An annual measurement of Iowa’s business competitiveness shows the state maintaining its performance in five key indicators, but further examination shows the need for much needed improvement in several areas.
The 2014 Iowa Competitiveness Index, released by the Iowa Business Council at its annual partnership meeting in Des Moines, showed Iowa remaining competitive with other states in economic growth, education and workforce readiness, governance and fiscal matters, health and well-being, workforce demographics and diversity.
Iowa continues to trail its peers in providing career opportunities in the area of knowledge jobs, falling to 32nd in the nation from 29th in the last index. Knowledge jobs are those in high technology, advanced manufacturing and information services.
Larry Zimpleman, chairman of the Iowa Business Council, said additional emphasis on attracting new employers or expanding existing employers offering career opportunities to those qualified for knowledge jobs will significantly impact per capita income.
Zimpleman, chairman, president and CEO of Principal Financial Group, said Iowa businesses need to remain focused on pursuing and adopting innovations in practice and technology that will attract and retain talent.
Kelly Ortberg, president and CEO of Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids, said his company is proactively recruiting veterans of the nation’s armed services to fill positions where their experience is valuable.
“As the Department of Defense brings down its overall workforce levels, there is great talent there,” Ortberg said, “We’re going to provide incentives for those people to come back and fill our needs in this state.
“They are operators of our equipment in the defense business and they can help us improve our products and make them operate better for the next line of soldiers.”
In the category of health and well-being, the percentage of Iowans who are obese worsened significantly, dropping Iowa’s rank into the bottom fourth nationally at 39th. Iowans considered to be obese has increased over 40 percent since the benchmark year of 2000.
Iowa continues to grow very slowly in terms of population, adding a net 600 residents last year. Iowa is the only state whose population did not grow at least 50 percent from 1900 to 2010.