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Gov. Branstad visits Newton for Home Base Iowa announcement

Jasper County becomes 47th member community

Published: Friday, March 17, 2017 12:53 p.m. CST • Updated: Monday, March 20, 2017 10:10 a.m. CST

Gov. Terry Branstad stopped in Newton Friday morning to announce Jasper County's inclusion in Home Base Iowa, an initiative aimed at helping veterans find careers.

Home Base Iowa supports transitioning service members by connecting them with employers, providing tax exemptions for military pensions and providing home owner assistance for veterans.

Branstad said he was honored and proud to welcome Jasper County as the 47th member community in the state.

“Jasper County has worked very hard to earn this designation,” Branstad said. “In this community, you have 22 businesses that have singed on as Home Base Iowa businesses. These businesses have pledged to help people coming out of the service to get hired in Jasper County.”

The governor thanked Sen. Chaz Allen, Rep. Wes Breckenridge, the Jasper County Board of Supervisors, the Jasper County Economic Development Board, communities members and more for their support of the initiative.

“We can bring some of the best, brightest, most disciplined and focused talent either back to our state or to Iowa for the first time,” Branstad said. “These things don't happen by accident. It takes the support of local communities, like you have here in Jasper County.”

Jasper County Veterans Affairs Director Kurt Jackson highlighted the community's efforts at the announcement, which took place at the Newton DMACC campus. The county board of supervisors passed a resolution of support encouraging all residents and businesses to support the Home Base Iowa initiative, Jackson said.

Newton businesses also chipped in with a Get to Know Newton package for veterans coming to the county. The package, which includes perks like a season pass to the Iowa Speedway and a family membership to the Newton YMCA, is worth about $4,000, Jackson said.

“I firmly believe it is in Jasper County's best interest to attract and retain these people that have already shown their dedication and commitment to good citizenship,” Jackson said. “These veterans or their family members may well become the next generation of leadership in our county.”

Jasper County Treasurer and county chair of the Home Base Iowa committee, Doug Bishop, said he appreciates the governor creating the program. Bishop said such an initiative is only as successful as the people make it. He pledged to Branstad that Jasper County will work hard to make it successful.

Branstad said the program has benefited from great bipartisan support in the legislature, and communities have responded in a positive way to help build momentum. With all the small businesses in the state, he said, it is difficult to measure and come up with accurate figures as to how much of an impact Home Base Iowa is making.

Home Base Iowa Project Manager Jason Kemp said the program has been working on answering the question of accountability over the last few months. A “find a veteran” feature was recently added to the Home Base Iowa website. It is a new way for the state to track the efficiency of the efforts to bring veterans to the state, Kemp said.

“Find a veteran” allows veterans to create a profile and select locations they are interested in working, as well as industries they have experience in. Local businesses can also create accounts and post job openings. The veterans' resumes automatically get sent to those businesses, Kemp said.

Sen. Allen said Home Base Iowa is something that Jasper County can brag about to veterans coming home. It is another tool to bring people to Iowa, he said.

“One of the problems we have in Iowa right now is we need more workers,” Allen said. “This is a great program to allow that to happen. It affects Jasper County, Newton and the entire state of Iowa.”

According to Branstad, Iowa now has over 1,500 companies committed to hiring veterans. He mentioned some private-sector contributors to the effort, like Casey's General Stores and Hy-Vee, which have provided funds for advertising and veteran outreach.

“As a veteran myself, I'm very proud of the progress we've made in recent years since this program started in 2014,” Branstad said. “The Iowa Business Council reports that over 750 veterans have found jobs in Iowa just in companies that are affiliated with the Iowa Business Council, which is the largest companies in Iowa.”

Contact Justin Jagler at 641-792-3121 ext 6532 or jjagler@newtondailynews.com

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