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Daily News Editorial

By Staff | Feb 20, 2008

A recent area economic analysis of our five-county region should offer no surprises to anyone who has lived here for any period of time.

Iowans work harder for their money than anyone else.

Dave Swenson, with the Iowa State University Department of Economics, told members of the Iowa Great Lakes Corridor Tuesday in Spencer that there is a shortage of skilled labor in key areas such as computer specialists, engineers, and highly skilled scientific fields, the same fields in highest demands nationally.

Meanwhile, every Iowan works an average of 14.3 hours per week compared to 13 hours for each U.S. citizen. That’s for every man, woman, and child.

Those statistics should come as no surprise to anyone who has lived in Iowa — or the upper Midwest — for any period of time.

People work longer hours here because they’re dedicated to their jobs. Long hours go with the territory when you’re talking about farming. Just watch a fall harvest. People here are dedicated to their jobs, not to their paychecks.

As for worker shortages in those higher-skill areas, there’s an explanation for that too.

It’s not that Iowans aren’t capable of mastering higher skills. The reality is that once they acquire those skills at one of our major universities, they go where the money is — and it usually isn’t Iowa.

Iowans are taking top positions in corporations in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago because they are simply the most qualified people out there, both in their skill sets as well as in their dedication to the work place.

So what’s the upside of all this?

The upside is that, while Iowans don’t ride the economic engine quite as high, they don’t hit the same depths either. Swenson admitted that Iowans have about a third the risk of losing their homes through mortgage defaults as elsewhere in the country. That’s because they know better than to take out interest-only mortgages when prices can go down just as easily as they can go up, which they certainly have over the past year or so.

We also live here because of the low crime rate and excellent quality of life. You might question that this winter, but all in all, our air is cleaner and our traffic is far less congested than in other parts of the country.