To test the economic temperature of business leaders here in Iowa, we had our reporters poll leaders from each of their beats. We asked each leader, “What do you think the impact will be of the economy on your particular industry?”

- Chris Conetzkey, Editor of the Business Record

Leader Responses

Real estate & development Improve slightly

Creighton Cox, Executive officer, Home Builders Association of Greater Des Moines

“As long as interest rates stay at historically low levels and lenders begin easing borrowing requirements for both builders and buyers, there should continue to be a steady rebound and growth for residential construction in Iowa in 2013.”

Economic development Improve dramatically

Jay Byers, CEO, Greater Des Moines Partnership

“We have been very fortunate in Central Iowa to have experienced continuous growth over the past few years, and we believe 2013 will see that pattern continue. We predict two of our strongest growing sectors will be financial services and bioscience. Looking at our current economic state and forecasting from Moody’s, ‘Greater Des Moines is positioned for above-average growth due to a diverse industrial base, low cost of doing business at 17 percent below the national average, and an extremely skilled workforce.’”

Finance & Insurance Improve slightly

Eric Lohmeier, Managing director, NCP Investment Banking

“By June, the momentum will be up more dramatically, unemployment down, and as opposed to talking about more stimulus, we will be debating the Federal Reserve’s next interest rate increase. I think 2013 is finally the year when the interest-rate scenario changes significantly, and 10-year rates will be north of 2.5 percent by year’s end from (about 1.9) percent today. Small- to mid-market corporate finance hit rock bottom ... in 2009. In 2010, ‘fleet-of-foot’ companies got busy either restructuring deals or helping strong-balance-sheet clients acquire distressed companies or assets. 2011 transitioned into a great year for strategic, targeted mergers and acquisitions and good overall pricing for the buy side, and in 2012, M&A was back to almost pre-2008 levels in terms of the multiples that good businesses are being acquired for – there is a lot more demand (cash/equity) than there is supply (quality companies interested in selling) today and this looks to continue in 2013. The increased capital gains rate will have literally zero effect on this trend. ... By June 30, the end of the second quarter, the capital gains rate change will be all but forgotten.”

Ag & environment Improve slightly

Christopher Draper, co-founder of Meidh Corp.

“Property development seems to be picking up again, so Meidh is prepared for our new construction-related activities (e.g., commissioning, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for New Construction certification) to expand and our sustainability-related activities (e.g. retro-commissioning, operations optimization) to remain stable or contract. With regards to young startups, this improving economic climate could actually make it more difficult for underfunded/high-risk startups to find appropriate staff/partners.”

Health & wellness Improve dramatically

Bill LeaverPresident and CEO, Iowa Health System

“Health care will continue its transformation both in response to the health-care law and the needs of our economy. Delivery and payment changes will continue to evolve and will expand to impact more people. In 2013, the insurance exchanges will be developed, and the way we purchase insurance will change significantly beginning in 2014. A growing economy will have a positive impact on health care but will be offset by reductions in government spending in both Medicare and Medicaid.”

HR & education Improve slightly

Joel Duncan
CEO, Merit Resources Inc.

“We are seeing measured optimism with our clients concerning 2013. There remains general undertones (such as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) compliance and cost and national debt) of economic insecurity that are tempering any significant acceleration efforts. Business capacity being compromised from prior years’ reductions is demanding staff expansion. For the human resources profession and industry, the improving Iowa economy means employees will have more employment choices, so both recruiting and retention disciplines will need to be fortified. Outside of that, every human resources professional is at some level consumed with effectively navigating the implementation of PPACA and the associated decisions and impact this will create at their respective employer or client.”

Culture Improve slightly

Mary CownieDirector, Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

“Culture has faired pretty well, given the economic situation. I am sure there are some organizations out there that have struggled in terms of ongoing support and donations, but overall, I would say the economic trend for culture has begun to improve slightly and it will continue to improve. When you look around our community, it is pretty amazing the dollars that have been put forth for cultural projects. It not only speaks volumes about philanthropy, both individual and corporate, but about the strength and momentum that Greater Des Moines has when it comes to our cultural amenities and the potential they have.”

Sales & marketing Improve slightly

Tom FlynnPresident, Lessing-Flynn Advertising Co.

“Companies are running leaner and have learned that they need to focus on what they do best. But at the same time, they want access to talent in areas like marketing without bringing that in-house. Add to that uncertainty of things like health care and taxes and economic decisions that are going to be made in Washington, and companies are going to continue to look for ways to hire the expertise that they want in areas like marketing without adding that to their payroll. So I think that my perspective is that while there’s still a lot of uncertainty, companies are feeling good enough that they’re in a growth mode. That, I think, is going to be good for businesses like ours in the advertising, marketing and public relations area.”

Finance & insurance Improve slightly

Bruce KelleyPresident and CEO, EMC Insurance Cos.

“In Iowa, because of our strong agricultural commodity prices, increasing land values and a lower unemployment rate, we are somewhat cushioned from the sluggish U.S. economy. In general, the property/casualty insurance industry tallied a strong performance in 2012 — EMC Insurance Cos. included. I anticipate these positive results in the insurance industry will continue into 2013; however, we will still be up against sustained low interest rates and the uncertainty of a mega-catastrophe.”

Energy & utilities Improve slightly

Chad Stonechief financial officer, Renewable Energy Group Inc.

“The biodiesel industry is expected to grow by nearly 30 percent in 2013. One major factor driving this is growth of the renewable volume obligation under the Renewable Fuel Standard. This national requirement is determined by the Environmental Protection Agency and is set at 1.28 billion gallons of biodiesel that must be blended into diesel nationwide. Another driver in the industry today is a tax incentive for biodiesel blenders. Overall, we expect the biodiesel industry will benefit from market stability and policy certainty at both the federal and state levels in 2013. In Iowa, we are excited that our customers in the petroleum industry can take advantage of a state biodiesel incentive when they offer B5 (5 percent biodiesel, 95 percent petroleum diesel) to their customers.”

Tech & innovation Improve slightly

JD GeneserSenior partner who works with technology-related startups, LWBJ Capital Advisors

“I think how it impacts what we do as it relates to technology but also just in regards to capital markets and funds available for good ideas, I think there’s going to be more of probably a short-term period of uncertainty still, but I do think there’s opportunities and the capital markets will improve. We’ve been through the election, the ‘fiscal cliff’ and now the next one is going to be the debt ceiling. There’s still just a whole bunch of uncertainty out there, from investors’ perspectives and from business owners’ perspectives, even in regards to hiring and estate planning and succession planning from a business owner’s perspective, and then from an investor’s perspective, I think they’re still kind of waiting.”

Ag & environment Remain about the same

Craig HillPresident, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation

“Political uncertainty and the federal debt issues will continue to constrain growth. The federal government is simply short of tools to recharge investment. However, agriculture will persist as a beacon of hope, particularly in Iowa and the Midwest. Despite the drought of 2012, farmers showed great resiliency and going forward, global demand for our core strength – agricultural production – will pay significant dividends.”

Real estate & development Improve slightly

Dan Dutcher, Senior vice president and managing director for transaction services, Terrus Real Estate Group LLC

“In terms of the commercial real estate industry, I am not sure that you are going to see a big improvement in the industry until you see some significant job growth in the office sector and I don’t see that happening with only a slight improvement in the economy. Multifamily will continue to be strong and retail will do OK but other than multifamily, I don’t see any significant new development taking place.”

Retail & business Improve slightly

Ron Prescott, Retail and small business specialist, Iowa State University

“I am expecting a 2 percent growth in Iowa retail sales tax for 2012 compared with 2011, which will be about half of the nationwide growth. A 2 percent growth would place us at the 2009 level of $34.83 billion.”