DES MOINES — For all its successes, Iowa has failed in at least one important area, Gov. Terry Branstad says: growing the state’s population.
That is the challenge Iowans must overcome to ensure a better future for the Hawkeye State, Branstad said on Friday during his inaugural address at Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center.
“The generational challenges our state faces, the opportunities we must embrace, call for a tried and true way of doing business in Iowa: working hard, setting long term goals, and making sacrifices to build Iowa’s future,” Branstad said, according to his prepared remarks. “Are we willing to make these commitments for Iowa?
“Simply put, our future is what we want it to be; it is what we make it.”
The 68-year-old Branstad in November convincingly won a sixth term as Iowa governor, the most in state history. Friday’s inauguration, attended by roughly 1,600 people at the convention center, was the official swearing in for his new four-year term.
During his inaugural address Branstad noted Iowa is the only state in the nation that has not grown by at least 50 percent since the 1900 census. He said growth --- of “population, jobs, income and opportunities” --- is the challenge Iowans now face.
“My message today is this: we are the architects of our future,” Branstad said. “This state we all call home, this ‘The Heart of The Heartland,’ has an opportunity to grow.”
Branstad endorsed initiatives that he believes will accomplish that growth: expanding high-speed Internet to rural areas, investing in renewable energy by creating a new incentive for the production of renewable chemicals from biomass feed stocks, and continuing investments in expanding the state’s skilled workforce.
“Indeed, Iowa truly has changed. And we must embrace these changes and adapt to them,” Branstad said. “This is the juncture we now face as a state, and as elected officials, as we prepare to build Iowa’s future.”
Iowa’s Republican U.S. Senators, Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, attended Friday’s event, as did New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, chairman of the Republican Governors Association.
Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds were sworn in by Iowa Chief Justice Mark Cady.
The inaugural celebration also included musical performances by the Iowa National Guard Band, Linda Juckette, of Cumming, the Hope Gospel Choir, and Living Water Evangelical Free Church, of Des Moines. The invocation was given by Bishop Richard Pates, of Des Moines, and the benediction by Pastor Chuck DeVos, of Osceola.
During her address, Reynolds detailed the administration’s work on an initiative that promotes science, technology, math and engineering programs and jobs for Iowa students. Reynolds is co-chairwoman of the governor’s STEM Council.
“STEM is about expanding opportunities for all. It’s about seeing children actively engaged in learning. And, the excitement as they discover a love for math, coding, science, building a robot, solving a challenge, or experiencing lean manufacturing on the floor of a local business and the confidence that builds as they see for themselves they can do it,” Reynolds said, according to her prepared remarks. “As a recognized leader in STEM, Iowa is poised to connect the education to build our state for the future and use it as a tool for so much more.”
Branstad also laid out what he considers the successes of the first four-year term of his second stint as governor. (His first was from 1983 to 1999.) Branstad said he and the split-control Iowa Legislature fixed an ailing state budget, enacted the largest property tax cut in state history, passed education reform that included a teacher leadership program, and found compromise on health care expansion.
Branstad said the state leaders must do more of the same in the next four years.
“We can either design a blueprint for growth and build Iowa for a brighter future, a more bountiful future, cementing opportunity and prosperity,” Branstad said, “or, we can squander our hard work and the foundation we have built, fall into the partisan traps and go down a path neglecting to improve our state’s standing in the world and the opportunities for prosperity for Iowans.”