This past February Iowa lawmakers were considering eliminating the income tax on anyone 30 or younger to stop the state brain drain. In a 2000 Census study of which states attract the most young, single college grads, Iowa ranked 49th. Since then, Iowa has spent millions courting businesses and sprucing up communities with arenas, museums and river walks--anything to keep those 25-year-olds from fleeing.
So it's interesting that at the annual conference for the Western Governors' Association, the early message is: do whatever you have to to maintain a mature, well-trained middle-class workforce. Could this mean Iowa has been spending in all the wrong places?
Joel Kotkin, an author and authority on economic and social trends, noted at the conference that while cities are putting on their best to attract the young (or keep the rich), it has been at the expense of nurturing the middle class, a group that is critical for economic vitality and stability. "Those hip, cool 25-year-olds are the most mobile part of the population. What you really need to do is ... figure out how to attract and maintain a middle class," he said. Either way, fortunately for Iowa, the tax break died. It would have cost the state an estimated $200 million a year while saving the average 25-year-old about $600.