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Cedar Rapids: A Hotbed for New Talent

Cedar Rapids draws young professionals with opportunity, diversity and affordability.

By Val Hunt Beerbower on January 24, 2023

Students gather around a fire pit at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Coe College

Emerging talent flocks to places like Cedar Rapids, which checks everything off a young professional’s “must-have” list – affordability, diversity, a thriving economy and an entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Renters and homeowners enjoy monthly payments that are about half the price of the median costs in other places in the country. A 3.9% flat income tax doesn’t hurt, either.

Postsecondary institutions – such as The University of Iowa, University of Northern Iowa, and Iowa State University, along with Kirkwood Community College, Coe College, Mount Mercy University and Cornell College – are training and upskilling the next generation of health care professionals, creatives, computer geniuses and others pursuing in-demand careers.

This rich talent pool attracts employers like Collins Aerospace, Whirlpool, Transamerica, Nordstrom, Raining Rose and more. For young professionals like Molly LaKose, that means a wealth of opportunities await.

“Cedar Rapids is a great community to begin your career. The area pulls in companies from all different industries, and several are headquartered in Cedar Rapids.”

Molly LaKose

Retaining Talent

Higher education options and plentiful jobs aren’t just retaining natives like LaKose. Global talent is finding its way to Cedar Rapids.

Immigrants accounted for 47.1% of total growth in the area between 2012 and 2017, according to new research from New American Economy. Big companies with international headquarters influence the area culturally, but a bit of Midwest charm also rubs off on newcomers to this melting pot.

Pankit Kotecha, a program manager at Collins Aerospace, admitted Cedar Rapids wasn’t on his radar when he was searching for a career. Now that he’s been part of the community for more than a decade, he says he has no regrets.

“(Collins Aerospace) was offering me my dream job in Cedar Rapids, and that was enough to entice me to move to a town I hadn’t even heard of,” he says. “As we settled here as a family, we realized how good the schools are and how it’s such a good place to raise your kids.”

New Bohemian Innovation Collaborative

Putting Down Roots

The area offers much in the way of community involvement. LaKose, a leadership specialist at her employer, electric supply company Van Meter Inc., puts her unique skills to work for the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance’s young professionals organization.

“ImpactCR aims to provide experiences that connect and engage young adults with people and places in the community,” she says. “The group offers professional development, networking and ways to get more involved in the community.”

LaKose stretches her wings serving on other boards impacting children and families, including the Cedar Rapids Community Schools Foundation board and Tanager Place, which provides services to children and families in the community through a mix of prevention, treatment and outreach programs.

Kotecha is also well connected. He’s on the advisory board for ImpactCR and is an executive leader with Iowa Asian Alliance, which puts on the annual Asian Fest in downtown Cedar Rapids. Kotecha also contributes to the next generation of Iowans through mentorship programs like iJAG and Big Brothers Big Sisters.

“There is a little bit of everything here, and enough action to keep you engaged in the community,” he says. “It’s a big-town feel minus the commute and exorbitant housing prices.”

Mount Trashmore in Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Justin Torner

Branching Out

When Cedar Rapids’ young professionals aren’t hard at work or making their city a better place, they will likely be found soaking up all the amenities the area has to offer.

“There is always something fun to do in the Cedar Rapids area,” LaKose says. “We have great restaurants and breweries, a winery just outside of Cedar Rapids, farmers markets, local shops, a minor league baseball team, and multiple theaters and entertainment venues for live concerts, shows and community events.”

Kotecha counts the area’s recreational amenities among his favorite gems. “The amount of public parks and bike trails is amazing,” he says.

Regardless of whether one is shredding the trails at Mount Trashmore (a former landfill transformed into recreational trails) or strolling the shops in NewBo City Market, there’s something special for anyone who calls the area home.

“Cedar Rapids is a welcoming community with activities and events for people of all ages, especially young professionals,” LaKose says.

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