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Old 08-26-2014, 08:48 PM
Location: Midwest
2 posts, read 7,070 times
Reputation: 15


Hey All-

My Husband's employer is relocating us to Burlington/Fort Madison. I've never been there and kind of dread going back to a small town (we're from a large city). Also, I see online that there are a lot of fertilizer and industrial plants in Burlington. Do any of you have experience with this area or have opinions about the polluting companies that manufacture there? I want to be sure we don't buy in the wrong area. Also, I have an MBA and wonder what the job market is like. Any tips or insight would be appreciated!

Last edited by RubysMom; 08-26-2014 at 09:12 PM..
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Old 08-27-2014, 08:05 AM
3,493 posts, read 4,702,524 times
Reputation: 5358
Hi Rubysmom,

For the sake all that is good in this world, don't make this move. Okay, I'll explain it in a little more detail.

Burlington is a city of 26,000. It is not a place where an MBA is dramatically useful. From one MBA to another, my education was absolutely useless in Iowa. I was near a bigger city, Iowa City, but it still wasn't useful. When you move to a city that small jobs WILL be based on nepotism and seniority will trump ability. You may literally have doors slammed in your face. I experienced that during my job hunt. People with dramatically inferior qualifications will be regularly be involved in the screening process and they will ensure that you don't get in the way of their future promotions.

If you don't love small town living, you won't suddenly change your mind. I haven't spent much time around Burlington, and I wont' since I have no plans to return to Iowa, but it is wise to ask for information about the smells. Hopefully someone that lived there as an adult, not born into the smell, can comment on what they noticed.

If you're disliking small cities, rest assured that 26k, no matter the city, is not going to be large enough to offer the amenities you may want.

I'm not bashing on Iowa for the crummy job market, the unemployment rate is misleadingly good. I'm not bashing on the state for not having amenities. Des Moines has most things you might want, outside of real professional sports (sorry D-league). The issues with nepotism are dramatically more prevalent in the Midwest than in any other region of the country. Since I can't attach anything to forum posts, use the following link to the map.
Map reveals U.S. states with high percentage of native residents and those full of people from somewhere else | Mail Online

The map colors dark red if someone living in the area was born there. It colors white if they were not. Each tiny segment then falls somewhere between dark red and white based on the percentage of people in that tiny region. The deeper red colors indicate the areas where nepotism is absolutely rampant. When people don't move and experience new areas in the world, it is easier for them to shut their minds and treat people as "outsiders". You'll notice it is the Midwest that is colored a deep shade of red. If you were to further refine that map, you would find that large and huge cities (IE Minneapolis and Chicago) have more transplants than the more rural areas. Within the Midwest, if you want your MBA to really propel your career, you need to have access to a major city that has more transplants and more jobs. The larger market ensures there are jobs that actually meet your qualifications, and the higher transplant rate means a higher percentage of the jobs will have competitive hiring processes. There is nothing like being interviewed for a job after they picked a candidate. I found out later it's company policy, coming from outside of Iowa, that they were required to interview a minimum number of candidates in an attempt to combat nepotism. Since they were hiring their cousin for the job, they met the requirements by inviting several people down to interview at the same time, pulling us in one at a time and asking one to two questions that were only moderately related to the job description, and then ending the interview.

I'm not an unsuccessful person. I left Iowa and moved into automation engineering within a year. I moved on to a position as a financial analyst about a year after that. As soon as I left Iowa and moved back to a midsize, about 600k, city my career took off.

The general premise of moving from a large city to a small city in the Midwest with an MBA and no job lined up is just begging for "Captive Spouse Syndrome". Yes, it's a real diagnosis. I ended up seeing someone there while we were making our plans to leave. I was immediately diagnosed with Captive Spouse Syndrome, and he explained that it was common in Iowa City because U of I was an incredible hospital in a tiny city with no other great employers. It was common that one spouse would get a job at U of I, the couple would move, and whomever was not employed there would find themselves a captive to the job their spouse had. His recommendation: Proceed full speed with moving away from the city and get to a mid or large sized city where my abilities would be appreciated by employers. As a side note, my wife was completely on board with leaving, and the professional knew that my wife was on board with the plan. He wasn't providing council to screw up my marriage, he just knew we would be better off if we left. He was precisely right. I hope you never experience the difficulties I endured.

Best of luck,

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Old 08-28-2014, 04:40 PM
8,671 posts, read 8,854,157 times
Reputation: 7215
I lived in Burlington from birth to age 29. I could not live there again, but I do miss my favorite pizza place (Napoli's) and the potoato chips of my childhood (Sterzing's). The river is beautiful from the bluffs, especially at Crapo Park. (up close not so much)

I know a LOT of people that I grew up with that are still there, and they are quite happy with their lives. It's just too small and slow paced for me.

I left in 2001 but have quite a bit of experience with the place if you have any other specific questions.

Tne only pollution I would worry about is the long term effects of the Ammunition Plant.
My posts as moderator will be in red.
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Old 08-30-2014, 09:24 AM
Location: Midwest
2 posts, read 7,070 times
Reputation: 15
Sorry for the delay in response, guys. Thank you for your feedback. Lurtsman, I really and truly wish I COULD avoid this move. I grew up in a BIG city and I absolutely wither in small towns. We've lived in two, always with the promise of a better spot next time and it never happens. I'm not trying to dog the heartland, it's just not my cup of tea. The pace is too slow, the culture (arts, theater, progress) is lacking and it's incredibly hard to make friends in the overly clique environment.

That being said.....

My Husband has always made more than me, with an inflexible company, so we go where they send him. We were previously Army, which was wonderful for my career (spouse hiring preference and incentives - it was awesome) but this civilian company has completely destroyed it. I have been working from home, but that is about to end. SO, I guess I should just become a baby machine because it doesn't sound like Iowa will be any different. We move, on average, every six months but this will be a long term spot. They tell us we'll be there 3-5 years, which seems like an eternity. All the searches I've done come up with the same thing. Realtor.com shows a lot of overpriced crap that would still need 20k of renovations. I was raised in a green home, so the idea of living between industrial fertilizer plants (F You Monsanto) is terrifying. I'm just looking for the best of this worst situation. Maybe Keokuk? I don't know.

Maybe I have captive spouse syndrome, lol!
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Old 08-30-2014, 11:58 AM
Location: Des Moines Metro
4,981 posts, read 5,452,539 times
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Iowa is very family friendly, and having children will help you make friends.

Maybe you can find another work from home job?
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Old 08-30-2014, 09:50 PM
Location: Iowa
2 posts, read 4,779 times
Reputation: 10
Hi RubysMom,

I was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio until 3rd grade when we moved to the southeast corner of Iowa in elementary school. After getting married, I lived in metropolitan areas but eventually we were moved back to SE Iowa. I would not recommend moving to Keokuk over the Burlington area. Sadly, the Keokuk area has really gone downhill due to loss of industry. I still have family there and it always saddens me to see how the area has gotten. I would also not recommend living in Burlington proper. I would recommend West Burlington for sake of schools and housing. If your husband doesn't mind driving, the Iowa City/Coralville area might be the place to look, it sounds like you would enjoy that area more. I do not notice a smell from fertilizer plants in our area. Even as a transplant as an adult I would say the city had worse smells.
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Old 09-04-2014, 07:25 AM
3,493 posts, read 4,702,524 times
Reputation: 5358
Oh Rubysmom,

I am so sorry about the situation with your husband's employment. You sound like a wonderful person, and I have echoed many of the sentiments you just expressed. I absolutely loathe Monsanto, and I don't feel at home without a real city. Iowa City was far too small for me. 3-5 years in Iowa can feel like an eternity. I was there for 4 years and 8 months, pretty much to the day.

As you've seen from Elle, she grew up there, realized it wasn't for her, and got the **** out. If memory serves correctly, I believe she relocated to Phx and is soaking up the sun. Good for her She made some good decisions.

What you describe, not finding work, wanting to get out of small towns, feels like eternity, always thinking maybe we can move somewhere I actually want to be, those are all familiar signs of captive spouse syndrome. I hope there is some way for your husband to plan a transition. How specific is his skill set? Would other employers be an option? For his military background, he may be able to find a job for the armed forces or the contractors that serve them. Plenty of great opportunities in cities like San Diego and Colorado Springs. When we relocated out of Iowa, we literally spent over a year researching the country to ensure we didn't foolishly move to another place that we disliked as vehemently as we had disliked IC. We moved to Colorado Springs and love it. I don't know if your husband would be able to apply for any similar jobs with other employers, but the savings on moving (time and money), combined with the benefits of long term financing on a house, can easily cover a reduction in pay. If it were just for 6 months, I'd say to make the best of it, but life is too short to waste 3 to 5 years living in a small town when you're a big city man or woman.
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