The 2014 Iowa Legislative year is full swing. I like to pay attention to the business at hand, especially with the Iowa State Capitol being so literally near to Warren County.
Of particular interest are those issues that relate to enhancing economic growth in Iowa. The Warren County Economic Development Corporation (WCEDC) is a member of the Professional Developers of Iowa (PDI), which champions issues in that regard.
The Professional Developers of Iowa is a grassroots, non-partisan association of economic developers across Iowa. Membership includes economic development groups like WCEDC, but also city and county development officials, state and regional development groups, utility partners, state workforce development officials, and community college leaders. In addition to advocacy, PDI aids in the professional development of its members so that economic developers provide strong, effective leadership across Iowa communities.
The Professional Developers of Iowa annually compiles a set of legislative priorities into an agenda. The WCEDC board in December opted to endorse the PDI legislative agenda for 2014. Key issues include:
Preserve Tax Increment Financing (TIF) as a strong economic development tool. Norwalk recently utilized TIF to attracted 165 new jobs with the Loffredo Fresh Produce project and another 60 jobs in Carlisle by attracting a Fareway grocery store. The City of Indianola was able to utilize TIF to attact and build a new YMCA, an overwhelming popular project which already has nearly 2,500 memberships and 5,500 total members (in less than a year)
Raise funds for our highway transportation system. The State of Iowa has hundreds of millions of dollars in backlogged priorities, and cities and counties have shelved many projects s due to a lack of funding. Iowa has some of the most deficient bridges in Iowa, and Warren County is among the leading counties for total number of bridges which need work. Additionally, the fate of Warren County’s economic growth is largely tied to transportation investments, particularly regarding Highway 65/69, Highway 92, Interstate 35, the Southwest Connector, and Highway 5/65 interstate re-designation. Whether that funding “vehicle” is a gas tax or some other means, now is the time to fund our transportation system, providing for public safety and economic development
Support job training programs. Iowa’s economy is improving and Warren County’s unemployment rate is low – 3.5 percent in November. A number of employers are having a hard time filling jobs. Many of these jobs include technical positions, which as construction trades, nurses, auto mechanics, HVAC technicians, and welders. These positions are not only crucial to a growing economy but also for keeping more dollars from leaving Warren County. WCEDC encourages the Iowa Legislature to continue funding job training programs offered at DMACC and other educational institutions.
Fully fund the Iowa Economic Development Authority and the tools at their disposal for attracting new jobs. The Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) led by Director Debi Durham and her team are on the front lines selling Iowa as a destination for expanding businesses. The businesses IEDA brings to Iowa provide an economic stimulus and more revenues for Iowa communities and our State, which contributes to the great quality of life and opportunities that we all enjoy.
Create a simpler income tax structure. Iowa has a high corporate income tax, which particularly affects those companies that sell products in Iowa. Federal deductibility helps lower the tax liability for Iowans somewhat, but is confusing to outsiders who might want to invest in Iowa or bring projects here. Simplicity is needed.
Though inevitably voters will be reminded that 2014 is an election year and bold initiatives will not be undertaken this year, we hope that our legislative leaders will continue to dialogue on these issues of interest. Iowa is a great state, and these issues can make us even more competitive.