For generations, our colleges and universities have served as essential catalysts for stimulating Iowa’s economy. Together we provide the advanced stages of education for our pipeline of human talent, produce basic and applied research, and develop leadership coupled with entrepreneurial spirit. The ultimate measure of our success is found across the state in the vitality and engagement of our citizenry; the growing sophistication of our organizations, institutions, and business enterprises; and the creativity and innovation that drives our statewide economic engine. We take seriously this important role, which is why we are collectively expressing our deep concern over the need for comprehensive immigration reform in the United States.
We are witnessing an unfolding tragedy as we watch outstanding students from around the world emerge from our programs of study with well-earned credentials and proven success, only to find that they have no opportunity to stay in a country and a state they have grown to love. We hear constantly from the leaders of Iowa’s manufacturers, medical institutions, technology firms, and science-based companies that the existing limitations on legal immigration are costing our economy more than we can afford. They need all our graduates, both domestic and international, to fill positions at all levels of their organizations.
These graduates are highly engaged with bright minds and eager spirits. They are ambitious, motivated and filled with possibility. Some come with economic advantage, but many do not. Yet, they are collectively a rich resource of human talent. Some aspire to serve as healthcare workers; others are prepared for careers in business and industry. There are scientists and artists, educators and musicians. Many are eager to start businesses, which will create new economic opportunities. The bottom line is we need them.
We celebrate the remarkably low unemployment rate in the state of Iowa, and we should. But like most stellar achievements, there is a shadow side we all have to own as well. Low unemployment also means there is a relatively shallow talent pool to support the growth needs of our existing employers, to attract new companies to our state that are seeking to expand, and to encourage Iowa-based entrepreneurs to take risks with new enterprises.
In central Iowa, leaders in education have recently come together with business and community leaders to take the reins on addressing talent pool concerns by forming the Des Moines Immigration Initiative. Working in coordination with the Greater Des Moines Partnership and the Partnership for a New American Economy, the Initiative will set forth policy recommendations aimed to make central Iowa a premier destination for foreign-born talent and continued economic advancement.
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