Economic Development Update: Existing Business Trends, Workforce & Innovation

posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2020 in Economic Development

Grow Cedar Valley Economic Update

Written by Vice President of Economic Development, Lisa Rivera Skubal, CEcD

Existing Business Trends - 2019 State of Iowa Business Expansion & Strategic Trends Report

In January, the Iowa Economic Development Authority released its statewide Business Expansion & Strategic Trends report (BEST of Iowa). This report takes a snapshot of what is on the minds of existing businesses for the 12 months preceding September 1, 2019. The data includes Cedar Valley businesses through interviews conducted by Grow Cedar Valley staff. Existing Business Trends - 2019 State of Iowa Business Expansion & Strategic Trends Report

The BEST report identifies business trends and business needs that are critical for economic growth in Iowa and the Cedar Valley. The information also helps us adjust programming and initiatives to support our existing businesses.

Grow Cedar Valley will be publishing a similar regional report in early Spring, which will allow us to compare statewide data against our region.

Available Workforce

Three out of four (75%) Iowa companies interviewed stated they were experiencing workforce recruitment problems. Workforce availability scores have been decreasing for the last five years with 2019 being the lowest according to the BEST report.  

Forty-nine percent of the companies rated the availability of workers at a 3 or lower on a scale of 1-7 with 1 being the lowest for availability. 

We have seen similar statistics with our prior regional reports. In 2015 Cedar Valley companies rated the availability of workforce at 4.45, then dropping to 3.3 in 2017.  As we analyze our 2019 data, we expect the new regional report to be in-step with the latest BEST Report.

We must continue to collaborate locally and statewide with public and private sectors on Future Ready Iowa and Grow Cedar Valley talent initiatives. If you would like to discuss in greater detail these talent initiatives, please reach out to Live the Valley Project Lead, Aaron Jarnagin, or Director of Talent Development, Will Frost


According to the BEST report, sixty percent of Iowa companies anticipate introducing a new product or service over the next two years. Of those companies about half area actively investing in research and development of a new product or service. Companies, especially manufacturers, who choose no to invest in product/service innovation present a missed opportunity to grow and compete in today's economic climate.

The Iowa Economic Development Authority and Cedar Valley TechWorks have been working for the last year to develop a plan that would help deploy resources to assist small and medium sized manufacturers. Adopting cobots, artificial intelligence and the like are the types of resources needed to make Iowa manufacturers ready for Industry 4.0 – the fourth industrial revolution. Stay tuned for more in 2020.  

As part of our comprehensive economic development strategy, Grow Cedar Valley places emphasis on regular contact with existing businesses and offer assistance services. We can provide referral services, assistance on talent retention/recruitment, data delivery, business development and advocacy. 

If you receive a request from Grow Cedar Valley for an existing business meeting, we hope that you will accept our invitation. These interviews assist us in understanding each individual business as well as contributes data to assess the overall health and needs of the Cedar Valley business community.

If you would like to discuss Grow Cedar Valley's economic development programming and results further, please contact Lisa Skubal.

Lisa Rivera Skubal, CEcD, VP of Economic Development for Grow Cedar Valley