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From 'Hell No' to 'Hell Yes': #DSMUSA Transplant Turned Advocate

 #DSMUSA Transplant Turned Advocate

July 10, 2019

The Power of Social Media for #DSMUSA

As a typical millennial, I found myself catching up on the latest news and updates on my Twitter feed a couple weeks ago. I started to notice the “SOCIAL EXPERIMENT” trend and noticed how much the conversation focused on shared experiences and connected people across a variety of interests. After viewing a few different topics, I thought to myself, “this would be a fun way to celebrate #DSMUSA and share with the world the things that make our city great.” Thus, I tweeted out to the world asking users to share their favorite thing about Greater Des Moines (DSM), without reading the replies first, and encouraging those who have never visited to read the replies immediately. 


By tagging the Greater Des Moines Partnership and Catch Des Moines, I figured the tweet would gain some traction and perhaps a few retweets and replies from friends and colleagues. I never dreamed it would take off and achieve such high impression and engagement, but I’m not really surprised at how passionate residents of DSM are when it comes to promoting Des Moines. I know this first hand as an Iowa transplant turned #DSMUSA advocate myself.    

Bright-Eyed for the Big City

For as long as I can remember, I always imagined that I’d spend my mid to late 20s living somewhere between River North and Wrigleyville while working in “The Loop.” Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, the pattern of growing up in the ‘burbs, attending a four-year institution, and then returning “home” to the heart of downtown was all too familiar. As I applied to colleges back in 2009, this was my reality. Regardless of where I ended up for school, I knew that in the summer of 2014, I’d be moving into an apartment in Chicago with a solid profession in the heart of America’s third largest city. Well, we all know things don’t always turn out the way we’d expect and for me, I could not be happier with how my story unfolded.



Be A Leader, Not A Number

It was the summer after my sophomore year at Drake University when I met Jay Byers and Mary Bontrager. I was an intern for Carrie Clogg at Civic Music Association, managing the summer concert series for the Belin Quartet and assisting with preparations for the 2012-13 jazz and classical series. Both Carrie and second-year intern, Devin van Holsteijn, recommended I participate in the Greater Des Moines Partnership’s Do More in the City summer intern series, now branded as Seize the City

It was through this program that I had the opportunity to enjoy lunch with both Mary and Jay at the Des Moines Embassy Club one afternoon. Our conversation revolved around all the new developments taking place in Greater Des Moines (DSM). We discussed Capital Crossroads and the preliminary ideas to transform Water Works Park into an extension an established community favorite of Gray’s Lake Park. We discussed festivals, bike trails, residential and commercial development, and careers for young professionals. It was in that moment after an energetic and engaging conversation about all the wonderful things that Des Moines has to offer that I shared with both Jay and Mary my intention to explore professional opportunities in Chicago following graduation. The response from Jay became the genesis of a theme recognizable across the city of Des Moines – “Be a leader, not a number.” That phrase changed everything for me.



From ‘Hell No’ to ‘Hell Yes’

Conversations with old friends when I’d return home from college during break followed similar themes: “How are the cornfields in Iowa,” “when are you moving back to the city,” “what even is there to do in Des Moines,” and the list goes on. When I started college, Des Moines was just a quick stopover point before I moved back to the urban jungle of Chicago. As I reflect on what transformed me from “Des Moines: Hell No” to “Des Moines: Hell Yes,” I think of my lunch with Jay Byers and Mary Bontrager; I recall volunteering at the Des Moines Arts Festival; I replay the excitement of the Drake Relays and the many athletic events hosted in this city. I look at all of the opportunities Des Moines has provided me and ponder to myself, “how could there be anything better than this?” The beauty of Des Moines is the ability to provide opportunities that cater to the interests of a large city and allow its citizens to connect on a personal level. What I love most about the replies on my tweet is the diversity of favorites. There is something for everyone in this town and I’m convinced that if you spend enough time here, you’ll find your reason to be “Des Moines: Hell Yes” too.

Job opportunities and career resources are abundant in Greater Des Moines (DSM). Whether you're looking to find an internshipa jobdevelop professionally or grow as a student, we have the resources to help you thrive.

Tom Florian

Tom Florian serves as the director of membership and growth for the West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce. He is a two-time graduate of Drake University, receiving both his bachelor's and master's degrees from the College of Business and Public Administration. Tom and his wife Sarah reside in West Des Moines, IA.