Iowa State University’s best economists have turned their expertise into practical help for some local governments.
ISU economist Dave Swenson says the school gave them “good old-fashioned roll-up-your-sleeves research” in how to find markets for business and industry close to home. “The first and best opportunity for economic activity for regional development,” he says, “is to look and see what your neighbors need and see if you can’t satisfy that demand.”
He says they don’t need to look globally — but rather should think in terms of a regional economy, with regional opportunities. They listed all the metropolitan regions within about 100 miles of that part of southeast Iowa. Then they identified all the commodities those cities were importing — what do they buy from the rest of the world. Then they matched that up with the production capacity of southeast Iowa, to see if they couldn’t stimulate the opportunity for sales in the regional economy.
He says they can make money in a short-range variety of the export business. According to Swenson,it’s a whole lot cheaper, easier, and more effective than trying to move your product all over the United States, or all over the globe.
The ISU economists did a complete analysis of the local economies, looking at the workforce and its educational level, and the occupational specialties of those workers, then looked at the region’s “core industries” to see which were growing or declining and offered the most promise. This is the second year in a row the team of ISU economists has won the award, from the University Economic Development Association.