“We feel really good where Iowa is at right now but we should never be satisfied and should never be complacent,” she stated at a luncheon attended by city officials and representatives from Western Iowa Advantage, a collaborative effort of economic development officials in Adair, Audubon, Carroll, Crawford, Greene, Guthrie, Ida and Sac counties.
During Durham’s time in Denison she toured Bohlmann Quality Products, Professional Computer Systems and bluespace creative.
During the winter, Durham was scheduled to visit Denison but the trip was cancelled due to a blizzard.
Durham commented on the state’s strengths and said Iowa needs to grow its workforce.
“We literally have to grow the state’s population,” she commented. “We can’t get there by putting everyone who is on unemployment to work or raising or elevating the skills that we have. Those are worthy efforts and we need to continue to do this, but we have to grow Iowa’s population, something that we’ve never been good at.”
Iowa is in an enviable position among states; a surplus was used to make investments in education and property tax reform. In contrast, the federal government does not have a balanced budget, Durham commented.
She pointed to the national debt at 104 percent of the gross domestic product, said the United States has the highest corporate income taxes in the world and added that U.S. corporations have more than $1 trillion offshore that should be working for America.
“If we want to be an innovative society, we need to invest in things that create innovation,” Durham stated.
She continued that the U.S. government needs a real conversation about immigration reform and believes that regulations of the national health care reform are going to be more burdensome and more pervasive on businesses than anyone imagines.
Durham looks at several indexes nationally and internationally to measure how Iowa is doing. She said Iowa’s gross domestic product growth is up 11.1 percent over the last five years, Iowa is third in the nation in per capita income and Iowa is one of the few states that still has a triple A bond rating. She added that the Wall Street Journal said Iowa one of the best five managed states in the nation.
Other statistics Durham shared about Iowa’s strengths are:
- Iowa exports in 2011 grew 23.4 percent and increased by an additional 10 percent last year, which is more than double the U.S. growth in exports
- Manufacturing, which includes food processing, is largest gross state product and that Iowa is seeing a rebirth of manufacturing
- Iowa gained about 7,000 jobs in 2012, including jobs that came back from overseas
- Iowa has the fifth lowest unemployment rate in the nation, which she conceded is both good news and bad news
- Retail growth in Iowa grew by five percent in 2012, the highest increase in the last five years
Durham stated, however, that a lack of housing, or not enough of the right type of housing stock, is a problem in many Iowa communities.
Durham stated she travels throughout Iowa to understand communities’ challenges for growth and opportunities.
The only way to do that, she commented, is “to have boots on the ground and meet with leaders in the private and public sectors.”
One area she said needs to be strengthened is the connections between Iowa companies.
On Thursday she toured a company in Roland that manufactures LED lighting and linked that enterprise with Principal’s planned headquarters expansion in Des Moines. She said Principal’s building will have a green platform and that the LED lighting could come from the company in Roland.
After visiting Professional Computer Systems and Bohlmann Quality Products on Friday morning, she commented, “What we saw with the hosting and high tech and the concrete plant, to see how far those products are being shipped, and that some of our own cities in the state are not even using them for bidding - we need to do a better job somehow. How do we tell the world what we have to offer, but more importantly how to we tell each other what we have to offer?”