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Des Moines, IA
Des Moines-West Des Moines
MSA: Des Moines-West Des Moines, IA
Best places ranking: #8 among midsize metro areas
Population: 556,230
Once defined by rural stereotypes and wide-open spaces, Des Moines has attracted hundreds of new startups to its revitalized downtown neighborhoods in the past few years thanks to one big factor: Its stable economy. With an unemployment rate of around 6% and a cost of living index that falls nearly 9% below the national average, the city has seen an explosion of small manufacturing firms, green tech startups, and social media upstarts bloom around its longstanding insurance and financial services sectors. More than 70 insurance firms are headquartered in Des Moines; its largest employer is Principal Life Insurance.

The city's biggest business expense is the state corporate tax rate, which tops out at a whopping 12% for firms with net income of more than $250,000. However, Des Moines offers a half-dozen tax incentive programs for new companies, including credits and exemptions for businesses that make a capital investment of $500,000 and create at least 10 new jobs.

Other city- and state-funded small business programs include real estate services to help businesses locate affordable commercial space, a new jobs training program with advanced offerings like courses on executive management IT skills, tax abatements for firms doing construction, and zero property tax on machinery and equipment. -Maggie Overfelt

Launch Toolbox:
Resources for getting started in Des Moines, IA


Local smallbiz lenders

  • First American Bank
  • U.S. Bank
  • Liberty Banchares Iowa
  • Northwest Financial Corp.
  • Arneson Bancshares
See all local lenders

Des Moines Business Statistics
Employer establishments with 1-49 employees
14,174 11,214
Small business growth rate
5.9% 5.0%
State business tax climate ranking
(out of 50 states)
44 N/A
Percentage of population with bachelor's degree
(ages 25-34)
37.5% 26.9%
Violent crime
(rate per 100,000 inhabitants, 2007)
383.5 478.8
Property crime
(rate per 100,000 inhabitants, 2007)
3,470.5 3,562.2
Population growth
10.3% 5.73%
Per-capita income
$40,923 $35,547
Per-capita income growth
22.2% 24.0%
GDP (in millions)
$32,447 $18,559
GDP growth
42% 32%
Average hourly wage
$19.63 $18.69
Housing foreclosure rate
(first half of 2009, 1 per every X housing units)
167 286
Median rent
(2009, for a 2-bedroom housing unit)
$764 $848
Housing price-to-income (HPI) ratio
(first quarter of 2009)
1.5% 1.9%
Long-term HPI ratio
(20-year average, 1984-2004)
1.5% 1.8%
HPI deviation from long-term average
0.3% 0.0%

All statistics are for the full Metropolitan Statistical Area. For a complete list of data sources, see "How we picked the Best Places."

From the November 2009 issue
"Des Moines is a financial services hub -- our industry. There are thousands of skilled engineers and programmers who do the type of work that we need. " -Jon Gaskell
Best Places Winners
What do you think of Des Moines?
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Do you prefer a place that is: Small Medium Large
The factors that matter most to me are:
 Affordable wages  Few foreclosures
 Educated workers  Low housing costs
 Low crime  High local incomes
 A growing economy  Population growth
 Growing small business population

ireportTell us why: Low taxes? Talented workers? An active small business community? Send us your photos and videos, and you could be featured in our upcoming coverage of reader-picked Best Places to Launch. More
This year we partnered with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation to find the 50 most business-friendly communities in America.

With help from Robert Fairlie, an economist and leading scholar of entrepreneurship at the University of California, Santa Cruz, we developed a methodology and sifted through such data on factors such as per capita income, hourly wages, workforce quality, crime rates, taxes and foreclosures. More

Comments? E-mail the editors
Data partners

This package was produced in partnership with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

Foreclosure data provided by RealtyTrac.

Housing price-to-income data provided by Moody's