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Study confirms: Iowa's biggest cities are primary economic catalysts

Overall economic impact of cities far exceeds their population, report shows

Downtown Cedar Rapids, showing Interstate 380 in lower right corner, as seen in May 2011. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Downtown Cedar Rapids, showing Interstate 380 in lower right corner, as seen in May 2011. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

A new study released Wednesday affirms that Iowa’s largest metropolitan areas are major economic engines.

Dave Swenson, an Iowa State University economist, conducted an analysis that shows Iowa’s 10 largest cities make up only 29 percent of the population, but they generate 36 percent of the jobs in the state and 39 percent of the state’s gross domestic product. Additionally, cities provide 42 percent of service sector jobs and account for 47 percent of sales.

The report was released by mayors, city officials and other members of the Metropolitan Coalition at a Statehouse news conference. They say the study shows Iowa’s cities are an economic bright spot that make positive contributions statewide.

“This analysis looked at the economic impact of both the ten largest cities and the metropolitan counties and shows a large share of our economic wealth and productivity is generated by cities,” said Swenson, the study’s author. “It is clearly evident that the overall economic importance of Iowa’s metropolitan areas far exceeds their demographic strengths.”

The Metropolitan Coalition is a partnership created to advocate for and promote the similar needs and interests of Iowa’s 10 largest cities -- Ames, Cedar Rapids, Council Bluffs, Davenport, Des Moines, Dubuque, Iowa City, Sioux City, Waterloo and West Des Moines.

“This analysis further solidifies our role as the economic engines of Iowa’s economy and highlights the importance of the services provided by our cities,” said Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie, current chairman of the Metropolitan Coalition.

Swenson is an associate scientist with ISU’s Department of Economics. He serves as an adjunct lecturer and a member of the graduate faculty in the community and regional planning program at ISU and as a lecturer in the graduate program in urban and regional planning at The University of Iowa.

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