SIOUX CITY | Don't be afraid of the risks associated with a start-up business, Gov. Terry Branstad told a group of young professionals in Sioux City Monday. 

Even some of the nation's most famous leaders experienced early setbacks before succeeding, Branstad said. He related the story of President Abraham Lincoln, who lost eight elections, twice failed in business, and overcame a series of personal tragedies.

"You're going to have failures and defeats in your life," Branstad told an audience of more than 75, dominated by professionals in their 20s and 30s. "Use that as a learning experience."

"Everybody is going to have setbacks. It's how you handle those. It takes courage, and it takes tenacity, and that never-give-up spirit that makes you work harder than anyone else."

Branstad was the featured speaker at the third annual Sioux City Young Professional Day. Before the governor came to the podium, his economic development director, Debi Durham, participated in a panel discussion with four local business leaders -- Kyle Kelly, Beth Trejo, Jeana Goosmann and state Sen. Rick Bertrand.

Kelly, owner of Century 21 Pro Link, echoed the governor's message, telling the young professionals, "You're going to have failure at some point in your career and you have to be OK with that." He encouraged them to be prepared to act when opportunity knocks, and to not be "afraid to pull the trigger and go for it."

As a candidate for governor in 2010, Branstad vowed to create 200,000 jobs over five years. Halfway through his term, the state has seen a net jobs gain of more than 60,000, according to state data.

To meet the goal, Durham said, the state likely will have to grow its population. One way to do that is to recruit young professionals who left Iowa for "greener pasture" after college.

"We need to bring them home and have opportunities for them when they come back," Durham said.

A former president of the Siouxland Chamber of Commerce, Durham still makes her home in Sioux City, commuting each week to the state capital in Des Moines. She urged the young professionals, through social media sites and word-of-mouth, to "start telling the story of Sioux City and why it's so special."

The YP Day was hosted by the Sioux City Growth Organization, a 100-plus member organization that was formed in 2002 to encourage young professionals to become active in the community.