A state commission established to find ways to attract and keep young people in Iowa held its first public forum at Drake University Tuesday. Twenty-three-year-old Megan Backman of Ames told the commission the key is marketing.

"I think a misconception that I had was that I can’t stay in Iowa because there aren’t jobs here," she said. "Returning, I found there are a vast number of opportunities." Backman went to Chicago to start out, but found the cost of living and the commute in Chicago daunting. "I can drive from Ames to downtown Des Moines — it’s 40 miles. It’s 40 minutes," Backman said. "Chicago, it’s 40 miles and three-and-a-half hours sometimes."

Twenty-five-year-old Aaron DeJong, the assistant economic development director in Dubuque, argued for more tax credits for historic preservation efforts around the state because young people want to live in trendy but affordable places.

"Loft-style condominiums — things that young professionals could afford," DeJong said. "We have a couple of big projects in town that are condominiums, but they start at $300,000." Drake senior Chris Woods, a Des Moines native who’s a politically-active Democrat, suggested a state program that’d help college grads repay their loans more quickly would help keep graduates here.

"As a politics major, I’m looking to get into campaign work and I’m sure many of you are aware, campaign work isn’t exactly the most highest-paying job," Woods said. "…I guess what I’m looking for is what kind of incentives are there that the state can provide for students to stick around in Iowa to pay off those loans."

Turn-out at the public hearing was sparse, but those who did show up shared other ideas to make Iowa more attractive to Generations X and Y — such as tax credits for small-town companies that hire Iowa college grads.