Laura Tomaka

Author Articles

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With its cluster of farming, industry leaders such as DuPont Pioneer and John Deere, and a large land-grant university, central Iowa is already a hub of economic activity centered on agriculture and bioscience. But state, local, business and university leaders believe the region still has much untapped potential.

Their response: Join together on a new Cultivation Corridor initiative, which creates new partnerships among regional leaders in economic development, education and bioscience and aims to market central Iowa as the home of“science that feeds the world.”

If successful, the initiative will also help grow the entire Iowa economy by drawing new investments to the state and attracting and retaining talent and business.

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In Michigan, the state’s legislators meet year-round, earn among the highest legislative salaries in the nation, and get support from a staff of more than 700 people. For a time earlier this year, some inside the Capitol wondered if that might all soon change.

A petition drive to make Michigan a part-time legislature — with much lower staffing levels and legislative pay, along with session days limited to 60 days per year — was being pushed with plans to put it on the ballot later this year.

That drive has since stalled, though supporters of the change have vowed to continue to seek wider support statewide. And the recent activity in Michigan begs the question: Is one model, part-time legislature or full-time legislature, better than the other?

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Where are information technology jobs most concentrated? How is automotive job growth shifting across the nation? What areas specialize in businesses related to food processing? This kind of data is now available through a new web-based initiative (http://clustermapping.us) from the U.S. Economic Development Administration and the Harvard Business School.
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Leaders at Wichita State University have a vision for boosting innovation development and high-tech commercialization in Kansas.

This year, the state Legislature bought into that vision, allocating $2 million (as part of HB 2506) for a new Innovation Campus that will house early-stage entrepreneurial companies and partner with high-tech businesses. Lawmakers also restored $500,000 for the university’s National Center of Aviation Training, a welcome decision for the state’s aviation manufacturers and related industries that have clustered in Kansas.
 

These actions in Kansas underscore a major trend in U.S. higher education — the growing role of universities in technology-led economic development. Ten years ago, this role was just beginning to be understood and encouraged. Today, it has been widely accepted.
 
 
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A series of high-profile requests by companies wanting special tax breaks from Illinois in order to stay in the state have raised questions about whether the state’s business incentive programs actually result in job and economic growth.
So many questions have emerged, in fact, that lawmakers have agreed not to grant any tax breaks until hearings are held to evaluate the state’s tax environment and the effectiveness of business incentives.
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The foreclosure crisis that followed the 2008 housing crash has resulted in a high volume of vacant properties across the nation. According to U.S. Census Bureau data for the last quarter of 2013, 10.2 percent of all housing units — 13.6 million — were vacant year-round. And while the housing market may be showing signs of improvement, more than 1.2 million properties are still in some stage of foreclosure, according to RealtyTrac, a real estate information firm specializing in foreclosed and defaulted properties.
High foreclosure and vacancy rates are not only symptomatic of economic problems; they contribute to them and are linked with increases in crime and declines in home values and local property tax revenue.
In response, some states — including Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Nebraska and Ohio in the Midwest — have instituted local land banks: public entities that acquire and manage tax-foreclosed properties.
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In January, Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman and Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad signed a proclamation initiating a new regional economic collaboration between southeast Nebraska and southwest Iowa.
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For every 100 children born to a poor family in Iowa’s largest metropolitan area, Des Moines, about 11 will eventually reach the nation’s top quintile of income earners. In Indiana’s most populous metro area, Indianapolis, the rate is much less: Fewer than 5 of every 100 low-income children rise to the top rung of the income ladder.

These large variations in economic mobility occur across the country — among different cities, states and regions. What is the cause? 

Stateline Midwest ~ 2013 MLC Annual Meeting Edition

When it comes to economic development, investment does not necessarily equal performance. This was one of the themes heard at the Midwestern Legislative Conference’s Economic Development Committee meeting in July.
A topic of particular interest was the value of state business incentives. States spend up to $80 billion on incentives in hopes of attracting or keeping businesses — and the jobs and economic activity that come with them.
But Peter Fisher, research director for the Iowa Policy Project and professor emeritus at the University of Iowa, cautioned that these incentives (such as tax cuts and credits) are often arbitrary and possibly unnecessary.

Stateline Midwest ~ February 2013

A report by the Kauffman Foundation reveals some surprising results with regard to the “geography of entrepreneurship,” both in terms of where high-growth companies and innovations tend to be located and the factors that drive concentration patterns.

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