‘Hard’ and ‘soft’ infrastructure are key to empowering rural communities, participants in National Governors Association forum agree
Governors came together in Iowa’s capital city to redouble their commitment to providing opportunity to rural regions of America, whether in emerging technologies or traditional sectors like agriculture and manufacturing, as part of an initiative by the chair of the National Governors Association.
Montana Governor Steve Bullock, who heads the nonpartisan association representing all 55 governors of states and territories, led the third regional workshop of his Good Jobs for All Americans initiative. Previous regional workshops were held in Pittsburgh and Las Vegas.
Gov. Bullock was joined by Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, the NGA vice chair, and Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds.
Attendees, representing key advisors to several governors and economic-development officials as well as leaders from the private sector, overwhelmingly agreed that governors can best empower rural communities by focusing on “hard” as well as “soft” infrastructure. In a poll late in the meeting, 86 percent of attendees agreed that such efforts, including broadband internet, childcare, health care, transportation and education should be a governor’s top priorities to ensure that rural areas share in a state’s prosperity.
“We learned about the possibilities for further collaboration in our workforce systems, how we can bring opportunity to rural areas and much more about giving mid-career workers that second act,” said Gov. Bullock. “We’re so excited about states all across the country coming to work together with us on this.”
Gov. Reynolds said Iowa has achieved the nation’s lowest unemployment rate in part by partnering with businesses and entrepreneurs across the state, including but not limited to those in information technology. She noted that her Future Ready Iowa initiative has better connected education and training to careers.
The two-day workshop included a visit to Waukee Aspiring Professional Experience (APEX), a collaboration among education, business and the community west of Des Moines. Waukee APEX draws on the expertise of business partners to bring real-world experience to high school.
Gov. Bullock plans to host a Good Jobs for All Americans solutions summit in Whitefish, Montana, in late May, as he wraps up his year as NGA chair. At the summit, governors, NGA staff and business leaders will share specific actions governors can take in the short term to begin to build the workforce of the future, reskill mid-career workers for success, and empower the rural workforce.