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Young People Leaving Iowa

classroomIn a report issued Monday on Iowa employment one of the down notes sounded concerned Iowa’s young (25 – 44) workers leaving the state. This is hardly a new phenomenon. Young people have been leaving Iowa for decades. Yet for some reason it feels different this time.

We have some skin in this particular game. Our children are in that age group. When time came for them to seek careers and opportunities, Iowa just didn’t step up to the bar. With the internet opening doors that probably would not have been available years earlier, they were able to evaluate offers in a less emotional way than ealier generations may have been able to.

When offers were made, Iowa offers usually came in lower. Benefits were also more attractive elsewhere. Putting aside their desire to stay near home, they made decisions based on wages offered, plus benefits, plus future possibilities. Sadly, Iowa employers’ offers were not even in the ballpark.

Iowa businesses are going to the legislature looking for property tax relief. The claim is that if their property taxes are relieved, businesses that are here will stay, and other businesses will flock in especially on our borders. My gut tells me that won’t happen. For one thing, Iowa is far from the only state playing the give away to business game in the midwest. But the other thing is that businesses generally pop up where people live, and businesses that are already based in other states are most likely there because of clientele or because of some other advantage the location gives them.

So when Iowa’s young and talented decide to move out of Iowa because the wages and/or benefits do not compete, they become customers in another area and the money that they spend is not spent in Iowa. This then strengthens the customer base in another area.

A couple of things that Iowa definitely has going for it are the education system and the general amenities of a more rural lifestyle. But to keep the young and talented here they must compete in wages and benefits. Cutting taxes for businesses is going to do nothing to increase the customer base in Iowa, especially when many other states are playing that same game.

With the cutbacks in wages and benefits throughout the economy, young people must watch out for themselves. Especially since there has also been a huge cutback in education funding for post-secondary education. Many, many students now come out of college in debt up to their eyeballs, so they must get the highest price they can for their labors. From what we have experienced, Iowa businesses are unwilling to do that.

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