By Paul McKinley
It is abundantly clear that Iowans are searching for fresh leadership and a change in direction for our state. I know that we must prepare Iowa to actively compete in the global economy and give our citizens back their government. Iowans cannot afford four more years of Governor Culver’s record spending, record borrowing and record deficits. We cannot afford the big union boss anti-jobs agenda and the threat of losing federal deductibility constantly lingering over the capitol.
Iowans are overwhelmingly frustrated by an unresponsive and out-of-control government led by a governor who is in denial about the economic health of the state and they are angered by the obstruction led by legislative Democrats and aided by Governor Culver to giving Iowans a chance to vote on an amendment defining marriage as just between one man and one woman.
Iowans are searching for an individual to be our next governor that embodies a clear and optimistic vision for Iowa, a track record of leadership in both the private and public sector and an ability to offer and act on bold solutions that will make a positive impact on the lives of Iowans on a daily basis. I believe I am the best candidate to offer a new direction for our state and I will work tirelessly to re-establish the notion that it is Iowans who run government and not the other way around.
As Republicans, we must offer a bright line of contrast with Governor Culver and the current status quo if we are to be successful next November. We must offer an alternative that stands up for Iowa families, Iowa employers and Iowa entrepreneurs and casts a vision centered not around continuing to grow Iowa’s government – but instead working to grow Iowa’s economy. I’ve spent my entire professional life working to grow Iowa’s economy, reform education and provide opportunity and I believe my business story and track record would be a positive distinction when compared against the actions taken by our current governor.
At a meeting one day in the late 70’s with Bill Neely, owner of Neely Manufacturing in Corydon, I was offered my first private-sector opportunity. Recognizing my energy and leadership abilities, Bill Neely offered me a job that allowed me to serve as an executive for a light manufacturing company that custom made garment bags for small town clothing stores. We were a good little company but independent men’s clothing stores were going out of business and consequently sales for our garment bags were falling. After just a few short years, I was running the day-to-day operations as Bill Neely’s age and interests began to slow his daily involvement.
About this time, Bill Neely called me into his office on a cold January day in 1981 and stated the company was losing customers, the stress was too much and the challenges of the times were too difficult. Rather than forge ahead, he would retire.
Neely Manufacturing during this time produced mainly garment bags for men and women’s clothing stores that were a mainstay in rural Iowa communities. The flagship product was a trademark diagonal zipper garment bag designed by Neely’s father and produced in mass quantities on the factory floor. However, double-digit interest rates and inflation as well as a looming farm crisis proved to be an overwhelming burden for one man and a risk-filled opportunity for another.
With the future of the company in doubt along with the livelihood of 75 employees and their families, I knew someone had to rise to the occasion. Bill Neely offered to sell the business to his top employee but like most business transactions during those times that was much easier said than done.
Interest rates during this time were hovering near 20 percent and inflation was around 13 percent a year. This was a period of time when we were in the height of Jimmy Carter’s “misery index” (unemployment rate plus inflation rate), a burgeoning farm crisis and a general malaise had settled over Iowa and the rest of the country. Even some of the major political and economic figures of the day indicated we, as Americans, would have to learn to live with less – that the next generation of Americans could not be guaranteed a future better than their parents.
I believed differently. And, in accordance with my farm upbringing I saw this as a challenge to overcome. I leveraged everything I owned. I borrowed as much money as I could and purchased the plant. I bet my young family’s future I could make it work. After months of working to arrange financing, I closed the deal and began work as the majority owner of Neely Manufacturing. No longer would I rely on a paycheck signed by someone else. I bet my young family’s financial future the company could be turned around and now it was time to prove it.
As a business owner, I began the long process of developing a comprehensive marketing plan, adding new product lines, expanding into new markets and developing a more aggressive sales approach. With clearly defined goals, a cohesive strategy, and lot of hard work we began to turn the company around.
Ten years later when the 1980’s came to an end, we had tripled the size of the company employing a couple hundred people working shifts in three different manufacturing plants. I’m pleased to note during those lean years in southern Iowa, my company gave a lot people paychecks when no one else was hiring.
Today, our country and state face many of same challenges we did not so long ago. Rampant job loss and layoffs, financial uncertainty, and that word “malaise” has drifted back into the national vocabulary. The economy and the fiscal future of our state is on everyone’s mind and Iowa families and employers are looking for bold leaders who offer clarity, vision and fresh ideas. I have the executive experience, a record of accomplishment, the knowledge to lead Iowa forward and make us not only competitive with other states – but other countries too.
I will aggressively work to earn the trust of all Iowans by providing real solutions to the issues facing all Iowans everyday and offering a new outlook that will grow Iowa and empower individuals to be able to achieve their maximum potential. It’s no secret that when our communities have successful individuals and families – we also know that means we will have successful schools and churches, thriving businesses and employers and a greater sense of community because there will also be strong civic and charitable groups making a difference in the lives of others.
Plenty of potential exists to make our state a beacon of opportunity that is recognized worldwide but it is going to take a real change in direction and a re-focus of our priorities. We must prepare our state to actively compete in the global economy and give our citizens back their government. Iowans deserve a vibrant economy that creates good jobs and a government that stays within its means, is limited, efficient and responsive. As governor, those will be my priorities.
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