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For Local Business to Remain Competitive, Let's Make DSM USA a Global City

Creating a Global Community in DSM USA

October 30, 2017

Walk through the Des Moines Downtown Farmer’s Market (presented by UnityPoint Health – Des Moines) on any given summer Saturday morning and you will quickly realize that Greater Des Moines (DSM), like our larger state and nation, is a melting pot of cultures, languages, and lifestyles. Iowa has had a rich history of welcoming and integrating people from all over the world and DSM is still leading that charge today.  However, simply welcoming immigrants and refugees to DSM is not enough. If our local businesses and industries want to remain competitive and grow, we need to actively recruit global talent to meet the human resource needs of today and the years and decades to come. 

Growing the Talent Pool in DSM USA

While DSM is the fastest growing city in the Midwest, statistics show that the labor pool numbers for the entire state, like its general population, are flat or slow growing.  Simply put, this makes for a reality where we can’t keep pace with the demand for jobs that will fuel the future of Iowa and regional DSM economies. Some of the most urgent needs lie in the technology field, such as engineering, computer programming, industrial design, etc.  But how do we attract and grow that talent pool? Easy… Iowa’s renowned higher education system.

The Global DSM Initiative

Among the key initiatives of the Global DSM: Trade and Investment Strategy is a concerted effort to increase exports, including the concept that our DSM area public and private universities and colleges offer a unique and strong “export” in education.  That is, they attract students from abroad, who spend resources in our DSM community for several years. This is similar to how the tourism industry counts itself as an “export,” yet the educational tourist is much longer term, spending considerably more money in our region. 

But why not take this unique situation and make it a two-way street? The Partnership’s Global DSM: International Talent Strategy addresses how we can seize on this opportunity and gain the “import” side of the foreign student to help grow the DSM economy. Many international students are some of the brightest coming out of their respective countries, choosing our strong local universities and colleges to study some of the very disciplines where we are experiencing shortfalls in qualified labor. By partnering local businesses and industries with DSM higher education centers, we can create opportunities for mentoring programs, internships, etc., for both our own students and those studying from abroad. This approach will make it easier for DSM employers to retain recent graduates who not only have a degree, but are acclimated to our culture and have real-world job experience.  

Tapping Into Local Communities

We also need to draw on existing communities of talented Iowans, native and new.  Many first-generation Iowans possess language and cultural skills that DSM exporters can leverage to be competitive in their given industries. Furthermore, many of these Iowans have foreign professional credentials that, with reciprocal recognition or with additional training hours, ESL/ELL classes, etc. could help fill shortfalls in such fields as nursing and medical tech, to name a few. 

Finally, let’s not forget that we are all a product of immigration at one point in our family history and that there are many opportunities for lifelong Iowans to participate in Global DSM. With that said, we need to continue funding and stressing the importance of foreign language courses in K-12 education, while encouraging the integration of more post-secondary language and study-abroad experiences within the core components of all disciplines in higher education. These steps will help us become a more global DSM community from within, while partnering with new Iowans to form a most enviable Global DSM. 

Through the Global DSM initiative, the Greater Des Moines Partnership works to establish Greater Des Moines as a global community through bolstering global trade and foreign investments and leveraging international talent. To learn more, click here

Tony Braida

Tony Braida serves as VP of global banking at Bankers Trust. With more than 27 years of experience in international sales, marketing, and logistics in the private sector, Tony helps small- to mid-sized companies broaden their overseas markets. Prior to joining Bankers Trust in 2014, Tony worked in international sales and marketing for Iowa Export-Import Trading Company and RYKO Solutions, Inc. He graduated from Central College in Pella, Iowa, with a B.A. in International Management and Spanish and earned his Master's in International Management from Boston University/Sapienza Universita' di Roma in Rome, Italy. Apart from his position with Bankers Trust, Tony serves on several local boards with international reach, including the International Traders of Iowa, Iowa International Center, U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, as well as co-chairing the Greater Des Moines Partnership's International Council.