The 16 largest chambers of commerce in Iowa are urging legislators to allow state officials to offer cash rather than just tax incentives when trying to lure new business to the state. The Iowa Chamber Alliance is also advocating tax cuts for individuals and corporations as well as incentives to expand broadband access in Iowa. Iowa Chamber Alliance executive director John Stineman admits those goals may be out of reach in 2016 as legislators struggle with a tight state budget.
“It’s certainly in the pathology of the Iowa Chamber Alliance to be optimistic,” Stineman says. “We’re not afraid to take on issues that are challenging or take a longer period of time to affect.” Greater Burlington Partnership president and C-E-O Jason Hutcheson says a “new, front-end incentive fund” to provide CASH incentives to lure new business to Iowa “ought to be a top budget priority” for lawmakers.
“While there is always competiton among different priorities,” Hutcheson says, “the incentives that help fuel economic growth and job creation are critical as they drive economic opportunity for Iowa families and enhance government revenue at all levels to help fund other public priorities.” Chris McGowan, president of the Siouxland Chamber of Commerce, says Iowa’s corporate income tax is “among the highest” in the country and Iowa’s personal income tax is overly complicated.
“Explaining a cumbersome tax system to prospective businesses can be an obstacle to closing a deal,” McGowan says. “It is worth reiterating — as we have said in the past — in economic development, if you are explaining and defending, you are losing.” The Iowa Chamber Alliance is calling for a “comprehensive study” of Iowa’s workforce to identify problems and solutions.
“Iowa needs to keep more Iowans in the state, attract new Iowans and welcome new Americans to make their home here in Iowa and contribute to Iowa’s economic growth.” That’s Dee Baird, president and C-E-O of the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance. She is this year’s chair of the Iowa Chamber Alliance. The group’s leaders say they would “encourage a dialogue” about immigration that’s “more constructive” than the debate that’s occurring on the campaign trail.
The Chamber Alliance says immigrants can be a “central part of our economy” because there aren’t enough Iowa residents to fill the jobs “of today and tomorrow.” In addition to the economic development groups from Cedar Rapids, Burlington and Sioux City, chambers of commerce from Ames, Council Bluffs, Dubuque, Waterloo and Cedar Falls, Des Moines, Fort Dodge, Muscatine, Iowa City, Marshalltown, Mason City and the Quad Cities are part of the Iowa Chamber Alliance.