The Iowa Business Council released a review today that says the state’s business environment made no progress in four of its five measures in the last decade, but is still competitive with other states. IBC chair Tom Aller, says their “competitive index” measures five factors: economic growth; education and workforce readiness; governance and finance; health and well being; workforce demographics and diversity.
“Over that last 10-year period or so, we’ve pretty much held our own, and I don’t think we should view that necessarily as a negative,” Aller says, “I view it as a positive. In other words, the actions that our state has taken both in the public and private sector have maintained our relative position, vis-a-vis the others states. Does that mean we could always do better? Sure.”
The IBC is made up of members from the top 20 largest businesses in the state, and Aller is the president of Alliant Energy. The index showed Iowa made “no significant progress” in all areas, except for health and well-being. Aller says his biggest concern is the workforce diversity measure.
Aller says it’s not a new issue for any businesses, as he says it’s a challenge they face every day. He says if Iowa and its companies are going to be successful, they have to recognize the changing demographics in the country and the world and the workforce is going to have to become more diverse over time.
Larry Zimpleman of Principal Financial Group is on one of the subcommittees of the council that worked on the index. Zimpleman says he is concerned about the education and workforce readiness measurement. Zimpleman says we have all believed historically that Iowa has one of the best education systems in the world.
He says when you look at Iowa’s ranking in the U.S. and the U.S. ranking in the world “I think you really have to pause and reflect about where we stand and what we need to do to move that forward.” Zimpleman says the good news is that the state is moving to improve the education system and he cited the governor’s meeting with business leaders and the upcoming education summit as an example.
Aller says the IBC’s goal is to get things moving ahead on the various measures. He says if we collectively work together on the issues, then 5, to 10, to 15 years from now when the measures have move ahead, “Iowa will be a better place to live and work. Our companies will be more successful, per-capita income will be better, the health of Iowan’s family situations will be better, our educational system will be better.”
But Aller says it is not something that can happen quickly. “This isn’t going to happen overnight, right, these are long-termed focused areas that we need to work on,” Aller says. He says economic development is not a Republican or Democrat idea, “it’s a function, and it’s an outgrowth of a lot of actions that a lot of us work on together.”
You can see a copy of the complete index here: IBC competitiveness index PDF