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Facilitating Iowa wine industry’s growth provides economic pluses

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | JULY 22, 2009 7:15 AM

What Iowa industry has grown more than five times in the last nine years?

If you were so bold as to predict the wine industry, you would be correct. According to a study from Iowa State University, there were only 13 wineries in Iowa in 2000, and now, that number has blown its cork off to 70. Farmers across this state have been throwing their tractors aside for grape pickers one little bit at a time.

This burgeoning industry is a welcome addition to the cultural and economic growth of this state. As Iowa maintains its low unemployment rate, the wine industry adds another level of resilience that will no doubt create more jobs and increase our cultural awareness across the United States. We may not be California just yet, but if we continue our support of this prosperous enterprise, we will all be better off.

The Midwest has long been a hidden gem in the wine industry, but it hasn’t garnered as much attention as states on the West Coast. Such states as Missouri and Illinois have become increasingly aware of their opportunity for growth in this business. The Des Moines area has become our state’s hot-spot destination for wine aficionados. The Heart of Iowa Wine trail, located within an hour drive of Des Moines, holds 15 wineries.

Iowa’s reputation as a leader in agricultural production gives us our defining characteristic, one that sets us apart from the vast majority of other states. Many people across this nation know nothing about Iowa except that we grow corn and raise livestock. The wine industry, though, provides an opportunity for the state to earn recognition in a much more high-profile field. The growth of this industry could sprout off into various profitable ventures. Tourism could increase in Iowa’s wine-producing areas, injecting money into local economies and, hopefully, adding to our state’s strong economy and recession buffer.

Iowans would no longer have to travel miles or buy wine online, because their local farmer would be happy to sell them a bottle or two. In doing so, Iowans would be instilling a “buy local” mentality sure to increase profits.

For those interested in opening their own winery in Iowa, the start-up could take time and money. Vineyard start-up costs are between $5,000 and $7,000 an acre. However, if the state was willing to pitch in a little, our agri-tourism industry would be greatly enhanced, fostering an economic as well as cultural asset.

Iowa could also foster the growth of this industry by allowing tax breaks to families making the switch to wineries. The film industry here has increased ever since Iowa as made it cheaper to start productions here. That same philosophy could become quite attainable if implemented in a fair and balanced way. In a much more significant way, the wine industry could attract people from across the Midwest to live in the area. Iowa’s population has become stagnant over the last few years, and any possible way that we can improve our growth is a welcome proposition.

Will this industry make or break our economy? No. But as a state, if we stop looking and searching for new ventures to enhance our prosperity — even the slightest bit — we will cease to grow and compete for jobs, money, and overall prosperity. Each state is looking for the next big thing to capitalize on. Wine could be that for Iowa. Creating a profitable product like wine in Iowa is an anomaly that we should pounce on.

New moneymaking opportunities sometimes appear out of necessity, some out genius, and some out of sheer luck. However, if we don’t look into Iowa’s wine industry, we won’t find out which it is for us. That’s a chance Iowa should take.


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