New census estimates reporting strong growth in the Des Moines metro area and Cedar Rapids-Iowa City corridor fail to reflect the economic opportunities and burgeoning trends in the state’s rural counties, said Doug Gross, chairman of the Committee of 82, an Iowa think tank.
“The Census Bureau numbers provide a snapshot of recent growth in the state. Not surprisingly, we’re seeing more people in the western suburbs of Des Moines and around Iowa City and Cedar Rapids,” Gross said. “That information alone might cause some people to write off rural Iowa, but it doesn’t tell the whole story and it doesn’t reflect reality.”
Noting the surge in economic activity generated by the bio-energy industry and expanding prospects in the bio-technology sector, Gross said rural Iowa holds more promise than ever.
“Many Americans have a newfound feel for rural living and that trend is going to have a positive impact on small communities across the Midwest. The energy crunch created by rising fuel prices resulted in a boom in ethanol production right here in Iowa and promises to keep the focus on alternative fuels for good,” Gross said. “Rural Iowa is beginning a renaissance – and recent data shows we have more growth counties in rural Iowa than urban Iowa. Any suggestion that you’ve got to be on the interstate or in the suburbs to succeed and grow is just plain wrong.”
He added, “We should view the latest census numbers as a lagging indicator rather than a leading indicator. It’s a sign of what’s happened lately and not exclusively where we’re headed as a state.”
The Committee of 82 is a non-profit organization that derives its name from Iowa’s 82 non-urban counties. A think tank by Iowans for Iowans, mission of the Committee of 82 is to “find out what works in the effort to create a strong rural economy and then do it.”
“Increasing individual incomes is the name of the game for a healthy, expanding rural economy. The alternative energy industry is doing precisely that for farmers, suppliers, employees and vendors,” said Diane Crookham-Johnson, Committee of 82 vice chair. “This year’s gubernatorial election is an excellent opportunity to define effective economic development and agricultural policies to benefit the entire state. All Iowans have a common interest in that outcome and we should encourage our candidates to engage in a meaningful discussion about rural Iowa’s future.”