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The Courtney Report

When looking ahead to the 2013 session of the Iowa Legislature, continuing to create jobs and grow Iowa’s economy tops my priority list.

We need to do what we can to help more Iowans recover from the national recession. Ensuring that workers can get the training they need must be part of our statewide effort.

This is important because the current skill shortage is proving to be a serious drag on Iowa’s economy. By 2018, 62 percent of all jobs in Iowa—1.1 million jobs—will require some training or education beyond high school. Yet nearly 10 percent of Iowa’s working-age adults do not have a high school diploma.

By investing now in worker training and retraining, we can make sure Iowans are ready to step into new jobs as the economy rebounds.

Last year, we took a step in the right direction by approving the biggest single-year increase in state general aid to community colleges. We also created new opportunities to earn non-credit skill certificates and launched the new Skilled Workforce Shortage Tuition Grant, also known as “Kibbie Grants.” (More on the grants below!)

Here are other ways we can invest in Iowans and in Iowa businesses:

• Cutting commercial property taxes for every Iowa business, especially for small businesses.

• Cutting taxes for working families struggling to make ends meet, thereby boosting the local economy.

• Making it more likely that Iowa and U.S. companies will get state and local government contracts when their bids are cost competitive.

We’ve made bipartisan progress on these issues in the last couple of years. My hope for 2013 is that we’ll keep working together and take some big steps forward.

The new legislative session starts on January 14. Please tell me what you think should be done to boost economic growth and job creation here in Iowa. Call or e-mail me with your ideas.

NEW WORKFORCE GRANT HELPS IOWANS GET JOB TRAINING
Iowa ranks 13th in overall business friendliness but only 40th when it comes to labor supply. That’s why I’m working to help Iowans get the skills they need to fill in-demand jobs.

Iowa’s agricultural manufacturers need more welders, and Iowa businesses in almost every field can’t find enough people to run computers and manage software. When employers can’t find the skilled workers they need in Iowa, they lose business to competitors, hire people from another state or some other country to do the work, or move their business out of Iowa.

By 2018, 62 percent of all jobs in Iowa will require some training or education beyond high school. In addition to credentials, employers need workers with the professional skills necessary to succeed in the workplace, such as dependability, time management and initiative.

That’s why I fought this year for $5 million in Skilled Workforce Shortage Tuition Grants for students attending Iowa’s community colleges. Senate File 2321, approved by the Legislature and signed by the Governor, provides grants to Iowans studying full- or part-time at one of our community colleges and are in need of financial help to cover their tuition. Grants are awarded for study in areas where Iowa doesn’t have enough workers with the right skills.

About 4,500 students are eligible for the grants this school year. The maximum Skilled Workforce Shortage Tuition Grant is $2,040 for eligible Iowa students who enroll on a full-time basis during the 2012-13 academic year. Grants for full-time students are intended to cover one-half of the average tuition and fees at Iowa community colleges.

A complete summary of the Skilled Workforce Shortage Tuition Grant is available at http://tinyurl.com/SWSTG. For a list of the areas of study eligible for these grants, check out pages 7-10. To find out which programs are available at Southeastern Community College and Eastern Iowa Community College, contact the financial aid offices.

NEWS YOU CAN USE
Donate to your local food bank this holiday season
Over the holidays, Iowans will be gathering around the dinner table to celebrate with family and friends.

But for many Iowans, it’s a real struggle to put food on the table each day. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 12 percent of Iowa households often lack enough food, or must choose between buying food or buying medicine and other essentials. That means thousands of Iowa children and seniors are not getting the food they need.

During the 2012 session, legislators worked together to make sure Iowans have enough to eat by making a modest $500,000 investment in Iowa’s food banks. Our idea passed the House and Senate with overwhelming support but was vetoed by Governor Branstad.

In the meantime, Iowans have faced rising food prices and food banks have seen an increase in the number of Iowans in need.

With about a billion dollars in our savings accounts, Iowa’s state budget is in good shape. When the 2013 session rolls around in January, we ought to take another look at how we can help our food banks feed hungry Iowans. It’s the right thing to do.

During this season of giving, let’s all pitch in to stock the shelves of our local food banks and make sure no Iowan goes hungry. Please join me in supporting our community food banks and local charities.

Nominate an employer for the Support Freedom Award
Through January 17, nominations are being accepted for the Employer Support Freedom Award. This annual award, presented by the Secretary of Defense, is the highest recognition given by the U.S. Government to employers who show outstanding support for employees serving in the Guard and Reserve.

Almost one-half of the U.S. military is comprised of the Guard and Reserve. The Department of Defense shares these citizen warriors with their civilian employers, who often go to great lengths to support employees who serve our country. Do you know an employer who fits this bill? What sets them apart from others?

Any Guard or Reserve member can nominate their employer. If a service member does not have access to submit a nomination, a family member can nominate the service member’s employer on their behalf. For more details on the award or to nominate a great employer, go to https://esgr.csd.disa.mil/fa/NominateYourEmployerView.aspx.

Online resources for Iowa entrepreneurs
Thinking of starting or expanding a business?

Entrepreneurs have a new online business tool to assist them in developing their products and ideas. IASourceLink.com is a one-stop shop to help Iowans access the technical and financial resources that best meet their business needs. In addition, MyEntre.Net, a service of the University of Northern Iowa, provides timely, expert webinars, blogs and resources dedicated to Iowa small businesses.

Take advantage of expert help with these great online resources available to Iowans—and get your business idea off the ground.

Contact Tom
CAPITOL:
Iowa Statehouse
Des Moines, IA 50319
515-281-3371

HOME:
2609 Clearview Drive
Burlington, IA 52601
319-759-5334

tom.courtney@legis.iowa.gov

www.senate.iowa.gov/courtney

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