U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, visits the new Greene County High School in Jefferson on Aug. 20, where he met tech students and took questions from local development leaders and others. ANDREW McGINN | JEFFERSON HERALD

Grassley in Jefferson celebrates tech jobs and new high school

By DOUGLAS BURNS

d.burns@carrollspaper.com

U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, added his name to powerful bipartisan support for the continued advancement of a software-development company in Jefferson as the Senate Finance Committee chairman joined U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., and Gov. Kim Reynolds, an Iowa Republican, as touting Accenture’s Forge as a catalyst for rural development.

Grassley toured the Jefferson Forge, located on the northeast side of the Square, on Aug. 20 along with a representative from Accenture, which hopes to have more training in the modern facility in early 2021 tied to a pipeline of talent from the global company itself and Des Moines Area Community College and Iowa Central Community College.

DMACC is about to announce major scholarships for computer languages degrees and training from a California donor close to Khanna.

“I think there is a heightened sense of possibility with Accenture, which is exactly what we need,” said Chris Deal, a Greene County economic development leader whose own science and engineering background has helped attract more high-tech interest to Jefferson, a community Khanna, who represents Silicon Valley, has all but adopted as a far-flung annex to his well-heeled district.

In the private tour, Grassley expressed his excitement that a company with interest in larger cities would commit to rural America, Deal said.

The Forge at capacity could employ up to 40 people in high-paying careers, Deal said.

Grassley later went to the developing Greene County High School and Iowa Central Career Academy.

Earlier, on Aug. 19, Grassley met with regional development officials in Carroll.

The final construction of another round of federal relief for COVID-19-ravaged businesses continues to grind in the gears of Congress.

But one Carroll company received a major boost in its appeal for relief as Grassley  said he would support a $10 billion aid package for charter bus companies, school bus manufacturers and other passenger vessel services.

It’s been a major local issue as Windstar Lines, one of the nation’s leading motorcoach companies, is located in Carroll.

“I will co-sponsor your bill,” Grassley told Windstar President Jeff Greteman.

Windstar has lost up to 97 percent of its business during the pandemic, and Greteman said challenges continue every day.

“Our business isn’t getting much better,” Greteman said.

Grassley said the fate of more relief is in the hands of congressional leaders and the Trump administration.

The senior senator has made the case for motorcoach companies to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, a key figure in the negotiating.

“Actually, it’s probably the second or third commitment I’ve made to that because I’ve given a speech on the floor of the United States Senate that they should not have been overlooked,” Grassley said. “And I’ve talked to the secretary of treasury about it. Adding my name to the bill is just kind of continuing the support they have already had.”

Grassley said the motorcoach business is important for a host of reasons.

“It’s nice to have people like that around when you have natural disasters, particularly hurricanes. You have to move people away,” Grassley said. “They are a ready asset to do that.”

Then there are low-income travelers who cannot afford trains and airplanes, Grassley said.

Grassley met with about 20 business leaders at the Santa Maria Winery in downtown Carroll.

Windstar’s issues during the pandemic emerged as among the most urgent.

Carroll Area Development Corp. Executive Director Shannon Landauer said the Grassley session stems in part from a yearslong CADC effort to build relationships with federal and state legislators.

“It is great to have Senator Grassley bring the Washington conversation back here to Iowa,” Landauer said. “We like to hear directly from him about his efforts, and today was no exception in hearing him firmly offer his support and co-sponsorship of the bill to provide support to Windstar Lines and their industry as a whole. 

“We say it all the time, and today proves that maintaining relationships with our legislative delegation in good times provides us with an open line of communication through our challenging times.”

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