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Policy nonprofit president criticizes Iowa officials’ international business trip

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(The Center Square) – Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds departed Tuesday for a two-week international trade mission to three other countries.

She, First Gentleman Kevin Reynolds, Iowa Economics Development Authority and Iowa Finance Authority Director Debi Durham and Iowa National Guard Adjutant Gen. Stephen Osborn will travel to Italy, Kosovo and Israel with goals of expanding trade, developing business growth opportunities and renewing sister state agreements.

“With one of the strongest and most resilient economies in the country and a workforce well-known for its skill and productivity, there is no better time to position Iowa as a strong global partner,” Reynolds said.

They will meet with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, Veneto Region Vice President Elisa De Berti, President Vjosa Osmani-Sadriu of the Republic of Kosovo, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Isaac Herzog of Israel, the release said. They will also meet with Italian businesses with significant investments in the State of Iowa, more than 70 Israeli businesses and investors in the insurance and agriculture sectors, and Kosovan ministers and business leaders.

“Through trade missions like this one, we build important economic relationships, promote Iowa’s growth in key industries, such as insurance technology and agriculture technology, and open our businesses to new opportunities in expanding markets beyond the United States,” Durham said.

Osborn said the mission coincides with the upcoming 30th anniversary of the State Partnership Program, which links state national guards with other nations. Iowa’s partner has been Kosovo for more than 11 years.

“Our partnership enhances transatlantic security, strengthens regional stability, and at the same time provides lasting community connections across the state of Iowa,” Osborn said.

John C. Mozena, president of the Center for Economic Accountability, a nonprofit organization for transparent economic development policy, told The Center Square Wednesday that trips of this kind aren’t helpful. These trips are among the ways that state economic development agencies devote massive amounts of public resources to trying to convince voters that governors are responsible for creating jobs.

“Politicians and economic development bureaucrats would have you believe that Iowa’s prosperity relies on competing with other states and other countries to put together the best subsidy-laden deal for a big R&D center, manufacturing plant or headquarters,” he said. “The thing is, a state’s future economic prosperity isn’t based on how many big site selection deals it’s winning. Instead, the best statistic to look at to predict the future is the small business formation rate in the present day.”

Mozena said Iowan entrepreneurs, not multinational CEOs in the countries Reynolds’ group is visiting, hold the Hawkeye State’s economic future in their hands. These entrepreneurs decide whether the state is a wise place to start and grow a business that creates good jobs.

“Before they spend a lot of money convincing Israelis, Italians and Kosovans that Iowa is the place to build their future, the state’s politicians and bureaucrats would be better served to first focus on convincing Iowans of that through tax and regulatory policies that address the challenges business owners face in the state,” he said.

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