Iowa Business Council releases economic competitiveness report

DES MOINES — The Iowa Business Council released its annual review of the state’s economic competitiveness Wednesday which is called “Iowa’s Competitive Dashboard.”

The review measures the state’s national rankings in five categories, and IBC chair Phil Jasper of Raytheon-Collins Aerospace discussed some of the main points. “Our economy has remained strong with a gross state product of more than $238 billion, and this represents greater than 9.5% increase over last year’s report,” he says.

Jasper says this illustrates the resiliency throughout the industry sectors in Iowa. He says finding enough workers continues to be the limiting factor in terms of the potential of our economy. “We’re effectively tapped out on our workforce. While I will maintain the top six position in labor force participation rate, you will note that is not effectively changed from last year,” Jasper says.

He says the focus on work-based learning has led to significant progress. “Specifically, high school work based learning opportunities across the state increased from 121 school districts and private schools, who provided work based learning opportunities in 2020, to more than 370 in 2023,” he says.

Jasper says this is the area that can help turn around the worker deficit. “We believe that continued efforts on work based learning focusing on registered apprenticeships, quality pre-apprenticeships, and high school internship programs has the potential to substantially grow our talent pipeline well into the future,” Jasper says.

Jasper says the IBC is a strong supporter of the recent work based learning legislation while also providing funding for our school districts to implement these programs in partnership with Iowa businesses. Jasper says the tax climate for businesses continues to improve. “When the I-B-C began publishing this data in 2011, Iowal ranked 46 in corporate tax climate, and 41st in individual tax climate,” Jasper says. “As recent tax policies come online, those rankings have improved dramatically.”

He says Iowa now ranks 29th in corporate tax climate and 22nd in individual tax climate. Jasper says the IBC continues to monitor tax legislation this year and says their long-term goal would be to achieve a top 15 ranking in both categories. Jasper says they have done some adjusting to how they track health care and their update places Iowa within the midpoint of states from a competitive standpoint. He says Iowa continues to struggle in with the number of mental health professionals available, currently ranking 43rd in the nation. Jasper says the demographics and diversity category is the one the requires the most improvement. “Iowa’s population growth has consistently trailed the national average. We continue to rank 31st In total population, we further ranked 30th in the nation for five year population change and 34th in net overall migration,” he says.

Jasper says that state’s population needs to grow in order for business to expand and provide opportunities for the next generation. He says the IBC continues to be a strong advocate for comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level.

The Iowa Business Council is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization whose 22 members are the chief decision makers of major Iowa employers across all of the state’s 99 counties.