Ohio law bars cities, counties from setting own minimum wages
A few months before residents in one of their state’s largest cities were scheduled to vote on a proposed increase in the minimum wage, Ohio lawmakers stepped in to block the ballot initiative. SB 331, signed into law in December, bans all Ohio political subdivisions from “establishing minimum wage rates different from the rate required by state law.” According to The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, political leaders in Cleveland asked for the new state law, expressing concern that the proposed $15-an-hour minimum wage would stifle the city’s economic recovery. (An outside group sponsored the initiative.)
Only a few local governments in the Midwest have established their own minimum wages, research from the Economic Policy Institute shows. The region’s largest city, Chicago, is incrementally raising its minimum wage to $13 an hour by 2019. In addition, four counties in Iowa have approved higher minimum wages, The Des Moines Register reports.
With the start of the new year, minimum-wage rates rose in three Midwestern states. The hikes in Ohio and South Dakota are the result of state laws that tie the wage to inflationary changes. In Michigan, the minimum wage is gradually being increased — to $8.90 in 2017 and $9.25 in 2018.
North Dakota lawmakers will use interim study on incentives to improve oversight, policy
In 2015, lawmakers in North Dakota passed legislation (SB 2057) requiring the legislature to undertake an evaluation of 21 of the state’s tax incentive programs at least once every six years.
According to Pew’s Business Incentives Initiative, North Dakota is one of 21 states (four in the Midwest; see map at right) that have passed laws since 2012 requiring regular evaluations of tax incentive programs offered by the state. North Dakota’s evaluation assesses whether the program is achieving intended goals, such as job creation. It is conducted by a legislative committee, which then makes recommendations to legislative leadership. In assessing the effectiveness of incentives, lawmakers are also asked to compare the incentive with alternatives for achieving the same goals. More »
States target help for jobless, 'disconnected' youths
Imagine being in your mid- to late 20s and walking into a workplace for the very first time as an employee. For many of today’s young Americans, this delayed entry into the workforce has become a harsh reality.
During the Great Recession, unemployment rates soared for all age groups. But young people were hit particularly hard: In April 2010, the jobless rate for people between the ages of 16 and 24 reached a record high of nearly 20 percent. Today, youth unemployment in the United States still tops 10 percent, more than double the overall jobless rate. More »
Through new statewide goals and policies, lawmakers look to boost education levels of workforce
Two years ago, Gov. Terry Branstad announced that he wants 70 percent of Iowa’s workforce to have education or training beyond high school by 2025. Since then, he and state legislators have taken a series of steps to meet that goal. Most recently, an alliance of government, business and industry leaders was formed (via a Branstad executive order in August) and charged with developing a statewide plan to meet the state’s new objective. And as part of that plan, which is due next fall, Iowa’s new Future Ready Alliance must develop new metrics to track the state’s progress. More »
In Midwest, income levels rising and poverty rates falling
by Tim Anderson ~ October 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Median household income levels rose and poverty rates fell between 2014 and 2015 in states across the Midwest, recently released U.S. Census Bureau statistics show.
Wisconsin’s year-by-year rise in household income was 5.6 percent ($52,709 to $55,638), highest in the region and one of the sharpest gains in the country.
Two other Midwestern states, South Dakota (3.9 percent) and Nebraska (4.3 percent), eclipsed the U.S. increase of 3.8 percent. Median household income levels also rose at “statistically significant” levels in Illinois (3.7 percent), Indiana (2.1 percent), Kansas (2.6 percent), Michigan (2.4 percent), Minnesota (3.2 percent) and Ohio (3.5 percent).
Median household income did not fall in any U.S. state. Minnesota’s median household income level is highest in the Midwest, $63,488 in 2015. Minnesota also has the region’s lowest poverty rate, 10.2 percent. In the Midwest, only Michigan (15.8 percent) and Ohio (14.8 percent) have poverty rates that exceed the nation’s (14.7 percent). For 2015, a family of four with a yearly income at or below $24,257 was considered to be living in poverty. Between 2014 and last year, poverty rates fell in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin.
Ohio ‘fast-tracking’ foreclosures to address blighted properties
by Tim Anderson ~ October 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Three years in the making, a new Ohio law is being lauded as a possible model for states across the country looking for ways to deal with the problem of abandoned, blighted properties.
HB 390, which took effect this fall, establishes a “fast track” foreclosure process. According to The Columbus Dispatch, the process has sometimes taken two or three years, during which time the vacant property can become a problem for surrounding homes and an entire community.
Under the new law, mortgage servicers will be able to get possession of the property in as little as six months, lessening the chance for structural deterioration and increasing the likelihood that the home can be sold. Before this expedited foreclosure process can begin, however, a judge must first find, by a preponderance of evidence, that the mortgage loan is in default. Additionally, there must be clear and convincing evidence that the home is abandoned — for example, broken doors, boarded-up windows, disconnected utilities and vandalism.
In August, foreclosure rates in the Midwest ranged from 1 in every 893 housing units in Illinois to 1 in 19,101 in North Dakota, according to RealtyTrac. Only Illinois and Ohio had foreclosure rates higher than the U.S. average.
State-run retirement plans for private-sector workers get federal help
by Tim Anderson ~ September 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
The U.S. Department of Labor unveiled a new rule in August that it hopes will remove uncertainties about the role of states in administering retirement plans for private-sector workers.
Thus far, eight U.S. states, including Illinois (SB 2758, enacted in 2014), have passed laws to create payroll-deduction IRA programs. They are designed to help individuals who don’t have workplace savings arrangements such as a 401(k) plan. (One-third of U.S. workers do not have access to retirement savings plans through their employer.)
Under the new rule, The Washington Post reports, state-administered plans that meet certain criteria will not be subject to a federal law that oversees retirement plans and pensions.
Administered by a seven-member board,
Illinois’ Secure Choice program expects to begin enrollment next year. Participants will be enrolled in a Roth IRA with a default payroll deduction of 3 percent. At any time, enrollees can change their contribution level or opt out. These accounts will be portable from job to job. Employers who have at least 25 workers and who have been in business for at least two years must automatically enroll their employees (unless these businesses offer another savings plan).
With new bills and initiatives, Michigan seeks to be hub of driverless-vehicle activity
Using a site where B-24 bombers were made during World War II in a factory built by Henry Ford, Michigan hopes to build on its heritage as a hub of automotive manufacturing and innovation and become the world’s leader in autonomous vehicle technology. In July, citing the creation of more and better jobs in the state’s thriving automotive industry, Gov. Rick Snyder announced the approval of $17 million in startup funds for the creation of the American Center for Mobility in Ypsilanti. More »
Michigan emerges as economic leader in first part of 2016
Michigan had the strongest economic growth in the Midwest between the last three months of last year and the first quarter of 2016, recently released federal data show.
Total gross domestic product in the state rose by 2.6 percent over that period, with increases in durable-goods manufacturing leading the way. According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, only six U.S. states outpaced Michigan in GDP growth.
GDP growth also increased in five other Midwestern states, with rates ranging from 2.0 percent in Kansas to 0.2 percent in Minnesota. On the flip side, economic activity declined in Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.
North Dakota’s drop in GDP was by far the highest in the nation, -11.4 percent, and changes in that state’s economy (due in large part to a decline in oil production) have created fiscal challenges for state leaders. In August, the legislature met in special session to close a projected $310 million budget shortfall. According to The Bismarck Tribune, legislators made agency cuts of 2.5 percent, tapped into a budget stabilization fund, and authorized a contingency transfer of up to $100 million in profits from the state-owned bank.
Kansas extends ‘angel investor’ tax credit; North Dakota mulls changes to its program
Lawmakers in two Midwestern states have given close scrutiny in recent months to a targeted tax credit that has become an increasingly popular policy tool for trying to help entrepreneurs and startup companies.
Known as “angel investor” tax credits, these incentives encourage investment in early-stage firms by mitigating some of the potential loss if a company fails. Most states in the Midwest have some form of this tax credit. More »
For Midwest, population growth will be a greater demographic, economic and policy challenge in years ahead
The story of outmigration from the Midwest to other parts of the country is as old as the advent and widespread use of home air conditioning.
So the most recent federal data on trends in domestic migration among states is not surprising: net gains for the South and West at the expense of the nation’s two other regions. This trend could become much more problematic for states in the Midwest, though, in ensuing decades as their populations age and their number of deaths begin to outpace births. More »
Indiana initiative looks to
attract adults back to college to finish earning their degree
A new initiative in Indiana is looking beyond the state’s K-12 population as a means to increase the percentage of Hoosiers with education beyond high school.
The goal of the “You Can. Go Back.” program is to encourage the 750,000 Indiana adults who completed some college, but left before earning a degree, to come back and finish what they started. More »
Do any Midwestern states still have federal waivers that suspend work requirements for individuals to receive food stamps?
One policy consequence of the Great Recession was a rise across the country in the use of these waivers, which lift limits on the amount of time that able-bodied adults without dependents can receive payments under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.
More recently, though, with jobless rates falling in many parts of the country, federal policy has reverted to pre-recession rules under the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act. More »
States continue to pursue strategies to expand broadband access
In recent years, state government has taken a more active role in helping provide citizens with greater access to reliable broadband Internet.
By using funding or incentives to encourage providers to expand broadband into underserved areas, policymakers hope to address equity issues involving access, as well as the role that access plays in terms of improved education, economic development and even public safety. More »
Ohio, Wisconsin join states that ‘ban the box’ on job applications
Two more Midwestern states have recently adopted “ban the box” laws, which are designed to improve the job prospects of individuals with criminal records.
These laws require public employers to remove questions about an individual’s criminal history on job applications and during the initial screening process. Background check inquiries are delayed until later in the hiring process.
Ohio’s new “ban the box” measure (HB 56) took effect in March, and Wisconsin’s AB 373 was signed into law in February as part of legislation that changed many of the state’s rules on civil service. According to the National Employment Law Project, Illinois, Minnesota and Nebraska already have ban-the-box laws in place. The statutes in Illinois and Minnesota also apply to private employers.
More states, too, have been passing “second chance” laws that seek to eliminate other employment barriers. These laws, for example, make it easier for individuals to expunge their criminal records. Recent examples in the Midwest include laws enacted in Illinois (HB 3010 in 2013), Indiana (HB 1482 in 2013), Michigan (HB 4186 in 2015), Minnesota (HF 2576 in 2014) and Ohio (SB 337 in 2012).
U.S. Congress reauthorizes state-federal partnership to boost small-business exports
A state-federal partnership that helps small- and medium-sized businesses in the Midwest reach global markets has been reauthorized through 2020.
The State Trade and Export Program, or STEP, was included in legislation signed into law in February. It provides states with matching funds to help more small businesses export their goods and services.
The Council of State Governments, through the work of the State International Development Organizations, helped federal lawmakers and trade agencies develop the reauthorization language. (SIDO is a CSG affiliate.) More »
Illinois joins regional trend with law allowing businesses to raise capital via ‘crowdfunding’
Starting on Jan. 1, nearly all Illinois residents became eligible to invest in businesses in the state looking to raise capital. The reason: recently enacted legislation (HB 3429) that provides an exemption for nonaccredited investors to participate in intrastate “equity crowdfunding.” This alternative investment model has received more and more attention in state capitols in recent years, in part because policymakers and small-
business groups grew restless over the wait for final federal rules on equity crowdfunding.
Those final Securities and Exchange Commission rules will begin to take effect this spring, four years after passage of federal legislation that paved the way for interstate crowdfunding investments. The state laws in place in Illinois and seven other Midwestern states, though, can still apply to intrastate activity. More »
New state laws strengthen oversight of tax incentives
The use of business incentives has become a common economic development tool for states and local governments. But are these incentives paying off? Recently enacted state laws have established more-thorough evaluation systems to answer this question. More »
Midwest states investing more in ‘earn while you learn’ apprenticeships
Across the country, the number of “earn while you learn” programs is growing rapidly, and some states in the Midwest are leading the way with new policies to expand apprenticeship opportunities.
One year ago, Iowa legislators tripled the state’s investment in these programs. The money goes to training grants for employers as well as the sponsors of apprenticeships (a labor or trade organization, for example) that meet federal standards.
Iowa’s decision to deepen support for apprenticeships came on the heels of a statewide study documenting their success: Residents who take part in these programs ultimately earn higher wages when compared to graduates of traditional community college programs.
Over the past year, apprenticeship opportunities in Iowa have increased by more than 20 percent, federal data show. Michigan, Minnesota and Nebraska also are among the U.S. states with the highest rates of growth. In 2013, Michigan legislators established a Skilled Trades Training Fund, which fosters apprenticeship partnerships between community colleges (or other training providers) and local employers. Nationwide, the three most popular occupations for apprenticeship programs are electrician, carpenter and plumber.
Michigan partners with struggling communities to boost local economies
by Tim Anderson ~ October 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Ten “economically challenged communities” in Michigan will soon be getting some extra assistance from the state.
Under the Rising Tides program, state officials will help community leaders develop a local economic development strategy and craft potential changes to zoning laws. Staff from Michigan’s housing, economic development and workforce development agencies will be involved in these new state-local partnerships.
Several factors were used in choosing the Rising Tides communities: for example, high levels of poverty, low labor participation rates and high numbers of unemployed residents.
Recent unemployment numbers in Michigan (for the month of August) show continuing signs of progress statewide. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the jobless rate in Michigan was 5.1 percent — the lowest that it has been since 2001.
Most other states in the Midwest have unemployment rates at or below the national average (5.1 percent), with the lone exception being Illinois (5.6 percent). Nebraska and North Dakota have the lowest jobless rates in the nation — 2.8 percent and 2.9 percent, respectively.
New accounting standards will require states, local governments to report impact of tax incentives
Every state uses tax and financial incentives to attract, retain and expand businesses.
The benefits are the jobs and economic activity that these firms bring to a state, but what are the costs? In 2012, a New York Times investigation put the price tag for states and local governments at more than $80 billion, but to a large degree, policymakers have been establishing and continuing these incentive programs without a firm handle on the costs. That may begin to change in 2017, when a new rule of the Governmental Accounting Standards Board takes effect. More »
Wisconsin is latest state to assist pro sports team with new stadium
by Tim Anderson ~ September 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Faced with the choice of helping finance a new stadium or losing its NBA franchise to another state, Wisconsin lawmakers approved a plan this year to invest a mix of state and local tax dollars into the project. SB 209 was signed into law in August.
The Milwaukee Bucks’ new stadium will cost $500 million, with public dollars accounting for half of that total. Revenue sources will include the state’s general fund, a reduction in municipal aid to Milwaukee, a food and beverage tax, and a ticket surcharge. Supporters of LB 209 say the new stadium will yield a $3 return for every $1 invested by taxpayers. They also note that Wisconsin receives $6.5 million a year in income taxes due to the Bucks’ presence in the state.
Recent academic studies have questioned the economic value of publicly financed sports facilities, but that hasn’t stopped states from moving ahead with these plans. In 2012, the Minnesota Legislature agreed to partially fund a new NFL stadium for the Vikings. The total state investment was $348 million. Other publicly financed stadium projects over the past 20 years have included the construction of Ford Field (Michigan), Lucas Oil Stadium (Indiana), and Paul Brown Field and Great American Ballpark (Ohio).
New grants, tax policies
and uniform rules aim to expand broadband
by Tim Anderson ~ July/August 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Iowa and Indiana are moving ahead with a mix of new programs and tax policies designed to expand broadband development in the state’s rural areas.
In Iowa, Gov. Terry Branstad made his “Connect Every Acre” proposal a top priority this past legislative session. With passage of HF 655, the state is establishing a grant program for service providers that install broadband in areas that connect farms, schools and communities.
The equipment used in these targeted service areas will be fully exempt from property taxes for 10 years, The Des Moines Register reports. The new law also establishes uniform rules that will determine how local governments manage the siting of cell phone towers.
Indiana’s HB 1318, signed into law earlier this year, also seeks to streamline the siting of wireless facilities, and a second new law (HB 1101) gives local governments the opportunity to be certified as “broadband ready.” To receive this classification, they must have certain procedures and rules in place to review broadband projects.
Last year, the Minnesota Legislature created the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program. Eligible applicants include businesses, political subdivisions, nonprofit groups and cooperatives. A total of $10.6 million in grants will be available this year.
Indiana encourages regional collaboration among cities to improve 'quality of place'
With $84 million set aside in the new state biennial budget as incentive, Indiana is challenging its cities to work more closely together on projects that make their part of the state a more attractive place to live and work. In emphasizing collaboration over competition, the Regional Cities Initiative marks a new approach to economic development in Indiana. But as Rep. Ed Clere notes, it seeks to address an old problem. More »
Indiana abolishes prevailing wage; similar proposals introduced in two other Midwestern states
The future of some states' decades-old prevailing-wage laws is in doubt this year, with one repeal already passed in Indiana and similar proposals under consideration in Michigan and Wisconsin. More »
South Dakota creates separate minimum wage for youth workers
A year after voters approved a hike in the state’s minimum wage, South Dakota legislators have carved out a separate — and lower — hourly standard for workers under the age of 18.
The state’s new minimum wage for youth workers is $7.50 per hour. That compares to $8.50 for adult workers.
Supporters of SB 177 told the Sioux Falls Argus Leader that the separate youth wage will help young people get a first job. The measure may get challenged at the ballot box; SB 177 opponents have said they plan to seek a veto referendum.
Many states in the Midwest already set separate wage requirements for young workers.
Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska and Wisconsin allow employees to pay younger workers (under the age of 20) a lower minimum salary during the first 90 days of employment.
In Illinois, employees under the age of 18 are guaranteed a wage of $7.75 per hour, compared to $8.25 for adult workers. Minnesota’s minimum wage also differs depending on age: $6.50 for under-18 workers vs. $8 for adult workers. Michigan (16- and 17-year-olds) and Ohio (workers under the age of 16) also set lower wage requirements for youth workers.
Better protections for
pregnant workers goal of new Nebraska law
Nebraska legislators unanimously approved a bill this year that clarifies and solidifies state protections for pregnant workers.
Signed into law in April, LB 627 requires employers to provide “reasonable accommodations” for these workers — for example, periodic rest, modified work schedules and workloads, and job restructuring. This “reasonable accommodation standard” is already applied to individuals with disabilities, according to Unicameral Update, the newsletter of the Nebraska Legislature.
Thirteen U.S. states have now passed versions of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, the National Women’s Law Center reports. That list of states includes Nebraska, Illinois (HB 8 of 2014) and Minnesota (HF 2536 of 2014) in the Midwest.
Minnesota’s new protections are part of a larger measure, the Women’s Economic Security Act, that also seeks to close gaps in gender pay. Under the law, for example, a private company with 40 or more employees seeking state contracts of $500,000 or more must certify that it is paying equal wages.
Legislators also doubled the amount of unpaid parental leave guaranteed for workers in Minnesota, from six weeks to 12.
Jobless numbers are falling, but so are rates of labor participation
In 2014, year-over-year unemployment rates fell in all 50 states. That hadn’t happened since 1984, and the news was greeted as another positive sign of economic recovery.
But there is another trend getting more attention from economists and state policymakers: the continuing decline in rates of labor participation. More »
Which states have laws or are considering legislation requiring employers to provide paid leave?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ “Employee Benefits Survey,” 76 percent of the nation’s part-time private-sector workers and 26 percent of full-time employees had no access to paid sick days in 2014.
In the Midwest, 43 percent of all full- and part-time workers do not have paid sick leave — the highest percentage of any U.S. region. In 2012, Connecticut became the first state to mandate paid sick leave. More »
States pursue new strategies to increase pool of skilled workers
Ask employers what their biggest challenges are, and one of the first responses will often be the difficulty in filling jobs with qualified workers.
Ask policymakers what the biggest challenges facing their state’s economy are, and it won’t be long before they mention the need to build a trained workforce — one that can fill good-paying jobs and enable individual economic mobility. More »
‘Right to work’ law takes hold in another Midwestern state
The third Great Lakes state in four years has passed so-called “right to work” legislation, a trend that has captured national headlines because of the region’s tradition as a union stronghold. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed SB 44 into law in March. More »
Iowa tries again to narrow rural/urban divide in broadband access
Across the nation, policymakers are looking at ways to enhance broadband connectivity in order to be economically competitive. This year, Iowa lawmakers will take a second look at a proposal to increase broadband access and close the digital divide between rural and urban areas in the state. Last year, Iowa legislators defeated Gov. Terry Branstad’s plan to expand broadband availability across the state. This year, the governor is again asking lawmakers to support his proposal. More »
Ohio study: State must do more to bring minorities, women into innovation economy
For more than a decade, in part through its groundbreaking Third Frontier initiative, the state of Ohio has been placing a greater emphasis on policies that nurture entrepreneurship and expand its technology-based economy.
But in a November 2014 study, an Ohio Board of Regents panel suggests that the state needs a new focus: finding a way to involve more individuals from underrepresented groups, including minorities, women and people from rural areas, in the innovation economy. More »
Disabled, and able to work:
With legislation and executive actions, states are doing
more to improve job prospects of people with disabilities
Through a mix of legislation and actions taken by governors, new initiatives are being launched in states across the Midwest to remove workforce barriers and to help get more disabled individuals into the workforce. More »
Iowa seeks to bring more veterans to state, help them find jobs
In Iowa, the state and some of its local governments are trying to send a clear message to military veterans: We Want You. The Home Base Initiative is a public-private partnership that is marketing job opportunities to veterans across the country and doing more to welcome this population to Iowa.
As part of the state’s goal of attracting veterans, the Legislature passed SF 303 earlier this year. It allows businesses to give preference to veterans in their hiring decisions and allows military experience to count as credit toward the earning of a professional license.
A county can be designated as a “Home Base Iowa Community” by meeting certain criteria. Area businesses must commit to hiring veterans, for example, and the local government must offer incentives as well. As of September, four counties had received the designation. Their incentives for veterans have included property tax abatements and homeownership assistance.
In 2013, unemployment rates among veterans varied in the Midwest from a low of 3.2 percent in North Dakota to a high of 9.2 percent in Illinois. State jobless rates among post-9/11 veterans often tend to be quite a bit higher — for example, 10 percent or more last year in Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio and Wisconsin.
Agricultural areas looking to bioscience, research as seeds of a brighter economic future
With its cluster of farming, industry leaders such as DuPont Pioneer and John Deere, and a large land-grant university, central Iowa is already a hub of economic activity centered on agriculture and bioscience.
But state, local, business and university leaders believe the region still has much untapped potential. Their response: Join together on a new Cultivation Corridor initiative. More »
New bills, Minnesota law seek to address gender gap in pay
In the United States, women earn roughly three-fourths of what men are paid, according to an assessment of the wage gap between men and women. The American Association of University Women does the assessment, and it also seeks to find answers to why the wage gap exists. More »
New data show dramatic rise in the number of Midwest's residents living in concentrated areas of poverty
Mirroring a national trend, many more people in the Midwest are living in concentrated areas of poverty — a demographic trend that carries with it implications related to everything from crime and health, to economic and educational opportunity. More »
In most of Midwest, economic growth is outpacing the nation’s
by Tim Anderson ~ July/August 2014 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Economies in most of the 11-state Midwest grew in 2013 at a rate that eclipsed the national average, with the strongest growth continuing to occur in parts of the Great Plains region.
The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis released the inflation-adjusted data on gross domestic product in June.
As it has done for each of the last four years, North Dakota topped the nation in GDP growth. Its 9.7 percent increase between 2012 and 2013 was fueled in large part by growth in its oil and gas industry. But agriculture has also been a large contributor to economic expansion in North Dakota and other states. Between 2012 and 2013, the “agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting” sector was the largest contributor to GDP growth in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin. With the exception of Wisconsin, those states’ overall economies grew at a faster rate than the U.S. rate of 1.8 percent.
Illinois had the lowest GDP growth in the Midwest, 0.9 percent (42nd in the nation). Ohio’s increase was the same as the U.S. average. Indiana (2.1 percent) and Michigan (2.0 percent) had the largest rates of growth in the Great Lakes region, thanks in large part to more economic activity in their manufacturing sectors.
States increasingly using "economic gardening" strategies that target growth in smaller home-grown businesses
A state's second-stage businesses are important drivers of economic growth, but their needs often don’t fit traditional state economic development programs. States such as Michigan and Nebraska are trying to change that. More »
Universities’ role in innovation economy now firmly established
Leaders at Wichita State University have a vision for boosting innovation development and high-tech commercialization in Kansas. This year, the state Legislature bought into that vision, allocating $2 million (as part of HB 2506) for a new Innovation Campus that will house early-stage entrepreneurial companies and partner with high-tech businesses. Lawmakers also restored $500,000 for the university’s National Center of Aviation Training, a welcome decision for the state’s aviation manufacturers and related industries that have clustered in Kansas. These actions in Kansas underscore a major trend in U.S. higher education — the growing role of universities in technology-led economic development. More »
New Minnesota law sets highest minimum wage in Midwest
At the start of this year, Minnesota was the only state in the Midwest that had a minimum wage lower than the federal requirement.
Starting in August, it will have the region’s highest, as part of a gradual phase-in that will require the state’s larger employers (sales of more than $500,000 a year) to pay their workers at least $9.50 per hour by August 2016. More »
Drop in public-sector jobs continues in parts of the Midwest
Some Midwestern states continue to shed public sector jobs, new U.S. Census Bureau data show, with Michigan leading the nation in the decline of state and local government employment between 2007 and 2012. More »
Illinois lawmakers put freeze on tax breaks, scrutinize business climate
A series of high-profile requests by companies wanting special tax breaks from Illinois in order to stay in the state have raised questions about whether the state’s business incentive programs actually result in job and economic growth. So many questions have emerged, in fact, that lawmakers have agreed not to grant any tax breaks until hearings are held to evaluate the state’s tax environment and the effectiveness of business incentives. More »
In western part of Midwest, states intensify search for job seekers
by Tim Anderson ~ April 2014 ~ Stateline Midwest »
The search for more jobs continues to be a high priority in parts of the Midwest suffering from high rates of unemployment. But in states such as North Dakota, Nebraska and South Dakota — which have the three lowest jobless rates in the nation — the hunt is on for more workers.
Most recently, a new marketing campaign was launched in North Dakota to promote the state and its career opportunities. “Find the Good Life in North Dakota” will target areas of the country with chronically high jobless rates and focus on recruiting skilled workers in sectors such as engineering, health care and energy. It is being paid for through a mix of public and private funds. Two years ago, South Dakota launched a program of its own to recruit out-of-state workers. However, Gov. Dennis Daugaard said earlier this year that the New South Dakotans initiative “had worked more slowly than we had hoped.” Funding for it has been cut back, with some of the dollars now going to Dakota Roots — a more successful venture that connects former residents with in-state jobs.
Starting in 2011, Nebraska lawmakers began using a mix of public funds and private matching dollars to expand the number of paid internships across the state.
Benefits in doubt: Turbulent period in unemployment-insurance program has led to many changes in state and federal policies
Across the country, lawmakers are re-examining and, in some cases, reshaping state unemployment insurance programs. The safety-net program has been around since 1935, but it has received heightened attention ever since the Great Recession hit in 2007. More »
Which Midwestern states have authorized the creation of local land banks via legislation?
High foreclosure and vacancy rates are not only symptomatic of economic problems; they contribute to them and are linked with increases in crime and declines in home values and local property tax revenue. In response, some states — including Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Nebraska and Ohio in the Midwest — have instituted local land banks: public entities that acquire and manage tax-foreclosed properties. More »
Iowa, Nebraska forge collaboration to foster economic growth in highly populated border region
In January, Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman and Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad signed a proclamation initiating a new regional economic collaboration between southeast Nebraska and southwest Iowa. Both governors are touting the collaboration as a step to help the region gain greater national exposure and attract more business. The eight-county Omaha-Council Bluffs region has a population of nearly 900,000. More »
Demand for broadband: States have options to improve rates of access and adoption, including creation of new funds and infrastructure plans
Across the Midwest, state legislators have heard stories about the promise of high-speed broadband, and the problems of having inadequate or no connections at all. “We’ve spent a lot of time talking about the needs and identifying the problem,” Minnesota Sen. Matt Schmit says, “now it’s time to do something.” More »
States in Midwest investing more in apprenticeship programs
Though not yet used widely in the United States, the apprenticeship model— in which an individual is paid to learn a set of skills through on-the-job training — has begun to attract the attention of more state lawmakers. More »
Brakes on economic mobility: New research points to host of factors likely impacting upward mobility, causing large variations in Midwest
For every 100 children born to a poor family in Iowa’s largest metropolitan area, Des Moines, about 11 will eventually reach the nation’s top quintile of income earners. In Indiana’s most populous metro area, Indianapolis, the rate is much less: Fewer than 5 of every 100 low-income children rise to the top rung of the income ladder. These large variations in economic mobility occur across the country — among different cities, states and regions. What is the cause? It is a question that has been raised as the result of recent groundbreaking research, and that has become part of a broader discussion about how real the “American Dream” actually is — the idea that people have equality of opportunity regardless of their economic status at birth. More »
First in the Midwest: After nearly 100 years, North Dakota still values its state-owned bank — the only one of its kind in the nation
Not far from the North Dakota state Capitol in Bismarck stands a sleek, glass-covered building that, at first glance, belies its historic ties to the state’s progressive-era roots.
Despite its modern façade, however, the Bank of North Dakota — the nation’s only state-owned and state-operated bank — stands in part as a testament to the agrarian revolt that engulfed the young state and eventually ushered in a sweeping series of government reforms almost 100 years ago. More »
New state programs, laws seek to enhance veterans’ job prospects
by Tim Anderson ~ December 2013 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Strategies to help veterans find jobs continue to expand in the Midwest, with Michigan, Iowa and Kansas among the states establishing new programs or policies in recent months.
In Michigan, a five-bill package was signed into law in November after receiving unanimous legislative approval. The measures allow veterans to use their experience in the military to become firefighters, emergency medical technicians and steam engineers, or to gain the state licensing needed to work as mechanical contractors or in the construction business. In Iowa, a new public-private partnership (Home Base Iowa) was launched in November with the goal of attracting military veterans to the state by matching them with jobs.
Across the country, USA Today reports, many states have enacted new laws to help improve veterans’ job prospects. Earlier in 2013, for example, Kansas lawmakers approved HB 2078. The bill waives a requirement that individuals graduate from a nursing school if they meet two other criteria: evidence of practical experience in the U.S. military and a passing score on a nursing licensure exam.
Other state strategies include giving veterans preferences in state jobs and offering tax credits to private employers who hire veterans.
Wisconsin, Kansas allow for small-business ‘crowdfunding’
Wisconsin lawmakers passed a bill in October that they say will provide a new way for the state’s small businesses to access capital — “crowdfunding.” AB 350 received unanimous approval in the Assembly and Senate.
According to The Milwaukee Business Journal, the measure seeks to build on the success of Internet-based funding platforms such as
Kickstarter, where individuals can and do pledge money in support of a wide range of creative projects (proposals to make a movie, for example).
The legislation changes Wisconsin’s securities laws to allow in-state businesses and potential investors to connect via crowdfunding platforms. Without the change in law, the bill’s authors say, the price of registering to sell securities was simply too high for many businesses.
Federal crowdfunding legislation was signed into law last year, but the rulemaking process for it has not yet been completed.
Two years ago, Kansas became the first U.S. state to change its securities rules to allow for crowdfunding, Bloomberg Businessweek reports. Under the Invest Kansas Exemption program (legislative action was not required to implement it), small businesses can raise up to $1 million through the sale of securities.
New state laws on unemployment give employers alternative to laying off workers
Legislatures in Michigan and Wisconsin have passed new work-sharing legislation, which establishes a new type of unemployment benefit and gives employers an alternative to laying off workers when business is slow or temporary cuts in costs are needed.The actions in those states came after new federal incentives for states were put in place. More »
Food insecurity, food-stamp use rising; state and federal policies changing
In the shadows of the highly publicized congressional battle over the future of the nation's largest food-assistance program, a handful of states in the Midwest have moved ahead this year with changes of their own. This heightened attention to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — or food stamps, as they are still often called — is occurring on the heels of significant rises in the number of “food-insecure” households and the number of people receiving assistance. More »
Goal of new revolving-loan
program in Ohio is to encourage more worker training
Ohio will soon begin using a licensing fee from casinos in the state to launch a revolving-loan program for workforce development. SB 1 was signed into law in July.
The program will be administered by the chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents. It will provide up to $10,000 for individuals and up to $100,000 for a school’s worker-training program. Schools must make a student’s repayment of the loan interest-free for a six-month period upon his or her graduation.
Loan preference will be given to programs that partner with businesses, which, in turn, agree to repay parts or all of the student loans. The revolving-loan program will focus on economic sectors with a “high demand” for workers; the only sector mentioned by name in the new law is energy exploration.
Improving workforce-development policy has emerged as a top policy priority in legislatures this year. Other examples of state actions include Wisconsin’s establishment of an Office of Skills Development (AB 14) and Indiana’s creation of new regional works councils (SB 465) and a statewide Career Council (HB 1002). The goal of these bills is to improve coordination among local employers and educators.
Studies examine economic development incentives and how states evaluate their efficacy
In the never-ending quest to create jobs and business growth, states have long made tax and financial incentives a central part of their economic development strategies. While exact figures are not known, states spend billions of dollars every year on these incentive programs. A new CSG report examines trends in the type and number of incentive programs being used in each of the Midwest’s 11 state. More »
Wisconsin lawmakers look to close state's job-skills gap with multi-pronged
Even as many indicators signal that state economies are on the rebound, one important and persistent labor market trend continues — the skills gap between the needs of employers and the qualifications of job seekers. Wisconsin lawmakers believe a measure passed earlier this year will help close that gap in their state. More »
Much of rural Midwest has lower jobless rates, but also declining workforce
One sign that the economy continues on a path to recovery is the continuing decline in unemployment rates since 2010. But in some parts of the rural Midwest, rates never hit high levels even during the depths of the recession.
Instead, another question about the labor force is being asked: Why is it dwindling, and what can be done to bring workers back? More »
Putting retirement on hold: Rise in older workers redefines labor force, impacts economy
For most of the 20th century, thanks in large part to Social Security benefits, the advent of Medicare and widespread access to employee-sponsored pension plans, American workers were retiring earlier and earlier from their jobs. But over the past two decades, the exact opposite has been occurring: In 1990, 12.1 percent of people 65 and older were in the labor force; U.S. Census Bureau data released earlier this year show that the rate reached 16.1 percent in 2011. More »
Fast-growing firms not limited to geographic clusters or high-tech sector
A report by the Kauffman Foundation reveals some surprising results with regard to the “geography of entrepreneurship,” both in terms of where high-growth companies and innovations tend to be located and the factors that drive concentration patterns. More »
Declining state support, rising enrollments putting pressure on public research universities
State support for the nation’s public research universities declined by 20 percent between 2002 and 2010, a period in which enrollment increased by 13 percent. The result has been steep tuition hikes, fewer resources for science and engineering programs, and shrinking budgets for research and development. More »
Aiming higher: States look for ways to produce more-educated populations to feed economic demand for skills
Under a new set of recommendations in Ohio, half of the state’s funding for higher-education institutions would be based on how well they contribute to a key economic goal: boosting the number of college graduates in the workforce. In late November, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and a state panel released a higher-education finance framework designed to give greater weight to degree completion in determining funding for the state’s public colleges and universities. More »
Michigan joins 6 other states in Midwest with "right-to-work" laws that ban union-security agreements
Early in 2012, Indiana became the first Great Lakes state to adopt so-called “right-to-work” legislation (dubbed “right to work for less” by opponents). It didn’t take long for a neighboring state to follow suit. More »
Poverty rates, income inequality up in most Midwestern states
Poverty rates and income inequality are on the rise in most parts of the Midwest, new U.S. Census Bureau data show, with the former reflecting current economic woes and the latter continuing a decades-long trend. More »
Minnesota becomes latest state to OK public financing of
new NFL stadium
After many years of debate, the Minnesota Legislature has approved a plan to build a new stadium for the Vikings, the state’s National Football League team. More »
Minnesota report details impact of angel-investment
tax credits; tweaks to program considered
In an effort to spur job growth, states have increasingly focused on
encouraging angel investment in young, entrepreneurial firms that hold the
promise of high growth and high profits in emerging business sectors. More »
Illinois, Minnesota proposals aim to help returning veterans find work
Illinois and Minnesota are among the states this year considering new measures to help war veterans find work upon their return home from service.
In Illinois, a bill passed unanimously by the state Senate in April (SB 3241) would provide employers with a tax credit of up to $5,000 for hiring an unemployed veteran. Under current state law, the maximum credit is $1,200.
Minnesota’s SF 1599, signed into law in April, allows employers to set hiring preferences for veterans and for the spouses of deceased or disabled veterans. Another measure (HF 2909/SF 2488) would expand the reach of the state’s GI bill, allowing it to help pay for apprenticeship and on-the-job training programs for Gulf War Era II veterans — those who have served on active duty since September 2011. According to the Minnesota House publication Session Weekly, the state’s current GI bill only pays for postsecondary education expenses.
In March, the U.S. jobless rate among Gulf War Era II veterans was 10.3 percent, compared to 7.5 percent for all veterans and 8.2 percent for the general U.S. population. There is an especially large gap in employment rates between younger veterans (18 to 24) and their peers.
Iowa seeks rise in number of employee-owned businesses
In the 1980s, federal tax incentives were credited with a steep rise in a relatively new type of business ownership, known as an employee stock option plan.
Fast-forward three decades, and Iowa may soon serve as a laboratory to test the effects of state-level assistance for these plans, under which the workers at a company take over ownership of it. In February, the Iowa House overwhelmingly passed HF 2284, which offers tax breaks as well as state financial and technical assistance to encourage the formation of employee stock option plans.
According to The Des Moines Register, owners who sell a business to employees could receive a tax break of up to $700,000.
Gov. Terry Branstad touted the idea in his State of the State address, saying such plans are particularly important in rural areas, where anchor businesses are not only critical to the local economy, but have become a “way of life.”
One way to ensure a business remains in a community is for workers to own it — a benefit that Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock highlighted in 2007 when he launched an initiative to encourage the formation of employee stock ownership plans. Under the program, the treasurer’s office works with banks to help facilitate the necessary transactions.
Settlement opens door for states to do more to help
people stay in homes
The long fight by states to prevent foreclosures and stabilize housing
markets will be getting up to a $40 billion boost over the next three years as
the result of a historic settlement with the nation’s five largest
mortgage servicers. More »
Midwest failing to capture its share of venture capital investment
States in the Midwest were part of a national uptick in venture capital activity in 2011, but the region is still failing to capture its share of investments in high-growth, innovative economic sectors and businesses. More »
Right-to-work law returns to Indiana, as does union
effort to repeal it
For Indiana residents old enough to remember their state’s politics of the
mid-20th century, the legislative battle in recent years over a so-called
“right-to-work” law (dubbed “right to work for less” by opponents) is nothing
new. More »
States increasing use of tax incentives to lure
Last year, Sears Holdings Corp. announced that, with state and local
incentives set to expire in 2012, the company would consider moving out of
Illinois, where it has been based since 1887. The result was a flurry of states,
including New Jersey, Ohio, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Georgia,
expressing interest in landing the retail giant. More »
Wisconsin, Nebraska and Illinois among states with new initiatives to help small business
More than half of the nation’s private sector jobs come from small businesses — firms with fewer than 500 workers. Therefore, it’s no surprise that as states strategize to jump-start their economies, small-business growth has been the focus of much attention and new legislation. In the Midwest, the result has been new tax incentives and grant programs; states, too, are tapping federal funds aimed at supporting small-business
development. More »
‘Buy American’ provisions of Jobs Act raise concern
of harm to firms on both sides of border
Provisions in President Obama’s proposed jobs
plan that would require certain projects to use only American-sourced materials
have sparked fear over potential damage to the United States’ largest trading
partnership — with its cross-border neighbor Canada. More »
Reworking workers’ comp:
On 100th anniversary of system, states focusing on changes that cut business costs, remove uncertainties
For 100 years, employees injured on the job have been provided guarantees through state workers’ compensation systems that cover the cost of medical and rehabilitation services, as well as lost wages.
In return for carrying this mandatory insurance, employers are protected from potentially costly lawsuits.
But have the systems themselves become too costly for business and inefficient? More
On the front lines of the foreclosure crisis: State response includes new land-bank laws, multi-state investigations and aid for distressed borrowers
Rates of foreclosure are at levels not seen the 1930s, and some communities in the Midwest have been particularly hard hit by a rise in the number of blighted properties. States are responding with new measures and investigations designed to help troubled communities and homeowners. More
Decade of decline: Data show deep impact of poor economy
Anderson ~ October 2011 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Mirroring the story they tell at the national level, new U.S. Census Bureau data on measures of economic prosperity show a steep rise in poverty and a decline in household incomes in the Midwest over the past decade.
A look at state-by-state figures, too, show parts of the region faring worse than the country as a whole. More »
ranks Midwestern states
mostly near middle of U.S.
by Laura Tomaka ~ October 2011 ~ Stateline Midwest »
When it comes to performance on measures of entrepreneurship, middle America tends to fall in the middle of the pack, according to a recently released State Entrepreneurship Index from the University of Nebraska’s Bureau of Business Research. More »
Study of business tax burdens shows most Midwestern
states below national average
Anderson ~ September 2011 ~ Stateline Midwest »
In the competition for business and job growth, most Midwestern states fare
better than the U.S. average on at least one measure — the burden that their
overall tax structures place on businesses. More »
Rise in exports seen as key to region’s long-term prosperity, and states can play supporting role with partnerships that help budding exporters
When officials at the Wisconsin manufacturing company Spee-Dee Packaging Machinery began seeking ways to expand the business, it became clear that one of their best options was to export. Taking this step, however, is not an easy one for small and mid-sized businesses such as Spee-Dee. The firm got a helping hand from the state, and has since become an early exporting success story.
The ability of Spee-Dee and other businesses to export their products and services will be a critical barometer of the region's economic recovery and long-term prosperity. More »
Mending workers’ compensation system goal of new
A compromise between business and labor groups in
Kansas has led to the first overhaul of the state’s workers’ compensation system
in nearly 20 years.
For workers disabled or killed on the job, benefit caps were increased to
$155,000 and $300,000, respectively, The Topeka Capital-Journal reports.
At the same time, the new law seeks to prevent unwarranted claims by
tightening reporting requirements. In addition, a worker must suffer a
post-injury wage loss of at least 10 percent in order to receive permanent
disability benefits. HB 2134 also eases the standard for when an employer can
request drug and alcohol testing after an injury has occurred. Employers, too,
are given assurances that they will not be responsible for paying the costs
associated with the pre-existing conditions of injured workers.
Kansas already has relatively low workers’ compensation premium rates,
according to a national study done in 2010 by the state of Oregon. Kansas’
rate that year was $1.55 per $100 in payroll, eighth lowest among the 50 states.
Indiana ($1.16) and North Dakota ($1.02) had the lowest rates in the nation. In
contrast, Illinois’ premium rate was $3.05, highest in the Midwest and
third-highest in the nation.
What mechanisms do states use to review the efficacy and/or oversee the use of their tax incentives for businesses?
by Tim Anderson ~ May 2011 ~ Question of the Month »
The recent economic downturn has pushed states to find ways of attracting new businesses, retaining old ones and encouraging job creation, but at the same time, the fiscal crisis has put a premium on getting the most out of the grants and tax incentives that are offered to companies. More »
Population loss in cities continues, with ‘black flight’ among the latest trends seen by demographers
The story of the population and economic decline of some of the Midwest’s largest, historically most important cities did not begin in 2000 and will likely not end in 2010.
Nonetheless, data from U.S. Census 2010 are striking in showing the extent of the out-migration from many of this region’s central towns. More »
Bills seek to reduce red tape for businesses needing state permits
April 2011 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Lawmakers in Minnesota and Ohio have passed bills aimed at making it easier and faster for new businesses to obtain state permits.
Minnesota’s legislative auditor issued a report earlier this year that found inconsistencies in response times on permit applications, citing waits of up to a year.
HF 1/SF 42, signed by Gov. Mark Dayton last month, seeks to address that issue by directing the state Department of Natural Resources and the Pollution Control Agency to streamline and simplify application processes. The law sets a goal of 150 days for permit decisions, reports the Brainerd Dispatch. Appeals of permit decisions will now go directly to the State Court of Appeals instead of district courts.
The bill is being lauded as a way to reduce red tape and spur job growth. Critics have raised concerns that environmental protection will be weakened as review processes are sped up.
A similar bill approved in Ohio, SB 2, requires state agencies to analyze each proposed rule or regulation and its impact on businesses. A legislative review committee can deny a proposal if it finds that a regulation is not justified. State agencies must also develop customer-service standards and integrate them into the job descriptions and performance evaluations of employees.
With recession spurring more business startups,
states launch initiatives to help entrepreneurs
by Laura Tomaka ~ April 2011 ~ Stateline Midwest »
During periods of slow economic growth and high unemployment, the number of new business startups tends to increase as more people seek self-employment. The current economic downturn is no exception: Entrepreneurial activity and new business creation in the United States are at their highest points in 15 years.
In order to help encourage this growth, state policymakers are looking for ways to better support these new enterprises. More »
States mull privatizing business recruitment, job creation efforts
by Laura Tomaka ~ March 2011 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Proposals to transfer business-recruitment functions to private entities have advanced in three Midwestern states. Governors in Iowa, Ohio and Wisconsin have led the charge in hopes of making these agencies more responsive to the businesses they serve.
In February, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed legislation that creates the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, a public-private entity that will be in charge of the state’s business-recruitment efforts. More »
Kansas puts increased emphasis on ‘economic gardening’ as a tool to grow the state’s rural economy
In Kansas, as is the case in many states, the data on job growth are clear: Most new jobs in a local economy are produced by the community’s existing small businesses, rather than by startups or relocations. More
New data tell familiar story about weakness of region's 'new economy'
by Laura Tomaka ~ January 2011 ~ Stateline Midwest »
A November 2010 report measuring the strength of the “new economy” in all 50 states shows that the Midwest continues to lag behind other regions of the country on measures tied to technology- and innovation-led
growth. More »
Midwestern states aim to retool economies by supporting startup businesses, fostering development of new products
Midwestern states have not kept pace with the rest of the nation on many measures of growth and prosperity. For example, a recent report by CSG Midwest and GrowthEconomics showed that the region has lagged behind the nation in terms of job creation and per-capita disposable income for the past four decades.
Furthermore, many Midwestern states have struggled when it comes to having innovative, entrepreneurial economies. The most recent State New Economy Index, produced by the Kauffman Foundation and the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, placed eight Midwestern states in the bottom half of rankings that measure how well states are competing in the new economy. More »