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Branstad's Balanced Approach to Economic Development is Yielding Results

In case you missed it this weekend in Sunday’s Des Moines Register, I wanted to share the op-ed they published with my thoughts on why Governor Branstad’s balanced approach to economic development is paying off for Iowa.

— Debi

Branstad Administration’s Balanced Approach to Economic Development is Yielding Results

By Debi Durham


I am perplexed that a recent guest editorial would criticize Governor Branstad for so actively promoting Iowa as an attractive place to invest. Last time I checked, that’s a critical responsibility of anyone holding the job title “Governor.” 

In fact, Iowans elected Governor Branstad to bring jobs to our state and to raise the incomes of Iowa families – something he has worked tirelessly to make happen by implementing a comprehensive approach to economic growth that balances the recruitment of out-of-state businesses, the expansion of traditional Iowa businesses, and the creation of new companies through innovation and entrepreneurship. The Governor has a plan for economic growth, and it is showing great results. 

We shouldn’t apologize for helping great companies like Facebook, Google and Microsoft invest in Iowa. Or, for lowering the input costs for farmers, and ultimately food prices for consumers, by helping to bring the production of fertilizer back to the United States. We are, in fact, proud of our efforts – and successes – in bringing much needed capital investment to Lee county and other economically depressed areas of the state. This is what the Governor promised to do, and he is following through. 

Some say the incentives necessary to bring these projects to Iowa are too large or that we are not getting enough in return. Thorough vetting, financial analysis and economic impact modeling – conducted for every project prior to award -- show otherwise. According to ICAIncentives, an independent database that tracks economic development deals across the U.S. and the world, Iowa is getting more with less. For every dollar of incentives that Iowa has awarded, we get more than $10 back in capital investment, not to mention jobs. In comparison, our neighbors in Nebraska and South Dakota get back about $5 for every dollar of incentives. Over in Illinois, they get back just $3. 

Some contend our success in attracting these job creation projects with their billions in capital investment is thanks only to the offer of incentives. That couldn’t be further from the truth. The New York Times agrees – a recent analysis by the publication found Iowa’s per capita spending on incentives ranked 42nd in the nation and 41st for total incentives. Those numbers clearly demonstrate that Iowa common sense governs our approach to economic development incentives. 

Although the big-name, out-of-state deals draw all the headlines, the reality is 80 percent of the job creation projects assisted through IEDA programs are taking place at Iowa companies – both big and small – all around our state. From Principal Financial in Des Moines to Hagie Manufacturing in Clarion and Banno in Cedar Falls, existing businesses are working with the state to invest in their future and ours. 

All of the Governor’s economic development efforts are focused on creating and sustaining jobs that can provide for Iowa’s families. If that’s not one of the Governor’s most important roles, I don’t know what is. 

Debi Durham is Director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority.


Written by Debi Durham
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