Monday, February 04, 2008

Is Northern Ireland A Model For Promoting Iowa Entrepreneurs

(Commentary) CARROLL -- Iowa's top economic development official made a provocative observation here the other day.

Iowa Department of Economic Development director Mike Tramontina had strong comments for what he believes is the prevailing mindset at the state's research colleges, which he says are more interested in research grants than entrepreneurship.

At some prestigious U.S. coastal schools master's students in the sciences and business are walking around with dreams of "making a billion dollars" by launching the next Google or Yahoo. They are interested not just in creating intellectual property but transitioning it to wild wealth, Tramontina said.

"At Iowa State, that is not cool," he said. "We do research. We need to spur entrepreneurship at our universities."

I asked Tramontina more about this after his presentation to the Carroll Area Development Corp., because his remarks hit on something I've observed for decades here: Iowans think more about working hard than smart.

"With the pace of change in technology places that are succeeding today are really able to shorten the time from a discovery until something is actually a company and that is producing jobs," Tramontina said. "That is something other places have had to do and we need to do, too."

Perhaps some of Iowa's answers with entrepreneurship can be found in Northern Ireland, a nation where, thanks to a raft of tax policies and incentives, start-ups are "flourishing," according to The New Tork Times.

This emphasis in Northern Ireland is new and took hold like wildfire. We have had various prescrptions to improve, for example, venture capital investment here in the state. But perhaps we need something more audacious.

Here is some of what The Times reports is going on in Northern Ireland:

Income tax rates in Ireland today are 20 percent on the first $50,000 of income and 41 percent on income above that. But there are value-added taxes of 21 percent levied on all goods and transactions, with the exception of health and medical services, children’s clothing and food. The tax on corporate profits, though, is 12.5 percent, which is an incentive to own a business.

This article is crossposted at Iowa

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