Mt Pleasant News
https://mt-pleasant-ia.villagesoup.com/p/1700936

Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | Nov 22, 2017
Banging the drum for broadband

Governor, lieutenant governor listen to local concerns

Nov 02, 2017
Photo by: Brooks Taylor Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, second from right, paid a visit to Mt. Pleasant businesses Wednesday as part of her annual visit to all 99 Iowa counties. In the photo, Reynolds fields a question from Dwayne Leichty, left, owner of Your Dream Home Furniture & Floors. Also in the photo from left are Lisa Oetken, Main Street Mt. Pleasant director; Lee Franklin of Your Dream Home Furniture & Floors; and Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg.

By Brooks Taylor, Mt. Pleasant News

 

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds made her first visit to Mt. Pleasant Wednesday as part of her 99-county tour.

Although like many other stops on her tour, Mt. Pleasant was not “foreign” in the least. The Republican often refers to Mt. Pleasant (at least when she visits) as her “second hometown.” Before relocating to south central Iowa, Reynolds lived and worked as a pharmacy technician for nearly a decade in Mt. Pleasant.

During her initial visit, accompanied by Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg, Reynolds said little and listened plenty. Her visit was designed as an opportunity to hear concerns of rural, small-town Iowans.

Before touring the central business district, Reynolds spent about half of her hour-long stop at Your Dream Home Furniture & Floors.

There she was told that the expansion of broadband Internet was crucial to the growth and success of rural Iowa.

“If you don’t have broadband, you aren’t going to keep the young people here. You have to give them what they want. ... The kids have access to broadband in college, they get spoiled and want to keep it. Some kids are lost without the connections that broadband provides. The broadband need is huge and constantly increasing,” said Dwayne Leichty, co-owner of Your Dream Home Furniture & Floors.

After listening to Leichty’s broadband plea, Reynolds passed the torch to the federal government. “The federal government will have to take the lead in broadband,” she replied.

Continuing, she said she has observed “some interesting things. I’ve seen communities banding together (to provide broadband).”

Complicating the broadband issue, Reynolds continued, is that many communities in Iowa are served by small companies which don’t have the capital to offer faster broadband.

“It’s all about exposure,” Reynolds said, referring to small-town businesses. “I think you have to look for possible niches. One of your largest barriers is having to compete with large metro stores.

Lisa Oetken, Main Street Mt. Pleasant director, said in addition to needing a “voice,” small towns are also facing difficulties in not only finding qualified workers but restaurants, also, are experiencing the same dilemma. “We have three temp agencies here and they can’t get prospective employees.”

Oetken stressed the need for workers, adding that southeast Iowa “is not a bad place to be.”

Kristi Ray, executive vice president of the Mt. Pleasant Chamber Alliance, told Reynolds that the lack of child care is also a detriment in attracting workers to the area.

Not only does rural Iowa need competent broadband to keep young people from leaving, business profitability is dependent on it. “Online shopping is increasing,” Leichty said. “Now, you can order without even seeing or touching the merchandise.”

He is hopeful the state can do “some pulling and pushing” to get funds for the state to improve broadband. “We do a lot of advertising on social media, but not everybody has access to social media,” Leichty noted.

He agreed with Oetken that workers are needed in the area. “This is a beautiful corner of the state but very tied to agriculture. There just aren’t enough people to fill the jobs.”

Following the departure of Reynolds and Gregg, Leichty said he felt his remarks had been heard. “The governor and lieutenant governor are in tune with the broadband issue. They want to see the state succeed. I think she is good at her job and if you are good at your job, you don’t make promises. I think she is very sincere and wants to help. ... There are just so many changes right now in Washington, D.C., and you don’t know what changes are coming next.”

There is one certainty, though, according to the businessman. “The broadband need is huge and constantly increasing.“

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