MASON CITY — South Bend Indiana mayor and Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg took an hour-long tour of downtown Mason City on Saturday afternoon, stopping to speak with business owners and residents.
Buttigieg says one of the concerns he heard from people during the tour is the need to attract more people to north-central Iowa to fill the area’s skilled labor shortage. “There are a lot of unfilled jobs in this community and in this area. We’re talking about how you know, you hear a lot about job growth strategies, but we really need population growth strategies in the Midwest too. It’s something else that reminds me of home, and we are trying to puzzle through that. We’re glad to have low unemployment rates, but then the question is okay I we have the right kind of housing for people, and they’re working on a housing effort here, and other things that will establish the kind of quality of place that will draw people.”
Buttigieg says there’s no simple solution to solving the skilled worker shortage in the Midwest. “It’s never simple. You’ve got to make sure that you have the right kind of career technical education setup. You’ve got to make sure that you’re drawing people in…by the way immigration can be a big part of this too, because you simply need to have people sometimes in order for the rest of the growth happen. But when all of these things click and are working together, then your prime for a lot of growth, especially in some areas that are really needed it.”
Buttigieg during his tour reflected on the similarities between Iowa and northern Indiana, something he hopes will help him better connect with Iowa Caucus-goers. “I hope it allows me to be relatively fluid in Iowan, and you know just relating what were used to back home to what’s going on here. I think there’s a similar kind of ethic in terms of how people talk to each other, and hopefully allow us to continue to build the connections you need, not just in a state that’s important like Iowa, but also because you have the caucus set up that really is so much about relationships. I think it’ll help us develop a sense of relational organizing that’s going to be an important part of our strategy and I think it’s always important part of how you win in the caucuses.”
When it comes to the topic of immigration, Buttigieg says he believes most Americans agree on what bipartisan reform would look like, including a pathway to citizenship for folks who are here, protections for “dreamers”, cleaning up the lawful immigration system, and improving border security. He says President Trump and north-central Iowa congressman Steve King use the issue of immigration as too much of a political tool. “Washington can’t deliver it. I think it’s partly because, sadly for this President and I’m afraid for the congressman, it’s actually more useful as a crisis then it would be as an achievement if they actually got something done about it . The politics is overtaking the policy. It’s a shame because they’re so many millions people whose lives are hang in the balance, but also there are communities that with the right kind of comprehensive immigration reform could be growing more quickly.”
Buttigieg during his tour of Mason City made stops at Market 124, Fat Hill Brewing, the Historic Park Inn Hotel, and observed the construction site for the city’s new multi-purpose arena.
Listen to comments made during a press conference held at the end of his stop on Saturday