Global Crisis/Innovation Blog

Iowa Is The Answer: What is the Question?

By Shlomo Maital

 NOT Iowa’s Strength!  


In the Kennedy administration, intellectual staffers liked to play this game.  Someone gave an ‘answer’.  Then the group had to come up with an appropriate question. 

   Here’s an example.  “Iowa”.  What is the question?

   The question is:  What state has the solution to American’s current economic woes: unemployment, lack of jobs, recession?

   Here are the numbers.  Iowa’s rate of unemployment is about 6 per cent, 3 percentage points lower than America’s average.  Some 30 per cent of Iowa workers are employed in manufacturing (not in agriculture, as many people familiar with the term “Corn Belt” believe), double the American average.    Iowa has some of America’s most advanced factories.  At the moment, President Obama is in Iowa, visiting factories and touting the Iowa solution.  It was here that he began his campaign for the Democratic nomination for the Presidency. 

  According to  Teresa Wahlert, director of Iowa Workforce Development,  “Manufacturing continues to be the driving force in the Iowa recovery.”  Manufacturing employment was up 1,400 jobs from March, the highest of any employment sector. Growth was concentrated in the wood product and machinery manufacturing sectors, as well as beverage and food production.

   Indeed, Iowa is the answer. Bring back manufacturing. Bring it home from China.  Why don’t the other 49 states in America benchmark Iowa, visit its factories, speak to its governor, and act to develop manufacturing?  America’s House of Representatives and Senate are a write-off, stuck in the quagmire of partisan politics. It is up to the people and to the states.  State governments have the authority to offer tax incentives to companies willing to locate factories in the state.  They have the authority to initiate vocational schools, training programs and college programs focused on lean manufacturing. 

  Here is what Iowa’s Economic Development agency says: 

    Iowa’s success in advanced manufacturing supplies cutting-edge, innovative products in a myriad of industries – agricultural and construction machinery, chemicals, food manufacturing, aerospace engineering, aluminum, and steel– and is building the world’s diversified manufacturing economy of the future. Some of the world’s leading companies manufacture in Iowa, reinforcing the state’s position as a center for advanced manufacturing. Companies that have manufacturing operations in Iowa include: Rockwell Collins, John Deere, Alcoa, HNI Corporation, Winnebago and Vermeer.  Iowa has approximately 4,100 manufacturing establishments, employing over 198,000 people. The state’s manufacturing sector contributes the largest share of state gross domestic product (GDP) of any major sector with $23 billion contributed in 2009. Iowa ranks seventh among all states in the percentage of total GDP derived from the manufacturing sector.

   Iowa is the answer.  Why don’t other states realize this?