cellulosicInstead of chasing out-of-state economic development deals, Iowa plans to build on its strengths to continue the growth in its economy, according to Debi Durham, director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority. And one of the Iowa’s key building blocks is its unparalleled ability to grow crops and livestock, she said.

"Biomass production is a platform that we own, and we are going to build on it," Durham said last week at the Iowa Biotechnology Association’s Partnering for Growth conference in Ankeny. "Iowa can really be a force in the bio-based economy, and that can help us create high-paying jobs," she said.

To do that, Durham said, Iowa needs to continue developing industry that utilizes biomass as a base to develop higher value crops. "We need to think like a petroleum company and work to move up the chain to create higher-value products."

Ethanol and biodiesel are examples of extracting added value from crops, Durham said. And other products, such as bio-based pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, are not far away, she said.

Iowa is a perfect place to develop and produce the value-added products because it has the farmers, soils and expertise to raise corn and soybeans, as well as the research muscle. "This is just a space we own, and we are going to build on it," Durham said.

To accomplish that, Durham said Iowa is considering tax incentives for companies that develop and produce bio-based products in the state.