The Iowa Economic Development Board is extending a forgivable loan and tax credit program to some flooded businesses that haven’t reopened. "Community Economic Betterment Account" awards are traditionally reserved for businesses promising to create lots of new, high-paying jobs.
But Iowa Department of Economic Development director Mike Tramontina urged the board to change the rules for manufacturers, bioscience firms or information technology businesses operating in areas of the state that were declared a disaster by the president.
"It’s really important in the case of the communities that were socked so hard by the natural disaster that we just get more companies reopened," Tramontina says, "and so we put our priorities today on reopening companies."
To qualify for this new state aid, a company must hire back at least 90 percent of their workforce and pay the same level of wages as before the flood. "This is a sign that the state is open," Tramontina says. "We want to work with those local communities to get those employers back to work."
A business could write off up to 10 percent of their building costs with these tax credits, according to Tramontina. Toby Shine of Spencer, a member of the Economic Development Board, says while it’s great to recruit new companies to locate in Iowa, this is an effort to "protect" the companies that are already here.
"I think if there’s an industry that’s out there that needs our help, that might not be paying 130 percent of the county wage, but has had the disaster problem — we probably don’t want to lose those jobs," Shine says, "and if there’s a way to save them I think it’s a great move."
The effort targets larger businesses in three leading sectors — manufacturing, information technology and bioscience. The state’s separate "JumpStart" program has offered assistance to small businesses hit hard by the floods.