SIOUX CITY -- The need for more skilled workers across Siouxland will once again be a top issue for a delegation of nearly 60 local leaders heading to Washington, D.C., this week.
Representatives of metro Sioux City businesses, schools and local governments will meet with members of Congress and cabinet members Wednesday and Thursday to discuss a range of topics that will also include infrastructure funding, housing, and the potential effects that new tariffs will have on the tri-state region.
With the region's unemployment remaining very low, employers continue to struggle in the search for qualified applicants, said Barbara Sloniker, executive vice president of the Siouxland Chamber of Commerce, which leads the 64th annual two-day lobbying excursion.
"A lot of (businesses) want to expand, and they have trouble finding people. And then sometimes it's not just finding people, but it's finding people that have the skills," Sloniker said. "We need to figure out how to get people here, how to get them trained and help our businesses grow."
Sloniker said related issues include education and housing programs, such as continued support of Community Development Block Grants and Home Investment Partnership program.
"We need funding of those programs on a federal level to be sustainable," she said. "We've heard that there's a lack of affordable workforce housing."
Along with senators and representatives from the tri-state area, the delegation will meet with Labor Secretary R. Alexander Acosta, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California.
Meetings also will include Department of Transportation under secretary Derek Kan and Bill Northey, the former Iowa ag secretary who now serves as the U.S. Department of Agriculture's under secretary of agriculture for farm and foreign agricultural services.
Members of the delegation representing the city of Sioux City will arrive a day early and meet with senators and representatives from Iowa on Tuesday, as well as the American Public Works Association.
City Manager Bob Padmore said among the city's points of emphasis will be infrastructure issues that have close ties to Siouxland projects.
"The president has talked a lot about our aging interstate and other federal highways," he said. "(We're) just trying to find out more what that could mean to Sioux City and the region as far as what kind of grants or aid we can expect to see to improve funding for those things."
Among the position papers from the city will be a request for full funding of permit reviews by federal agencies, an issue felt by Sioux City after lack of funding led to continued delays of the approval of a permit required for a re-decking project on the Military Road Bridge stretching from Riverside into North Sioux City. The delay means that the $6 million project will be pushed back at least until next year.
The city also will share a request that government aid for utilities, such as water and sewer lines, be included in the infrastructure program. Sioux City is currently responsible for paying millions in relocation costs for the Interstate 29 reconstruction project.
The delegation also will push for the continued funding of the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) and Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant programs, the former of which appears to be on the chopping block in the proposed infrastructure spending bill.
The city has long hoped to leverage a large federal grant to construct a viaduct on 18th Street spanning railroad tracks.
The city's delegation will include Councilmen Dan Moore and Alex Watters and several city staff members.
Sloniker said she also hopes to hear more about the anticipated effects of Chinese tariffs on U.S. soybeans, pork, beef and ethanol in retaliation for the Trump administration's tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. Iowa is the nation's leading producer of pork and soybeans.