Isaiah and Megan McGee visited California last month. They are pictured with their children, Eli and Micah, at Exposition Park in Los Angeles. Photo submitted
Isaiah and Megan McGee visited California last month. They are pictured with their children, Eli and Micah, at Exposition Park in Los Angeles. Photo submitted

In his ground-breaking novel, Jack Kerouac wrote, “The prettiest girls in the world live in Des Moines.”

But what Kerouac didn’t address in his 1957 countercultural classic, “On the Road,” was how that assertion relates to attracting and retaining workers in Iowa.

So the Business Record tested the validity of his claim by asking three local professionals to comment on the matter.

“The answer is yes,” said E.J. Giovannetti, a Polk County supervisor and a shareholder at Hopkins & Huebner P.C.

In 1963, Giovannetti, a Californian who moved to the Midwest to attend Creighton University in Omaha, married his college sweetheart, Deanna.

After graduating from law school in 1966, the new attorney had planned to return to Modesto, where his family owns a large farming operation.

“She didn’t want to leave Des Moines; her family was here,” Giovannetti said of his late wife. Moving west was “my intent until I met her,” he said, noting that though he may have been able to talk her into moving, he couldn’t quite bring himself to make the argument.

“I guess I couldn’t give her any reason for not staying,” he said. “You fall in love, and you follow the one you love, I guess.” So in 1966, the couple moved to Greater Des Moines, where they lived until Deanna passed away in 1979.

That was when Giovannetti again considered heading west. But by then, he had taken a liking to the metro area.

“I ended up in Des Moines. I’ve been here ever since,” he said. “I wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world.”

Joey Hinke also concurs with Kerouac’s observation.

“I would agree with that 100 percent,” said Hinke, a property and casualty insurance agent who in 2009 founded J.A. Hinke & Co. Inc. “I would especially agree with that since circa 2001.”

Born and raised in Bellevue, Iowa, Hinke married his wife, Angie, in 2001, about a year after she graduated from college. Next month, the two University of Northern Iowa alumni will celebrate their ninth wedding anniversary.

“She kind of put it to me, ‘I’m an Iowa girl,’” Hinke said of his bride’s steadfast resolve to live in Greater Des Moines. So after a one-year stint in Chicago, where he worked as a recruiter in a staffing division of Aerotek, Hinke returned in 2000 to Greater Des Moines.

“Would you be opposed to moving back?” he recalls his bride-to-be’s inquiry.

The short answer: No.

In 2004, however, the newlyweds were relocated to Dallas by Hinke’s employer at the time, Holmes Murphy & Associates Inc. But it took only until 2006 for the couple to realize how much they missed Iowa.

One Monday, Hinke recalled, he came from work to find a homesick spouse who was “a little bummed out” that she had missed her nephew’s birthday party over the weekend.

That same weekend, Hinke said, he took a call from an old college buddy, a family friend who asked straightforward questions regarding the couple’s satisfaction with their life in Texas.

And at a church meeting that Saturday night, Hinke remembers that the priest talked about “looking for signs.”

That was enough. He took the rest of the week off and made the 12-hour drive to Des Moines with his wife and baby daughter.

It felt right. By Wednesday, the couple had made an offer to purchase a home in Waukee.

Hinke, 34, recalled his phone conversation with Doug Reichardt, then president of Holmes Murphy. “We’re going to come home,” he told his boss. And upon the Hinkes’ return to Des Moines a few weeks later, Reichardt had already found a place for Joey in the company’s Des Moines office. “He’s been like a father to me,” Hinke said, remembering Reichardt’s words: “You just take care of your family and do what you’ve got to do.”

“We’ve been here ever since and can’t see moving ever again,” Hinke said.

Isaiah McGee, owner of McGee Strategies and a young professional blogger for www.IowaBiz.com, moved to Iowa from Los Angeles in 1997.

He met his wife, Megan, at Cornell College in Mount Vernon.

“I came here for college and met my wife in college,” said McGee, noting that after graduating in 2001, followed by a two-year stint living in Colorado, they decided to move to Greater Des Moines to be closer to her family.

“I’ve told people,” McGee said, “the key to keeping people here is to get them to marry in Iowa. And then they’ll stay.”

McGee, 31, said he’s aware of “numerous” people who met their significant others in Iowa and ended up staying in the state. “Sometimes,” he said, “the relationships didn’t work out. But after the relationship, they still stayed.”

McGee and his wife married in 2002. They’ve lived in Waukee since 2003.

“One of the advantages that we have here in Iowa is the relationships people build,” McGee said. “There’s no stronger friendship than a romantic relationship.”

“The community has been good for me,” Giovannetti said of his nearly 45 years in the Des Moines metro area, referring to a focus on education, an air of civility and a sense of fairness that he believes are stronger here than in other parts of the country. “I think we keep things in a certain order that appeals to me.

“What’s important to us is not found everywhere else in the world,” he said. “The community has been good for me. I raised two kids here. They turned out pretty damn well, frankly.”

Hinke, 34, wants to dispel the misconception that in order to be successful, you have to live in a larger metropolitan community.

“You can make it here, from a business standpoint,” he said, citing the approachability of local leaders and the ways in which business, community and family-oriented events tend to overlap.

“Des Moines is one of those places that kind of allow you to cross those boundaries,” he said. “Des Moines is almost like a giant living room.”

McGee, too, weighed in on Kerouac’s wise evaluation of local ladies.

“Since we moved to Des Moines, that is accurate.”