Saturday, October 29, 2005

We are number eight

In early June, Vilsack and Blouin made a big deal out of the fact that Iowa grew faster than any other state in 2004. A number of Iowa economic experts questioned the 8.1% gross state product estimate, but the Vilsack & Blouin team stuck to the fed numbers and spun it into the Iowa Department of Economic Development success story.

That is until yesterday, when the feds released new numbers that indicated Iowa’s gross state product grew by 5.5%, making it the eighth fastest-growing state. As reported by the Quad City Times…

Revised figures: Iowa is not the fastest-growing economy in U.S.

By Dan Gearino

DES MOINES — Remember all that talk in June about how Iowa had the fastest growing economy in the nation last year? Well, there’s been a recount.

Revised figures from the U.S. Department of Commerce show the state actually had the eighth-fastest growing economy. An analyst from the department says most of the change is because the previous figures overestimated the growth of farm income.

Iowa’s gross state product grew 5.5 percent in 2004, according to the revised numbers, while the previous report showed 8.1 percent growth. Gross state product is the dollar value of the goods and services the state produces.

In June, Gov. Tom Vilsack took time out of a trip to Washington, D.C., to tout the strong economy in a conference call with reporters. He made several references to the top ranking in later speeches.

There was no such fanfare for the new report.

“The governor continues to work on continuing to create jobs across the state. It’s just a job you never stop doing,” said Vilsack spokesman Matt Paul. …

It seems that the new methodology the feds used overestimated the strength in Iowa’s farm economy and when they adjusted their calculations, it lowered Iowa’s estimated rate of growth for 2004. A gross state product rate of 5.5% puts Iowa in the top ten, still a great place to be and hopefully a pattern that will continue into future years. (I need a job, so we need to keep growing or the Talking Heads’ musical existentialism will be playing nonstop in my head.)

‘We are number eight’ just doesn’t have the same team spirit ring as ‘we are number one’, so it’s understandable the Vilsack & Blouin team are comfortable not bringing this particular data back into the spotlight; let it die quietly on a Friday with minimal press office comment.

At one point, the Grow Iowa Values Fund looked to be the winning argument for Republican Lite Mike Blouin to pick up the Democratic primary and go on to win the Governor’s race. Unfortunately, the political usefulness of the Grow Iowa Values Fund is not working in Blouin’s favor; what with Ed Fallon’s anti-Grow Iowa Values Fund gubernatorial campaign, the Iowa blogosphere’s all around dislike of the program, and, I’m guessing, polling data that suggests corporate welfare is not popular among primary voters. Given this information, it is hard to see how the Grow Iowa Values Fund will ever be a positive marquee campaign issue, but you never know.

Related: Tusk and Talon posted a good set of comments on corporate welfare and opportunity costs. Iowa Geek is making anti-corporate welfare a major theme in his state senate campaign.

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