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Des Moines, IA

Des Moines, the capital of Iowa, is located smack-dab in the middle of the prototypical Midwestern state. It is regarded as one of the best Midwestern cities in which to live and do business. The city was founded in 1843 at the confluence of the Des Moines and Raccoon rivers. Its population is just under 200,000.

NEIGHBORHOODS AND DISTRICTS

The central neighborhoods of Des Moines are clustered near the Des Moines River:

  • The Downtown Core houses the central business district, with its historical edifices and modern office towers, the tallest buildings in Iowa. The 45-story headquarters of the Principal Financial Group was constructed in 1991. A four-mile network of skywalks between the buildings makes it possible to navigate downtown Des Moines without coming down to earth. The city's Civic Center of Greater Des Moines and Des Moines Art Center Downtown are among the public spaces in the city's hub.
  • The Court Avenue neighborhood, just east of downtown, dates back to the city's founding years. It houses the original post office and many historic buildings, some of which have been converted to restaurants and nightspots. This pedestrian-friendly neighborhood rewards the urban walker with period details like street lamps and benches. A recreational trail called the Principal Riverwalk is nearing the end of its first phase of construction.
  • Across the river, the East Village neighborhood houses the State Capitol along with an eclectic mix of retail sites, restaurants, and offices. This historic neighborhood has recently come into its own as a creative cultural site and a destination for the city's younger residents.
  • Sherman Hill is the oldest residential neighborhood in Des Moines and features its most attractive housing stock, with many older Victorian and Queen Anne homes.
  • The Western Gateway, just west of downtown, contains several major office buildings, including the headquarters of Meredith Corporation and Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield. The Western Gateway Park and Sculpture Garden is the community's primary gathering place.

ECONOMY AND INDUSTRIES

Des Moines ranks with Hartford, Connecticut, as a center of the insurance industry in the United States, and indeed the world. The city is also home to many financial services companies. Among the insurance companies with a presence in Des Moines are:

  • Principal Financial Group, the nation's leading provider of 401(k) plans
  • Allied Insurance (acquired by Nationwide in 1999)
  • EMC Insurance Companies
  • American Republic Insurance Company

Other financial companies with office complexes in the city include:

  • Wells Fargo
  • Electronic Data Systems
  • Citigroup's credit card division
  • ING Group

The Meredith Corporation, publisher of Better Homes and Gardens, is the flagship of the publishing industry in Des Moines. Because of the city's solid economic base, low crime rate, affordable housing, and quality schools, it rates high in the national rankings of business magazines such as Forbes (Best Places for Business 2007, 4th place) and Kiplinger's (Best Cities 2008, 9th place).

ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT

Des Moines is not just the government and financial capital of Iowa, but its cultural capital as well. Among its numerous venues for the visual and performing arts are:

  • The Des Moines Art Center, a complex with wings designed by the famous architects I. M. Pei and Richard Meier
  • The Temple for Performing Arts, a venue for theater and live performances
  • The Civic Center of Greater Des Moines, which hosts events and larger theatrical productions
  • Wells Fargo Arena, a venue for the most popular touring performers
  • Simon Estes Riverfront Amphitheater, an outdoor venue along the Des Moines River

The largest annual event in Des Moines is undoubtedly the Iowa State Fair. Over a million people attend the fair from all over the Midwest. Wells Fargo hosts an annual World Food Festival every October and bestows its World Food Prize.

Every four years, America's attention is riveted to Iowa as the presidential contenders strut their stuff for the state's first-in-the-nation caucuses. Debates, town meetings, and photo opportunities take place daily in Des Moines during campaign season, as visiting journalists and campaign staffs crisscross the state. The 2008 caucuses were especially vigorous. Barack Obama's speech in Des Moines on November 10, 2007, at the state Democratic Party's Jefferson-Jackson Dinner was a key event in his historic campaign, presaging his victory in the caucus two months later.

EDUCATION

Two four-year colleges have their central campuses within Des Moines:

  • Drake University, a private coeducational institution with the oldest law school west of the Mississippi River
  • Grand View University, affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

SPORTS TEAMS

Des Moines has a triple-A minor league baseball team, the Iowa Cubs, part of the Chicago Cubs farm system. The Iowa Chops, who play in the American Hockey League, share the Wells Fargo Arena with the Iowa Energy, a new basketball franchise in the NBA Development League. Drake University hosts the annual Drake Relays, one of the largest track-and-field events at any American college, every April. The Des Moines Marathon takes place annually in October.

LOCAL MEDIA

Des Moines's radio market is dominated by three media conglomerates:

  • Clear Channel (five stations in the metropolitan area)
  • Citadel Broadcasting (five stations)
  • Saga Communications (six stations)

WOI-AM and FM, operated by Iowa State University in the nearby city of Ames, broadcast National Public Radio programming. Des Moines and Ames are considered a single media market, placed by Nielsen among the nation's top 75.

Des Moines television stations are:

  • WOI Channel 5 (ABC)
  • KCCI Channel 8 (CBS)
  • KDIN Channel 11 (PBS)
  • WHO Channel 13 (NBC)
  • KDSM Channel 17 (FOX)
  • KCWI Channel 23 (CW)
  • KFPX Channel 39 (ION)
  • KDMI Channel 56 (MyNetwork TV)

The city's daily paper, the Des Moines Register, had a daily circulation of 146,000 in 2007, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

DID YOU KNOW?

  • Iowa is the only state whose east and west borders are 100% formed by water, the Missouri and Mississippi rivers.
  • Actress Harriet Nelson, best known for her role on "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet" sitcom, was born Peggy Lou Snyder in Des Moines on July 18, 1909.
  • Des Moines native Cloris Leachman won an Academy Award for best supporting actress for the 1971 film "The Last Picture Show."
  • The Iowa Governor's Mansion, also known as Terrace Hill, was built by Benjamin Franklin Allen, the first millionaire in Iowa, as a home for his family.
  • The original name of Des Moines was Fort Raccoon, which was later changed to Fort Des Moines, then shortened to the current Des Moines.
  • Des Moines has been dubbed the 3rd largest insurance capital of the world, after London, England and Hartford, Conn.
  • The Iowa caucuses, a major event at the beginning of the presidential nominating process every four years, started in 1972.
  • In 2010, Forbes magazine ranked the Des Moines metropolitan area first on its list of "Best Places for Business and Careers."
  • In 1943 the Des Moines Register became the first newspaper to sponsor a statewide opinion poll when it introduced the Iowa Poll.
  • Fighter Rocky Marciano was headed to Des Moines in 1969 to give a speech when the private plane he was on crashed. Marciano died on the eve of his 46th birthday.