By Shana Daley
From the September/October 2014 issue
Expanding businesses are continually examining where the best places might be to locate new facilities, serve new markets and find the right talent to serve their customers. Increasingly, businesses are turning to Iowa.
Iowa consistently ranks as one of “America’s Top States for Business”—a reflection of the state’s long history of collaboration with business and industry, fiscal stability, a productive workforce and a high quality of life.
Favorable real estate costs, utility rates and low workers compensation insurance costs are among factors that prompted both CNBC and Forbes to rank the Hawkeye State among the national leaders in terms of low cost of doing business, which creates greater opportunities for businesses to operate profitably. The state also has one of the healthiest budgets among the 50 states and a near-perfect credit rating that allow Iowa to maintain a stable tax structure for businesses.
These attributes have led to recent, significant corporate expansions in Iowa.
- Iowa’s secure and reliable, low-cost utilities continue to be the right business solution for cutting-edge data centers. Facebook chose to build its first-ever 100 percent wind-powered center in Altoona. The first phase of the $1 billion project is nearly completed and the company is now building the second phase of its data center. Additionally, Microsoft recently announced an expansion in West Des Moines, elevating its investments in Iowa to nearly $2 billion.
- Wind energy generation, itself, is a rapidly growing industry in Iowa. Sioux City-based Sabre Industries and Clean Line Energy announced a partnership that opens up opportunity for $7 billion in new wind energy development in Iowa. A 500-mile electric transmission line will deliver wind energy from northwest Iowa to communities in Illinois and beyond. Sabre manufactures the custom monopole structures required for the energy transmission.
- Iowa has a long track record as a center for financial services firms with Fortune 500 companies such as Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, The Principal Financial Group, AEGON USA and many others headquartered in the state. This cluster, coupled with high-skilled, efficient talent recently led Fidelity & Guaranty Life Holdings, Inc. and Athene USA to central Iowa. Fidelity & Guaranty Life Holdings has moved its corporate headquarters from Baltimore, MD, while Athene has moved more than 200 positions from Topeka, KS, to West Des Moines.
Importing and exporting cargo from Iowa to other U.S. locations or to countless worldwide destinations is conducted efficiently. The state has a reliable rail system, several regional airports and three major U.S. Interstate systems (I-29/I-80/I-35). Plus, the Mississippi River forms Iowa’s eastern border, providing Iowa companies the ability to transport goods by barge to and from the Port of New Orleans.
- Noted as the number two “Deal of the Year” by the Foreign Direct Investment Association, Egypt-based Orascom Construction Industries is constructing a $1.4 billion fertilizer plant in Wever, located in southeast Iowa, where proximity to the Mississippi River offers convenient, affordable shipping. With construction costs 18 percent lower than the national average and no sales or use tax on the purchase of machinery, equipment or computers—international investors are finding success in Iowa.
While solid infrastructure and low operational costs are very important to businesses, access to skilled workers is absolutely vital. CEOs continually report that the productivity and commitment of their Iowa employees allow them to invest in and grow their businesses. Nearly 33 percent of Iowans ages 25 to 34 hold bachelor’s degrees. Iowa universities graduate 1,500 engineers each year. Plus, the state’s community colleges collaborate with and adapt technical program curricula to meet employers’ workforce needs. These factors allow Iowa to meet businesses’ growing needs for highly skilled workers. And the state offers attractive tax incentives for businesses to invest in research and development.
- Financial industry software developer, Workiva (formerly known as WebFilings), moved from California to Ames, Iowa, as a startup. Today, Workiva employs more than 400 highly skilled employees and plans to increase its workforce to 700 once a 60,000 square foot expansion is complete.
- Leveraging Iowa’s 6.5 percent refundable tax credit on R&D activities, several manufacturers and biosciences companies like Emerson Process Management in Marshalltown and Kemin Industries in Des Moines have invested millions building new research and innovation centers in Iowa that have enabled the companies to expand their workforces.
Iowa employees bring talent and commitment to the job, and they also benefit from an affordable quality of life. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Iowa’s cost of living is approximately 9 percent less than the national average, allowing Iowans to stretch their take-home pay and live the lifestyle they want. Plus, the average commute time of 19 minutes gives something money can’t buy—time. Time to coach Little League, volunteer or squeeze in a bike ride along the river.
So, if you’re looking for a premium business environment to collaborate and move your business forward—take a closer look at Iowa. Visit www.iowaeconomicdevelopment.com to learn more.