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Local Editorials

Only look forward from this point on

Tuesday, during the State of the Union Address, the President highlighted recent successes in manufacturing jobs and wind energy.  Nationwide, nearly 500,000 manufacturing jobs have been created since January of 2010. 

This is the fastest three-year growth in more than a decade. New manufacturing opportunities have come in three primary sectors: automobiles, high-tech, and energy. These are certainly welcome statistics, but while our economy is gradually recovering, many Iowans continue to struggle to make ends meet.  

America tripled renewable wind electricity generation from 2008 to 2012. In 2008 we produced a little more than 50 terawatt hours of electricity from wind. Today we produce more than 140 terawatt hours.

With more than 45,000 wind turbines installed in the US, we produce enough wind generated electricity to power 14.7 million homes. Domestically produced wind electricity could power every home in our state plus those in Colorado, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada and Ohio. 

Not only have we created thousands of jobs, locally, statewide, and nationally, but we have brought environmentally harmful carbon emissions to their lowest levels since 1994.

Don’t be mistaken, our work is far from done in producing new jobs and protecting our environment. Still this progress should make us proud, especially locally. Wind has provided a much needed boost to our local economy as wind blade manufacturer TPI Composites and Trinity Structural Towers have provided new local jobs.

I had the great opportunity to tour Trinity Structural Towers in Newton late last week.  This plant is located in the former Maytag Plant #2. I’ve wanted to tour this facility since I was first elected.

Trinity is a high-tech manufacturing operation. The jobs on this factory floor require high-tech skills and training in areas such as welding. I was incredibly impressed with the precision and skill demonstrated by the workers I observed.

On a personal note, as I watched a worker lift a 5-ton tower segment with the assistance of a lift-track, left over from the plant’s earlier days, I thought about my grandpa who spent 30 years of his life sweating and working on that same factory floor.

I felt proud. Proud of my family and proud of my hometown. While the washing machines are gone, the legacy of hard work and producing quality products lives on.

No, the economic impact of the wind industry is not the equivalent of our former major employer. However, at this point, we must look only to the future and focus on job growth by promoting the industries who have chosen to call Jasper County home and encouraging other employers to make the same decision.

That’s my focus and I’m committed to keeping it. Let’s all commit to only looking forward from this point on, with our heads held high and faith in our ability to build a bright future.

The Newton plant is one of many wind-tower producing plants operated by Trinity. With all their manufacturing facilities combined, they have more capacity than any other wind tower manufacturer in North America. Their resources give them the ability to expand as necessary to meet the needs of their customers. 

The parent company, Trinity Industries, Inc., is a multi-industry company that owns a variety of market-leading businesses which provide products and services to the industrial, energy, transportation and construction sectors. Trinity’s businesses provide capital goods and services ranging from railcars to barges, concrete to propane tanks, highway guardrail to structural towers, railcar parts to crash cushions, railcar fleet management, and railcar leasing services. It’s a large company with a strong foothold in several areas of manufacturing.

The Newton plant operates as a partnership between Trinity and the workers who organized in 2010 through IBEW Local 347. The goal of this partnership is to secure the plant’s future, progressively ensuring safe, quality, local jobs in the competitive and growing wind industry.

With the recent one-year extension of the wind production tax credits, these partners have a genuine chance to succeed. The wind production tax credit provides a 2.2 percent per kilowatt-hour credit for the first 10 years of electricity production from utility-scale wind-turbines, like those built in Newton.

It is important to note that the entire Iowa Congressional Delegation, especially Congressman Loebsack, helped to push their colleagues to extend the federal wind-production tax credits. Many wind energy proponents, myself included, had hoped for at least a two-year extension. We didn’t get it, yet. It’s possible another extension could be authorized by Congress. 

I’m doing my part at the Capitol in Des Moines. This week, I submitted a resolution in the Iowa House calling on Washington to approve an additional two-year extension. What can you do? I’d like to encourage you to reach out to U.S. House members Congressman Tom Latham at 1-866-428-5642 and Congressman Steve King at (712) 224-4692. 

They are in a position to tell U.S. House Speaker Boehner how important it is to Jasper County’s future that he put an extension on the President’s desk. The President knows it’s critical, and he will sign it.

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