Reynolds, Gregg stop in WC

Visit part of governor’s ‘Unleashing Opportunity’ tour

—Daily Freeman-Journal photo by Adri Sietstra Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, right, speaks Thursday afternoon at Second Street Emporium in Webster City. Reynolds and Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg, left, visited Webster City on their ‘Unleashing Opportunity’ tour. Reynolds and Gregg spoke with attendees about the job opportunities Iowa can offer all ages and how a re-focused look at the K-12 education system pathway can contribute to filling these jobs in the near future. Reynolds also announced the appointment of current deputy secretary Mike Naig to Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, following the exit of Bill Northey, who has been confirmed for a job with the United States Department of Agriculture.

“If you’re willing to work hard and dream big, I believe in the state of Iowa anything is possible,” said Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds. “Really what we’re focusing on is unleashing opportunities for everyone.”

Unleashing opportunity was the theme of the day when Reynolds and Lieutenant Governor Adam Gregg visited Second Street Emporium Thursday afternoon.

Iowa State Representative Rob Bacon introduced Reynolds and Gregg.

“Kim Reynolds understands the challenges that face working class families because she and her husband have faced those same challenges over the years,” said Bacon.

“I just want to start by saying what an amazing honor it is to have the opportunity to serve you as the 43rd governor of this great state,” Reynolds said. “I truly believe it is reflective of the opportunities that exist within our two borders.”

Reynolds was on CBS This Morning in New York where the U.S. News and World Report announced that the number one state in the country is Iowa.

“If you work hard and dream big anything is possible in the state and this is a tribute to Iowans who all across the state are working everyday to continue to make things better…It is a reflection and a tribute to Iowans making a difference in communities every single day,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds noted some of the other metric factors that Iowa was ranked in. Iowa was ranked number one in infrastructure, number three in healthcare, number four in opportunity, and number five in education.

“It is just a great marketing tool for us to talk about why this is a good place to stay and raise a family, but when we’re trying to bring new business and industry to the state, to be able to tick off those metrics,” said Reynolds.

Reynolds noted Iowa’s favorable education system and the potential it has to help fill vocational and traditional job gaps throughout the state.

“We were already recognized for having the number one high school graduation rate in the country,” Reynolds said. We have more kids than any other state in the country that are taking community college classes while they’re in high school.”

This is great news, according to Reynolds as this helps keep the cost of higher education down and raises the completion rate for higher education.

“When we talk about unleashing opportunities and really prioritizing the budget, nothing is more important than investing in our children, which are our greatest asset,” Reynolds said. “That begins by making sure that we’re providing K-12 education that prepares our students for the jobs of today and tomorrow.”

Reynolds was proud to note that over the past seven years, K-12 funding has increased. Only three other states have invested a higher amount into K-12 education.

“We’ve put 735 million dollars of new money into K-12 education,” said Reynolds. “We’re investing and we’re making sure that we’re really giving our kids an opportunity to prepare them to be successful once they leave high school.”

It is imperative to focus on ensuring children in Iowa know they have options and career pathways they can take in the future, beginning at the middle school level, according to Reynolds. Whether it’s a certification, two-year degree, apprenticeship or four-year degree. There are multiple routes to a successful career and job opportunities in the state.

“Probably our biggest barrier to economic growth is people and workforce,” Reynolds said. “That’s why we introduced the Future Iowa Ready Act, which really has a goal of having 70 percent of Iowans in the workforce have education or training by the year 2025.”

This connects not only young people in the state, but adult learners to fill jobs in the state.

Reynolds noted Henderson Products, a company in Manchester, who was in dire need of employees. Henderson Products started a program that trained local high school students and taught them how to weld. Thanks to this partnership, 30 students from the high school have since become employed as welders at the company.

“That’s a program that can be scaled and offered anywhere in the state,” Reynolds said. “It could even apply to healthcare and information technology.”

Reynolds hopes to grow Iowa’s economy and ensure the state will be able to compete with neighboring states. An area of improvement to boost the economy would focus on tax reform.

“We’re in a bit a unique situation here in Iowa because we have federal deductibility and what that means is you can deduct your federal taxes from your state taxes,” said Reynolds, “and while that sounds like a really good thing right now, it’s not, because as our federal taxes go down…if we don’t do something at the state level, your state taxes at that same level are going to go up.”

Reynolds has proposed a tax plan that reduces individual income taxes, eliminates federal deductibility and passes those savings on by cutting the rates significantly. Iowa has the fourth highest rate in the country at 8.4 percent. With this proposed plan the rate would be reduced to a 6.9 percent rate.

“It does it in a responsible way with safeguards in place,” said Reynolds. “So if we would stall – if the economy would stall again – it would kind of pause it. But, if it does what we believe it’s going to do, and the economy grows, then it accelerates those tax reductions.”

“I’m confident that we’ll get some kind of a tax reform package to my desk before this legislative session ends,” said Reynolds.

Healthcare was another big topic that Reynolds discussed with event attendees.

“Healthcare is something we’re working on everyday,” said Reynolds. “Whether that’s mental health, Medicaid, the opioid crisis or just affordable healthcare for Iowans.”

“I’m really proud to have as a partner in my administration Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg,” said Reynolds. “He’s doing a phenomenal job.

After Reynolds spoke, Gregg took to the platform.

“It’s important to note that the governor is leading us in the right direction,” Gregg said. “The numbers back it up. We had the number one state in the nation recognition from U.S. News and World Report.”

Gregg reported that there are 63,395 jobs available in the state on the website. He noted cities with a high number of jobs in need of being filled including 500 jobs at Whirlpool in Amana, 100 jobs at Safe Co. Products in Milford, 350 jobs in East Penn Manufacturing in Oelwein and 100 jobs being added in Williamsburg.

“I think this underscores the importance of the Future Ready Iowa Act and making sure that we’re training Iowans to be able to fill all those positions that are available at all skill levels, at all age levels and in every corner of our state,” Gregg said. “Opportunity and success doesn’t just happen without strong leadership at the top.”

Along with good leadership at the top, Gregg noted the importance of developing strong leadership at the local level. Connecting rural Iowans together through high speed internet was an important point to developing new leadership roles, according to Gregg.

“If we want young people to consider living in rural Iowa, they absolutely have to be connected,” said Gregg. “So we’ve got to make sure we do that.”

Reynolds also announced the appointment of current deputy secretary Mike Naig to Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, following the exit of Bill Northey, who has been confirmed for a job with the United States Department of Agriculture.

“I just want to thank you for giving me an amazing opportunity to serve you as the governor of this state,” Reynolds said. “I could not be more proud to represent Iowans and just the great things that are happening every single day in the state of Iowa. So thank you for giving me the opportunity to do that.”

A question and answer portion was held after Reynolds and Gregg had concluded their speeches.