Johnson County, Iowa, Ranked Third in New Economic Index4/11/2012
Receives “A” for Innovation Capacity
Johnson County, Iowa, was ranked third in The “Fourth Economy Community (FEC) Index” released today. The listing ranks the nation’s top 10, small-sized Fourth Economy Communities. This category features counties that are ideally positioned to attract modern investment and managed economic growth. County populations must fall within 100,000 to 150,000 residents.
“The ‘fourth economy’ defines our nation’s current economy, reflecting a combination of the previous three: agrarian, industrial and technological,” said Rich Overmoyer, Fourth Economy President and CEO. “This new index is intended to serve as a dashboard for community stakeholders to gauge their capacity to attract and retain modern investment.”
Mark Nolte, interim ICAD Group president, attributes multiple factors to Johnson County’s success, including the long-term vision of existing industry. “Our annual existing industry interviews show companies are increasing their investment in research and development and introducing new products and services at a rate nearly 20% higher than national norms,” said Nolte. “ICAD Group’s Vision 2030 is concentrated on furthering this culture of innovation.”
The FEC Index considers county-level measures within investment, talent, sustainability, place, and diversity, as well as capacity for innovation. Johnson County received high scores for its growing and diverse industry sector and was graded an “A” for innovation capacity.
Stephen McKnight, Fourth Economy Consulting Vice President of Community and Market Assessments, said a common attribute among the smaller communities is a geographic association with institutions of higher education. “These are the modern engines in the fourth economy,” said McKnight. “As a result, these communities can provide the talent and place-based strategies that address housing, recreation and amenities for smaller, high-value businesses to thrive.”
Clarke County, Georgia (University of Georgia) and Monroe County, Indiana (Indiana University), were ranked ahead of Johnson County. Rounding out the top five were Tompkins County, home to Ithaca College in New York, and Lee County in Alabama, where Auburn University is located.
When Fourth Economy Consulting asked for environmental, industrial, and technological assets helping to advance economic development for, Nolte said he submitted the word “mojo.” “This market provides so many valuable assets,” added Nolte. “The University of Iowa drives knowledge, talent and technology not typically found in a smaller area, our central location and history of investment in infrastructure are vital to many in the manufacturing sector, and our area is rich in culture and the arts, with an international, cosmopolitan vibe.”
“It is not surprising to see the leading fourth economy counties blend both rural and urban character, offering their residents diverse living and working options,” McKnight added.
“Ultimately what makes this area so unique is the high value placed on education and the willingness for people to collaborate across boundaries to continuously improve upon the status quo,” said Nolte. “It is easy to find partners, answers and support not only in our service territory, but throughout the full economic region known as Iowa’s Creative Corridor.”
About the Index:
The FED Index (www.fourtheconomyindex.com) considers several county-level measures within five areas: 1) Investment, 2) Talent, 3) Sustainability, 4) Place, and 5) Diversity. These five areas serve as a foundation for future economic success to include wage and employment growth, education levels, drive times, home values, minority business ownership, agricultural capacity and population density. The measures are weighted based on the level of influence they have on both internal and external investment decisions.
The FEC Index scores for the small county listing ranged from 0 to 4.5. They included only counties with a population of 100,000 to 150,000, education attainment above 25 percent and average travel times less than 20 minutes. Beyond the core FEC Index measures, the analysis also considers the capacity for a community to support innovation. The FEC Index expresses an innovation capacity score as a letter grade, determined by the online source Stats-America (www.statsamerica.org). This grade considers factors such as human capital, state policy context and productivity.