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Education plan needs incentive focus

Iowans for a Better Future, a nonprofit organization, deserves credit for organizing the Iowa Higher Education Summit, which took place Tuesday in Des Moines.

Iowans for a Better Future, a nonprofit organization, deserves credit for organizing the Iowa Higher Education Summit, which took place Tuesday in Des Moines.

According to an Associated Press report, more than 200 people gathered for the event, including representatives from a majority of Iowa's colleges and universities. The goal of the summit was to brainstorm ways to attract college students to the state and then keep them there, thus continually replacing an aging workforce.

Many of the ideas presented at the event make sense. For instance, it was suggested that Iowa's business leaders be brought together with college students more frequently, creating connections that would generate job opportunities. Other ideas included communicating Iowa's "welcoming nature and inherent charm" to make the state more attractive to visitors or potential residents, and developing "sensible incentives" to attract out-of-staters.

These incentives, we feel, are probably the key to fulfilling the goals of Iowans for a Better Future. While Minnesota's Job Opportunity Building Zones (JOBZ) program was designed to spur economic development in Greater Minnesota, for example, it by design brings new jobs and families to those communities -- and they in turn contribute within their cities in numerous ways. It may be too early to say whether JOBZ will pay dividends over an extended period, but it's programs such as these that are critical to stimulating growth on any level.

Organizers of the education summit say they realize that the state needs to find a proper mix of incentives, marketing and charm to experience success. Without dismissing marketing and charm, the importance of incentives cannot be overstated enough -- particularly in an economy with global competition.

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