By invitation from LaVon Schiltz, Iowa’s governor, Kim Reynolds, and Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg paid a visit to rural Nevada Thursday to speak with members of this year’s Leadership Nevada class.
It was the second time that Schiltz, executive director of Nevada’s Economic Development Council, has invited Reynolds to speak in Nevada as part of the NEDC’s Leadership Nevada session that focuses on local industry and economic development initiatives.
The informal sitdown luncheon and talk were hosted at Bill and Nancy Couser’s cattle company, in a rustic, ag-decorated room above one of Couser’s machine sheds. The Cousers had prepared a meal of chili, cheese and noodles, along with other farm favorite treats, and while people ate, Bill gave a presentation on how ethanol is made and about the many federal and state leaders who have received a specially designed display of bottles that show the process from corn all the way to ethanol.
During their visit with the approximately 20 class members, Reynolds and Gregg were able to highlight their excitement about several things going on in the state, which Reynolds said is full of positive news right now. “We have a lot of really positive things happening in Iowa.” Among some current statistics she listed: Iowa is the third best managed state in the country, Iowa has the second lowest cost of doing business in the country, Iowa is the number-one affordable living state for middle class families and Iowa has the number-one graduation rate.
In talking about education and answering a few questions from class members about how Iowa can remain committed to its public schools, Reynolds shared her pride that $735 million in new money has been committed to K-12 education in the past seven years. “We’re significantly investing in education,” she said, noting that she’s proposed another 1-and-a-half percent (increase) for education in her current budget proposal as part of what she described as another “very tight budget.”
Reynolds also shared her excitement about the Future Ready Iowa program that will help prepare young people for the workforce. “The biggest barrier to economic growth right now … is work force,” she said. “The goal of Future Ready Iowa is to have 70 percent (of young people) having education and training beyond high school.”
Gregg commented on Iowa’s very low 2.8 percent unemployment rate, which he said is the fifth lowest in the country, and also listed several companies that are adding jobs in various locations around the state at this time. In looking at the number of opportunities for employment across the state, one number — 60,305 — “really captures it,” he said. “That’s the number of jobs available today at iowajobs.org website. And that’s 60,000 opportunities available at all different skill levels and all different wage levels all across the state. I think it underscores the importance of Future Ready Iowa Act… to make sure we’re training Iowans to fill those positions that we know are available.”
Among the other things mentioned by Gov. Reynolds were:
• Next week a bill will be filed to restructure Iowa’s tax system, taking away federal deductibility, which, with recent federal tax changes, is no longer a benefit for Iowans.
• When asked about whether the state is helping with situations like DuPont, Reynolds assured that the state is committed to helping try to find new companies to come in for all communities that have these types of business losses, including the DuPont loss. Schiltz also noted that she and Nevada City Administrator Matt Mardesen were on the phone last week with a company possibly interested in that facility.
• She said there will be continued attention to mental health care in Iowa, including setting up access centers for mental health around the state…so that “people have somewhere to go (for that care) and then get back home.”
• She commented that she’s happy with what the present administration in Washington, D.C., is doing by giving a lot of accountability back to the states.
• She said that staying positive and talking about the good things going on in communities and the state are very important. She said if people want to help grow rural Iowa, they can do that by growing leadership, exactly like what the Leadership Nevada class participants are doing in Nevada.