I have the pleasure of traveling around the state speaking to economic development groups. Often times the discussion is about how to attract jobs to a particular region. On a recent trip though the discussion was different, it turned to how to attract people to the region to support the needs of the current businesses in place.
Iowa is fortunate to have an unemployment rate of only 5.3% compared to the national average of 8.3%. In February, only 4 of Iowa's 99 counties had an increase in unemployment from 2011. Maybe it's time for economic development leaders in our state to change their focus from jobs to people. If Iowa maintains a skilled workforce, businesses will be attracted to the state.
The key, however, is matching the skills and work desires of people in a region to the potential new business opportunities. Finding the right match between synergistic businesses and people is much more effective than attracting the largest employers or largest group of people. If you haven't done so recently, I recommend conducting a regional study to determine what businesses might be a good fit. I'll continue my discussions, and hope I can hear your thoughts soon.
- economic development