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Sioux City officials want lawmakers to help address workforce development

Katie Peikes
IPR file
Sioux City city council members say an affordable housing shortage, daycare shortages and infrastructure investment are their top concerns in the area.

Sioux City officials highlighted workforce development as the greatest need for the region in a meeting with local legislative officials on Friday.

City officials met with local state legislators to outline the priorities for the region in preparation for the upcoming 2022 legislative session. City council members dubbed lack of affordable housing, daycare shortages and infrastructure investment as their top concerns in the area.

“I think that we just need to work together with the state on [workforce development]. It's a team effort to get workers to come to a community,” said Dan Moore, city mayor pro-tem.

At the meeting, city officials asked state legislators to help find ways to make Iowa’s tax system competitive to surrounding states to grow Iowa’s workforce. City economic development director Marty Dougherty said the city doesn’t want to lose workers to neighboring South Dakota or Nebraska.

“I know there's a lot of debate that will take place over that, but, especially in a border community, we're acutely aware of tax differences between states, the need for states to be competitive,” Dougherty said. “I think it’s an important discussion to be had.”

Kendall Crawford
Sioux City officials and local legislators met on Friday to discuss their priorities ahead of the legislative session.

Although the unemployment numbers remain roughly the same from 2019, Dougherty estimates it has at least 1,000 fewer workers in the field.

Democratic House Rep. Chris Hall said he was committed to finding creative ways to recruit more workers into the area. In the upcoming session, he said he wants to address the shortage of affordable housing and daycare options in order to draw more people.

“We need to make sure that we open our doors and project an image that is welcoming to people who live outside of the state,” Hall said. “Because in order to fill all of these open work positions, we have to also grow the state's population.”

Republican House Rep. Jacob Bossman said it’s paramount to tackle barriers to childcare in order to retain workers. He said he believes the state could use tax credits to incentivize investment in childcare centers.

“We need to do what we can to infuse – whether it's through the the employers, the state, incentivizing the employers or whether it's through the government itself – infuse some money into the childcare industry, because it's something that economic growth, and really all economic activity and jobs can't exist without it,” he said.

"Especially in a border community, we're acutely aware of tax differences between states, the need for states to be competitive."
Marty Dougherty, economic development director

City council members also pointed to infrastructure improvements as a priority for the region. They asked legislative members to ensure tax increment financing (TIFs) will continue to assist in the city’s development.

In past years, there have been conversations in the legislature surrounding making changes to TIFs. Bossman said he believes the financing has allowed Sioux City to attract business to the region.

“I think the tax increment financing is something that works really well for a lot of especially smaller communities. That's really the only economic development tool they have,” he said.

The legislative session will begin next week. State legislators said they will use their discussion with city officials to guide them throughout the session.

Kendall was Iowa Public Radio’s western Iowa reporter based in Sioux City, IA until Jan. 20, 2023.