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Economic Development


Double whammy from double-digit unemployment: Decline in revenues, rise in need for worker retraining

by Laura Tomaka ~ June 2020 ~ Stateline Midwest »
In May, trends in U.S. unemployment appeared to take a positive turn, one unexpected by many economists.
And as the Midwest’s legislators learned on a webinar that same month, changes in this closely watched economic indicator have huge impacts on states’ bottom lines. “When the national unemployment rate goes up by one percentage point, there are budget shortfalls across all states of about $45 billion,” Michael Horrigan, president of the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, said during the webinar hosted by the Midwestern Legislative Conference Economic Development Committee. More »


Question of the Month: How have states tried to promote or facilitate the development of employee stock ownership plans, or ESOPs?

by Tim Anderson ~ June 2020 ~ Question of the Month »
An ESOP is a type of tax-qualified retirement plan, one that states such as Iowa have identified as a tool for helping retain businesses when owners decide to sell some or all of their interests in a company. More »


Though overshadowed by governors, legislators have role in plans for economic reopening, recovery

by Laura Tomaka ~ May 2020 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Since early April, Rep. Dave Greenspan and 23 other members of a specially formed Ohio House task force have been meeting, sharing ideas, and getting the perspective of business owners across various sectors and geographic areas. One question above all else is guiding his work on the task force: What can we do to help businesses reopen, and remain open, safely? “We’re not looking at the same things that the governor is looking at as far as public health protocols,” Greenspan says. “Our attention is on what we can do either directly through legislation or by facilitating, through other bodies, actions that allow [businesses] to open.” That Economic Recovery Task Force in Ohio is an example of the important work being done by the Midwest’s legislatures, even during a time when the powers of governors have been strengthened due to the public health emergencies caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. More »


Ohio has new incentives for employers, colleges to help workers earn micro-credentials

by Tim Anderson ~ March 2020 ~ Stateline Midwest »
With the governor’s signing of HB 2 in early 2020, Ohio deepened its commitment to “upskilling” the state’s workforce, a policy objective that lawmakers say will help employers fill high-demand jobs and prepare individuals for better-paying jobs. More »


Bipartisan legislation in Wisconsin boosts incentives to invest in federally designated Opportunity Zones

by Laura Tomaka ~ March 2020 ~ Stateline Midwest »
As of early March, Wisconsin was set to become one of the first states in the nation to expand incentives for private investments in federally designated Opportunity Zones. Under AB 532, which passed with bipartisan support in the Assembly and Senate, Wisconsin would double the tax credits for investors supporting projects in financially strapped, low-income communities across the state. (The bill had not yet been signed by the governor as of early March.) More »


Iowa legislation aims to boost rural development for entire state’s economic benefit

by Laura Tomaka ~ January/February 2020 ~ Stateline Midwest »
In Iowa, Gov. Kim Reynolds has made improving economic opportunities to all areas of the state a top priority. To do this, she has placed a particular focus on rural Iowa and the challenges faced by those communities. Since 2018, state and community leaders have taken part in the governor’s Empower Rural Iowa Initiative in order to address the challenges facing the state’s rural communities. The initiative’s work resulted in legislation and a set of recommendations for continued action. More »


With their economies and revenues growing, states are building up reserve funds

by Tim Anderson ~ January/February 2020 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Three recent national studies underscore the strength of state economies, fiscal conditions and revenue collections entering the new legislative year in the Midwest. More »


Michigan is fourth Midwest state to legalize sports betting, and first to allow online poker

by Tim Anderson ~ January/February 2020 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Legalized sports betting has come to a fourth state in the Midwest, thanks to bipartisan bills signed by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in December. The package of legislation marks the culmination of years of work by lawmakers to change state policy on sports betting and internet gaming. The end result: Michigan residents will be able to wager on sports events (amateur and professional) and participate in online, casino-style gaming such as poker through the state’s commercial and tribal casinos. More »


New Wisconsin law ensures kids’ lemonade stands won’t be squeezed out of business

by Jon Davis ~ January/February 2020 ~ Stateline Midwest »
When Wisconsin children try to stir up customers this summer for their neighborhood lemonade stands, a new state law will be in place to protect them. Under SB 170, signed by Gov. Tony Evers in late November, a minor does not need to get either a food processing permit or a retail food establishment license from the state’s Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection. In addition, municipalities cannot ban “a stand operated by a minor.”
The new law applies to stands that occasionally sell lemonade, other drinks or food that do not require temperature control and that are sold directly to consumers. These stands must be operated by someone under age 18 on private property (with the owner’s permission).
These types of state laws have become more common in response to media reports of children’s lemonade stands being shut down by local law enforcement. The company Country Time Lemonade held a promotion in 2019 (dubbed “Legal Ade”) that paid the permit fees for children’s lemonade stands; it also has an ongoing “Legalize Lemonade” campaign that tracks legislative activity.
As of May 2019, Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska and North Dakota were among the 16 U.S. states with laws allowing children’s lemonade stands to operate without licenses.


Saskatchewan sets goals for decade ahead — big boost in exports, rise in population

by Tim Anderson ~ January/February 2020 ~ Stateline Midwest »

The province of Saskatchewan rang in the new decade with a plan that lays out a 10-year vision for growth, along with a set of policies to meet its ambitious goals. Those objectives include having a population of 1.4 million people by 2030 (a nearly 20 percent increase over current numbers), as well as increasing the value of exports by 50 percent and boosting by 100,000 the number of people in Saskatchewan’s workforce.
Growing the state’s agriculture industry is central to Saskatchewan’s plan, and Premier Scott Moe introduced two new provincial tax incentives for this sector: one to support the application of emerging digital technologies and to attract agricultural technology companies, and a second to encourage investments in the chemical fertilizer industry. The province also is opening new trade and investment offices in Japan, India and Singapore.
The province already has experienced historic population growth over the last decade, and it has been making a concerted effort to keep and attract young people. For example, individuals who graduate from a postsecondary institution are eligible for up to $20,000 in tax credits if they live in or move to Saskatchewan. To date, nearly 71,000 people have claimed this tax credit.


State economies tied to ‘upskilling’ of workforce: Help for incumbent workers includes use of micro-credentialing, greater investments in community collegese

by Laura Tomaka ~ December 2019 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Legislators are re-evaluating their state workforce systems and policies, while looking to invest in new strategies that help with the retraining or “upskilling” of incumbent or unemployed workers. More »


Nebraska study lays out options for closing broadband divide, including use of ‘reverse auctions’

by Carolyn Orr ~ December 2019 ~ Stateline Midwest »
In rural areas that lack access to high-speed internet, the productivity of farm operations is hurt, and access to telemedicine, distance education and e-commerce opportunities is hindered. That disconnectedness, Nebraska Sen. Curt Friesen says, is the reality for too many of his state’s residents. Officially, about 37 percent of rural Nebraskans lack access to broadband, a figure based on data from the Federal Communications Commission. But Friesen believes the percentage is even higher, because the FCC’s use of census blocks to measure broadband likely overestimates access. (The federal agency is, in fact, now changing how it collects data in order to get more accurate figures.) More »


Under Ohio mentoring program, more students get chance to explore work in manufacturing

by Laura Tomaka ~ November 2019 ~ Stateline Midwest »
With nearly 700,000 workers employed in more than 12,000 firms, Ohio has the third-highest number of manufacturing jobs in the nation. That number, state Rep. Mark Romanchuk says, could be even higher. “Many good-paying manufacturing jobs are going unfilled,” he notes. Addressing that shortage is one of the goals of a new state-funded mentorship program in Ohio. More »


Five takeaways for Midwest from new Census Bureau data on health coverage, poverty and income

by Tim Anderson ~ October 2019 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Uninsured rates have dropped sharply since 2010, and poverty rates are down as well. During this decade, income has been distributed less equally among households across the Midwest; still, income inequality is less pronounced in most states in this region compared to the rest of the nation. More »


Question: What are Midwestern states doing to prevent or crack down on wage theft?

by Mitch Arvidson ~ September 2019 ~ Question of the Month »

Minnesota passed a new wage theft law during the spring legislative session. HF 2 (an omnibus jobs, economic development, energy and commerce finance bill) includes appropriations of nearly $2 million a year for wage theft prevention, doubles the number of investigators, and makes certain wage-theft violations a felony. More »


Kansas and Missouri end border war over state tax incentives

by Tim Anderson ~ September 2019 ~ Stateline Midwest »
With her signing of an executive order in August, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly pronounced the end of a longstanding “economic border war” between her state and Missouri. Her action, combined with legislation passed in Missouri this year (SB 182), stops the two states from offering tax incentives to companies in the Kansas City region. For the war to truly end, The Wichita Eagle reports, local governments on both sides of the border need to follow the states’ lead. Because they are not bound by the Kansas executive order or new Missouri law, cities and counties could still offer property tax abatements to lure businesses.
The Hall Family Foundation, a Kansas City-based philanthropic group, analyzed the movement of jobs over the past decade between two Kansas counties (Johnson and Wyandotte) and one Missouri county (Jackson). Its findings: An estimated 10,000 jobs moved between the two states, at an incentive cost of about $330 million.
According to The Wichita Eagle, most of those incentives came from the states, rather than local governments.
Instead of competing through tax incentives, Gov. Kelly says, Kansas and Missouri will work together to boost economic development in the Kansas City region.


MLC Economic Development Committee gets a glimpse of manufacturing's future, and hears how states can foster growth

by Laura Tomaka ~ August 2019 ~ Stateline Midwest »
The nation’s manufacturing sector has shed 7.5 million jobs since 1980, with 5.5 million of those losses coming since 2000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Yet the sector remains an important regional (and national) source of jobs, wages and output: It is the sixth largest source of U.S. employment; three Midwestern states — Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan — have the highest U.S. concentration of manufacturing jobs; and Ohio has the nation’s third largest number of manufacturing jobs. More »


MLC Annual Meeting panel shows how states are adjusting policies to meet workforce needs

by Tim Anderson ~ August 2019 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Every year, the Kansas Department of Labor looks at current job vacancies in the state, wage data, and short- and long-term job projections to come up with a list of “high-demand occupations.” Over the past eight school years, that list has been used as part of a fast-growing state initiative that introduces high school students to these occupations — and then prepares them for success. “In some cases, we have students walking across the stage [with a college degree or credential] within weeks of them walking across the stage for their high school graduation,” Scott Smathers, vice president for workforce development at the Kansas Board of Regents, told legislators in July at a session of the Midwestern Legislative Conference Annual Meeting. More »


Minnesota law adds new tools to prevent, investigate wage theft

by Tim Anderson ~ August 2019 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Minnesota leaders say their state now has the strongest law in the nation to protect workers against wage theft. The bipartisan measure (signed into law in May, as part of HF 2) includes greater enforcement tools and tougher penalties for violators.
Wage theft can take many forms — for example, underpayment of minimum wage, nonpayment of overtime compensation or mandatory breaks, and the misclassification of employees. According to the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry, around 40,000 Minnesota workers pursue claims every year, with nearly $12 million a year lost annually as a result of wage theft.
Wage theft in excess of $1,000 will now be a felony, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports, and new statutory language penalizes retaliatory actions taken against individuals who report the crime. HF 2 also enhances civil penalties and includes new notification and record-keeping requirements for employers. Over the next two years, Minnesota’s Department of Labor and Industry will get an additional $3.1 million to enforce wage laws, and the state attorney general has established a new unit dedicated to investigating cases of wage theft.


Illinois, Indiana and Iowa have legalized sports betting; questions remain about fiscal impact and what lies ahead in other Midwestern states

by Tim Anderson ~ June/July 2019 ~ Stateline Midwest »
The three new laws that legailze sports betting vary in significant ways, including where the activity is allowed to occur and whether wagering on college sports is allowed. More »


North Dakota wants more workers, will offer more aid to students

by Tim Anderson ~ May 2019 ~ Stateline Midwest »
The U.S. state with the nation’s lowest unemployment rate (2.3 percent as of March) will try to attract more skilled workers with $6 million worth of new scholarships and loan repayments. North Dakota’s HB 1171 seeks to address what many policymakers have said is the state’s No. 1 economic issue — workforce shortages.
Under the new law, a student could receive a loan repayment of up to $17,000 if he or she is employed in a “high demand” occupation (based on an annual state analysis of workforce trends and needs). The Skilled Workforce Scholarship Fund, meanwhile, will award individual students up to $17,000. To be eligible, students must be pursuing credentials in a high-demand profession, maintain a certain grade-point average, and, upon graduation, work in the state for a minimum of three years. Money for these new programs in North Dakota will come from a mix of state dollars and private-sector fundraising.
Along with North Dakota, four other Midwestern states had jobless rates in March of below 3 percent: Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin.


Indiana wants bigger piece of nation's ‘visitor spending pie,’ revamps tourism office to make it happen

by Laura Tomaka ~ May 2019 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Two years ago, Indiana began taking a closer look at how it measures up to other states when it comes to tourism activity and promotion. The bottom-line finding for legislators: The state can do more, and can become a bigger player in the nation’s $1 trillion travel-and-tourism industry. Using the findings and recommendations of the task force that it created in 2017, Indiana legislators this year moved ahead with a restructuring of its tourism
department. More »


North Dakota legislators repeal law that limited Sunday shopping

by Tim Anderson ~ April 2019 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Starting in August, North Dakota stores will have the option of being open for business on Sunday mornings, the result of a legislative change this year that repealed the state’s longstanding “blue” laws. HB 1097 was signed in March by Gov. Doug Burgum. He hailed the measure as supporting “freedom, fairness and local control,” as well as a way to help the state’s Main Street businesses compete with online retailers.
Previous repeal efforts had failed, The Bismarck Tribune reports, and this year’s vote on HB 1097 was close in the North Dakota House: 25-21. (The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 56-35.) The state’s sales restrictions have applied to the hours between midnight on Saturday and noon on Sunday. North Dakota Code has a 44-point list of “items prohibited from sale or rental” during this time frame — from clothes and household appliances, to hardware and musical instruments. Opponents of HB 1097 argued that North Dakota’s Sunday morning sales ban has ensured time for family and worship.
In recent years, the Indiana and Minnesota legislatures ended state prohibitions on the Sunday sale of carryout alcohol. Bans of some kind on the Sunday sale of motor vehicles remain in place in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin.


5G is coming: How is the Midwest preparing for this potential quantum leap in cellular communication?

by Jon Davis ~ March 2019 ~ Stateline Midwest »
5G is shorthand for the “fifth generation” of cellular communications technology. Boosters say it’s a potential world-changing leap up from current 4G systems because it will theoretically be up to 100 times faster, with higher data capacity and lower latency (delays) in transmission. More »


Illinois adopts Midwest’s highest minimum wage, $15 an hour by 2025

by Tim Anderson ~ March 2019 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Illinois has joined the growing number of Midwestern states to raise the minimum wage for workers. Six years from now, when SB 1 gets fully phased in, the wage floor for Illinois workers age 18 and older will be $15 an hour. That will be the highest minimum wage in the Midwest; four other U.S. states have adopted $15-an-hour laws.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, as of the start of this year, six states in the region — Illinois ($8.25 per hour), Michigan ($9.25), Minnesota ($9.86), Nebraska ($9), Ohio ($8.55) and South Dakota ($9.10) — had minimum wages higher than the federal government’s ($7.25). Under the laws in Minnesota, Ohio and South Dakota, wages are adjusted automatically every year to account for changes in the cost of living. In late 2018, with the passage of SB 1171, Michigan legislators eliminated their state’s inflationary adjustment while also increasing the minimum wage. The hourly rate rose to $9.45 in March and will increase to $12.05 by 2030.
Most states in the Midwest establish separate wage minimums for tipped workers; only Minnesota requires employers to pay these workers the full minimum wage. It’s also common for states to have lower minimum wages for younger workers.


End to ‘border wars’? Policy proposals reflect concerns about tax-incentive programs

by Laura Tomaka ~ March 2019 ~ Stateline Midwest »
In Kansas City’s metropolitan area, there is a long history of businesses crossing the Kansas-Missouri border — lured by one of the two states’ tax breaks and financial incentives. “It’s a zero-sum game when incentives are given to move a company just a few miles from where it was,” says Rep. Kristey Williams, a member of the Kansas House Commerce, Labor and Economic Development Committee. “Essentially, taxpayers lose.” Could this traditional type of interstate competition be replaced by an interstate collaboration, or cease-fire? Smaller- and large-scale ideas were being proposed in the nation’s state legislatures in early 2019. More »


Taking the ‘middle pathway’: Iowa, Michigan laws reflect rising demand for workers with postsecondary training, but not necessarily bachelor’s degrees

by Laura Tomaka ~ December 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Ambitious plans with ambitious goals: That describes how policymakers in two Midwestern states — Michigan and Iowa — approached efforts in 2018 to ensure that their respective workforces can meet the demands of employers in an increasingly technological, skill-based economy. These policy shifts are a response to long-term changes in the U.S. economy. More »


Michigan, Minnesota near top of U.S. states for economic growth

by Tim Anderson ~ December 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »

Michigan and Minnesota had among the fastest-growing economies in the nation during the first half of 2018, according to federal data released in November. The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis looked at the gross domestic product in all 50 states, comparing the size of each state’s economy between the first and second quarters of this year. On that measure, only Texas’ GDP grew at a faster rate than Michigan’s. The Wolverine State’s growth rate of 5.4 percent was led by a rise in the manufacture of durable goods (cars, machinery and other products expected to last a long time).
Minnesota’s GDP increase was 5.0 percent, fourth in the nation. That state’s agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting sector had one of the highest rates of growth in the nation. (South Dakota’s had the highest.)
GDP grew in every U.S. state between the first and second quarters of 2018. Here are the overall growth rates and U.S. rankings for the other Midwestern states: Illinois, 3.6 percent, 32nd; Indiana, 3.6 percent, 30th; Iowa, 3.6 percent, 27th; Kansas, 4.7 percent, seventh; Nebraska, 3.7 percent, 22nd; South Dakota, 3.5 percent, 34th; Ohio, 3.7 percent, 24th; and Wisconsin, 2.8 percent, 48th.



In North Dakota, lawmakers eye scholarships, loan forgiveness to deal with workforce shortages

by Laura Tomaka ~ November 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »
In North Dakota, two features of the state’s economy have persisted for years now: some of the lowest jobless rates in the nation, and workforce shortages challenging individual employers and entire economic sectors.
“By most estimates, we have over 20,000 unfilled jobs,” notes North Dakota Sen. Brad Bekkedahl. Would scholarships or a loan-forgiveness program — with some strings attached — help fix this mismatch between worker supply and demand? And which of these two options would work best? Those questions were explored during the legislative interim and will likely emerge again when lawmakers convene in early 2019. More »


Ohio hopes giving blockchain data, contracts legal status will draw more economic activity

by Laura Tomaka ~ September 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Ohio lawmakers are hopeful that new blockchain legislation will make the state a leader in developing the emerging technology and attracting businesses that would use it. More »



Minnesota boosts its hiring of individuals with disabilities

by Tim Anderson ~ September 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »
The number of people with disabilities working for the state of Minnesota has risen considerably over the past four years, reflecting a concerted effort across agencies to improve outreach, recruitment and hiring practices. The latest state figures show that 7 percent of the workforce has a disability of some kind — the goal set by Gov. Mark Dayton in a 2014 executive order. “We need a state workforce that reflects the diverse populations we serve,” Minnesota Management and Buget Commissioner Myron Frans says.
Minnesota established two initiatives to reach its 7 percent goal. The first program, known as “Connect 700,” gives Minnesotans with disabilities opportunities to demonstrate their skills through on-the-job, trial work experiences that last up to 700 hours. The Supported Worker Program, meanwhile, offers people with disabilities integrated employment opportunities with up to 50 full-time positions within various state agencies. These positions can be shared by up to three people with disabilities.
Nationwide, people with a disability are much more likely to be unemployed — an average of 9.2 percent in 2017, compared to 4.2 percent among individuals without a disability.



Wanted: State policies that help build manufacturing workforce

by Laura Tomaka ~ August 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »
In a July session that largely examined the future of a cornerstone of the Midwest’s economy, three expert speakers also illustrated to legislators just how far it has come over the past few years. “Manufacturing is coming back to North America,” Mark Denzler, vice president and chief operating officer of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, told lawmakers who attended a meeting of the Midwestern Legislative Conference’s Economic Development Committee. More »


Prevailing-wage law falls in another state with repeal in Michigan

by Tim Anderson ~ June/July 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Michigan has become the third Midwestern state in three years to repeal its prevailing-wage law, which requires government contractors to provide employees with union-level wages and benefits for state or local public works projects. This legislative action came in June and did not require gubernatorial action. That is because the prevailing-wage repeal was scheduled to appear on the fall ballot. Under Michigan law, the Legislature has 40 days to adopt or reject a ballot proposal. If a proposal is not enacted within this time frame, it goes to the voters. The Detroit Free Press called the Legislature’s decision “the latest blow to organized labor.”
In 2015, Indiana legislators removed prevailing wage with the passage of HB 1019. The end of this law in Wisconsin came in two steps. The Legislature repealed prevailing wage for local government projects as part of the state’s last budget (SB 21) and then extended the repeal to state-funded projects in the current budget (AB 64).
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska and Ohio have prevailing-wage laws. Ohio exempts local school projects; it and Minnesota set thresholds that trigger the prevailing wage based on the cost of a project.


Nebraska legislative committees get new job: Review work licensing

by Tim Anderson ~ June/July 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »

Along with a series of changes this year to the state’s occupational licensing laws, Nebraska lawmakers have adopted a measure (LB 299) to ensure more regular evaluations of the entire system. Starting in 2019, each standing committee of the Legislature will annually review 20 percent of occupational regulations under its jurisdiction. All regulations will be examined within a five-year time frame. As part of this review process, lawmakers will seek to have the “least restrictive regulation which is necessary to protect consumers from undue risk of present, significant and substantiated harms.”
During the 2018 session, the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature also enacted specific reforms related to cosmetology (LB 731), hair and nail salons (LB 731), animal massage (LB 596) and abstracters (LB 345).
Since the 1950s, there has been a five-fold increase in the share of workers subject to state licensing. Today, about 25 percent of U.S. workers need a license to do their jobs. In a 2015 study, the Obama administration found significant state-by-state variation in the portion of workers requiring a license — from a low of 12 percent in South Carolina to a high of 33 percent in Iowa.


Pair of Ohio bills address two hurdles to broadband access in homes, communities across state

by Laura Tomaka ~ May 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »
In some rural parts of Ohio, access to broadband seems a long way off, with entire areas lacking access to high-speed internet service. For other businesses and residents, the infrastructure is frustratingly close, but out of reach. Two separate bills are being considered this year to address those two distinct problems associated with Ohio’s digital divide. More »


What policies are in place in the Midwest to increase the number of state contracts going to minority- and female-owned businesses?

by Tim Anderson ~ May 2018 ~ Question of the Month »
No state in the Midwest requires that a certain percentage of contracts be given to minority- or women-owned businesses. (Outside the region, Connecticut requires that 6.25 percent of the value of state and local government contracts go to companies owned by women, minorities or disabled individuals.) However, at least three states have specific goals set in statute: Illinois, Ohio and Wisconsin. More »


Iowa, Wisconsin among states with new bills that target meeting workforce needs

by Laura Tomaka ~ March 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »
In many Midwestern states, the big policy question surrounding economic development these days isn’t how to create jobs, but how to make sure enough workers are available and ready to fill them. Most of the region’s governors touched on this challenge in their State of the State addresses, and discussions this year in Iowa and Wisconsin highlight two ways of bolstering workforces — building talent from within the state, and doing more to keep it. More »


Amid rise in craft brewing, legislators mull changes to laws on self-distribution, barrel caps

by Laura Tomaka ~ February 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »
With the popularity of craft beer on the rise, state legislators across the nation have been re-examining their laws to allow for greater growth in the industry, from statutory changes that help increase production to the removal of restrictions on self-distribution. More »


Iowa legislators debate need for tax incentive programs, and their effectiveness

by Laura Tomaka ~ January 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »
In August, Apple Inc. announced that the company would locate its new data center in Waukee, Iowa. The technology giant will receive more than $200 million in state and local tax incentives to build the $1.3 billion facility on a 2,000-acre site in the Des Moines suburb. More »


Big deals, big incentives: Competition to land new businesses, and jobs that come with them, have put spotlight on states’ economic policies

by Laura Tomaka ~ December 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
The role of state incentives (tax credits, tax exemptions, grants, low-interest loans, etc.) has gotten increased attention in the Midwest during the latter part of 2017. More »


Free community college training, more help for employers part of Indiana workforce initiative

by Laura Tomaka ~ October 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Indiana is planning to invest more than $20 million over the next two years into two grant programs that prepare workers to fill existing and looming job vacancies. More »


Michigan tax incentives designed to lure new, well-paying jobs

by Jon Davis ~ September 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
A trio of bills signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder on July 26 aims to lure new, well-paying jobs to Michigan by allowing new or emerging companies to keep some or all of state income tax withheld from certified new employees, if they meet specific criteria.
Under SBs 242-244, which create the “Good Jobs for Michigan Program,” companies must create at least 250 certified full-time jobs and pay salaries that are 125 percent or more of the prosperity region’s annual wage (Michigan is divided into 10 such regions under Gov. Snyder’s “Regional Prosperity Initiative”) to capture up to 100 percent of withholding for up to 10 years. The Michigan Strategic Fund can make up to 15 such agreements per year, but none after Dec. 31, 2019. Nor can the fund disburse more than $200 million in total withholding tax captures over the life of the program.
Tax captures will begin from the date a business creates the certified new jobs. Those new jobs must be created within five years of entering the agreement. Professional sports stadiums, casinos, retail businesses and retail-exclusive parts of otherwise eligible companies are not eligible to participate in the program.



States’ occupational licensing reform efforts gathering steam

by Jon Davis ~ September 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
If there is an issue left that can unite all colors of our political rainbow, it might be occupational licensing reform. Think tanks from the Brookings Institution to the Institute for Justice support state-level reforms to reduce the licensure barriers for those seeking to open their own businesses or work across state lines. More »


Tax incentive package for new Wisconsin component plant promises jobs, raises questions

by Laura Tomaka ~ September 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
In September, Wisconsin lawmakers advanced an economic incentive bill (ASA 1) to forge a deal with computer component manufacturer Foxconn to build a new facility in the state. More »


Creating ‘entrepreneurship culture’ among students can spur business growth, legislators told

by Laura Tomaka ~ August 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
In a wide-ranging discussion that touched on ways to build the next generation of entrepreneurs and improve access to capital in rural areas, lawmakers at a July meeting of the Midwestern Legislative Conference Economic Development Committee learned of various state strategies that can help support job and business growth. The committee was joined by a four-person panel of experts in economic development. More »


With new funding for public-private institute, Indiana aims to become leader in life sciences

by Laura Tomaka ~ June/July 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
With a $20 million appropriation in the state’s new biennial budget, Indiana lawmakers once again affirmed their belief in a public-private partnership designed to further develop one of the state’s existing economic strengths — its life sciences industry. The Indiana Bioscience Research Institute began four years ago with $50 million in funding. The state provided half of that start-up money, with the rest coming from the state’s universities and private firms. More »


NAFTA and the Midwest: Any renegotiation to free-trade deal would focus on issues critical to region's workers

by Ilene Grossman ~ June/July 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
When the North American Free Trade Agreement took effect in 1994, it created the largest free trade area in the world at that time. By increasing trade and investment, reducing tariffs and addressing non-tariff barriers, the leaders of Canada, Mexico and the United States hoped to grow their countries’ economies and raise living standards across the continent. “NAFTA worked, fundamentally shaping North American economic relations, driving integration between Canada and the United States’ developed economies and Mexico’s developing economy,” says Colin Robertson, vice president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and a former Canadian diplomat. But from the start, the three-nation agreement has failed to fully recognize how changes in North American trade would negatively affect certain workers and industries, says Christopher Wilson, deputy director of the Mexico Institute. More »


Michigan eyes new mix of incentives to bring investments in hard-to-develop brownfields

by Laura Tomaka ~ March 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Brownfields — former industrial and commercial sites that have been abandoned and are contaminated by pollutants or other hazardous materials — are among the hardest sites to redevelop for other business or residential purposes. This is mainly because of the costs associated with cleaning up the land for new development. More »


Kansas bill offers incentives to attract more businesses to job-scarce rural areas of state

by Laura Tomaka ~ February 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Seven years ago, Kansas lawmakers adopted new incentives for individuals to move to the state and make one of its 77 rural counties their new home. The Rural Opportunity Zones program offers a mix of income tax waivers (for up to five years) and student-loan repayments of $15,000. But as much as he supports the idea, Kansas Rep. Troy Waymaster says another part of the economic challenges for rural areas must somehow be met. More »


Ohio wants different look for abandoned buildings: no plywood

by Tim Anderson ~ February 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
The term “boarded up” may not go away anytime soon, but in Ohio, the practice of covering the windows and doors of abandoned buildings with plywood will soon be a thing of the past. HB 463 was signed into law in January. According to The Cincinnati Enquirer, the new plywood ban will be a “boon ... for clear boarding”: the use of clear polycarbonate on windows and doors. The bill’s proponents say the statutory change will make vacant properties more visually appealing and less of a magnet for criminal activity.
A few months ago, Ohio lawmakers enacted a measure (part of HB 390) to “fast track” the foreclosure process. It allows mortgage servicers to get possession of an abandoned property in as little as six months if a judge, by a preponderance of evidence, finds that the mortgage loan is in default. According to The Columbus Dispatch, there also must be clear and convincing evidence that the home is abandoned — for example, broken doors, boarded-up windows, disconnected utilities and vandalism.
Last year, too, Indiana lawmakers stiffened penalties for individuals charged with the offense of “foreclosure mischief” — the damaging or removing of objects from a property in mortgage foreclosure (SB 183 and SB 204).


Ohio law bars cities, counties from setting own minimum wages

by Tim Anderson ~ January 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
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

by Laura Tomaka ~ January 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
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

by Laura Tomaka ~ December 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
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

by Laura Tomaka ~ November 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
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 »



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

by Laura Tomaka ~ September 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
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 »


Kansas extends ‘angel investor’ tax credit; North Dakota mulls changes to its program

by Laura Tomaka ~ June/July 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
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

by Tim Anderson ~ June/July 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
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

by Katelyn Tye ~ May 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
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?

by Laura Tomaka ~ May 2016 ~ Question of the Month »
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

by Laura Tomaka ~ April 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
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

by Tim Anderson ~ March 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
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

by Laura Tomaka ~ March 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
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’

by Laura Tomaka ~ February 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
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

by Laura Tomaka ~ November 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
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

by Tim Anderson ~ October 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
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

by Laura Tomaka ~ October 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
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 »


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'

by Laura Tomaka ~ June 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
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

by Grant Gregory ~ June 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
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

by Tim Anderson ~ May 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
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

by Tim Anderson ~ May 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
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

by Tim Anderson ~ April 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
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?

by Laura Kliewer ~ April 2015 ~ Question of the Month »
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

by Laura Tomaka ~ April 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
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

by Tim Anderson ~ March 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
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

by Laura Tomaka ~ February 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
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

by Laura Tomaka ~ January 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
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

by Laura Tomaka ~ December 2014 ~ Stateline Midwest »
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

by Tim Anderson ~ October 2014 ~ Stateline Midwest »
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

by Laura Tomaka ~ October 2014 ~ Stateline Midwest »
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

by Kate Tormey ~ October 2014 ~ Stateline Midwest »
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

by Tim Anderson ~ July/August 2014 ~ Stateline Midwest »
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 »


New Minnesota law sets highest minimum wage in Midwest

by Tim Anderson ~ May 2014 ~ Stateline 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 »


Illinois lawmakers put freeze on tax breaks, scrutinize business climate

by Laura Tomaka ~ April 2014 ~ Stateline Midwest »
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

by Laura Kliewer ~ March 2014 ~ PDF of Stateline Midwest article »
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?

by Laura Tomaka ~ March 2014 ~ Question of the Month »
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 »


Demand for broadband: States have options to improve rates of access and adoption, including creation of new funds and infrastructure plans

by Tim Anderson ~ January 2014 ~ PDF of Stateline Midwest article »
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

by Laura Tomaka ~ January 2014 ~ Stateline Midwest »
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

by Laura Tomaka~ December 2013 ~ PDF of Stateline Midwest article »
PDF of graphs showing rates of economic mobility in each Midwest state's most populated areas »
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

by Mike McCabe ~ December 2013 ~ Stateline Midwest »
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.


New state laws on unemployment give employers alternative to laying off workers

by Laura Tomaka ~ October 2013 ~ Stateline Midwest »
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

by Tim Anderson ~ October 2013 ~ Stateline Midwest »
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

by Tim Anderson ~ July/August 2013~ Stateline Midwest »
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

by Laura Tomaka ~ July/August 2013~ Stateline Midwest »
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
workforce-training measure

by Laura Tomaka ~ April 2013 ~ Stateline Midwest »
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

by Carolyn Orr and Laura Tomaka ~ March 2013 ~ Stateline Midwest »
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

by Tim Anderson ~ March 2013 ~ Stateline Midwest »
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 »


Aiming higher: States look for ways to produce more-educated populations to feed economic demand for skills

by Laura Tomaka ~ December 2012 ~ Stateline Midwest »
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

by Tim Anderson ~ December 2012 ~ Stateline Midwest »
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 »


Reworking workers’ comp: On 100th anniversary of system, states focusing on changes that cut business costs, remove uncertainties

by Laura Tomaka ~ November 2011 ~ PDF of Stateline Midwest article here »
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

by Tim Anderson ~ October 2011 ~ PDF of Stateline Midwest article here »
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 »


Rise in exports seen as key to region’s long-term prosperity, and states can play supporting role with partnerships that help budding exporters

by Ilene Grossman ~ June 2011 ~ PDF of Stateline Midwest article »
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 »
Export activity as a percentage of total GDP in 11-state "export-rich" Midwest »
Goals of new National Export Initiative at federal level »
Article in May/June issue of CSG's Capitol Ideas: Export Markets Can Help States Grow Jobs »


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 »