The out-going Democrat governor and the Republican candidate who wants to be Iowa’s next governor are offering starkly different assessments of the state’s premiere economic development grant program. Governor Tom Vilsack touts the Iowa Values Fund, which has made multimillion dollar grants to dozens of businesses, as a success story.
Vilsack says the goal was to create 50-thousand new jobs. With action the state Economic Development Board is prepared to make later this month, Vilsack says 25-thousand jobs have been “impacted” by the Values Fund in the past two-and-a-half years. Three-hundred-68 businesses have received Values Fund grants from the state. The firms have created about 21-thousand new jobs, and Vilsack says another four-thousand jobs that could have been lost were instead retained.
The governor says those jobs pay, on average, about 39-thousand dollars a year. Republican gubernatorial candidate Jim Nussle, a congressman from northeast Iowa, sees the glass half full when it comes to the Values Fund, noting it has failed to reach its job-creation goal of 50-thousand jobs. “This program, while it was devised — I’m sure — with good intentions, has not lived up to its own advertising,” Nussle says.
Nussle says the average wage paid in the jobs that have been created hasn’t lived up to expectations and “many of the hallmark businesses…have not created the opportunities and the jobs they promised.”
Last October Nussle promised to get rid of the Values Fund if he’s elected governor. Nussle says what has made Iowa strong is not the big businesses that are getting the Values Fund grants, but the thousands of small businesses who are “very rarely on the receiving end of politicians handing out money.”
Nussle says he’ll work to make Iowa’s tax system and regulatory structure less onerous for small businesses. Nussle made his comments during a taped appearance before the Iowa Association of Business and Industry. Vilsack made his comments during a statehouse news conference.