Talented individuals are choosing Cedar Rapids to work at many Fortune 500 companies affiliated with aerospace, defense, food and beverage, IT, health care, packaging and recycling industries, among others. Some of these companies include Cargill, Collins Aerospace, General Mills, Nordstrom, Pearson, Quaker Oats, TreeHouse, UFG Insurance (formerly United Fire Group) and Whirlpool. With the median annual household income at $56,828 and the monthly median housing cost at $1,228, Cedar Rapids can’t build urban housing developments fast enough because people are buying homes left and right.
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Huge Job Growth
Employers in Cedar Rapids are fortunate that many talented individuals are ready to jump into the job market after graduating from the area’s top colleges and universities. Those institutions include Mount Mercy University, Coe College, Cornell College, Kirkwood Community College as well as the University of Iowa, which is just 30 minutes away.
“We pay our interns here, and many stay with us after graduation,” says Randy Ramlo, president and CEO of UFG. “We have hired 50 additional people in Cedar Rapids over the last 12 months and have about 30 jobs we are currently looking to fill.”
UFG is a property and casualty insurance company whose home office has been in Cedar Rapids since 1946.
The company deals primarily with small-and medium-size businesses in sectors such as construction, entertainment, manufacturing and retail.
“We have some analytics job openings that are several months old, looking for data scientists and actuarial specialists, but those people are hard to find all over the country,” Ramlo says. “Other openings we have are in claims, underwriting, IT and safety specialists.”
Ramlo admits it can sometimes be difficult to find new young employees who first want to test the waters of bigger cities like Des Moines, Chicago and Minneapolis, but he says there are enough graduates remaining in Cedar Rapids and looking for strong careers.
“Cedar Rapids has a good cost of living, good education and the convenience of Eastern Iowa Airport,” he says.
“In addition, the downtown district has greatly improved with theaters, restaurants, nightlife, new housing for young people and an interesting vibe. We have many new employees who like Iowa and have family in the region, and UFG has a very low turnover rate.”
Redefining Aerospace and Defense
Also enjoying success in Cedar Rapids is Collins Aerospace, a leader in advanced and intelligent solutions for the global aerospace and defense industry. The company has mission systems and avionics business units here, and both are seeking more talented people.
“We currently have around 450-500 positions open across our locations in Cedar Rapids and West Des Moines, but the majority of the jobs are in Cedar Rapids,” says Pam Tvrdy-Cleary, senior director of external communications at Collins Aerospace.
“Approximately 50% of the positions are in mission systems, 40% in avionics and the rest are spread across other supporting functions, such as supply chain, human resources and central operations.”
Tvrdy-Cleary says the company is looking primarily to hire engineers as well as technicians, operations, and IT and quality professionals. When recruiting talent, she often informs potential hires that Cedar Rapids ranks high in affordable housing, low in cost of living and strong in education.
“And then from a working-at-Collins perspective, candidates get to work on some of the most innovative programs in the world,” she says. “You will work on redefining aerospace and defense as we know it.”