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DES MOINES — Addressing Iowa’s workforce issues is key to having something to celebrate during the state’s “Year of Manufacturing” Gov. Terry Branstad kicked off Monday.

“Workforce, workforce, workforce in that order,” Lori Schaefer-Weaton, president at Agri-Industrial Plastics Co. in Fairfield, said when asked about constraints on Iowa’s advanced manufacturing sector.

Schaefer-Weaton, the board chairwoman for the Association of Business and Industry, also said it’s important to focus on making Iowa business-friendly.

Iowa has the workforce, but “we just have to develop it, we have to train it and we have to make sure that these careers are highlighted,” she said.

Advanced manufacturing careers are challenging and interesting, “and you can be highly successful — highest paid, best benefits, most challenging, Schaefer-Wheaton said during a news conference with Branstad.

Iowa has more than 6,100 manufacturers that contribute more than $29 billion to the state’s economy and employ more than 200,000, according to the governor. In addition, Iowa consistently ranks among the top 10 states in terms of percentage of gross domestic product derived from manufacturing. To strengthen this integral industry, the goal of the Year of Manufacturing initiative aims to increase Iowa’s manufacturing GDP from $29 billion to $32 billion by 2022.

Branstad said other priorities during the Year of Manufacturing are tax reform, promoting innovation and research and development and improving global competitiveness.

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“To spur investment, we cannot just rely on our past or the status quo. We must collaborate to support initiatives,” Branstad said. He launched the Year of Manufacturing “to ramp up our efforts and to demonstrate our commitment to strengthening industry by encouraging innovation, entrepreneurship and investment.”

To help Iowa industries continue to meet challenges, Maureen Lockwood said industries like Thombert Inc. in Newton, where she is manufacturing manager, rely in part on programs available through Iowa State University’s Center for Industrial Research and Service.

“This kind of expertise helps Thombert become more efficient, more productive, and therefore a better part of our community,” Lockwood said.

Branstad didn’t offer specifics, but mentioned the importance of Iowa’s single-factor corporate income tax. It taxes Iowa industries only on their sales in Iowa regardless of how many people they employ or the value of their sales outside of Iowa.

“Even though our rates are the highest in the nation, the fact that we’re a single-factor and a lot of other states aren’t means you can add all the payroll and property in Iowa you want and it doesn’t raise your corporate income tax,” Branstad said. “That’s really important to a lot of these companies like John Deere, DuPont Pioneer, Vermeer, Winnebago, Rockwell Collins.”

For more information on the Year of Manufacturing, visit iowamfg.com.

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Statehouse reporter for The Courier

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