An effort to make Webster County, along with several nearby counties, an attractive place for veterans to live and work is beginning.
It calls for making nine counties a part of the state government’s new Home Base Iowa initiative. As part of the effort, businesses would pledge to hire more veterans and local governments would provide incentives to attract former service members.
In addition to Webster County, the counties involved are Calhoun, Hamilton, Hardin, Humboldt, Kossuth, Palo Alto, Pocahontas and Wright. Together, they comprise an economic development entity called the Mid-Iowa Growth Partnership.
The Home Base Iowa initiative was discussed by local leaders Thursday during a meeting at Fort Frenzy, 3232 First Ave. S.
“I’m really excited by what I heard today,” Dan Lewandowski, Webster County veterans affairs director, said following the meeting.
Fort Dodge City Councilman Kim Alstott called the effort “something we really need for the future of Fort Dodge.”
Home Base Iowa was proposed by Gov. Terry Branstad as a way to build up the state’s supply of skilled workers. The program received widespread support from lawmakers, who approved it during this year’s legislative session. Among other things, the initiative exempts military retirement pay from the state income tax.
“We want those veterans to return to Iowa or to remain in Iowa,” state Sen. Daryl Beall, D-Fort Dodge, said during Thursday’s meeting.
“They’re a skilled work force for our businesses and employers and our area,” he added. “They have leadership skills. They have technical skills. They will continue to serve their communities just as they served their country.”
Beall is the chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, which he said is the least partisan panel in the Senate.
Kathy Anderson, the state’s project manager for Home Base Iowa, explained details of the program.
There are four main requirements for becoming a Home Base Iowa community:
Placement of signs announcing the Home Base Iowa community.
Local government support.
A commitment from at least 10 percent of the community’s businesses.
Incentives to attract veterans.
Greene County has already been designated a Home Base Iowa community. Ken Paxton, the executive director of Greene County Chamber & Development, said local leaders realized last fall that a lot of new jobs were being created and there wasn’t enough people to fill them. He said they viewed the Home Base Iowa program as the way to fill those jobs.
According to Paxton, 80 percent of the county’s businesses are involved.
He said veterans can complete a “generic job application” online which is then forwarded to several employers in Greene County. He said that gives veterans a chance to apply for multiple jobs at one time.
Paxton said banks in Greene County will waive mortgage closing costs for veterans buying houses.
In Webster County, a committee that includes representatives of the Fort Dodge and county governments, the MIDAS Council of Governments, Iowa Central Community College and Iowa Workforce Development is working on a Home Base Iowa plan.