Plymouth County employees, on average, are making about $34,000 a year, according to a quarterly study by the Iowa Department of Economic Development. That ranks average county wages, which hit $16.19 an hour at the end of last quarter, above any other Iowa county west of I-35.
“It changes the dynamics of the county, the type of businesses that typically locate here,” said Gary Tucker, county economic development director. “Businesses that do pay pretty substantial wages generally recruit facilities that pay well.”
There are only ten counties in the state of Iowa with higher wages than Plymouth County, Tucker added, and those include urban areas like Des Moines, Waterloo, Cedar Rapids and the Quad Cities.
That average wage level also sets the county nearly $3-4 an hour above any county in the six-county region.
Cherokee County’s average wages came in at $12.82, O’Brien County at $11.71, Sioux County at $13.40, Lyon County at $12.32 and Osceola County at $12.89.
“Wells’ Dairy, Inc. is a big player with the number of employees they have, and there are a lot of other employers in the county as well contributing to that,” Tucker said. “I think our wages are driven by the type of industry we have, the skills that are necessary for those jobs.”
The county average rose 15 cents from $16.04 by the end of the third quarter of 2007.
“We continue to increase in our county wage averages, which is a good thing,” Tucker noted. “With the exception of one quarter in the last five years, it’s gone up every quarter by approximately one percent, which means four percent per year growth.”
Tucker also pointed out that the county unemployment rate is only about two percent.
“We’re doing very well, and we should be proud of the fact that we have a level of living that I think is a pretty positive thing for us,” he said, saying he believed it to be a direct result of the investment the county has made in economic development. “We hope that trend continues.”
The Iowa Department of Economic Development (IDED) uses the quarterly average wage numbers to determine requirements for levels of wages to require from businesses seeking state grants and financial assistance.
For example, a Plymouth County business applying for High Quality Job Creation money from IDED would have to have a certain number of jobs at 130 percent of the average county wages, or $21.05.