Governor sees Greene County as leader on veterans job plan
By DOUGLAS BURNS
Gov. Terry Branstad Tuesday commended Greene County for taking a lead local role on implementing a state initiative to recruit returning American military men and women to Iowa for jobs.
“We appreciate the leadership of Greene County, and we hope many other communities and counties will follow your lead,” Branstad said during a news conference at the State Capitol announcing community- and business-related components of Home Base Iowa.
The governor rolled out the over-arching plan three weeks ago at Camp Dodge. On Tuesday, Branstad described how cities and counties and businesses can earn designations as veteran friendly through jobs and housing programs, as well as other efforts.
Joining the governor at the Capitol event Tuesday, Ken Paxton, executive director of the Greene County Development Corporation, said the county and Jefferson stand poised to play a supporting role in the Home Base Iowa initiative with jobs, incentives and housing opportunities for America’s veterans.
“When a veteran is looking at coming back to Iowa to support the program we’re hoping he’ll look at Greene County and Jefferson and easily find out the jobs that are there, the incentives that are there and the housing that’s there — all in one place, in one central location, and easy to get access to,” Paxton said. “We are extremely happy and supportive of the governor’s initiative. We want to be a part of that. We’ll do everything we can to be front and center in that effort. We’ve got a lot of good people in our city and county.”
A White House report says each year the military separates between 240,000 and 360,000 service members — and that the services are “expected to separate a million service members over the next several years.”
Branstad said Iowans have a responsibility to these veterans — professionals who also have the training to make enormous contributions in the state.
“We want veterans to know that Iowans can provide them with not just a job, but a career in a caring welcoming community,” Branstad said.
Branstad said Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds and other members of his administration met with White House officials and U.S. Chamber of Commerce about possible partnerships with Home Base Iowa.
One key element of the initiative is transitioning trained veterans and their spouses into licensed private-sector positions.
“Several states have taken action on this, and we want to,” Branstad said.
Branstad also noted that the University of Iowa was recently named by U.S. News & World Report as the sixth-best university for veterans.
The word is spreading that Iowa is a state with options for veterans, Branstad said.
“Though we haven’t spent a dime, yet, on advertising or marketing, our phones are really ringing,” Branstad said.
In Greene County, a countywide Veterans Jobs and Career Task Force led by a number of businesspeople and former military veterans has been meeting for well over a month to leverage elements of the developing state plan. The goal: recruit veterans and their families for up to 1,000 jobs Greene County officials expect will be available in the next three to five years.
“I’m happy to be here and also very, very supportive of what the governor has started on this program,” Paxton said. “We’re really happy and fortunate to be a part of this — and we’re going to everything we can to be as supportive as we can.”
Greene County expects to need the new employees in the next three to five years as Scranton Manufacturing, Greene County Medical Center and other organizations grow. A proposed Wild Rose casino on the northwest side of the community would provide more than 250 jobs.
Home Base Iowa dovetails with Greene County’s employment needs, Paxton said.
“We decided to take a proactive stance and start going after it immediately,” Paxton said. “The reason for that is Jefferson and Greene County are extremely fortunate. We’re kind of in a growth spurt right now. We have anywhere from 800 to 1,000 jobs coming in the next couple of years, and this initiative fit with us really strongly because we need new employees.”
The Greene County task force is developing a system in which information and contacts related to available jobs will be accessible at a centralized point in the county.
“One of our selling points is: ‘Come to our county for two jobs, not one,’” Paxton said. “Both a husband and wife can come, and we can handle both of you.”
Greene County banks are expected to eliminate closing costs on certain housing loans for veterans. Additionally, Paxton said, the county has a housing development program aimed at recruiting veterans.
“I’ve met with every city council in our county, and I’ve told them I want a really detailed inventory of everything you’ve got available for sale, rent or lease,” Paxton said.
In an exchange with the media, Branstad said Greene County is well-positioned as a jobs provider regardless of whether a planned casino is developed.
“John Deere just bought a company in Greene County that makes corn planters, that’s been a very signficant growing company,” Branstad said. “And there’s other good manufacturing jobs that are also growing in Greene County so it’s not just the opportunity with the new casino, but it’s many other things that are going on in Greene County.”