DES MOINES — Economic development award winners were announced by the Business Expansion and Strategic Trends (BEST of Iowa), with Marion County being a top recipient.

This year, the BEST of Iowa Excellence Awards went to Greater Dubuque Development Corporation, Kossuth/Palo Alto Economic Development Corporation, Marion County Development Commission and Montgomery County Development Corporation for their work to support Iowa’s existing businesses.

BEST of Iowa is a unique collaboration of local economic development groups working with Iowa’s utilities and the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA). Its mission is to strengthen relationships with Iowa companies to provide a better understanding of issues impacting the ability to do business in the state.

“BEST of Iowa would not be the success it is without the invaluable work of our local economic development partners. The feedback received contributes to determining statewide trends, creating programs to address the concerns of our business community and ensuring Iowa’s business climate remains globally competitive,” said Debi Durham, director of the IEDA and Iowa Finance Authority.

The 2019 BEST of Iowa key findings and conclusions identified trend information from more than 800 interviews completed with companies across 66 counties in 165 communities.

“This information is extremely valuable to help Iowa’s economy thrive. Knowing what our existing businesses are experiencing and the issues they are addressing are critical to be able to help create the economic landscape to capitalize on opportunities,” said Maureen Elbert, executive director of Kossuth/Palo Alto Economic Development Corporation.

“Getting first-hand feedback from businesses across our state is critical to making sure we’re setting the stage for economic success,” said Drew Conrad, director at the Institute for Decision Making at the University of Northern Iowa. “Our business owners live the good and bad of our business environment every day. Giving those honest experiences attention allows us to be strategic in how to effectively help our communities thrive.”

One of the study’s key findings revealed that Iowa’s workforce needs to be enhanced and grown.

“Iowa has a lot to be proud of, and our work ethic is at the top of the list. However, to meet the need of growing businesses, we need to make sure we have enough qualified workers to fill new positions,” said Conrad.

“Nearly half of the companies interviewed rated the availability of workforce in their area as low, and 22 percent of the companies with plans to expand during the next three years stated their community in Iowa may not be considered for the expansion because of that workforce concern. The good news is we can take action now to make sure Iowa is prepared and in the running for those opportunities,” added Conrad.

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