The head of Iowa’s economic development efforts is suggesting the state can boost its population and plug job vacancies by going after a growing number of military veterans. Debi Durham is director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority.

“There is going to be a major exodus of military like we’ve not seen before in the next five years,” Durham says. “These are people in their prime, 40s and early 50s, who have these incredible skill sets…and how do we create a comprehensive strategy to bring them to Iowa?”

Iowa National Guard Adjutant General Timothy Orr has called on the governor and the legislature to enact tax incentives that would attract military retirees to the state. Durham isn’t using the term “incentives,” but says the state could do several things to lure veterans.

For example, Durham suggests Iowa eliminate a tax on pensions of military retirees. “Even when you look at Illinois, which I wouldn’t say we compete with on anything from a business competitive point-of-view, they’ve gotten rid of that (tax),” Durham says. “I think there are some things you’re going to see come forward…if we really want to pursue this, we’re going to have to have a serious conversation with our legislators about what we need to do to be more competitive.”

Durham says it’s too early to discuss the cost of a military retiree recruitment effort, but she expects businesses would back the initiative. “The good thing is that every time this is brought up in any conversation, there’s overwhelming support that it is the right thing to do. More importantly, there’s bipartisan support for it,” Durham says.

“Particularly going into an election cycle, I think we need to really find those initiatives next session that are not going to be divisive.” Durham says the initiative is still in the early planning stages, but she expect more details could be unveiled this fall.