The Iowa Chamber Alliance released its legislative goals for the upcoming session. ICA executive director, John Stineman, says one of their key goals is to improve the Iowa workforce.
“It’s really our fundamental issue this year, and it’s come to a boiling point,” Stineman says. “We need to take a look and make sure we have a cohesive strategy going forward. We have some pretty serious issues right now with the workforce and if we get them right, we can really double down and expand on our economic opportunity. And if we don’t, there’s some real risk.”
Stineman says the first key is to ensure Iowa students graduating from high school and college are ready to either enter the workforce or go onto the next level of education to improve their skills.
“Number two, we need to upscale our workforce and address the skills gap. We need fewer low skilled workers, we need them up to the middle skill and high scale jobs to help drive our economy in the 21st century,” according to Stineman. “We need to make sure Iowa is an attractive place where people want to come so we can work on our rather flat population growth.”
The IBC is made up of the 16 largest chambers of commerce in the state and he says those leaders are also interested in improving the state’s tax system. “We’re concerned about Iowa’s tax complexity and we do feel like there is an opportunity for Iowa to compete a little bit stronger by simplifying and reducing our corporate and individual income taxes,” he explains. “We’re looking at some different economic development incentives we think would provide Iowa with some unique opportunities, including some renewable biochemical incentives.”
Stineman says they remain concerned about the states infrastructure and the need to provide more money to fix roads and bridges. He says the recent talks about coming up with a solution are encouraging. “I would say we’re cautiously optimistic. We’re seeing a very reasonable dialogue on the issue of the fuel tax. I think there’s a growing recognition that there’s a need and we are not going to get there on our current path,” Stineman says. He says they want to see the continued improvement of broadband service as part of the improving infrastructure.
Stineman says they are looking at these issues with the understanding that the ag sector and lower commodity prices have had an impact on the state’s economy. “There’s is an expectation that this could be a potentially tighter budget year and we are going to wait and see what those final numbers are. But we are coming into it with a realistic expectation. The one thing that we would want to make sure happens — even in a tight budget year — that those economic development incentives are fully and appropriately funded, so we get that return on investment from economic growth that ultimately helps those tax receipts,” Stineman says.
You can find out more about the ICA on its website at: www.iowachamberalliance.com.