Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds, middle, toured Mill Creek Machine in Paullina during a NW Iowa visit last week. Photo contributed
PAULLINA – Surrounded by several members of the news media on the noisy work floor at Mill Creek Machine, Governor Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds talked about the economy and answered several questions during a recent visit to NW Iowa.
“The unemployment rate today went down to 4%. That’s the lowest it’s been in Iowa since 2008,” said Branstad. “So, we’ve had some success. But, one of our challenges is finding people with the right skills, or being able to upgrade their skills so they can fill these jobs. With companies like this, they can grow even more, if they can find more people.”
Reynolds added, “It’s finding the labor that’s keeping them from growing.”
“The interesting thing is they were saying that most of their employees live within 20 miles. They have some young people that graduated from right here and other nearby towns, so they’re from this area. This is what we want more of is to keep our youth here in Iowa once they complete their education,” said Branstad
Branstad was reminded of his address at Northwest Iowa Community College 18 months earlier. Branstad expressed his strong support then for the idea of exporting Iowa’s excess wind energy out of Iowa like it was another commodity harvested from the land. “Is that still the case?” Branstad was asked.
“Yes, but that’s not my decision to make. The decision is the Iowa Utility Board’s (IUB) to decide. But, I think it makes sense. Because you can see here in NW Iowa we’re producing more electrical energy from wind than what we can consume in this area. So, it makes sense to be able to export it.
“One of the challenges is that when we export it across Iowa, which is some of the best farmland in the world, there are some farmers that don’t want to have a direct current line going across their land. So, that’s up to the IUB to make that decision,” said Branstad.
“But, that’s the same thing with a 30-inch crude oil pipeline,” the questioner noted.
“Exactly,” said Branstad. “And I feel the same way about that. In both cases, I’m supportive of the concept. But, I respect the independence of the IUB to make that decision. Eminent domain is part of it. First of all, they have to decide whether the project is something that they would approve. Then they would primarily prefer to see negotiations with the landowners to get the lease agreement voluntarily.
“In some cases, you may have a few landowners who feel under no circumstances can an agreement be reached. Eminent domain is a very controversial subject. On the other hand, you have a very important public process. You have one landowner, or a few landowners standing in the way of something very beneficial to the public.
“Where eminent domain is used now is to buy right-of-way for a road, a pipeline, or water line, or even an electric transmission line. We have many of those in the state of Iowa. There are public policy reasons to use eminent domain. But, it also ought to be the last resort to only use eminent domain when you can not find a reasonable settlement with the landowner.
“I also respect the process,” Branstad continued. “As Governor, I do appoint the people who serve on the IUB. But, I shouldn’t try to influence them. They ought to make an independent judgment on each project that comes before them based on the law.”
“Do you think the IUB will ever go to a 5 member board like other states have?” the Governor was asked.
“It’s possible. Obviously, there’s more expense. Those are relatively high paying jobs when you add well over $100,000. I think the legislature would have to make that determination where they think that would be a better investment to have more people on the board. Right now we have a 3 member board.”
The questioner mentioned a couple of nearby states with 5 commissioners on their utility boards.
“It depends. It varies from state to state. We have had 3 members as long as I can remember,” Branstad concluded.