In Iowa, Gov. Kim Reynolds has made improving economic opportunities to all areas of the state a top priority. To do this, she has placed a particular focus on rural Iowa and the challenges faced by those communities.
Since 2018, state and community leaders have taken part in the governor’s Empower Rural Iowa Initiative in order to address the challenges facing the state’s rural communities. The initiative’s work resulted in legislation and a set of recommendations for continued action.
Sixty percent of Iowans live in counties with populations less than 100,000 and 30 percent live in counties with less than 25,000, making rural Iowa critical to the entire state, says Iowa Sen. Mark Lofgren.
Seven years ago, Kansas lawmakers adopted new incentives for individuals to move to the state and make one of its 77 rural counties their new home. The Rural Opportunity Zones program offers a mix of income tax waivers (for up to five years) and student-loan repayments of $15,000. But as much as he supports the idea, Kansas Rep. Troy Waymaster says another part of the economic challenges for rural areas must somehow be met.
“The problem is when there is no job for them to take, [people] probably are not going to move [to the rural counties],” he notes. “This is the other half of the equation: how you get jobs to move back.”
This year, he introduced the Ad Astra Rural Jobs Act (HB 2168), which would provide tax credits to investors who help businesses expand, locate or relocate in Kansas’ rural areas, many of which are struggling due to trends in their two dominant industries: agriculture and oil. In both sectors, commodity prices are low.