Report: Iowa needs to diversify, grow workforce to see greater successes

DES MOINES — The Iowa Business Council is releasing its Competitive Dashboard for 2022, perspectives from executives at Iowa’s 22 largest companies on how the state is competing in the national marketplace.

Council chairman Tim Yaggi, president and CEO of Pella Corporation, applauds state lawmakers and the governor for the latest tax reforms, as he says Iowa has not been competitive as a state from a tax perspective.

“The new law, which the governor just signed recently, we think is a huge improvement from a competitiveness standpoint,” Yaggi says, “to make Iowa much more attractive as a place to potentially relocate businesses, as a way to get new talent into the state with competitive wages and competitive personal tax policies.”

On Tuesday, Governor Kim Reynolds signed the bill which will flatten Iowa’s personal income tax rate to 3.9% by 2026.

While Iowa’s population growth has consistently trailed behind the national average, Yaggi notes Iowa is also 45th out of the 50 states in ethnic diversity. He says it’s vital that Iowa work harder to recruit people to move here — and to recruit younger people to move here.

“They are, by definition, going to be more diverse,” Yaggi says, “and we have to do a better job, frankly, of bringing in all people but a great deal of diversity to enable us to strengthen our companies and have the kind of thought leadership that comes and the performance that I think comes from diversifying the organization.”

One of the state’s biggest shortcomings, he says, is a familiar refrain — the difficulty of finding and hiring qualified workers to fill the wide array of open positions.

“As we create new jobs, it can be very difficult to find the folks that we need to fill those jobs,” Yaggi says. “When you combine the low unemployment levels, fairly high participation rates with lack of good population growth, the ability for employers to fill jobs as we grow our businesses is a real challenge.”

Iowa has much to offer newcomers, he says, including great schools, affordable housing and short commute times.

Leaders of the non-partisan, non-profit council say the Competitive Dashboard was created to serve as a guide to both lawmakers and business leaders in determining policies that will elevate Iowa’s economy.