April 15, 2021
His Excellency Sameh Shoukry
Minister of Foreign Affairs and COP27 President Designate, Arab Republic of Egypt
Executive Vice President, Chief Policy Officer, and Head of Strategic Advocacy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Freshman congressman Randy Feenstra is proud to be a true Iowan, born and raised in the state. Currently serving Iowa’s fourth congressional district, Representative Feenstra previously served as city commissioner in his hometown of Hull. He later became the Sioux County commissioner and then an Iowa state senator.
In a conversation with Neil Bradley, EVP and CPO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Feenstra shared the importance of jobs to the economy, creating common ground in congressional government policy and protecting Iowa’s agricultural sector.
Feenstra Sees Jobs as the Backbone of the Economy
Feenstra has the unique perspective of serving not only in the local, state, and now federal government, he also worked in private business as head of the Foreign Candy Company. Feenstra noted that his ability to hold each of these positions has helped him in understanding Iowan job opportunities.
“When you think about growing our economy, it all is going around jobs,” Feenstra said. “The job, in essence, is the substance or the growth of a community.”
Feenstra acknowledged Iowa’s low unemployment rate at 3.1%; however, he looks towards the next challenge of filling open positions from a workforce shortage.
“It’s creating a skilled workforce, creating apprenticeships, making sure kids that are in high school stay in Iowa because we have these great jobs for them,” he listed as possible solutions. “It's always trying to figure out that next solution for each and every community that's in our state.”
Working With Both Sides of Congress Is Key to Creating Change
Joining caucuses was on Feenstra’s early agenda to help bridge the gaps between Republicans and Democrats in the House.
On the Problem Solvers caucus with 28 Republicans and 28 Democrats, Feenstra approached it with the mindset of: “We're not all going to agree with certain things, but what is there a consensus on, and how can we do that together?”
Feenstra nods to his favorite book, "Team of Rivals" by Doris Goodwin, as an example of collaborative efforts in extraordinary times. In a book about Lincoln's cabinet during the Civil War, Feenstra applies the lessons to modern-day bipartisanship, noting “how important it is to be collaborative and to work with one another, even when you don't always see things in the same way.”
Instead of Dwelling on Differences, We Must Find Common Ground to Solve Issues
The advice Feenstra received from his father solidified his core belief that while everyone comes from different backgrounds, we can still come together to create lasting change.
“We're all in this together … and [I have to understand] that [we] might have [our] differences,” he said.
Instead of dwelling on these differences, however, Feenstra asks: “What can we do productively together to have a greater life [and] a greater economy?”
“We’ve [all] been created differently with unique circumstances that create these lenses we see through,” he continued. “We have to be accepting of other people's views and also understanding [of] how we can work with those views and find common ground [to get] things done.”
“Once we understand and can sort of fill the shoes of others, then we can start moving forward and looking at how we address the problems ahead of us,” Feenstra added.
Access to Broadband and Agricultural Focus Will Help Iowa Thrive
For Feenstra, access to broadband in rural areas in Iowa is essential to helping Iowans succeed in an ever-increasing remote-working environment.
“When you think of the economy and growing, you have to have … broadband and those speeds where people can either stay at home or a business can transact quickly,” he explained.
He relates this need for strong broadband to the agricultural sector of Iowa. Feenstra is currently ready to start working on the next farm bill to support the agricultural community and their needs for successful production.
“We have so many wonderful producers and our supply chain is critical to Iowa and the Midwest. So it’s also working with that supply chain, making sure that our producers are successful and sustainable,” he said. “When our agriculture community is successful … everybody's successful along with it.”
From the Series