The director of the Federal Reserve Bank’s “Center for the Study of Rural America” says Iowa’s economic future depends on whether entrepreneurs can find a way to take their dreams reality here. Mark Drabenstott says the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in Iowa, but the question is what can Iowa leaders do to make sure the climate for invention and innovation is as favorable as possible. Drabenstott says he was on the phone recently with the editor of the Newton newspaper and the editor asked how the town could recruiting a company like Maytag to Newton. Drabenstott said his reply was: ‘Who is the next Mr. Maytag and how do you ensure that that kind of entrepreneur can be successful, thrive and grow in a place like Iowa?” He says innovation and entrepreneurship are the “critical drivers” of competitiveness education and skill levels for both public and private entrepreneurs are going to be crucial. Drabenstott says Iowa is going to have to “move up the value ladder” and shift away from just producing low-value commodities like corn and beans, and start making products that go into the hands of consumers. “And the way that one does that, of course, is through innovation which is typically fueled by research, development, education,” he says. Drabenstott says the private sector is ultimately what drives the competitiveness of the Iowa economy, but there are public policy decisions affect the overall climate. According to Drabenstott, in addition to the tax climate, all sectors of education — all the way through the university level — are critically important. Drabenstott was in Ames today (Thursday) to deliver a lecture on the Iowa State University campus at one o’clock.
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