Candidate calls for partnerships

Hubbell: Businesses should help pay for job training

-Messenger photo by Bill Shea Fred Hubbell, right, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for governor, met Wednesday afternoon at Iowa Central Community College, with Jim Kersten, left, the college’s vice president for external relations, left, and college President Dan Kinney.

Creating opportunities for Iowans is a key goal for Fred Hubbell as he seeks the Democratic nomination for governor and job training is part of that effort.

But based on his experience in business and as head of the old Iowa Department of Economic Development, Hubbell sees a need to change some of the state’s job training programs. During a visit to Fort Dodge Wednesday, he said he wants to move toward programs in which businesses spend some of their own money to partner with community colleges.

No businesses, he said, should get free worker training from the state.

Hubbell also criticized tax credits and property tax reductions for businesses which he said are not producing value for the state.

”We need to restore a lot more opportunities for Iowans,” Hubbell said during a visit to Iowa Central Community College. ”For the last few years, we’ve just been reducing opportunities, cutting budgets, cutting funding for education and training. That’s just making it more difficult for more Iowans to have good, successful lives and careers.”

”I want to restore opportunities by putting more investment in education, job training, improving on health care delivery and getting our incomes rising by investing in infrastructure, high speed internet,” he added.

He said it’s possible to make those kinds of investments even with a tight state budget.

”We have a $7.5 billion state budget,” he said. ”There’s money there. It’s just a matter of how you spend it.”

Accompanied by state Rep. Helen Miller, D-Fort Dodge, Hubbell met with Iowa Central President Dan Kinney; Jim Kersten, the college’s vice president of external relations and governmental affairs; and Shelly Blunk, the executive director of economic workforce development and continuing education.

The college officials briefed him on job training initiatives, such as the new Integrated Manufacturing Achievement Program, which teaches both technical skills and the English language.

Blunk explained a program the college has in conjunction with Tyson Foods in Storm Lake in which plant maintenance workers are trained. She said the program takes nine months, but if the company did the training on its own it would take four years for a worker to complete it.

Prestage Foods of Iowa wants that program to train the workers at its plant under construction in Wright County, she said.

Kinney told Hubbell that 70 percent of the jobs in rural Iowa require a certificate or two-year degree rather than a bachelor’s degree.

The candidate didn’t criticize any of the Iowa Central programs, but he did tell the college officials that he wants to eliminate a program educators refer to as 260E because, he said, it amounts to free money to any business for any new jobs. Businesses, he said, need to help pay for job training programs.

”I would like to see our training, in general, move to where the state partners with businesses and educational institutions to provide training that the businesses need to fill the jobs that are open today,” Hubbell said.

During the meeting, Hubbell also criticized the tax credits used to lure data centers, such as the recently announced Apple facility, to Iowa.

Those credits, he said, aren’t producing the value the state needs because the data centers are essentially warehouses that have no suppliers or spinoff businesses that create more jobs.

He also said a reduction in property taxes for businesses hasn’t produced value for the state. He said businesses didn’t expect the tax break, didn’t plan for it and aren’t doing anything different because of it.