2014 Regional Report: The Midwest

Iowa (No. 19): A Turbulent Recovery Trail
Iowa’s post-recession recovery continues in fits and starts; JPMorgan Chase forecasts acceleration in Q4 2014 through at least 2015. Finance and Insurance tops the cluster chart, followed by Government and Manufacturing. Iowa’s “outsized exposure to agriculture is a benefit” declares JPMorgan. Job growth trails the national rate, but the state’s 4 percent unemployment rate beats the national average handily.

Consequently, “Everybody in this state is looking for workers,” says Iowa business association leader Ralston. The Tax Foundation ranks Iowa 28th out of 50 states for tax burden, and 40th in business-tax climate. Iowa spends over $223 million a year on incentive programs, according to The New York Times state subsidy database.

Nebraska (No. 21): Seeking Service Expansion
Nebraska has lagged national GDP growth since 2012. Softening in the agricultural sector carries over into manufacturing, much of which is farm-related. The Nebraska Business Forecast Council expects service-sector expansion to drive moderate (1.5 percent) economic growth in 2015. With unemployment standing at 3.6 percent in July, Nebraska ranked second-lowest in the country behind North Dakota.

Government remains the major Cornhusker State employer, followed by finance and insurance and agriculture; other major clusters include biotechnology, transportation and logistics and software and technology. Despite growing calls for tax reform, Governor Dave Heineman’s attempt at overhaul campaign sputtered out last year, defused by opposition from business leaders, who didn’t see the numbers working. The Tax Foundation ranks Nebraska’s tax burden 25th highest out of 50 states and ranks its business tax climate 34th. Nebraska spends over $1.39 billion a year on incentive programs, according to The New York Times subsidy database.