Dickinson County seeks to join Home Base Iowa Initiative

26 Aug 2015

News Release

The Iowa Lakes Corridor hopes Dickinson County is soon an attractive destination for military veterans.

Efforts are underway to designate the northwest Iowa county as a "Home Base Iowa" county.

In 2013, Governor Terry Branstad and Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds created the Home Base Iowa program to help veterans adjust to life following military service. Two northwest Iowa counties -- Clay and Emmet -- have already achieved Home Base designation.

Home Base Iowa counties make benefits available for veterans including job opportunities, housing or rental assistance and incentive packages.

"I think it is very important to work on this initiative, bringing it to the Iowa Lakes Corridor and our employers in northwest Iowa," Corridor business retention and workforce partnership coordinator Joanne Follon said. "These veterans are exactly what employers are looking for. They are looking for individuals who have the training, the skill-sets, the work ethic that they want to bring into their businesses."

As part of the program, 10 percent of the county's businesses must agree to hire and employ veterans -- which breaks down to roughly 85 Dickinson County businesses making that pledge.

The county must also support the Skilled Iowa initiative for national career-readiness.

"I think it's really important that we look at Home Base Iowa as just one more tool to employ good candidates for open positions within our companies," Follon said.

Home Base Iowa also requires counties to establish incentive packages for local veterans.

"Those packages could include businesses in the region offering perhaps a discount to veterans if they purchase certain things," Follon said. "It could be a golf outing or, in other counties, they have done utility or rental assistance packages."

Clay County offers veterans free hotel lodging during business interviews, YMCA passes, Clay County Fair tickets and various gift certificates. Emmet County offers gym memberships, laundry services, education assistance and tax exemptions.

Buena Vista County is moving toward designation next month. Follon and her colleagues are working hard to get the word out to Dickinson County companies.

The Spirit Lake and Iowa Great Lakes Chamber of Commerce have both been in touch with the Corridor and the area's city governments. Follon has also spoke with Spirit Lake city administrator Gregg Owens about ways to get businesses involved.

"The Corridor continues to promote the initiative through our newsletter and we have sent out a notice to all the businesses in the county explaining the program," Follon said. "We have worked very hard to put the information out there."

A volunteer committee was created to help promote the initiative locally as well. Follon works closely with the volunteers to monitor progress.

"I think currently, we have about 30 (Dickinson County) businesses signed on," Follon said. "We still have a good 50, if not more, get on board. We will work very, very hard in September."

Since becoming a Home Base Iowa county, Clay County has hired one veteran and is nearing a second hire.

Once Dickinson County reaches Home Base Iowa designation, the Corridor will achieve recognition as a Home Base Region.

Follon believes a Home Base Iowa designation for Dickinson County will only improve the economy.

"It's not going to solve all of our employment needs, but I think the ones that we do hire through the Home Base Iowa program are going to be very, very strong and good candidates for our employers," Follon said.

Story via Dickinson County News.