Clarinda became the 94th Home Base Iowa Community in the state Tuesday, July 2, and Governor Kim Reynolds was on hand to help the city celebrate.
Reynolds, joined as well by Iowa Lieutenant Governor Adam Gregg and Iowa Home Base Iowa Program Manager Jason Kemp, attended a recognition ceremony Tuesday morning at American Legion Sergy Post #98 in Clarinda. Clarinda Mayor Lisa Hull, Page County Veterans Affairs Director Janet Olsen and American Legion Sergy Post #98 Commander Glen Wichman also participated in the event.
"It's great to be here to have the opportunity to welcome you as we recognize Clarinda as Iowa's 94th Home Base Iowa Community," Reynolds said to the large crowd on hand for the celebration. "Becoming a Home Base Iowa Community is another tool in the arsenal to attract veterans and new residents to the area. This latest achievement is another visible indication that Clarinda is a place of innovation that's working hard to attract new people and expand its workforce. Of course, all of that goes into growing the economy."
"The membership of American Legion Sergy Post #98 and your Clarinda veterans organizations are pleased to welcome this Home Base Iowa program dedicated to creating unrestricted opportunities for veterans, their spouses and families in establishing a rewarding and fulfilling lifestyle here in Southwest Iowa," Wichman said.
Home Base Iowa is a one-of-a-kind program that helps connect veterans and transitioning service members with more than 2,200 Iowa businesses statewide that have pledged to hire over 14,000 veterans.
"You can put Home Base Iowa against any state in the Union and there's not a program that can hold a candle to it," Kemp said. "Since the beginning, this program was envisioned as marketing Iowa as a place for veterans with a goal of being the most veteran-friendly state in the Union."
The Home Base Iowa program was an initiative proposed by former Governor Terry Branstad and Major General Tim Orr, the Adjutant General of the Iowa National Guard. They recognized an opportunity to honor all veterans and help bridge Iowa's current skills gap.
"I think this program really does encapsulate what Iowa is all about. We do value sacrifice. We do value hard work, and that's what veterans, I think, bring to the table by and large. This program is just an extension of the great things Iowa communities and Iowa veterans offer statewide," Kemp said.
In 2014, the Iowa Legislature passed the Home Base Iowa Act. Incentives offered to veterans through the program at the state level include no state taxes on military pensions, in-state tuition and down payment assistance and closing costs toward a qualifying home purchases. Iowa also offers a cost of living below the national average and one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation.
However, Gregg said it can be challenging for employers to translate resumes from veterans. "What a civilian employer often sees as indecipherable acronyms can often obscure a record of a strong, experience leader with highly valuable skills," he said.
Meanwhile, Gregg said as veterans leave the military, they are looking a good community to settle in with their family. Therefore, they are looking for safe communities offering good jobs and excellent schools for their children.
"I really feel that's what Iowa can offer in abundance, and specifically, rural Iowa can offer those things. So that's what Home Base Iowa attempts to do - connect veterans to those opportunities. You can think about it as a Match.com service for veterans connecting people to jobs," Gregg said.
"Home Base Iowa connects you with resources at the state and the local level, which is why bringing on Home Base Iowa Communities is so important," Kemp said. "This program sets the stage for communities, and businesses in the community, to recruit veterans anywhere in the nation."
The Clarinda City Council passed a resolution in September, 2018, to show its support for the program. The Clarinda Chamber of Commerce and CEDC compiled a welcome packet to be distributed to veterans visiting the community. The organizations have also agreed to provide prescheduled tours to veterans considering relocating to Clarinda through the program.
"I certainly know how much hard work and collaboration and commitment goes into earning this designation. Everyone from the Board of Supervisors, to your local government officials, to your Chamber (of Commerce), to your business leaders and resident really played a key role in making this effort a reality," Reynolds said.
"I want to particularly, from me, say thank you to (Clarinda Chamber of Commerce Executive Director) Elaine Farwell and Mayor Hull for the endless work on this project. It's really going to benefit all of us," Olsen said.
To qualify as a Home Base Iowa Community, Clarinda also had to register at least 10 percent of its businesses with the program. Businesses in Clarinda were also encouraged to provide special incentives for veterans.
"It's easy to see why veterans searching for a new hometown would be attracted to this community of remarkable people, an inviting downtown district and unique cultural attractions," Reynolds said. "It's kind of a perfect mix of small town charm and metropolitan culture, but it doesn't end there. With your topnotch schools, affordable housing and exception outdoor recreational areas, and when Clarinda's diverse advanced manufacturing companies are added to the picture, it is a recipe for success."
Other special guests attending the ceremony included Iowa State Representative Cecil Dolecheck, Page County Supervisor Chuck Morris, Clarinda City Council members, Clarinda Chamber of Commerce members, Clarinda Economic Development Corporation members and American Legion Sergy Post #98 members.