communication skills and contribute fully to your organization.

Employer Funding Opportunities

While there are very less to no specific funding available for this population, there are some generic funds that maybe used to work with this population such as:

  • Future Ready Iowa
  • Earn and Learn Iowa

Additional Resources