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Spirited comments about Iowa's economic growth in 2014

February 3, 2014

It was a packed house late last week for the Business Record's annual economic forecast panel discussion. Representatives from Iowa State University, the state's auditor's office, Wells Fargo & Co., Miles Capital, Inc. and IEDA's Director Debi Durham shared their opinions on how Iowa's economy will fare in 2014.

When asked if the economy will grow in 2014, all agreed that most sectors in the state will see slight to moderate growth. Iowa's industries will have to face a few challenges along the way like federal regulation uncertainty (especially proposed RFS changes that may adversely affect R&D investment), the continuing trend of out-migration of young people from rural areas to larger metros, and a tight workforce capacity. However, the state has very positive economic indicators in its corner that will help to overcome these challenges, including:

  1. Solid, stable & business-friendly government - the State Auditor, Mary Mosiman, reported seeing personal income increase, a balanced budget and year 4 of a budget surplus. "When 150 decision-makers from different backgrounds and political viewpoints agree that fiscal sustainability is the ultimate goal for our annual state budget, we're in a good place."
  2. Pervasive recognition of Iowa's expertise in financial services and insurance - Frank Codel with Wells Fargo referenced Iowa's "talented workforce to be incredibly strong" and a reason they stay committed to the state.
  3. A survey of 600+ existing businesses throughout the state reveals a majority of them are financially healthy, ready to invest billions to expand and hire up to 7,000 people in the next 3-5 years.
  4. Collaborative network of higher-education and workforce training programs - "We are producing the talent, we just need to align them with the jobs and compete with the other states who are actively luring them away," said David Swenson, economics professor, Iowa State University.
  5. Venture capital and entrepreneurial activity throughout the state has a lot of momentum right now.

Director Durham also outlined several of the IEDA's priorities for the year, as well as how business development is going so far.  "We've streamlined the department, discontinuing the incentive programs that didn't create the high-paying jobs that will create wealth for all Iowans and we're seeing the returns," explained Durham. "Our ROI model is working; we expect to close on a large amount of business next month to kickoff 2014." A few, must-have initiatives to keep economic development moving forward, include:

  • Creation of an infrastructure fund to support expansion in Iowa's targeted industries: biosciences, advanced manufacturing and financial services/IT
  • Quality internship incentive programs
  • "And we've got to up our game on marketing; we need to stop being so modest and promote what we have," rallied Durham.

Durham foresees a majority of Iowa's growth in 2014 to come out of the IT, tech, biochemical and manufacturing industries. Plus, Iowa's traditional agriculture industry continues to diversify to meet new market demands. Panel participants included:

  • Debi Durham, director, Iowa Economic Development Authority
  • Dave Swenson, economist, Iowa State University
  • Franklin Codel, EVP, mortgage production, Wells Fargo & Co.
  • David Miles, CEO, Miles Capital
  • Mary Mosiman, auditor, State of Iowa



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Iowa Economic Development Authority
200 East Grand Avenue
Des Moines, Iowa 50309
Phone: 1.515.348.6200
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