Iowa’s 20 largest companies have inked an agreement with state officials and a national group that draws up disaster-preparedness plans. Max Phillips, the president of Qwest’s Iowa operations, is also president of the Iowa Business Council which represents Iowa’s largest employers. Phillips says the job of a business leader has changed significantly during the past few years.
"Today, much time and many resources are devoted to making sure the operations of the business — its products or services and its employees — are safe," Phillips says. "These are lessons that floods and tornadoes and terrorists have taught us and such preparations are vital. Preparations in isolation are weak." The non-profit "Business Executives for National Security" is headed by retired General Charles Boyd, who happens to be a native of Rockwell City, Iowa. The "Safeguard Iowa" project will be similar to efforts in Kansas City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Georgia and Massachusetts and Boyd says he’s extremely optimistic about Iowa joining that list.
"I believe this state is a critical state in the overall security of the nation — the protection of your food supply here," Boyd says. "…The whole concept of agroterrorism is one that bothers me greatly as it does I think everyone who seriously thinks about homeland security."
Iowa Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge says it’s all about being prepared for natural or man-made disasters.
"These businesses in the partnership will help the state by sharing their expertise and giving us resources and capabilities to manage disasters that may occur," Judge says. The security chiefs at Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids and Principal Financial in Des Moines will lead the initiative.
Former Governor Tom Vilsack set the ball rolling about a year ago. He says the private sector has an important role to play in security issues. "Iowans have to understand that there’s a lot going on in our state that requires us to be very vigilant," Vilsack says. "…We have some of the largest financial institutions in not just the nation but in the world headquartered and located in our state…We have a significant role to play in providing not just the food supply for our nation but for the world."
State officials say they are working through concerns from business leaders worried about sharing proprietary information and keeping it confidential.