JOHNSTON — Gov. Terry Branstad announced a new effort to recruit military veterans to live and work in Iowa at a news conference Tuesday at the Iowa Gold Star Military Museum on the Camp Dodge grounds.
Branstad, a U.S. Army veteran, said he hopes to raise $6 million in private money for the five-year effort dubbed Home Base Iowa to “support targeted marketing efforts” to recruit veterans to the state. He said Iowa's contribution to the public-private partnership, if any, will be determined later.
“Over the next few years it is estimated several hundred thousand veterans will be leaving the service,” said Branstad, who was surrounded by veterans, business leaders and top state officials for the announcement. “Through their service, veterans have already shown that they share our values, the values that are held dear by Iowans: hard work, leadership, patriotism, among others. These are the kind of people that we want in Iowa.”
A recent study commissioned by the United States Automobile Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation's Hiring Our Heroes program listed three Iowa cities among the top 10 places for returning veterans to find employment.
The Waterloo-Cedar Falls metropolitan area ranked fourth among small metro areas, Iowa City ranked seventh, and Sioux City was ninth.
The governor tapped former Iowa Congressman Leonard Boswell and Casey’s General Stores CEO Bob Myers, both veterans, to co-chair the effort.
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“Leonard and I are just two old soldiers, but we’re both passionate about all our veterans and ready to serve on their behalf,” Myers said.
He said the Legislature could do more to make Iowa “veteran-friendly,” suggesting it cut taxes on vets' retirement benefits. The governor did not offer a specific number, but he said “tens of thousands” of veterans could be enticed to come to Iowa in the next five years.
Teresa Wahlert, the director of Iowa Workforce Development, said Home Base Iowa can become a “one-stop shop” for veterans leaving the service.
She said service members can call 1-855-942-4692 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with questions about the benefits available to veterans in Iowa. A website, she added, will be up and running soon.