ABI President Mike Ralston addresses Rotary

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO Rotarians Vic Helberg and Bill Fitzgerald demonstrate the club’s continued support of Marshalltown Community College scholarships. MCC Foundation Director Carol Geil was on hand at this week’s luncheon to accept the donation.

Tom McCoy got things started with the Tuesday edition of the Marshalltown Rotary luncheon meeting with a prayer and Pledge of Allegiance. Chief Mike Tupper introduced officer A.J. Accola who gave an update on the “Bikes for Blue” campaign. Accola described the need for the bikes and expressed sincere appreciation for the support throughout the community. President Bill Fitzgerald noted that Rotary and its membership have committed to ensure the sixth and final bike be secured. Vic Helberg then introduced Marshalltown Community College Foundation Director Carol Geil who thanked the Rotary club for their continued support of the college’s scholarship program.

Theron Schutte then introduced student Rotarian Morgan Van Staalduine who rounds out the quartet of students joining the club in April. Van Staalduine described her school activities and plans upon graduation.

Fitzgerald invited members to bring a prospective member to the cocktail social at the Carrie and Paul Barr’s residence prior to the “18 Men Who Cook” event scheduled at the Black Box on April 29. Rumor has it that a handful of Rotarians will be among the 18 cooking.

Scott Neff gave the audience an update on membership giving to the Rotary Foundation by way of Paul Harris contributions. He and Bruce Wirin will be working with members to ensure that the history of significant philanthropic efforts continue. Rotary District 6000 membership chair Wayne Steen was on hand to encourage Marshalltown Rotary members to make plans to attend the Vision 2020 event next week in West Des Moines.

Larry Raymond introduced Mike Ralston, who has been president of the Iowa Association of Business and Industry since 2005. He is also a past president of the Iowa Taxpayers Association and a former Director of Revenue for the State of Iowa. Raised in Grundy Center, Ralston was elected mayor at the age of 18 and re-elected three times. He is a proud graduate of the University of Northern Iowa. The 1,500 member companies that comprise ABI are considered the unified voice of business across the state. Ralston described what a typical member company looks like and noted the public policy advocacy of the group. Member training and associated events are a large part of ABI as is its Leadership Iowa program in which Marshalltown has been well represented. To address the present state of the business environment in Iowa, Ralston noted that meetings such as the one he had with 100 manufacturers last week has historically served as good an indicator of any metric out there.“Things are looking great, but with a dash of caution” said Ralston. The caution seems to surround the global financial picture and issues related to the Affordable Care Act.

Ralston also noted the challenges of hiring and training a workforce. Drilling down through workforce issues, he noted that the pool is small and that both hard and soft attributes of the skill set are lacking. There are strategies in place to address these issues and Ralston gave a specific shout-out to MCC for their related efforts. Turning to the Iowa General Assembly, Ralston noted the degree of ill-will at the Capital. He is encouraged, however, by the Iowa Assembly nature of getting things done and feels the caucuses have worked in a positive manner over the last 10 days in an attempt to put together an acceptable budget package. Ralston did a great job of ingratiating himself with the audience, gave Marshalltown a lot of credit, and gladly took questions to wrap things up.

Rotary connects people from all continents and cultures while making a difference around the world.