State lawmakers are warning economic development leaders that giving too much weight to big salaries could bias the new Iowa Values fund against rural business. While the bill authoritizing the fund didn’t include a wage requirement, the board handing out the Values Fund money has written rules that give preference to businesses that pay “high wages.” Republican Representative David Heaton of Mount Pleasant says rural communities can’t pay the rates city employers offer. Heaton says the Values Fund shouldn’t be targeted to urban areas, because rural Iowa’s struggling and needs opportunities to grow, too. Heaton wonders what “high wages” mean as there’s no way southeastern Iowa could attract businesses if they make them pay the kind of starting wage that’s prevalent in largest cities like Des Moines. Senator Paul McKinley, a Republican from Chariton, says the rules don’t seem to offer much to entrepreneurial startups, and he’s also concerned that language in the grant rules seems to give preference to three major areas of business — life sciences, advanced manufacturing, and information technology. He says that’s “picking winners and losers,” something the Legislature’s Administrative Rules Review Committee didn’t want to do but which is coming back into the process. The chair of the Iowa Values Fund is former Iowa Bankers Association leader Holmes Foster, who says the rules were written quickly so the board could give money to Wells Fargo soon after the legislation was approved, but the board will continue to tweak those rules. Foster says the rules are likely to have some wage requirement, but nothing specific as to yearly or hourly salary or wages. And Foster says the board WILL consider businesses outside the areas of life-sciences, advanced manufacturing or information technology, too.
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