December gives us a chance to close the books on 2013. As I look back on the past year and review what the Legislature was able to come together and accomplish, I am pleased about the strong bi-partisan work that was done to strengthen middle class.
Plenty of attention is given to big pieces of legislation but there are less talked about initiatives that have a significant impact on our state. Even if they do not grab headlines, these things contribute to our efforts to increase opportunities for Iowans.
This year we focused on empowering the next generation of Iowans by investing in education. We enabled the ability to create entrepreneurial education accounts so that students can develop skills related to starting and running a business. We fought to keep college education accessible by freezing tuition at our state universities. That is something that had not happened in decades.
We also had a number of items that should help ensure there are opportunities for young Iowans to stay here. The beginning farmer program was expanded to help the next generation continue the legacy of agricultural leadership in Iowa. A targeted small business program will make microloans available to the small businesses that are the backbone of our communities and engines of growth.
To increase opportunities for today’s workers, we must address the skills gap. This year we provided over $10 million for new initiatives that offer education and training for Iowa’s workers. This investment will help Iowans get the training they need to access new careers. The more progress we make in developing a skilled workforce, the more we will enable job growth and high-paying careers.
Too often I hear from a company who wants to hire but is having trouble finding qualified workers to fill the job. When the problem becomes more serious, a business owner can feel like they need to move the jobs out of the state. We need to make sure that does not happen.
Investing in better-educated graduates and better-trained adults is a smart way to let everyone know that Iowa is committed to providing the best workforce in the country. When we do that, opportunities in communities large and small with abound. Those opportunities are critical to strengthening our middle class and must always be a focus for us in the Legislature.
I think we have made progress in 2013, and we need to build on that in 2014. This holiday season, be safe, stay warm and have a Merry Christmas!
I appreciate hearing from you. Please don’t hesitate to contact me with your thoughts and feedback at 515-281-4618 or Linda.Upmeyer@legis.iowa.gov.