AABP Award 728x90

Values Fund’s early birds


It turns out the early birds really do get the worms, at least when it comes to the Grow Iowa Values Fund.

It emerged last week that of the three companies that lined up first for money from the fund, only one would have qualified if a new set of investment guidelines had been in place.

We’re speaking of GCommerce Inc., the New York-based software maker that said it would relocate to Iowa if the state gave it some cash and incentives, including $1 million from the Values Fund. In return, the company promised to create 157 jobs, which means that the fund spent roughly $6,369 for each job created.  

Under the fund’s new rules, it can pay up to $7,000 per created job if the jobs pay more than 150 percent of the average wage in the region in which the jobs are based. GCommerce’s salary projections meet the requirement.

The salary projections for Trans Ova Genetics and Wells Fargo & Co., however, do not. In Trans Ova’s case, they don’t even come close.

Trans Ova, a biotechnology company based in Sioux Center, will get $9 million from the fund to create 315 jobs. That’s $28,571 per job. The company’s wages will be about twice the average in Northwest Iowa.

Wells Fargo’s $10 million gift to create 2,000 jobs translates into about $5,000 per job. The company has said its salaries will be only slightly higher than the average in Greater Des Moines. If the fund had applied its new rules to that consideration, it wouldn’t have been able to give Wells Fargo any more than $3,000 per job.

So, it would appear as though Wells Fargo and Trans Ova came away with about $10.8 million more than they should have, given the fund’s new rules. However, rules are made to be broken, and the fund’s board has retained the right to do so if it thinks the deal is worth it.

This analysis is, of course, completely ex post facto. And it would be wrong to view the fund’s investments in such a narrow light. Indeed, the fund predicts that the $20 million it has given to the three companies, along with about $60 million in other contributions from the state and local authorities, will create $1.5 billion in total value for the state over the next 10 years. The figure includes expected tax revenue and salaries, among other things.

Of course, it’s not a mathematical certainty that these investments will live up to their promise, but calculated risks are what the Values Fund is supposed to be about. From what we’ve seen, it looks promising.     

prairiemeadows brd 020123 300x250