2019 Corridor legislative agenda prioritizes workforce, water quality
7 Feb 2019
The Iowa Lakes Corridor Development Corporation debuted its priorities for the 2019 legislative session Wednesday, February 6th in Des Moines.
The Corridor was one of dozens of economic development groups from around Iowa that converged on the capitol city for a joint Legislative Showcase hosted by the Professional Developers of Iowa and Tourism Federation of Iowa. The event attracted many members of the Iowa Senate and House of Representatives.
"PDI and the tourism federation have quite a bit of heft when they come together," said Corridor CEO Kiley Miller, who last year ended a term as co-chair of the Professional Developers of Iowa Legislative Affairs Committee. "They touch just about every county and hundreds of communities across the state. So when they work together it tends to catch the attention of lawmakers."
The Corridor's legislative platform is brief, with only four focus areas. First and foremost, the organization's board of directors are calling on lawmakers to take aggressive steps to answer the state's labor shortage. Recommendations include implementation of career and technical education programs approved by the legislature in recent years, exploration of workforce attraction and retention incentives such as student loan forgiveness for recent college graduates who choose to live in the state, and restoration of the Iowa Workforce Housing Tax Credit that was instrumental in igniting housing construction in Storm Lake.
Continuing on a journey that began with the adoption last year of the Corridor's Statement on Diversity and Inclusion, the board is also urging the legislature to advocate for pro-growth immigration reform.
"We need new policies that make it easier for businesses to find able workers," Miller said. "We want to make it easier for immigrant entrepreneurs to launch businesses in our state and we want international students who graduate from our colleges and universities to be able to stay and make Iowa their homes."
Looking beyond workforce, the Corridor agenda calls for an increase in the state sales tax of 3/8 cents to support the Natural Resource and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund, a move that voters approved back in 2010 but legislators have yet to enact.
"Northwest Iowa stands to be a big winner when the state finally gets additional money for water quality and natural resources," Miller said.
Budget increases for the Iowa Economic Development Authority and Iowa Workforce Development also made the priority list, as did continuation of the backfill paid to local governments by the state to make up for revenues lost when lawmakers reduced taxes on commercial property.
"Rural economic development only works if our state partners are strong and if our cities and counties are vital and thriving," Miller said.