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Reynolds, SBA’s McMahon see rosy ‘18

Gov. Kim Reynolds (at left in photo) and U.S. Small Business Administrator Linda McMahon (right) tag-teamed an interview with the Business Record this morning in which they were bullish on 2018 prospects for business, especially small business. 

McMahon, who also met privately with business leaders while she was in Iowa today, said the Trump administration is pushing hard for tax cuts, programs designed to boost the workforce, and the repeal of some regulations — all moves designed to boost small businesses, the providers of most jobs in the United States.

McMahon knows a bit about expanding a business — she became wealthy running the high-profile professional wrestling organization, WWE. She twice ran for the U.S. Senate in Connecticut, but lost. 

Reynolds said her top priority will be Future Ready Iowa, the state’s program that is pushing for 70 percent of Iowa’s workforce to have education or training beyond high school by 2025.

“I hear this constantly as I travel around the state of Iowa, and it’s workforce, workforce, workforce,” Reynolds said. “We have business and industry — small, medium and large — that are excited about the future. They are projecting strong growth, and the biggest factor in that growth is workforce. That is my No. 1 priority as we look for ways to grow the economy. 

“I think that is something we can take care of relatively quickly with the Future Ready Iowa initiative,” Reynolds added. “It really builds on the STEM initiative, the science, technology, engineering and math, and teach leadership and compensation reform. That’s kind of the future pipeline that we are working on, and Future Ready Iowa will work with underrepresented, underserved, underemployed to really help Iowans ‘skill up’ so they can be prepared for the jobs of today and tomorrow.” 

Tax reform and changes to the health care system also will be high on the list of needs for the business community and others, Reynolds said. “We had a lot of great legislation last year that were pro-growth and pro-business; the next step we need is tax reform. We are watching very closely what they are doing in Washington, D.C.”

McMahon took the point. “We would certainly like to see that (tax reform) vote by Christmas and get the tax reform — the tax cuts — accomplished,” she said. “I hear a lot of the same things that the governor hears when I travel the country. This is my 27th state visit. I hear the same messages across the country. We are pushing really hard right now for tax reform. 

“You won’t hear small business talk much about tax reform — they talk about tax cuts,” McMahon said. “When they talk about tax cuts, they talk about taking that money and really investing it in their companies, either hiring another employee, raising wages, perhaps producing more goods and services, branching out to another location. So they are really optimistic. And we haven’t seen this level of optimism for entrepreneurs and startups since Ronald Reagan’s tax cuts.”

Reynolds said Iowa businesses appear ready to hire ex-felons, people with disabilities and others who are underrepresented in a workforce that has been tested by unemployment rates so low that many economists consider the state near full employment. “I can’t believe how willing they are (to hire those workers ) — and it’s because of their need,” Reynolds said. 

Business, academia and government were working separately before the state’s STEM initiative — which Reynolds has co-led — was formed, the governor said. Now they work together. 

Apprenticeships are a big part of that work, Reynolds added. “To get kids in some of these businesses to see firsthand how they are taking an idea and turning it into a business and turning it into a successful business” is gratifying, Reynolds said. 

In addition, “we are doing apprenticeships in every one of the (prison) institutions, working with offenders so when they are released into the community, they have a skill and they have a connection to an employer. And we have seen employers step up and participate. Internships. Externships. Apprenticeships.”

McMahon said she was with President Donald Trump when he signed an executive order supporting apprenticeships and internships. “He set aside hopefully about $100 million for that effort, because we have to change the paradigm on how we are educating that next level of workforce in our country,” she said.

The federal government also is focusing on infrastructure — roads, bridges, electrical grid, “everything” — which also will help boost business, McMahon added. 

“This is a pro-growth administration,” McMahon said. “If we grow this and have a very robust economy, not only does it restore the position of the United States on a global basis, but it just improves the lives of our citizens on a daily basis.”

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