Combined statistical area for the Creative Corridor approved

By Allen Witt / Guest Editorial

We were notified recently that Iowa City and Cedar Rapids are now considered a combined statistical area by the federal government.

This is a long time coming, because in the 2000 census the Cedar Rapids Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) and the Iowa City Metropolitan Statistical Area fell short by 0.6 percent of becoming a Combined Statistical Area (CSA) per the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Such a move would have recognized strong economic and social ties between the locations. In 2000, 14.4 percent of the employees lived in the Cedar Rapids MSA and worked in the Iowa City MSA or employees lived in the Iowa City MSA and worked in the Cedar Rapids MSA. The threshold of becoming a CSA was 15 percent, a difference of 0.6 percent.

Today, the Cedar Rapids MSA has 261,761 people, which includes Jones, Benton and Linn counties and is ranked 177 out of 381 MSAs. Also, Iowa City MSA has 158,231 people, which includes Washington and Johnson counties and is ranked 255 out of 381 MSAs.

With the recent announcement that the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City MSAs are now a combined statistical area, the population is published at 420,000 (CSA ranking for CR-IC is 95th out of 166 compared to CSA ranking for Des Moines is 63rd out of 166) and gives the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City more weight for attracting business, tourism and advertising dollars. The combination is beneficial because the bigger population base, the more attractive we are to companies looking to expand or locate their regional headquarters in a bigger market, and also because our region has more amenities that attract investment.

What makes the Cedar Rapids-Iowa City CSA with 420,000 people so important? The new CSA will be used by businesses to gain a competitive advantage, gauge the competition, calculate market share, business-to-business decisions, site locations, design sales territories and set sales quotas, enhance business opportunity presentations to banks or venture capitalists and evaluate new business opportunities. The CSA provides a foundation for many of the key economic indicators for our area, like GDP and monthly retail sales on a larger scale.

Economic policy makers in federal, state and local governments use the CSA to project trends, plan for development and assess the impact of changes in the economy. Businesses study their own industries and look for business markets like the Cedar Rapids-Iowa City CSA with 420,000 people to drive their decision making such as: assist local businesses, research, public policy and statistics, and disaster response. Simply stated, we will go from two small MSAs to one large CSA and be noticed more on a national and global scale.

It’s a good day to live in the Creative Corridor.

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Allen Witt is a principal with Hall & Hall Engineers and the past chairman of the Cedar Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce. He can be reached at