Members of the Technology Association of Iowa and the Iowa Biotechnology Association have two chances to hear candidates for Iowa’s governor office speak on issues around the state’s technology and bioscience industries.
TAI and IowaBio will host both forums – one with Fred Hubbell on Sept. 21, and one with Gov. Kim Reynolds on Oct. 3 – in Cedar Rapids from 10-11 a.m., at the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance. While registration is limited to members of both associations, the resulting conversation may have broad implications for how each candidate would approach bioscience and technology after the Nov. 6 election, organizers said.
“There are tons of forums throughout the state where these candidates are accessible to the general public. Our focus … [is] on science and technology, and hearing from those industry professionals, and having an opportunity for them to interact with the candidates,” said Brian Waller, executive director at TAI. “We wanted our members to have the first crack at having a really deep conversation on science and technology, and no better people to do that than the industry professionals.”
The two associations started planning an event in January, but waited to collaborate with campaigns until Iowa Democrats officially nominated Fred Hubbell as their candidate, said Joe Hrdlicka, executive director of IowaBio.
“We didn’t view this so much as a debate as we did a discussion,” Hrdlicka said. “We really stressed to both campaigns that we want this to be a casual conversation, versus a real formal structure.”
Panelists include Erin Rollenhagen, founder of Entrepreneurial Technologies; Laura Smith, CIO at UnityPoint Health; Ryan Schapp, CIO at Wells Enterprises; Abby Parta, Director of Government Affairs & Public Policy at Vertex Pharmaceuticals; Dr. Wendy Srnic, Global Leader of Integrated Field Sciences at Corteva (Sept. 21); and Dr. Keri Carstens, Senior Manager of Integrated Product Research & Stewardship at DuPont Pioneer’s Seed Treatment Enterprise.
“For us, we wanted diversity – we wanted a geographic diversity, we want gender diversity, we wanted industry diversity,” Waller said. “When we’re going to … represent our industry in front of a candidate, we really want to personify that.”
“We have a diverse portfolio of membership. There’s people who come from the food and ag industries, which also includes value-added agriculture and animal health, and then human health,” Hrdlicka said.
Cybersecurity, computer science education, value-added agriculture, affordable healthcare access and workplace development and diversity are all potential topics that IowaBio and TAI have broached with their panelists, who developed the questions for the forums.
“We want rural Iowans to feel like they are part of this dynamic industry, we want minorities to feel that they have a place at this table. Not only that, but that they’re leading in multiple ways currently,” Waller said. “And so we want to hammer that home to make sure that they’re building an Iowa that is inclusive for all people.”
“I think you’re going to find everything from – how does each candidate view supporting value-added agriculture, with that being the next-level of the state’s most important industry, to how each candidate views realistic economic development incentives that encourage the ecosystems of food, ag, tech sectors of our industry,” Hrdlicka said.
Neither association is planning to endorse a candidate following the forums, but the discussion will be released to the public after members have a chance to attend each event.
“We think it’s much more effective to create a conversation, and then our members can decide on their own personal ways,” Waller said. “At the very least, these candidates walk away going, ‘these are the two dynamic industries that are going to fuel the future economy of Iowa.’”