Marshall County celebrates Home Base Iowa designation with ribbon cutting at IVH
It only seemed fitting that a ceremony recognizing Marshall County’s increased efforts to recruit military veterans to live and work here would be held on the campus of the Iowa Veterans Home, a longtime cornerstone of the Marshalltown community and a constant reminder of the sacrifices servicemembers make when they wear the uniform of their country, especially with Memorial Day weekend looming just around the corner.
On Friday morning, local and state dignitaries, IVH employees and interested citizens gathered at the Sheeler Building courtyard for a Home Base Iowa dedication ceremony and ribbon cutting after the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve the designation back in February. Over 70 of Iowa’s 99 counties and 125 other communities total already have the HBI designation. All five of Friday’s featured speakers — Iowa Workforce Development Director Beth Townsend, Board of Supervisors Chairman Jarret Heil, Marshall County Veterans Affairs Director Kevin Huseboe, Marshalltown Mayor Joel Greer and IVH Commandant Todd Jacobus — along with emcee John Hall, the President and CEO of the Marshalltown Area Chamber of Commerce, were happy to see Marshall County join those ranks.
Noting the Memorial Day holiday weekend, Townsend began by remembering those who died in the line of service before providing some background on HBI, which was first launched in 2013 and is funded by IWD and the Iowa Economic Development Authority. Highlights of the bipartisan legislation officially signed into law in 2014 include a state income tax exemption on 100 percent of military pension, up to $7,500 military and homeowner assistance, veterans preference in employment, streamlined occupational licensure processes, automatic in-state tuition for qualified veterans, spouses, and their children and veteran-specific license plates.
“We know (veterans) have experience, dedication and commitment. They know how to get a job done. They’ll work until the job is done. They have all the traits that we need as we try to build out our workforce,” she said. “So the program was created to find a way to make Iowa better known in the veteran community so that people who are from here will come back, but we wanted more veterans to come back.”
Within the last few years, HBI has added more staff charged specifically with veteran outreach, connecting them with employers and potential housing accommodations.
“As a veteran coming off of active duty, when I moved to Iowa, I felt like a fish out of water for a long, long time because Iowa didn’t really have a huge veterans presence. So having that warm handoff, which is what veterans are used to, I think makes the transition that much easier,” Townsend said. “That’s the thing we’re really focused on expanding and improving as we go through the program.”
Townsend also read a snippet of a congratulatory letter from Gov. Kim Reynolds, who was not able to attend the ceremony in person.
“On behalf of Gov. Kim Reynolds, congratulations. I know it took a while to get here, but I promise you it’s worth it and we are so thrilled to have you,” Townsend said.
Before introducing Heil as the next speaker, Hall stressed that the HBI designation is simply a starting point for improving veterans outreach locally in the future, and Heil expressed a similar sentiment as he took the podium.
“Welcome veterans. We want you here. We want you to make this a place for you to call home. We want to make this a place that you can work. We want to make this a place that you can get a great education and a great place to do whatever you want to do with your family for entertainment,” Heil said.
He then detailed plans at the county level to provide new incentives for veterans willing to relocate here and the expected collaboration with various other entities including the Chamber, Veterans Affairs and Marshalltown Community College, among others. Currently, the Chamber is offering a Retail Incentive Program of up to $25,000 to help offset the cost of capital improvements, furniture, fixtures, equipment and rent/mortgage for up to three months for any new or expanding retail or restaurant business in Marshalltown, the $10,000 Make Marshalltown Home Incentive for anyone who purchases a new construction home valued at $180,000 or greater in Marshalltown and interview reimbursement of up to $300 for job seekers.
“I think the key thing is service. They’ve served us. It’s our time to serve the veterans now,” Heil said. “The job’s not done. We’re starting small, and we’re gonna continue growing it. It’s just awesome to be a part of this Home Base Iowa… We couldn’t be more excited to say ‘Thank you veterans’ and ‘Welcome to Marshall County.'”
Beyond the incentives, Heil said the supervisors would like to meet with all of the mayors in Marshall County and hopefully convince them to sign on to the HBI plans. Hall, in welcoming Huseboe to speak, touted the Marshall County VA director as a tireless advocate for veterans whose commitment to his position is unmatched.
The word about Huseboe must be out as he reported that veterans from seven different counties come to see him in Marshall County, and he was quick to thank his assistant Shari Coughenour before remarking that serving those who have served doesn’t feel like a job to him.
“(Veterans) are very passionate people,” he said. “They’ll bankrupt themselves before they’ll ask for help, but when they’re asking for help, you’ve gotta be there (for them).”
Greer commended IVH on another year of deficiency-free inspections and touted it as one of many top-notch facilities within Marshalltown including the hospital and the new and improved Marshall County Courthouse along with other developments still to come.
“When you put all these things together, why wouldn’t a veteran want to live in Marshalltown?” Greer asked.
Jacobus, the final speaker before the ribbon cutting, echoed Greer’s pride in the high marks IVH received in its inspections and added that the lead surveyor told him it was “unheard of” for a facility of this size — with almost 400 residents — to pass without a single deficiency. He was quick to heap credit on the facility’s staff for their continued efforts to make IVH one of the best veterans homes in the nation.
He then shifted to the HBI initiative and hoped it would serve as a guide for veterans, whether they’re from Iowa or not, who are trying to figure out their next steps in life after being discharged from the military.
“Home Base Iowa is really something that says ‘Don’t forget us. We are here.’ We acknowledge the fact that you’re gonna bring a skill set, and we want that to be part of our community,” Jacobus said.
Recounting his own 30-plus year career in the Army, the Commandant reflected on the values instilled in him — loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage — and said he believed society needed more of them.
“Those are the values that our veterans, no matter what branch of service they served in, that’s what they’re bringing back to their families… That’s what they’re bringing into our communities,” he said. “So what are we as veterans looking for when we’re hitting the tail end of what we know is our military service? We want a place where we can continue our education. We want a place where we can buy a reasonable house at a decent price. We want a place where we can get a good job and a place with a safe environment where we can raise our family. It’s not like we’re asking for the world, and I truly can’t think of a better place to do that than right here in Marshalltown and Marshall County… We’ve just gotta figure out a way to build this program.”
And while the conversations about how to best serve veterans and attract them to live and work here going forward will be ongoing, it’s safe to say there’s plenty of momentum already building locally.
Contact Robert Maharry at 641-753-6611 ext. 255 or