Corporate relocations, expansions point to Iowa's economic clout

The state of Iowa is one of America's Top States for Business because our government and industry leaders conduct business from "within" vs. top down to grow our economy. We collaborate on solutions together—around the same table and across party lines. This effort has resulted in major economic wins and billions in international investment since my reelection in 2011.

Iowaconsistently ranks among the states with the nation's lowest costs of doing business. In fact, over the past five years, Iowa has ranked fourth, on average. We are considered one of the nation's most "business friendly" states due to our low operational costs, balanced and fair regulatory environment and educated workforce.

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad
Source: Office of the Governor of Iowa
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad

Tech giants, like Google, find Iowa's secure and reliable low-cost utilities to be the right business decision for cutting-edge data centers. Facebook's first-ever 100 percent wind-powered center in Altoona started Phase II of its $1 billion investment, while Microsoft just announced an expansion in west Des Moines, elevating its investments in Iowa to nearly $2 billion.

Iowa's growing financial services cluster, coupled with high-skilled, efficient talent, helped to attract Fidelity & Guaranty Life Holdings and Athene USA to central Iowa. Fidelity has moved its corporate headquarters from Baltimore, Maryland, while Athene is moving more than 200 positions to west Des Moines from Topeka, Kansas.

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Noted as the No. 2 Deal of the Year by the Foreign Direct Investment Association, the Iowa Fertilizer Co. started on a $1.8 billion fertilizer plant in Wever, located in southeast Iowa. With construction costs 18 percent lower than the national average and no sales or use tax on the purchase of machinery, equipment or computers, international investors are finding success in Iowa.

Importing and exporting cargo throughout the U.S. or to countless worldwide destinations is efficiently done out of Iowa. The state has a reliable rail system, several regional airports and three major U.S. interstate highway systems (I-29, I-80 and I-35). Plus, the Mississippi River forms Iowa's eastern border, transporting barges in and out of the Port of New Orleans, and the Missouri River shapes our western border.

CJ Bio America, a subsidiary of Korean biosciences giant CJ CheilJedang, and Cargill have invested $500 million in a new biorefinery campus. Cargill operates a corn wet mill ethanol plant, while, next door, CJ Bio America uses the by-products to process amino acids for swine and poultry feed.

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While solid infrastructure and operational costs are very important to businesses, access to skilled workers is absolutely vital. We hear time and time again from CEOs that the productivity and commitment of their Iowa employees allow them to invest and grow their businesses. Nearly 33 percent of Iowans age 25 to 34 hold a bachelor's degree, and Iowa universities graduate 1,500 engineers each year. Plus, the state's community colleges collaborate with and adapt technical program curriculum to meet employers' workforce needs.

Financial industry software developer WebFilings moved from California to Ames, Iowa, as a start-up. Today they have more than 400 high-quality employees and plan to increase that number to 700 once their 60,000-square-foot expansion is complete.

"With construction costs 18 percent lower than the national average and no sales or use tax on the purchase of machinery, equipment or computers, international investors are finding success in Iowa."

Leveraging Iowa's 6.5 percent refundable tax credit on R&D activities, several manufacturers and biosciences companies, such as Emerson Process Management and Kemin Industries, have invested millions to build new research and innovation centers in Iowa and expand their workforce.

Lower housing, utilities and food costs allow Iowans to stretch their take-home pay and live the lifestyle they want. Plus, the average commute time of 20 minutes gives you something money can't buy: time.

Iowa's business environment offers a strong, diverse economy, an educated and efficient workforce and investment opportunities in a variety of industry segments.

By Iowa Gov. Terry E. Branstad