News Archive

2015 Legislative Briefings and Legislative Priorities

As the Iowa Legislature begins the 1st Session of the 86th General Assembly on Monday, January 12th, the Washington Chamber of Commerce gets ready to host its annual series of monthly Legislative Briefings. These public meetings are held in the Courtroom at the Washington County Courthouse, 222 West Main St.

  • Saturday, January 17, 10:00am - Noon
  • Saturday, February 21, 10:00am - Noon
  • Saturday, March 21, 10:00am - Noon 

Washington County is split into two House districts and two Senate districts, although just slightly. The following Legislators are invited to participate:

  • REP. JARAD KLEIN (R), District #78
    • Committees: Ag (Vice Chair), Environmental Protection, Labor, Public Safety, Ag & Natural Resources Appropriations (Vice Chair)
  • REP. DAVE HEATON (R), District #84
    • Committees: Appropriations, Ethics, Human Resources, Judiciary, Health & Human Services Appropriations (Chair)
    • Sign up for Heaton's email newsletter here
  • SENATOR RICH TAYLOR (D), District #42
    • Committees: Agriculture, Economic Growth, Local Government, Judiciary, Transportation, Justice Systems Appropriations
    • Sign up for Taylor's email newsletter here
  • SENATOR KEVIN KINNEY (D), District #39
    • Committees: Ag, Education, Government Oversight, Judiciary, Nat'l Resources & Environment, Ag & Na'tl Resources Appropriations
    • Sign up for Kinney's email newsletter here

To help people get into the local legislative mood, I'm including the Legislative agenda for the statewide economic development association (PDI - Professional Developers of Iowa), as well as links to legislative priorities for a number of other associations and organizations. You can look back at the 2013 and 2014 lists too.



TAX INCREMENT FINANCING – PDI supports TIF and opposes efforts to weaken this important and flexible local economic development tool.  New TIF reporting requirements adopted by the legislature in 2012 provide the public access to more information on local use of TIF, and any proposed changes to TIF would be unwise prior to both in-depth analysis of a multi-year sampling of that data, and an analysis of the effects of the 2013 property tax reform legislation on local government revenues.

WORKFORCE – The biggest obstacles to growth identified by PDI members are related to workforce availability and quality and access to innovative training that is responsive to a rapidly changing workplace.  Iowa’s ability to address these challenges depends upon adequate funding and proper alignment of services to strengthen our knowledge based economy.

STATE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT RESOURCES – Iowa’s ability to attract or induce economic growth to create jobs and increase wealth is directly related to the reliability and sustainability of resources for use by the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) and other partnering departments. PDI supports fully funding Authority business incentives appropriations requests as well as appropriate administrative needs.  The State can also assist these efforts by reducing regulatory impediments to business growth. 

TRANSPORTATION INFRASTRUCTURE – Iowa’s transportation infrastructure is deteriorating and requires more investment to ensure that our state’s roads, railways, air services and recreational trails are assets and not impediments to economic growth.  PDI supports exploring alternative revenue sources, including a dedicated gas tax increase into the Road Use Tax Fund (RUTF).

INCOME TAX REFORM – Improve Iowa’s competitiveness by creating a simpler income tax structure for both corporate and personal income taxes.  Corporate and personal income taxes should be uniformly adjusted downward.  The Governor and the Legislature should also end federal deductibility and accomplish this without shifting the tax burden between brackets.

HOUSING - Housing needs in rural communities are limiting growth opportunity in those areas.  The Legislature and the Governor should raise the cap on workforce housing tax incentives and ensure that their use does not count against other tax credit programs managed by the IEDA.

SMALL BUSINESS & ENTREPRENEURSHIP SUPPORT – Direct technical assistance to entrepreneurs and start-up companies is key to growing Iowa’s economy.  The Legislature should provide adequate funding for small business development and economic gardening programs to foster entrepreneurial endeavors.

BROADBAND EXPANSION – The continued development of broadband across the state is vital to existing and new businesses. PDI supports efforts to incentivize expansion of broadband through investments in technology advancement and expanded telecommunication infrastructure.


Washington Area Performing Arts and Events Center awarded $800,000 by Vision Iowa

The Vision Iowa Board of Directors today made an award of $800,000 to the Washington Area Performing Arts and Events Center project.

The 700 seat, ADA accessible theater facility is to be attached to the Washington High School building, which opened in 2013. The total projected cost of the facility is $7.2 million. The $800,000 Vision Iowa award is 11% of the total project.

Additionally, the project had been awarded $2.5 million from the Washington County Riverboat Foundation in 2013. A $1.1 million Washington School District bond referendum was approved by the voters in 2014. Over $2.5 million has been raised from individuals, businesses, the City of Washington, Washington County, the Brinton Trust, Washington Betterment Foundation, and other sources.

There is a remaining gap of $400,000 needed to fully fund the project.  Private fund raising will continue in order to close this financing gap. The project’s next steps are to finalize the design, and for the Washington School District to seek bids in early 2015.

Check out their YouTube video.

The Washington Betterment Foundation has been the sponsoring organization for the project development. Jan Gallagher and Bob Youngquist are the project co-chairs. The Renaissance Group is the fund raising/resource development partner in the project, and Katherine Ollendieck coordinated the Vision Iowa application (her fourth in Washington County).

This project is the 5th Vision Iowa award made in Washington County totaling $2.5 million. The other projects include the Marr Park Education Center, Wellman Parkside Activities Center, Washington Free Public Library, and the Kalona downtown streetscape. The total cost of these projects is over $22 million.

The Washington Area Performing Arts and Events Center is anticipated to open in 2016.


Tour Washington manufacturers on Tuesday, Oct. 21

Kirkwood Community College and The Advanced Manufacturing Sector Board present Advancing the Future: A Tour of Manufacturers from Oct. 20-23 as a way to share the industry of manufacturing with the general public. Click here for the complete schedule of all 20 plant tours. This is the 2nd annual event.

In Washington County, Bazooka Farmstar and Modine Manufacturing are opening their doors on Tuesday, Oct. 21st. Remember to wear closed toe shoes for the tours!

The Corridor Business Journal recently highlighted some of the creative methods these two neighboring industries with young leaders are using to recruit employees, especially welders. Its a great read.

Bazooka Farmstar manufacturers a variety of equipment for the ag and oil sectors, and has grown from just 25 employees 3 years ago to almost 80 today. They currently sell their products in 20 states and Canada. They were listed as the 9th Fastest Growing Company in the Corridor for 2014 by the Corridor Business Journal. They have been in Washington since the early 1990s.

Modine is a publicly traded business based in Racine WI, but has owned a specialized welding shop in Washington for over 25 years (which originally was an entrepreneurial startup in Washington). Their heat transfer units go in to many large engines around the world. They are the largest manufacturer in Washington County with over 250 employees. This year, plant manager Kevin Conlin was selected as one of the Corridor Business Journal's "Forty Under 40."


BAZOOKA FARMSTAR, 9:30 - 11:00am
800 E. 7th St., Washington IA 52353

1100 E. 7th St., Washington IA 52353


Later this week, several hundred Washington middle-school students will tour 6 businesses with ties to STEM (Science Technology Engineering & Math), including Bazooka and Modine. Thanks to the Workplace Learning Connection for arranging this great opportunity for young people.

INNOVATION EXPO, OCT 21 in Cedar Rapids

After checking out these exisiting industries in Washington, the place with all the entrepreneurial hopefuls from around Iowa will be at the Innovation Expo at the Cedar Rapids Doubletree Hotel. I'll be there after taking the tours.

This cool annual event highlights the "startup community" and is sponsored by forward looking organizations like the Entrepreneurial Development Center, John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center, and under the regional umbrella initiative We Create Here.



Washington County leaders get recognized

In a tradition to recognize the acomplishments and contributions of young professionals early in their careers, the Corridor Business Journal has held an awards dinner for "Forty Under 40" for the past ten years. It is a pretty competitive award, with over 200 annual nominations from around the Corridor.

This year, three people living or working in Washington County were selected for recognition. Congratulations for all that they do in Washington County, and in the Corridor. They are making a big difference. This year's area winners are:

Kevin Conlin - Plant Manager at Modine Manufacturing in Washington

Ryan Giannini - co-owner at Highland Hideaway Hunting preserve near Riverside

Brent Hinson - City Administrator at the City of Washington

L-R: Kevin Conlin, Ryan Giannini, Brent Hinson

Spencer Award - Steve Berger

The historied Spencer Award is administered by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at ISU. It recognizes farmers, teachers and researchers who have made significant contributions to the environmental and economic stability of Iowa’s family farms.  Steve Berger was one of two awardees in 2014.

Steve BergerBerger operates a corn-soybean and farrow-to-finish swine operation near Wellman with his father, Dennis. The Bergers have no-tilled for 35 years, built 14 miles of contour terraces and use cereal rye cover crops on all their acres.

Over the past 20 years, Berger has participated in 24 field trials on his farm, conducted with researchers from Iowa State University, the Iowa Soybean Association, Pioneer Hi-Bred and Monsanto. His nomination, prepared by English River Watershed Management Authority coordinator Jody Bailey, also lists 66 field days, workshops and other events where he has either presented or hosted.


Got a business idea? Six-Week Start-Up can help

Join the Washington Economic Development Group and Main Street Washington as we host a “Six-Week Start-Up” business workshop series this fall. We are looking for problem solvers, start-ups, or existing businesses looking to focus their business plan. Led by the U of I’s John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center and Small Business Development Center, learn how to turn those ideas into a successful business.




Join us Tuesdays from 6 to 9pm, September 23rd through November 9th at the ISU Extension classroom at the Washington County Fairgrounds.

One of the best aspects of taking this course is getting to work with the other class participants. It is a great way to work with other aspiring entrepreneurs and business people. 

The cost is $149 (including course materials). Scholarships are available to help defray the cost. Payment due when the class starts, not when you register.

A program for starting or growing your business, making money, and achieving your goals. During this six-session program you will:

  • Evaluate the financial potential of your venture and analyze the risks
  • Identify sources of capital for financing your new venture
  • Conduct market research, & recognize the componenets of marketing plans & sales strategy
  • Understand issues regarding legal, tax, licenses/permits, booking, and insurance
  • Learn to benefit from the current economic environment
  • Network with other entrepreneurs and business professionals

Have questions? Call me, Ed Raber, at 319-653-3942 or Sarah Sadrakula at Main Street at 319-653-3918.

Thanks also to the Washington County Riverboat Foundation for a grant to help make this program offering in Washington County an affordable reality.

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