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Lee County designated as Home Base Iowa community

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LEE County, Iowa (WGEM) -- Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds designated Lee County as a Home Base Iowa community on Wednesday.

The Home Base Iowa program helps veterans transitioning back into civilian life find jobs by connecting them with local companies.

Former Army engineer Nathon Fox works at Decker Manufacturing in Keokuk. He said the transition between active service back to civilian life isn't easy.

"I served two combat tours, one to Iraq and one to Afghanistan and then I did one humanitarian tour to El Salvador," Fox said.

He said finding good paying, head of household jobs can be difficult.

"Some veterans don't know how to translate what they did in the military into the civilian world," Fox said.

Fox said he and other veterans are working with Lee County Economic Development to give veterans the help they need turning their military skills into a new career.

"If I was an engineer, well what did I do? I did construction so I can work with a contractor here, maybe get my certification journeyman's card or if I was in the Navy on a ship and I did steam stuff, maybe I can get a job down at Roquette working on the steam pipes," he said.

Officials said veterans have qualities lots of employers are looking for.
"That integrity, the ability to show up on time, plus those mechanical aptitude really helps our manufacturing base," Lee County Economic Development Group Project Coordinator Dana Millard said.

She said it's a win-win for local business.

"They're really participating in this program to receive access to highly skilled workers and it's also a way for us to help our local veterans who have served our communities and our country," Millard said.

Fox said he thinks they can make good progress.

"Lee County has a way to go," he said. "This is the beginning of many stepping stones for making it a proper place for veterans."

Millard said so far 38 Lee County companies have already joined the Home Base Iowa program, with another dozen working their way through the process.

She said the designation also comes with incentive packages for veterans looking to move to Lee County, such as discounted YMCA rates or a free night or two in hotel for those interviewing for a job.

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Blake Sammann

Blake Sammann is a reporter and weekend anchor at WGEM News.

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