When I talk with the people of House District 75, one of the questions I’m asked is what is the most pressing issue facing the state. That is such a difficult question because, as you might have guessed, everyone has a different opinion. However, the one thing I hear from voters, legislators and community leaders is the issue of rural development in our state.

The easy answer on this issue, and one I hear far too often, is to say that you recognize the issue but that there just isn’t anything significant we can do to address it. I don’t believe this.

I believe we are facing a very critical juncture in our state. Are we going to bury our heads in the sand and ignore the shrinking populations of rural Iowa or are we going to finally put forth serious efforts towards tackling the issue head on?

I am a co-sponsor on a piece of legislation that identifies communities in rural Iowa that don’t need a hand out but instead need to be treated fairly. Rural Iowa should have an opportunity to compete for the same or similar benefits that seem to always land in our largest cities and counties.

House File 468 is a bill that requires half of the state’s economic development tax credits to be used in rural Iowa. In targeted communities meeting the following criteria:

* population under 15,000

* proximity to a 4 lane highway or interstate road systems,

* contain a community college within it to train a workforce

These communities too often can’t compete with the big cities when it comes to applying for incentives or wooing business and industry. Some of that is due to economic development strategies that don’t focus on our areas of state. I envision a system where our state has regional hubs of economic development that serve as economic generators for the towns, communities and counties surrounding them.

I recognize that developing business in Benton County isn’t as easy as Polk County but we have to be willing to put in the hard work to save rural Iowa. We must recognize Iowa’s heritage and long history of rural and urban success. Both can happen using this new approach.

Look back to where you grew up. Some of you may still live in the same town you were born in while some of you may have moved to larger towns. But one thing we all have in common is remembering where we came from and the want to strengthen and protect those areas. This isn’t the same old song about keeping the best and brightest in our rural comminutes but instead is a plan to give an opportunity to your son or daughter to come back home and be a part of a thriving main street and a reinvigorated school district.

I see this as a vision for what we are capable of. There is bipartisan interest and the legislature can no longer ignore this issue. With the help of economic development professionals, our business leaders and the great people of Iowa, I know we can positively impact the direction of rural Iowa and make it a success story and a legacy we can leave to our children and grandchildren.



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