One key to growing Iowa’s economy, state economic development director Debi Durham told lawmakers this afternoon, will be growing the state’s population.
Boosting educational investments that prepare young adults for industrial and advanced manufacturing jobs will be important too, she said, but Iowa must attract more people and reverse its current-slow growth trend.
“We literally have to grow our state population,” Durham said. “When you look at our slow growth, when you look at our aging population, when you have this baby-boom population that is eventually going to exit the workforce, we need people.”
Businesses are looking for an educated workforce to run advanced manufacturing operations that don’t necessarily require a college degree, but which do call for specialized training. Attracting people with such skills will be as necessary as training Iowa’s current residents, she said.
The state can play a role in such an effort, she said, by improving marketing that emphasizes Iowa’s quality of life, she said.
Marketing will be critical for drawing businesses, too. Iowa’s public-relations and marketing efforts should be so robust that any discussion of agriculture, food safety or advanced manufacturing turns to Iowa, Durham said.
“Whenever there’s a conversation going on about that – that there are jobs and they’re good jobs and they’re great jobs for tomorrow – we need to be inserted in that conversation,” she said.
Durham’s comments came during an informational presentation before the House Economic Growth committee that also touched on Department of Economic Development’s transition from state agency to public-private partnership and Gov. Terry Branstad’s new economic-development proposals.