Iowa’s available renewable energy was a lure for Apple Inc. when it announced it would locate a plant near Des Moines in August 2017, a company official said. Ernie Goss, an economist from Creighton University, points out that the renewal energy industry gets government incentives. Credit: Lyle Muller/IowaWatch

A recent deal struck to bring a new Apple Inc. center to Waukee has renewed debate about government intervention in economic development.

That’s because the $1.3 billion center comes with a price for Iowans: some $208 million in state and local tax breaks for a facility that company officials project will create at least 50 new jobs.

“For the past 20 months Apple has been searching for the perfect location. And I am so happy to say that they found it, right here in Iowa,” Gov. Kim Reynolds said at a late August 2017 announcement where Apple CEO Tim Cook noted Iowa’s renewable energy efforts as one drawing point for the state.

But deals like this include controversy about how much the state and local government should give to bring in new business, and whether or not the deal is worth that cost.

“These kinds of deals can’t be justified using standard economic principles,” David Swenson, associate scientist at the Iowa State University Department of Economics, said. “The only way you can justify these things is politics. It looks good politically.”

This IowaWatch Connection report includes analysis from Iowa native Christine Romans, a CNN financial reporter who graduated from Iowa State University; Quentin Hart, mayor of Waterloo, Iowa, which became embroiled in its own tax break controversy in 2017; Ernie Goss, an economist at Creighton University; and Swenson.

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