Branstad salutes local economic growth

Gov. Terry Branstad said Monday that the recent economic resurgence in Fort Dodge and Webster County makes the area a leader in growth throughout Iowa.

”One of the stars in the growth that we’ve seen in the last two years is right here – greater Fort Dodge,” he said

Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds spoke during the annual dinner meeting of the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance, which was held at the Best Western Starlite Village Inn & Suites.

Both Branstad and Reynolds said their administration has a narrow focus on three things: creating jobs, reforming education and improving the health of Iowans.

The governor said the expansion of businesses in Webster County is shows what’s possible in the realm of creating jobs.

He said the county has seen $600 million worth of private investment in the last two years.

Branstad named Cargill, CJ Bio America, Land O’Lakes, Calcium Products Inc., BHJ USA Inc., Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica and C & S Products as companies whose expansions have contributed to that investment figure. He also mentioned FedEx Ground, which is planning a package distribution center in the Fort Dodge Industrial Park.

That $600 million investment is part of $5.3 billion worth of private investments statewide in the last two years, according to the governor.

He said that under the leadership of his administration, the way state government conducts economic development work has been completely changed. He replaced the former state Department of Economic Development with the Iowa Economic Development Authority and established a private-public entity, the Partnership for Economic Progress, to work with it.

”It’s paying big dividends for the state,” he said.

The governor and lieutenant governor described their proposals for creating jobs, reforming education and improving the health of all Iowans.

Branstad believes reducing the property tax burden on businesses is a key to creating more jobs. he said his proposal would provide $400 million of ”actual property tax relief.”

The proposal includes fully funding the homestead property tax credit, having the state government provide all of the basic aid to school districts and ensuring that the valuation of all property can grow by no more than 2 percent a year.

His property tax proposal awaits action by the Legislature.

Reynolds said the education reform plan provides new roles for teachers in which they would provide instructional leadership along with principals.It would also raise the minimum starting salary for teachers from $28,000 to $35,000. It would provide yearlong student teaching opportunities and create career or college ready seals graduating seniors could earn with their diplomas.

The state House of Representatives has passed a version of the education reform that makes parts of the program voluntary rather than mandatory. In the Senate, the Education Committee has also approved a version of education reform.

Branstad said his health plan includes a $2 million investment to create more residencies for medical students. It would also create a $2 million program to help pay off the student loans of young doctors who agree to practice in rural areas.