IC workforce development office to remain open


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Iowa City's Workforce Development office will remain — with a few changes — after legislators, local administrators, and businesses fought to keep it open.

The development comes after the Iowa Legislature was faced with the possibility of 37 of the 55 Workforce Development offices closing because of lack of state and federal funding.

Workforce Development is a state agency that provides services to employers, employees, and underemployed Iowa residents.

Rep. Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville, one of several legislators who fought to keep the office open, said it will be combined with the Kirkwood Community College office.

"After some hard work, we circled the wagons of interested parties by working together with Sen. [Bob] Dvorsky, the Iowa City Chamber of Commerce, Iowa Workforce Development, and all the businesses and agencies that have used it," Jacoby said.

The office will have only half the staff it is accustomed to, he said, but that's a small price to pay for keeping the valuable services it offers.

Although the line-item to reallocate funds back to the Iowa Workforce Development was vetoed by Gov. Terry Branstad, Jacoby said only 33 of the 57 will close.

"With 100,000 Iowans underemployed and Johnson County being one of the largest counties, it more than warrants a workforce office," Jacoby said.

But Kerry Koonce, a spokeswoman for Workforce Development, said the Iowa City office would have remained whether the bill passed or not.

The Iowa City office had the highest use of all satellite offices, which made keeping it a priority. Although it had to be downsized significantly, Koonce said, it will continue to perform regular functions.

"We want to serve everyone to the best of our abilities, but funding is an issue especially when it's federal and state," she said.

As far as sharing one office space with Kirkwood Community College, she said, it was an easy way to cut costs for both parties.

"This way we put forth a system we can sustain with any flux in funding," Koonce said.

Originally, the closing of Workforce Development offices was an attempt to cut state expenditures by Branstad and lessen costs by providing the same services online.

Rep. Greg Forristall, R-Macedonia, said he agreed with the idea of switching to a more fiscal and technological service.

"The state of Iowa and the United States provides a number of services," he said. "To provide them in a productive and cost-effective way is by doing services like these through the Internet."

Although ridding Iowa City of the physical office would have been the most cost-effective for the state, both Koonce and Jacoby said its presence in Iowa City is needed, and the downsizing will not affect the quality of services.

"It was very good news keeping it open, but there is still considerable work left to do," Jacoby said.

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