The numbers paint a pretty clear picture: Greater Des Moines is growing, and rural Iowa is not.

Dave Swenson, an economist at Iowa State University, says this is a natural progression of population trends. Greater Des Moines is doing well economically and growing in population, including its young up-and-coming workforce. 

Should we be concerned about other parts of the state? Not really, he says.

“A place like Des Moines, you are completely different from the state average, and you are almost opposite of the rest of the state,” Swenson said. “Where they are losing, you are gaining. Where they are struggling to just hold on, you’re thriving.”

That said, “I would care about that if I was from any given town,” he said, and Swenson understands the concerns of rural Iowa. But, he added, “for a lot of these places, the trends aren’t going to change.”

Our readers, though, disagreed with Swenson when we asked them about the issue in a recent poll. A total of 64 people responded.

Do you feel that a rural-urban divide in Iowa should be of concern to Greater Des Moines businesses?

Yes - 68.8%
No - 31.3%



“The strength of Iowa is reliant upon the whole state being prosperous, not just urban centers. Engagement in rural-urban collaborative projects is paramount.” 
Michael Sadler, assistant vice president for public policy and government relations, CenturyLink Inc.

“We are all connected, whether we live in rural or metro areas. Connected by work, church, sports and family activities. We need to make sure that our rural areas thrive along with our metro areas because it is not a zero-sum game – a strong rural economy helps all of Iowa.”
Dave Duncan, CEO, Iowa Communications Alliance

“Re-creating a pool of highly educated, motivated, innovative and civic-minded citizens engaged in Iowa demands the attention of all Iowans. Long an exporter of human capital, Iowa is suffering the consequences of our lack of concern for what keeps people here. Innovation is frowned upon. Nature is ignored. “Good old boys” don’t let others in. Iowans supposedly love progress and hate change. Let’s manage this polarity better.” – Bob Riley, founder and CEO of Riley Resource Group


“I believe that many of the people leaving rural Iowa are relocating to Central Iowa. That simply makes Des Moines a more attractive place to live and do business. Rural Iowa’s loss is in many ways Central Iowa’s gain.”
Wayne Fry, financial adviser at Investment Centers of America Inc. 

“Politically all the power will be in the hands of the urban centers. It would be the rural areas that should be concerned.”
Mona Bond, president of Capitol Communications Inc. 

“Natural course.” 

“It happens in every state.”  

“The entire basis for the rural economy has greatly diminished. The agricultural economy is much less dependent on labor.”