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  • [ February 20, 2015 ]
  • 2014 Battelle Report: Advancing the Strategic Direction for Economic Growth in Iowa

BY | IOWA ENERGY CENTER

The recently released 2014 Battelle Report has set an enhanced economic development roadmap for the state of Iowa. It outlines opportunities and challenges for Iowa’s economic growth while giving recommendations for improvement.

The Iowa Partnership for Economic Progress (IPEP) advisory board initiated the 2014 Battelle Report to set a strategic direction for economic development in Iowa. The analysis was shaped in the past 18 months as Battelle worked with the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) and other economic development organizations to find the most promising job sectors as well as the most concerning challenges in terms of markets, industry, and growth.

Iowa’s economy is growing in terms of quality jobs, wages, and per capita income. On the other hand, the Battelle Report has identified four challenge areas for Iowa:

  • Business Climate
  • Workforce
  • Entrepreneurial Eco-system
  • Physical Infrastructure

Business Climate

The Battelle Report concludes that Iowa’s business climate is improving, yet the state remains in the lower portion on the list of the most economically successful states. In terms of per capita income, Iowa ranked 23 rd in the nation and remains below the U.S. average in the overall number of high-skilled jobs. Iowa’s average earnings for private sector workers is 23% below the national average. Many of Iowa’s large, successful industries are not in sectors expected to have sustained future growth.

The report includes tactical recommendations for government and policy makers, such as maintaining and growing the productivity in GDP per hour worked. The report suggests expanding markets for leading large industrial sectors in order to find a new customer base.

Workforce

Iowa’s weak population growth has resulted in fewer people entering the workforce. This is especially a concern in high-technology fields, where the job market is large but there are not enough students pursuing degrees in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Iowa is well below the national average in STEM degrees and ranked last among competing peer states. To gain workers in these fields, the Battelle Report argues that Iowa needs improvements to the educational system at all levels, including K-12 and adult technical education. Along with generating a homegrown skilled workforce, there is also a need to attract a skilled workforce from outside the state.

Entrepreneurial Eco-system

The authors note a “lagging performance” in Iowa’s entrepreneurial achievement. The state remains well off the national pace and compares poorly to peer states in terms of new company birth rates, job creation by new businesses, and the existence of fast-growing, small companies. The report recommends creating programs to encourage angel investment and venture capital. There is a need to create platforms in Iowa’s higher education institutes that encourage entrepreneurship and technological innovation in order to transfer research innovation into industry start-ups.

Physical Infrastructure

The report laments the declining condition of Iowa’s highways, the reduced availability of highway improvement funding, as well as the speed and reliability of Iowa’s broadband infrastructure. There is also a need for more livable communities to attract and retain young families. The report encourages Iowa policy makers to find innovative ways to finance high-priority infrastructure improvements.

Achieving Results

The Battelle Report has identified both strengths and weaknesses that will influence the continued growth of Iowa’s economy. The report has become the basis for discussion among the public and private sectors of Iowa in developing a strategy for an improved economy.

To Learn More

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