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Guest Opinion

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Iowa efforts paying off

These are exciting times for the state of Iowa. We have embarked upon an ambitious and unprecedented effort to transform the Iowa economy. Thanks to several recent achievements that are taking place across the state we are well on our way. The Governor and I have been traveling across Iowa visiting community project sites that were funded by the Vision Iowa Program.

The Vision Iowa Program has helped give life to dozens of exciting projects in communities all over Iowa and is making this state an even better place to live, work and raise a family. Communities across the state have made a smart investment in their quality of life, building cultural centers and museums, swimming pools and gymnasiums, river walks, events centers, sports complexes, amphitheaters, and many other public improvements that will enrich community life, create jobs, and benefit the local economy. These projects will make our state a more appealing place for tourists to visit, for companies to locate, and for people to live.

Iowans can be proud that even during difficult economic times when many other states face severe budget challenges, Iowa has been able to take bold actions to stimulate the economy. These include the Vision Iowa Program, which leveraged $200 million of state resources into $2 billion of total investment, created 12,500 construction jobs and 2,000 permanent jobs, and laid the groundwork for future growth in over 150 Iowa communities.

Also in the past year, Iowa has established a $200 million expansion in venture capital available to Iowa start-up companies, including the $7-10 million Iowa First Capital Fund, LP that was recently announced in Cedar Rapids. This fund and other venture capital sources will give Iowa entrepreneurs and small business owners an unprecedented chance to receive the critical funding needed to convert ideas into profits, and possibly help small Iowa businesses grow into major employers.

In addition to laying the foundation for future growth, we are also focused on immediate job creation. In June, the Legislature passed and the Governor signed into law the $503 million Iowa Values Fund, which has already resulted in major commitments from companies such as Wells Fargo, Trans Ova, and Gcommerce to expand and create thousands of good jobs in Iowa.

Iowa has also been receiving national attention for its quality of life and attractive business climate. "Expansion Management" magazine recently ranked seven Iowa metro areas among the top 50 metro areas in the nation for the best places to locate or expand a business - Des Moines ranked #1

overall. Omaha/Council Bluffs ranked #3. Cedar Rapids #6. Iowa City #11.

Davenport/Quad Cities was #27. Sioux City was #32. Dubuque was #38 and Waterloo/Cedar Falls was #43.

Several other national studies have also highlighted Iowa's outstanding performance as a place for businesses to locate and for people to live. The North American Business Cost Review ranks Iowa as the 5th lowest cost state

for doing business, and a recent survey of corporate executives by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce rated Iowa as the 3rd fairest liability system. The 2002 Beacon Hill Institute ranked Iowa 12th in overall state competitiveness as measured by such factors as government and fiscal policy, technology, human resources, and environmental policy. Morgan Quitno Press has rated Iowa as the #2 "Most Livable State" for the second year in a row. A 2002 study by the Fordham University Institute for Innovation in Social Policy rated Iowa #1 in overall social health. Also, Des Moines was recently announced as the site of the 2005 National Governors Association Annual Meeting, which will generate valuable national exposure for Iowa's strong business climate, excellent education system, and world-class cultural and recreational amenities.

Clearly, Iowans have much to be proud of, and we need to do more to sell our state and share our success stories with the rest of the country and the rest of the world. Governor Vilsack and I are working with the Department of Economic Development and local communities to aggressively market our

state to businesses and investors, and we have a terrific story to tell. We need all Iowans to join in this effort to promote our state - after all, if we don't work to promote our state, who will?

We are working to grow Iowa's economy with vision and values - creating the cultural and recreational opportunities that will make our state a better place to live, drawing upon the ideas and contributions of all our communities, and pursuing smart strategies to create opportunity for all Iowans. Iowa can be a model for the rest of the nation for how to use our resources to create good jobs while improving our quality of life and

supporting the values of responsibility, opportunity and security that we all share.

* Iowa Lt. Governor Sally Pederson writes a monthly column on Iowa issues for Pilot-Tribune readers.