Debi Durham

Debi Durham is executive director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority, the state of Iowa’s economic development agency. Contact [email protected] for more information about how these programs can support your business.

Is Your State Ready For Industry 4.0?

Human-machine interface and digital-to-physical transfer may sound like science fiction, but forward-thinking companies are quickly adopting these industrial applications.

Former Iowan To Lead The Federal Highway Administration

Iowa is the only state that offers a supply chain model to help in-state businesses and those looking to expand into Iowa the opportunity to optimize their supply chain and reduce costs.

What can a State do to Alleviate your R&D Risk?

[caption id="attachment_60835" align="alignleft" width="367"] Iowa State Capital at night[/caption] Several states offer some form of research and development tax credit, but very few have fully refundable research credits. However, Iowa’s Research Activities Credit program has spurred economic activity, helped to attract high-salaried and advanced degree careers, while offering a strategic incentive to local businesses to continuously innovate. Fortune 500 avionics company Rockwell Collins, based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is one company that has made use of Iowa’s Research Activities Credit. For the last several years, Rockwell Collins has focused on emerging technologies like infrared sensors that provide a clearer picture to the pilot during nighttime flights or bad weather conditions. President and CEO Kelly Ortberg said the program is valuable for helping the company compete globally. “We operate in a fiercely competitive industry where research and development is critical,” said Ortberg. “We’ve found the R&D tax credit program that Iowa offers provides the right financial incentive to help us alleviate some of the risks.” Rockwell Collins’ systems are installed in the cockpit of nearly every commercial airliner worldwide, including the next generation of Boeing and Airbus jets. Seventy percent of U.S. and allied military communications are transmitted over their devices.
“We’ve found the R&D tax credit program that Iowa offers provides the right financial incentive to help us alleviate some [INDUSTRY] risks.”
“We sell into and service airlines throughout the world with nearly 40 percent of our revenues coming from outside the United States,” said Ortberg. “However, we’re founded and headquartered in Iowa, and our Midwest location has never hindered our international business or recruitment efforts. It’s a great place to live and raise your family—once we recruit people to Iowa, they rarely take transfer opportunities to the coasts.” About one half of Rockwell Collins’ 20,000 employees, including 4,000 engineers, work at the company’s headquarters and four regional manufacturing facilities across Eastern Iowa. Much of the company’s high-tech research occurs in the state. The proximity of leading aeronautics, electrical and industrial engineering programs at Iowa State University and the University of Iowa has been instrumental to the company’s success. Some of that research includes collaboration with faculty and students at the University of Iowa, where Rockwell Collins avionics equipment is tested on two cold-war era, Czech-built fighter planes. “Iowa State University and the University of Iowa have incredibly strong engineering programs, and they’re both at record enrollment,” said Ortberg. “This provides our company with a steady stream of talent who tend to stay with us for most of their careers.” Like Rockwell Collins, Iowa companies earn refundable tax credits for research and development investments that may be paid directly in cash to the company once its tax liabilities have been met. This is a critical difference and a huge benefit for Iowa companies, because each research or development decision depends on a delicate balance between the inherent financial risk and the return of profitability. The weight of that risk is mitigated with the refundable aspect of the state’s Research Activities Credit. Innovative programs like these are one reason Iowa offered the nation’s second lowest cost of doing business in 2016, according to CNBC. For more information on Iowa’s Research Activities Credit, visit

What Factors Do You Consider When it’s Time to Expand Operations?

A strategic state government vision coupled with private/public partnerships is working to elevate the state of Iowa in three key areas that are important to CEOs in site selection: availability of skilled labor, highway accessibility and quality of life.
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New Poll: CEOs Find Challenges In Using Customer Data To Drive Innovation

Ability to harness and sort through data for meaningful insights remains a hurdle, many say. “The key is...finding what is actually relevant.”


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Chief Executive’s June survey of 278 U.S. CEOs shows leading confidence indicator now at 5.5/10, the lowest reading in nearly a decade. Majority forecasts worsening conditions in the year ahead, though not a recession.