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Iowa Business Council finds population, diversity issues


The Iowa Business Council today will release its first Iowa’s Competitive Dashboard, a simplified version of its annual check on the health of Iowa’s business climate.

While many of the ratings haven’t changed much, some have improved. Several make it clear that the workforce shortage that is a well-known issue here is a chronic problem.

The state rated “average” in economic growth, education and workforce, governance, and health and wellness, and “poor’’ in demographics and diversity. 

One telling statistic: Iowa was the only state not to grow by more than 50 percent from 1900 to 2010, coming in at 36.5 percent growth in that period, said Georgia Van Gundy, the council’s executive director.

That leads to a familiar issue in a state with 2.8 percent unemployment.

“Overall, the one consistent issue is workforce,” said Van Gundy, who added that the state “needs more physicians,” for example. 

The “poor” rating stems largely from a “stagnant population” that is short on diversity, Van Gundy said. The median age of the state’s population rose slightly in 2017. The birth rate also rose, though. 

“We are bringing young people into the state,” Van Gundy said. 

A continuing challenge is in risk capital and entrepreneurial infrastructure, where the state’s ranking dropped to 46 from 37. 

Some good news: 

  • The state moved up a notch to seventh in manufacturing value as a percentage of gross state product.
  • Iowa’s rank in eighth-grade math proficiency jumped to 14th, up from 22nd.
  • The state government’s rank by the “Best Run States in America” jumped to third, up from sixth.

IBC recommends:

  • Support of programs such as Future Ready Iowa, which encourages post high school training and education.
  • Encouraging education and catering to the well-educated, including increasing the percentage of Iowa jobs that require a bachelor’s degree or higher.
  • Simplifying the tax code and lowering tax rates to help both attract business and boost the population.
  • Training, attracting and retaining more physicians.
  • Creating a public/private partnership to push policies that would address the “significant improvements” needed in population and diversity. That in turn would help promote job opportunities and Iowa’s quality of life.

The Iowa Business Council represents chief decision-makers of major Iowa employers, the presidents of the three Regent universities, and the president/CEO of the state’s largest banking association.

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