Iowa ranks average nationally across several business-related categories – including economic growth and governance among others – according to the Iowa Business Council’s 2020 Competitive Dashboard. 


Iowa Business Council Executive Director Joe Murphy said the organization has been publishing the dashboard since 2011 as a toolkit for policymakers that contains objective information looking at several key areas. Each category receives a ranking compared to the other 49 states of poor, average or competitive. Here’s how Iowa fared: 

  • Economic growth - Average

  • Education and workforce - Average

  • Governance - Average

  • Health and wellness - Average

  • Demographics and diversity - Poor


The IBC released several recommendations for each category. As part of economic growth, the IBC identified adequate housing as a means to attract and retain workers. “The IBC supports efforts to provide increased investment to the State Housing Trust Fund and Workforce Housing Tax Credit programs,” the recommendations state. 


“This issue encompasses both urban and rural,” Murphy said. “As we engaged with communities over the last year, [affordable housing] routinely came up again and again.”


For governance, IBC recommends that “a modernized tax system with competitive tax rates and rules will promote growth through greater investment, higher wages and more jobs in Iowa.” While at the same time the state should look to “build access to affordable workforce housing, child care and mental health resources.”


Murphy said these are all complex issues, in particular maintaining funding while creating competitive tax rates, which is why IBC is excited to see some major initiatives like the Invest in Iowa Act in the statehouse. 


In demographics and diversity, which is the least competitive category for Iowa, the IBC recommends several strategies to increase migration to the state. The recommendation states: “The IBC will work with members of Congress to modernize the current immigration system so legal immigration can be used as a viable tool to recruit and retain talent. The IBC will work with state elected leaders to engage on innovative policy changes relating to licensing requirements, federally approved refugee resettlement opportunities and immigration programs.”


“Iowa needs to do everything collectively to get more diverse talent,” Murphy said.


One of the positive takeaways was that Gross Domestic Product held steady despite trade disputes and other market uncertainty. Additionally, median household income increased by about $1,500.


See the full 2020 Competitive Dashboard here.