Slow population growth adds to concerns of worker shortages in Iowa

Nicole Crain, vice president of government relations for the Iowa Association of Business and Industry. (The Gazette)

As Iowa employers struggle to find people to fill jobs, the state’s long-term demographic trends are not encouraging, executives from two business groups across the state said on Tuesday. ‘State to a state panel.

“Every manufacturer we talk to, whether it’s in Waverly, Waterloo or Clarinda, says I can hire 40 people tomorrow,” Nicole Crain of the Iowa Association of Business and Industry told the Empower Rural task force. Iowa.

Joe Murphy, Executive Director, Iowa Business Council (website 2021)

It’s not just an Iowa problem. A Stateline news service analysis of federal statistics for August, the latest available, found 42 states with more jobs available than people looking for work. In Iowa, there are 1.4 job vacancies for every unemployed person, according to Stateline’s analysis.

The problem is unlikely to go away anytime soon due to Iowa’s weak population growth, added Joe Murphy of the Iowa Business Council, which represents some of Iowa’s largest employers with a combined annual payroll of nearly of $ 9 billion.

“A healthy state is a growing state,” he said. However, the 2020 census showed that the population of Iowa grew by about 4.7% from the national rate of 8%. The five-year rate of change in Iowa’s population is an “anemic” 1%.

“This is a very concerning figure for us as we think about the future of the workforce and economic development,” Murphy told the panel, which is chaired by Iowa Lt. Gov. Adam. Gregg.

Right now, Murphy said, more people are leaving Iowa than entering the state. This is one of the reasons the Business Council is focusing on federal immigration reform.

“We truly believe that the key to success for all of us is to promote reasonable efforts at immigration reform and modernization,” Murphy said. “We know and many of your rural communities have adopted legal immigration as a path forward for economic development. “

ABI, which has 1,500 member companies with locations in all 99 counties of Iowa, works to help employers reach immigrants and refugees from Afghanistan and beyond, Crain said.

To attract more people to Iowa and keep them here, Murphy and Crain urged the panel to address the needs for better broadband connectivity, childcare resources and workforce housing. artwork.

The Business Council believes housing can be an economic catalyst for growth, Murphy said. “Finding ways to increase this population density – not just in urban centers – is key to our long-term growth strategies. “

In its marketing to draw people to Iowa, Murphy said, the council has focused on safe neighborhoods, strong schools, and little or no commute time to work.

“Living in Iowa is easy compared to a lot of other expensive places,” Murphy said. “It’s the state in which you can live the life you’ve always dreamed of living… the cost of living, affordable housing, ease of entry into the workforce, ease of entry into community projects. This is where we can really make a name for you.

State-initiated programs help Iowa businesses and communities, according to Crain. Noting that Iowa has the highest percentage of working women and two-parent households in the workforce, she said state resources have helped create successful child care programs in conjunction with employers. .

She also highlighted the impact the Manufacturing 4.0 initiative can have in attracting skilled workers and retaining Iowa businesses that might consider relocating if they fail to fill positions. The technology-focused initiative and grants are helping businesses in Bremer and Jackson counties consider implementing robotics, upgrading employee skills, and staying in rural Iowa.

Modernizing manufacturing processes “also helps our manufacturers realize their economic potential,” said Gregg, “because rather than having unfilled jobs, we have the ability to automate some of these processes.”

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