(Radio Iowa) A survey of several hundred Iowa businesses finds an overwhelming majority of them are in good shape compared to a year ago, despite record inflation, the rising cost of living, and ongoing supply chain challenges. Jim Plagge, president and CEO of Bank Iowa, says this is the institution’s second annual statewide survey of businesses and he’s encouraged by the results.
“A little over 40% said they saw an increase in their business, and about 40% stayed steady, so you could look at that and 80% were steady to improved,” Plagge says. “Even though we have a large manufacturing base, we’re also obviously a big ag state and agriculture has remained strong these last few years. I think that drives a lot of the commercial and manufacturing businesses as well.” Businesses in a wide range of industries continue to have trouble finding qualified workers to fill open jobs, but Plagge says the survey found 44 percent of Iowa business owners report seeing an improvement in the quality of applicants over the last year.
“Everyone is reporting difficulty in finding new employees,” Plagge says. “The job market is very tight, obviously, the unemployment rate is low, so everyone is scrambling to hire new people. I think 80% of all the businesses said they had open positions that they would like to try to fill.” COVID-19 is still having ripple effects in Iowa’s economy, as 80 percent of responding businesses said the pandemic fundamentally altered their business’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Plagge says the biggest lasting change is the work-from-home dynamic.
“Even though the employer might want them to come back, there has been pushback on that,” Plagge says. “I think to some extent, it’s proved to be very good. We’ve learned that people can work from home and still be productive. Long term, one has to wonder what the implications will be on culture. Will a business and an employer be able to maintain a culture with a significant portion of their workforce working from home?” The survey found 83 percent of businesses do plan to adjust their practices based on change they’ve experienced in the last few years, while 56 percent said the work-from-home economy has helped their business.
“The main thing is that the business environment, the work environment in Iowa, continues to be strong,” Plagge says. “We have a strong labor force that’s attractive to many employers. Our location is very advantageous at the intersection of two major interstates in the middle of the country, so I think we’ll continue to see Iowa be a strong economic state.” Bank Iowa is one of the state’s top independent ag banks and is Iowa’s second-largest family-owned bank, with 26 locations in 23 communities.