Guest Columnist

Pursuing a regional legislative agenda

Traffic moves along I-380 in Cedar Rapids during October 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Traffic moves along I-380 in Cedar Rapids during October 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

In public policy advocacy, there is power in numbers.

Four members of Congress and 28 state legislators represent the seven counties that make up the Iowa City-Cedar Rapids (ICR) area corridor. Across the ICR region, those elected officials should hear the same message to garner the biggest impact. That’s why this year, the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance and Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce partnered to create identical state and federal public policy agendas and will advocate as one to our regional policy makers.

Together we represent 2,000 companies in communities that collectively number more than 450,000 residents, now unified with one voice, one message.

Our organizations serve similar missions and are both committed to our respective growing business communities and the region. We worked together over the last six months to gather information and seek feedback from members and partners to develop our public policy priorities for 2019. These priorities focus on three concepts — building our workforce, improving our business environment and enhancing our communities.

Workforce remains a monumental challenge for our region and a top concern of our members. We believe a strong education system is critical to meeting our region’s current and future workforce needs and were encouraged by the unanimous support by Iowa lawmakers for the Governor’s Future Ready Iowa initiative.

Next session, we’ll support exploring programs that encourage people to move to Iowa and initiatives that promote business collaboration and alignment with K-12 and higher education institutions to maximize local efforts to build the talent pipeline. We’ll support the investment in students through efforts to sustain and expand financial assistance to attend Iowa’s public and private institutions.

On the federal level, we’ll support immigration reform that focuses on ensuring skilled, qualified workers continue to have the ability to live and work in the United States. We support all efforts to help meet current and future labor demands and drive innovation and entrepreneurship.

These are just a few of the issues we’ll drive on the policy level next year, as well as others that promote our efforts to improve the business environment and enhance our communities.

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To mark our collaboration, the Economic Alliance the and Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce held the “ICR Legislative Launch” for our members in December. We officially unveiled the complete public policy agendas and members from both organizations spoke directly with policymakers that represent cities and countries in our region before they return to work this month.

We know most effective approach in advocacy work is to use our members. Our unified voice is the key to our success.

If you are interested in learning more or joining our organizations, you can visit our websites for more details and the full Public Policy Agenda. We encourage you to let us how we can continue to work collaboratively to make this region an even better place to live.

• Kim Casko is president & CEO of the Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce. Doug Neumann is executive director of the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance.

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