Branstad signs job training bill in Altoona

'Apprenticeships allow students to earn while they learn,' governor says

Gov. Terry Branstad, seated, reaches for a pen to sign the Iowa Job Training and Apprenticeship Act Monday morning in front of the Facebook data center in Altoona. (Mike Wiser/The Gazette)
Gov. Terry Branstad, seated, reaches for a pen to sign the Iowa Job Training and Apprenticeship Act Monday morning in front of the Facebook data center in Altoona. (Mike Wiser/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — Gov. Terry Branstad visited the still-under-construction $1 billion Facebook data center in Altoona on Monday to sign a job training bill.

“Apprenticeships allow students to earn while they learn, rather than taking on significant debt,” said Branstad, who was joined by several lawmakers and officials from the Iowa Economic Development Authority for the bill signing. “A skilled workforce is very important and very much in high demand in Iowa today.”

The legislation increases state dollars in the Workforce Fund from $4 million to $6 million, which will raise the allocation for the state’s apprenticeship program from $1 million to $3 million.

The legislation also expands the definitions of what businesses can qualify for funding through the program, which is used as a matched reimbursement. Branstad exercised his line-item veto authority on the bill to give the Iowa Economic Development Authority oversight over program funding as opposed to the Department of Education.

“These types of training are essential for Iowa to maintain its role as a technologically advanced state, and it’s the hard work that’s being focused in the trades that’s doing the job,” said state Sen. Bill Dotzler, a Democrat from Waterloo and former John Deere employee who joined Branstad for the announcement.

Dotzler is chairman of the Economic Development Appropriations subcommittee.

He said the legislation was just a step in the right direction.

“Now that we have the bill and some additional resources, we have to convince the young people that the trades are valuable occupations and ones that are rewarding and they can raise a family and send their kids to college on,” he said.

Branstad chose the under-construction Facebook location because it illustrates the type of construction jobs that apprenticeships are used to fill. It also allowed him to tout his economic development programs.

“With over $8.8 billion in capital investments incentivized by the Iowa Economic Development Authority, demand for a skilled workforce has increased all across our state,” he said.

The governor also announced he would sign a historic tax credits bill later Monday afternoon.

The legislation makes changes to the Historic Tax Credit program administered by the Department of Cultural Affairs, altering the process through which tax credit applications are approved and providing greater scrutiny for their dispensation. The bill has a $1.3 million fiscal impact in fiscal year 2015 and a $2.9 million impact in fiscal year 2016. The impact decreases in subsequent years to $100,000 by fiscal year 2023.

Key among the changes is a provision that would allow tax credits to be used to renovate old and vacant government buildings.

“There are a lot of historic buildings out there,” Branstad said. “They’re in Waterloo, Sioux City, you name it.”

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