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Tapping into Immigrant Talent in Iowa

Immigrant Talent

According to a May 26 article in the Des Moines Register, immigration is bringing new life to the heartland, and Des Moines leads the way, attracting more immigrants than any other heartland city in the last decade, increasing its foreign-born population by more than 50%. During a recent Greater Des Moines Partnership webinar, Director of Diversity and Inclusion Sanjita Pradhan discussed tapping into this immigrant talent in Greater Des Moines (DSM).

Data on Immigrant Talent

Asma Easa, senior policy fellow with New American Economy, shared information on contributions by the foreign-born population in the region and the state. Easa touched on the Iowa Compact on Immigration and how the principles will guide the immigration discussion at the state and federal levels. She said immigrants account for 7.9% of the population in DSM and 5.6% of the population in Iowa and highlighted the overall population growth in DSM, including a 25.1% immigrant population increase in the region from 2009 to 2014. Easa also emphasized that immigrants are more likely to be working age in DSM, with 83.9% of foreign-born persons of working age compared to 62.2% U.S. born persons of working age. According to the 2020 Map the Impact report by New American Economy, the largest share of immigrant workers is employed by these five industries:

  • Manufacturing (18.5%)
  • Tourism, Hospitality, Recreation (16.1%)
  • Administrative Support (13.7%)
  • Construction (12.2%)
  • Professional, Scientific, Technical Services (10.9%)

Easa discussed immigrants in STEM jobs, sharing data on STEM job postings and the important role immigrants play in the STEM field, as well as immigrants as entrepreneurs. In 2019, DSM boasted more than 2,600 immigrant entrepreneurs. These and other Iowa immigrant entrepreneurs generated $4 billion in sales and employed 24,227 Iowans.

See New American Economy reports, including Contributions of Immigrants in Iowa here.

Immigrant Workers in DSM

Finding diverse workers and working with the immigrant population is a top priority in DSM. Pradhan discussed finding diverse sources of hiring with several local presenters, including:

Pradhan also highlighted immigrant professional workers in DSM. Janeth Colina Rivero, from Venezuela, graduated there as a veterinarian before receiving a study abroad scholarship. She took the opportunity to attend the University of Nebraska, receiving her Ph.D before returning to Venezuela to work for many years. She returned to the U.S. in 2015. Rivera anticipated it being easy to get a position in Iowa, but had trouble finding success due to many positions having 70% traveling or relocation. Because of her family, these positions weren’t a good fit. Rivera met with Pradhan at The Partnership, who passed her resume on and she eventually took a role as applied nutrition technologist at a new company in DSM, Insta-Pro International. Rivero discussed being able to work in a perfect environment for her where she can utilize her skills and learn from her fellow employees.

Sam Adukwu Atadoga also discussed his journey to becoming an AVP/control adoption lead for Wells Fargo. In 2014, he said he went through a bit of culture shock upon attending the University of Northern Iowa as a student. In 2016, he graduated and began working at his first corporate job. He dealt with culture shock there as well as he navigated self-isolation, an inability to network and a “me versus them” mentality. It wasn’t until 2018 that Atadoga attended the Career Readiness for International Professionals Class and began to learn more about networking and connected with a mentor through the Mentor Connection program that he began to find the guidance and support he needed to find success in DSM.

Watch the entire webinar below:


Greater Des Moines (DSM) welcomes diverse talent to the region. As one of the fastest growing business communities, inclusion and attracting diverse talent in the workplace is a key strategy of the Greater Des Moines Partnership. Learn more here.

Greater Des Moines Partnership

The Greater Des Moines Partnership is the economic and community development organization that serves Greater Des Moines (DSM), Iowa. Together with 23 Affiliate Chambers of Commerce, more than 6,500 Regional Business Members and more than 400 Investors, The Partnership drives economic growth with one voice, one mission and as one region. Through innovation, strategic planning and global collaboration, The Partnership grows opportunity, helps create jobs and promotes DSM as the best place to build a business, a career and a future. Learn more at DSMpartnership.com.