DES MOINES — Workforce development and preservation of growth-oriented tax credits are at the top of the list of legislative goals for the Iowa Chamber Alliance, which represents the state’s largest communities.
“Anything that we can do to fund and accelerate Future Ready Iowa goals I think is very important to our economy,” said Doug Neumann, executive director of the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance. He was in Des Moines for the introduction Wednesday of the alliance’s 2019 legislative goals and for discussions with Gov. Kim Reynolds and legislative leaders.
“When you look at the construction activity around Cedar Rapids and our metro area, a lot of that has been dependent on good, responsible use of tax credits,” he said. “The preservation of the tax credit programs that drive growth are very important.”
The governor and legislative leaders who addressed the alliance were, for the most part, on board with the group’s goals of making the state tax code more competitive, investing in job-creating programs and workforce development as well as water, transportation and broadband infrastructure, and doing a cost-benefit analysis of state rules and regulations.
“We do align very well,” the GOP governor said. “It is a great time for business in Iowa. We have been recognized for everything from how our state is run to the productivity of our workforce to the quality of life.”
Her 99-county tour of the state gave her a look at “the stories and the momentum and progress that is taking place,” and also revealed barriers that prevent every community from sharing in that progress, she said.
However, Sen. Bill Dotzler, D-Waterloo, who has spent 22 years on the legislative economic development committees, said the state tax code isn’t the biggest problem facing businesses and communities.
It’s the “lack of talent across this state to meet ever-changing needs of business,” Dotzler said. “The technological advancement that is occurring right now across the nation and here in Iowa is shocking.”
So he is pushing for more investment in workforce development. That includes funding the governor’s Future Ready Iowa, added Rep. Brian Best, R-Glidden, chairman of the Iowa House Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee.
“If we hope to attract and retain high-tech, good-paying skilled jobs, we have to continue to make investment in education,” House Minority Leader Todd Prichard, D-Charles City, said.
“I echo the need for investment in education and key infrastructure,” Prichard continued. But “don’t get me going on broadband,” he said, which the lawmakers agreed is another priority for the 2019 session that begins next month.
The Chamber Alliance is optimistic about the prospects for its legislative agenda in 2019, Neumann said. Although it represents Iowa’s 16 largest communities, “certainly there’s nothing in our agenda that would be contradictory to the health and growth of the entire state,” he said.