Four Des Moines area business leaders told about 300 people at the Business Record's annual Economic Forecast event on Wednesday that they expect Iowa's economy to improve slightly in 2013.

Here are highlights of comments from each speaker:

Larry Zimpleman, president and CEO of Principal Financial Group, Inc.:  
The U.S. debt crisis will be solved only by changes in the country’s Social Security and Medicare systems. Social Security is a $5 trillion problem, but “that’s pretty solveable,” he said. Medicare, on the other hand, is an $40 trillion problem. “It’s eight times worse,” he said.

Debi Durham, director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority:
Iowa has grown much of its economy, including exports, agriculture, manufacturing and tech startup companies. And Iowa is one of the few states whose government still has a AAA bond rating. However, Durham warned about the lack of middle-skills workers, which “will basically will grind us to a halt if we don’t get this labor situation fixed.”

Tom Root, associate professor of finance at Drake University College of Business:
The last two rounds of the cash infusion by the Federal Reserve has not produced measurable economic growth. “All they have done is create a weird sense of confidence.”  And he warned that a reversal in the bond market “might happen faster than people expect.”

Kevin Crowley, sales manager of Iowa Realty Commercial:
 “Downtown Des Moines is in one of its renaissance periods” with new developments, conversion of office buildings to housing and the planned renovation of Walnut Street.
To see additional comments from the panelists about what they think is the most important thing for businesses to know in 2013: Click here